Sunday, December 04, 2011

 

Smug's Game

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Jerry Coyne is championing determinism again, this time in response to a post by Massimo Pigliucci. It is adorned, as we've come to expect, with the usual incongruous language: "I think," "none of it has convinced me," "My own view," etc.

But I ... um ... think that Coyne is missing some of Pigliucci's points. For example, Pigliucci cites to points made by Carl Hoefer in an article an the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, one of which is:

Predictability is an issue entirely separate from determinism, since we can have deterministic (chaotic) systems that are for all effective purposes unpredictable, and (possibly, more on this in a moment) stochastic (quantum) systems that are nonetheless predictable to a very high degree of accuracy.
Coyne seems to think this is just a statement of human limitations:

We can never have perfect knowledge of all conditions, and, as advocates of chaos theory (a deterministic theory) know, even tiny differences in initial conditions—differences that may be too small for us to measure—can produce radically different outcomes. Therefore, even if determinism reigns (and, if it does, there's no free will under my definition), that doesn't mean that we can predict our future behaviors from what we know now. But it does mean that there is only one set of behaviors that we can evince in the future: that is, we can never do other than what we do.
But, on the other hand, he also says:

As for Pigliucci's physics and philosophy on this issue, I disagree that "if you believe in laws of nature you do need to come up with an account of their ontology." Nope, all we have to show is that those rules hold ubiquitously, universally, and enable us to make predictions that work. (His argument here resembles that of theologians who impugn science because we can't explain the usefulness of science without God.) We don't need to come up with any stinking ontology to accept strict physical determinism at the macro scale.
But, if we can't, in principle, know enough to make certain predictions, how can we know that any rules "hold ubiquitously, universally, and enable us to make predictions that work"? It is, once again, Hume's problem of induction. As Pigliucci points out:

Because of chaos, it may very well be impossible on empirical grounds to establish whether the universe is deterministic or not, which would clearly take the debate out of science altogether ...
Lastly, Coyne accuses Pigliucci of being "a compatibilist, that is, someone who thinks that free will is compatible with physical determinism," despite the fact that the latter describes himself as "agnostic about determinism."

Coyne's hackles are up because Pigliucci descries the "smug attitudes" of Coyne and others toward determinism. It's unfortunate that Coyne proceeds to give yet another example thereof.
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Comments:
It's getting interesting, now that he's introduced the moral element. As a non-thoughtful person, Coyne can't see how where his position takes him, but to the extent he's congruent at all, he's now just a few clicks away from calling for a Precrime branch of the FBI.

In the end this sort of warmed up Behaviorism boils down to a lack of empathy approaching emotional solipcism. Other people aren't responsible for their actions. "We need to reconceive our judicial system in light of what science tells us about how the mind works"--so that other people will be punished appropriately.

But who is this "we" that's going to make a morally informed choice to improve society? How did this privileged vanguard escape the ubiquitous and binding laws of physics?

It reminds me of nothing more than the repeated calls from the Brahmin class that what American and European society need above all is more austerity and belt tightening--a prescription from which its advocates are invariably, mysteriously exempt.
 
First they came for the theistic evolutionists, then the agnostics and now the philosophers...
 
I didn't focus on that part because I wouldn't think of going to Coyne for any sort of informed moral judgment. To posit that Charles Whitman should be treated the same as a murderous drug lord, even if something like determinism is true, is for Coyne to admit that the elemental particles that make up his brain have been subject to severly different forces than most of the rest of us.

Maybe he should scientifically investigate (as if something like that exists) what has been melting his brain.
 
I didn't focus on that part because I wouldn't think of going to Coyne for any sort of informed moral judgment.

Fair enough I suppose, but I don't wager you'd turn to him for any sort of philosophical judgement (like the ontological status of free will). Since you've already overturned the rock, might as well point out that Coyne is unwitting proposing an utterly repugnant doctrine, and seems almost gleeful in his disregard for the ramifications of it.
 
seems almost gleeful in his disregard for the ramifications of it

No doubt proud at his intellectual courage in choosing to face up to the implications of his belief in his inability to choose.
 
"It is adorned, as we've come to expect, with the usual incongruous language: "I think," "none of it has convinced me," "My own view," etc."

See, that's the thing that gets me about the hardcore "no free will'ers", if they're right, what is the point of even discussing it?
 
@John
It is adorned, as we've come to expect, with the usual incongruous language
Sigh. The language you use is a function of a whole lot of things. As a non - believer you might still exclaim Jesus! Or Oh God!. You might say things like "think with your heart" even though you know fully well its your brain and so on.

Coyne's hackles are up because Pigliucci descries the "smug attitudes" of Coyne and others toward determinism.
Mind reading again?

And finally - No one as far as I am aware has ever proposed a mechanism of what Kazez calls "how" for "free will" to work.

Whats funny is given Coyne's definition
My own definition is that if one reran the tape of life up to the moment of “choice,” with every physical atom and electron in the same position at that moment, there is free will if one could have chosen otherwise. (I exclude different “choices” based on things like quantum indeterminacy.)
There is no way for the above to work - even if the supernatural soul/conscience or whatever exists.
However this is the sense with which most non philosophers use the term "free will" - I'm sure the theists who read your blog have a similar definition.
 
As a non - believer you might still exclaim Jesus! Or Oh God!.

There is some serious real estate between what a person might "exclaim" in the moment, and what they put forward as philosophical argument.

Coyne is now explicitly arguing that we should not distinguish among motives--mens rea--in murder cases. This is way beyond artifacts of speech.
 
The language you use is a function of a whole lot of things.

But, as Chris points out, Coyne wants others to take his words more seriously than what someone might say when s/he bangs his/her thumb with a hammer. The fact that Coyne can't see the inconguity is reason to doubt he has given his words much thought (assuming there is something called "thought").

Mind reading again?

"Unfortunately, in his blog post summarizing the discussion, Dr.3 Pigliucci can’t resist taking a swipe at those of us he considers philosophically unsophisticated."

Your point?

No one as far as I am aware has ever proposed a mechanism of what Kazez calls "how" for "free will" to work.

There are lots of things we don't understand well. Just how does gravity work at a distance? Why is the Higgs boson so elusive? Our lack of understanding is not sufficient on its own to declare something non-existent.

There is no way for the above to work

I believe Einstein said something similar about quantum mechanics.
 
...Annnd now there's a new post up at WEIT discussing Sean Carroll's brand of compatibilism, capped off with a little epigram of scientism for good measure. The more he talks about this stuff, the more he resembles a blindfolded man walking in a field strewn with cow patties. He just can't not step in it.
 
@Chris
There is some serious real estate between what a person might "exclaim" in the moment, and what they put forward as philosophical argument.
Ah so now you get to decide when inconsistent language can be used (I can give you many examples from my field too where terms that are incorrect are used everyday because everyone knows what is meant)? Coyne is writing a website/blog post. He has scientific topics discussed too where he might use imprecise language.

Coyne is now explicitly arguing that we should not distinguish among motives--mens rea--in murder cases.
Society already makes a distinction between people who have a medical condition and those who don't. If you believe the reasoning in those conditions is correct, then you are stuck with the implications - if you have no free will.
Note that it is definitely possible that Coyne is correct - If so , then arguing that the legal system must change is a logical consequence. Arguing that this would be bad, hence Coyne is incorrect is a fallacy.
 
@John
Your point?
Your quote from Coyne has no relation to your mind reading comment. My point is that for someone who claims to be aware of his biases and who also claims to be extra careful when that is the case - you don't seem to do very well when it comes to Coyne.(granted Coyne is no better)

There are lots of things we don't understand well. Just how does gravity work at a distance? Why is the Higgs boson so elusive? Our lack of understanding is not sufficient on its own to declare something non-existent.
Again determinism and randomness are plausible - agreed? There might be other alternatives agreed?. If however you want to propose another alternative as the free will'ers are doing, you must at minimum provide some hypothesis for how this is all supposed to work. if you can't do that why consider it fro the time(Along with the infinite number of alternatives that are possible?). We choose based on which direction our brains are fondled by the noodly appendages of the FSM. Since Einstein was wrong and the Higgs boson is elusive you shouldn't ignore the above either right?.
 
Deepak, you're headed earthward at great speed. Pull the ripcord man, pull the ripcord!

Ah so now you get to decide when inconsistent language can be used (I can give you many examples from my field too where terms that are incorrect are used everyday because everyone knows what is meant)?

Not if by "decide" you mean I have some special power or authority to change the words on Coyne's site; it's his to make a fool of himself on if he likes. But yes I can certainly judge for myself when someone is making a poor argument, which is an exercise in reason, after all. Coyne didn't have to directly contradict himself by unambiguously claiming (multiple times) that not only is there no "free will" as figure of speech, but that literally we have no ability make decisions upon reflection of alternatives, and furthermore that this requires that we abandon the concept of moral responsibility. But he made just such a logical contradiction, first by suggesting that he reasoned his way to this conclusion (impossible if reasoning or thought is just an epiphenomenon indicating predetermined cognitive activity) and second by suggesting that "we" should change the rules of society to reflect the fact that humans have no actual ability to make moral decisions based upon a contemplation of the desirability of possible outcomes (these two claims are mutually refuting).

Society already makes a distinction between people who have a medical condition and those who don't. If you believe the reasoning in those conditions is correct, then you are stuck with the implications

Your argument here is the opposite of the one that Coyne makes. He wants to flatten the distinction between people who are medically incapable of moral reflection (or just basic weighing of options, if you like), not draw upon it. I, on the other hand, do believe that the distinction (between people who can reason for themselves and those who can't) is a meaningful one. I suspect you do too, such that if you served on the jury trying someone who you knew (or were reasonably confident) was just as rational as you are, you would want them held accountable if the evidence showed they were guilty or innocent.

Note that it is definitely possible that Coyne is correct - If so , then arguing that the legal system must change is a logical consequence. Arguing that this would be bad, hence Coyne is incorrect is a fallacy.

Changing a legal system to account for the absence of human ability to reason and choose correction action may be a logical consequence of Coyne's action, but it is also a logical impossibility.

Our entire civilization is constructed on our ability (if not our need) to select from multiple outcomes. Coyne's weird stance is that such selection does not and cannot occur. His reasoning, such as it is, is that the process of selecting conflicts with the deterministic description of the universe, both of which he concludes can never be reconciled (though he doesn't give it much of the old college try.)

Meanwhile, gravity and the strong force can't be reconciled either. (So far). But physicists aren't clamoring for either to be cleansed from the textbooks. What gives?
 
My point is that for someone who claims to be aware of his biases and who also claims to be extra careful when that is the case - you don't seem to do very well when it comes to Coyne.(granted Coyne is no better)

I honestly don't know what "bias" I am supposedly displaying (which, of course, is a possibility). Is it possible you are unfamiliar with the idiom "getting one's hackles up"? It just means that something that someone else has done or said irritates that person. I think the quote (plus plenty of other things Coyne has said about Pigliucci) shows that he is irritated by Pigliucci's attitute toward him.

Again determinism and randomness are plausible - agreed?

Depends on what you mean by "determinism" and "randomness" I suppose but I won't argue over it.

There might be other alternatives agreed?. If however you want to propose another alternative as the free will'ers are doing, you must at minimum provide some hypothesis for how this is all supposed to work.

Like Newton did when he proposed universal gravity? The fact is that people all but universally experience the impression that they have some sort of choice in what they think and at least some choice in what they do (between more or less equally possible otions). That's why so many Gnus go around touting how much more "reasonable" atheism is compared to theism when, in fact, if determinism of Coyne's sort is true, atheism is exactly as unreasoned and unreasonable as theism. It is such a widespread phenomenon that it can't be dismissed merely because we can't explain it yet.
 
@Chris
Your argument here is the opposite of the one that Coyne makes.
No you are missing what Im saying. You agree that people who are mentally ill should not be treated the same as those who you think are just evil - right? On what basis do you reason this? That the mentally ill person's brain can't make any other choice right? If you then believe what Coyne does and apply the reasoning above - you have no choice other than accept an unpleasant consequence .
But the unpleasant consequence has no bearing on whether Coyne is right or not.

What if tomorrow you find out that people prone to violent murderous rages are caused by a certain gene or a certain area of the brain having abnormalities(an area being larger or more active for e.g.)? Would you use the death sentence if you knew this?
 
No you are missing what Im saying. You agree that people who are mentally ill should not be treated the same as those who you think are just evil - right? On what basis do you reason this? That the mentally ill person's brain can't make any other choice right? If you then believe what Coyne does and apply the reasoning above - you have no choice other than accept an unpleasant consequence. But the unpleasant consequence has no bearing on whether Coyne is right or not.

What I agree with is that some people have a diminished capacity for moral reasoning, running on a continuum from outright insanity to a rare and sublime moral clarity. Most of us muddle along somewhere in the middle. The basis on which I reason this is, frankly, the saturation of our culture with moral reasoning, whether it be in daily news reports, history, fiction, philosophy, or water cooler conversation. It's our species' main obsession. It is simply an empirical fact that we engage in moral reasoning.

If you want to ask "what is the nature of this moral reasoning--is it not possibly all just an illusion, whose only function is to rationalize our behavior?" go right ahead, but then certain things logically follow from this. The main one, that John has been patiently repeating over and over in these threads, is that reason, science and logic become pointless exercises, without meaning or value. You cannot simultaneously berate theists for unreason and valorize atheists for "free thought" while maintaining a doctrine that thinking is an epiphenomenon on which we humans can exert no influence over.

The next point, which I have been less patiently making, is that if you deny the reality of moral reasoning, you thereby deny the possibility of having any positive (or negative) effect on anything whatsoever, except by accident. You can't intentionally "change" society to accord better with your new theory. You can't resolve to try to be kinder to people, or drink less, or work harder on your project, or challenge yourself in any way. All of our intentions, all of our opinions, become *completely* meaningless and irrelevant. I don't think it's too great an induction from here to say that life itself becomes completely meaningless. Intellectual honesty demands admission, if not embrace, of these implications.

I'm not arguing from avoidance of unpleasantness. It's true, I find Coyne's ideology here repugnant (and yes, it's ideology, with no empirical basis and only the barest rational justification.) More repugnant than the worst things the Tea Party or even the Taliban could dream up, if you must know. I won't try to explicate that here, I just mention it FYI. But it is not because of its repugnance that I find his reasoning of very poor quality. The repugnance is why it matters that Coyne's argument is so shoddy, not the reason for that shoddyness. The latter resides in a rather simple logical analysis of his position, to which you have thus far offered no reply.
 
What if tomorrow you find out that people prone to violent murderous rages are caused by a certain gene or a certain area of the brain having abnormalities(an area being larger or more active for e.g.)? Would you use the death sentence if you knew this?

I don't support the death penalty *now* so your question is kind of moot, posed this way. The rest of what you propose is so vague as to be unanswerable. It would be quite a feat for a gene to "cause" a murderous rage all on its lonesome.
 
@John
You seemed to be implying in your post that Coyne's replies are more to do with the fact that Pigliucci decries smug attitudes than to do with Pigliucci (just as Coyne thinks , wrongly imo, that Pigliucci is just protecting his turf).
Im aware of the phrase - im merely pointing out the impression your post conveys when you conclude as you do. (using Unfortunately is a sign of irritation??)

The fact is that people all but universally experience the impression that they have some sort of choice in what they think and at least some choice in what they do
But that has nothing to do with whether they can.
You know this in some sense. You are an agnostic. Can you choose to believe in Jesus and his divinity (not pretend, really choose and really believe). If not why not? Can you choose to be convinced by my argument?
 
@Chris
What I agree with is that some people have a diminished capacity for moral reasoning,
Precisely. Have you chosen how your neurons fire? Have you chosen to be smart or dumb?

It is simply an empirical fact that we engage in moral reasoning.
All we can say is that it appears to us that we engage in moral reasoning. That's the only empirical fact. Whether we actually do is the question. Again keep aside moral questions - think of the other things in your life. can you choose to not be attracted to someone that you are attracted to? Can you choose to forget a painful memory? Can you choose to believe that Mohammed is the one true prophet? Why not? Its your "free will" and you have "choice"
Why would moral reasoning be any different?

is that reason, science and logic become pointless exercises, without meaning or value.
This sounds similar to if no God there is no meaning in life and impresses me just as much. And again you seem to be using the unpleasant consequence to argue against no free will.

The latter resides in a rather simple logical analysis of his position, to which you have thus far offered no reply.
Im not aware of what I havent replied to.
It's fairly logical to think that humans are constrained by laws of physics/chemistry. So i can see how and why Coyne thinks what he does.
It's fairly logical to think that human brains might be influenced by true random processes - quantum or otherwise.

What I can't get is how do people with views like yours think that free will actually works. Provide any plausible hypothesis - use any assumptions you want and tell me why and how given the same set of circumstances you will choose differently. (which is how most people interpret free will). You dont have to prove anything you merely have to provide a plausible explanation and I'd be happy to take this as a third possibility. feel free to use souls or conscience or whatever for the purpose of this argument.


What a lot of people actually want to say is "if i knew then what I know now, I would choose differently" which works even if there is no free will.
 
Precisely. Have you chosen how your neurons fire? Have you chosen to be smart or dumb?

The fact that we can't choose all of the personal elements that make us who we are does not logically preclude us making use of what we have. We can't live on mercury and arsenic. That doesn't mean there is no such thing as food. That would be an illegitimate inference from the data. Likewise you can't argue that because some things are not chooseable, then nothing is.

Can you choose to not be attracted to someone that you are attracted to? Can you choose to forget a painful memory?

We can't decide to build new blood cells or change the color of our eyes. The pathways don't exist. We can decide to hold our breaths or our bladders. We can't decide who is attractive to us, or when a painful memory will leave us, but we can choose who to court and who not to, and how to manage our grief (through solitude or companionship, by making art or by devoting ourselves to other people's pain--or by trying to numb it away with booze.)

Moral reasoning is "different" just by virtue of being the name we give to the activity of seeing in what ways we are able to act, and being accountable to that.

And again you seem to be using the unpleasant consequence to argue against no free will.

Not quite. It would be “unpleasant” if the the universe only appeared to be orderly, perhaps through the interference of an evil demon who kept changing our instruments to keep us deceived. But this does not mean that our decision to treat the universe as orderly and lawful arises purely out of resistance to that unpleasantness. We don't know one way or the other. We will wait and see, and get a lot of interesting stuff done in the meanwhile.

Im not aware of what I havent replied to. It's fairly logical to think that humans are constrained by laws of physics/chemistry.

It is quite logical to think that humans are constrained by the laws of science. If however we take this to mean, as Coyne does, that all of our choices are made for us in advance, that "we" have no influence over our own actions, then everything we think, believe, value, and do becomes arbitrary, all effort and exertion becomes futile. Why try to foster reason and science among the benighted masses? Why promote liberal or progressive causes? Everyone is just going to do what they are going to do, like balls in a pachinco machine. Reason is of no value whatsoever, since all thought is an illusory epiphenomenon of neural processes we cannot access. Taking credit for our success through "hard work" is intellectually dishonest, and taking the blame for our failures or for hurting others is just a waste of time, because things could not have been any different.

If you don't go along with this, then please show how they do not logically follow from Coyneian hard determinism. Whence science, reason, opinion, political advocacy, and all the rest of it, if no one has any power to influence the world or the minds in it?

If you do go along with this, just say so.

What I can't get is how do people with views like yours think that free will actually works.

Pretty complicated topic actually, and I'm at my character limit. For now, John's answer here is best. Not all descriptions of the world have yet be unified (think of gravity and the nuclear forces). Reconciling subjective and objective observations is an ongoing human challenge. If we can take the Higgs boson on faith (that is to say, keep looking for it, but provisionally accept that not having found it yet does not invalidate, yet, the standard model), then we can certainly continue to act as though our appearance of thought, evaluation, and reflection is not a complete delusion, especially given how disastrous the alternative would be. It's not denial, it's merely prudence.
 
If however we take this to mean, as Coyne does, that all of our choices are made for us in advance,
As far as I know he believes in a version of given the same inputs the same output is expected (discounting randomness for now) for a given brain.
I do not see it could be otherwise otherwise. (That may or may not imply your statement - we know there are true random processes so you could never know in advance.) Again I don't see how you could have anything else - And I sincerely welcome any alternative - I don't like the consequences of the above any more than you do.

that "we" have no influence over our own actions,
But that's the point. What is "we"? Our brains? If we do have influence why do we not have it over anything related to the brain? Why cant you make yourself believe? There are things related to the brain that we just cannot do whereas if we had true influence over our thoughts we should have been able to do so easily.

Why try to foster reason and science among the benighted masses? Why promote liberal or progressive causes?
a. If you believe as Coyne does, you can only do what you do so there doesn't need to be a "why" (why is there life?)
b. As long as there is an element of randomness it makes it worth your while.
c. Again I do not discount other possibilities , but I'm asking people who believe in free will to provide a plausible "how" .

It's not denial, it's merely prudence.
Suit yourself. I see it more like - I do not discount the possibility of God - but if you want to posit that Jesus is God then you are mostly mistaken - there are just too many issues.

Coyne may be wrong - but if you believe in free will you have to provide much more than what is currently available.
A lot of the argument around Coyne seems to be very similar to the IDers (and no i dont mean they are equivalent) - i.e. if Coyne is wrong , free will must exist.
 
Again I don't see how you could have anything else - And I sincerely welcome any alternative - I don't like the consequences of the above any more than you do. [...] If you believe as Coyne does, you can only do what you do so there doesn't need to be a "why"

To be clear then, you are claiming that something like the following represents a rational approach, based upon a scientific, materialist outlook:

COYNE (to theists): You guys should pay more attention to the rational challenges posed against your stated beliefs. The truth matters in its own right, besides which, religion hurts a lot of people unnecessarily through discrimination and by prioritizing a life-to-come that does not actually exist. It's high time you embraced reason and the scientific method, and saw that there is no justification whatsoever for believing in God or any kind of spiritual or supernatural nonsense.

THEISTS: But you also say that determinism requires that we can't actually change our beliefs, that we can't evaluate the evidence that might change our minds about whether or not god and supernaturalism is real. Aren't you just wasting your breath in calling for us to reconsider our ideology? We obviously can't help ourselves. And isn't a little unfair for you to call us names and mock us for being so wrong-headed when we're just the product of a sequence of cosmic accidents? Where's the compassion, man?

COYNE: I'm sorry, but I am compelled to berate you, by my own personal sequence of cosmic accidents, even though it makes no sense for me to criticize you for events out of your control, namely your own thoughts and behavior. You can't help being stupid, and I can't help calling you stupid, even though it makes me a complete hypocrite for lionizing Reason, which after all is nothing more than an illusion played out in the theater of my mind. That's just the way of the world, as described by scientific materialism, and none of us can do anything about it.

Is that about right? Do you really have no (ahem) choice but to take such a stance?
 
Coyne may be wrong - but if you believe in free will you have to provide much more than what is currently available.

I take it, then, that (as John keeps hoping you will observe) that you won't believe in universal gravity either, until somebody provides "much more than what is currently available" by way of explanation for it?

Or that you won't believe in quantum physics until "much more than is currently available" can be provided to reconcile the fundamental forces?

Or that you won't believe in time until somebody provides "much more than what is currently available" to explain why time is symmetrical at the micro level but not at the macro level. (Loschmidt's paradox)?

Physicists are losing sleep over these problems, but you'll note that in few to no cases are they proceeding to reject the phenomena in question outright. That would be the easy way out.
 
If we're all just apes, then why are we philosophizing about free will? After all, it was well-estabilished in "A Fish Called Wanda" that apes can read philosophy without understanding it. Drink beer, do drugs, scratch for fleas. There is nothing else.
 
@Chris
I take it, then, that (as John keeps hoping you will observe) that you won't believe in universal gravity either, until somebody provides "much more than what is currently available" by way of explanation for it?
You'll notice I didn't ask for evidence and proof and gave you quite a bit of leeway - you can introduce as many assumptions as you want. All you need to do is propose something remotely plausible. That's all. I think you should agree that this is a minimum requirement for a hypothesis.

All you seem to have so far is , it appears to me that I choose (even though I know that I don't always seem to be able to do so!) with lots of "If I couldn't choose the world would be a really really meaningless place.
 
You seemed to be implying in your post that Coyne's replies are more to do with the fact that Pigliucci decries smug attitudes than to do with Pigliucci

Nope. I was pointing out the irony that Coyne had produced (IMO) a smug post despite being annoyed at being described as smug.

But that has nothing to do with whether they can.
You know this in some sense. You are an agnostic. Can you choose to believe in Jesus and his divinity (not pretend, really choose and really believe).


I went the opposite way but, yes, I had the strong impression that thinking and reason was what made me choose to stop believing in Jesus' divinity.
 
it appears to me that I choose (even though I know that I don't always seem to be able to do so!)

I don't believe (and I doubt Chris does) that we can or do choose to do all the things we do. Most of go along most of the time in a comfortable haze of habit and instict. Coyne says we never can choose. To have "free will" doesn't require that we always exercise it.
 
@John
To have "free will" doesn't require that we always exercise it.
Sure. However Im asking you to exercise your free will once to prove your case. Whether or not you believe in a God is a choice , that depends purely on what you think. Exercise your will and become a believer. Just this once - no always. Answer why your free will can't do this. You also know that it isn't impossible that some day you might become a believer and that you might say it was your "choice" - so it isn't an impossible that is being asked for.
 
Exercise your will and become a believer.

But I have already exercised my free will (if it exists) by choosing not to be a believer.

Do you honestly contend that free will only resides in the ability to think/believe anything at all, no matter how unevidenced or ridiculous? I don't have free will if am not willing, despite (what I "consider" to be) the best evidence, to believe six impossible things before breakfast?

You have to be willing to be an idiot before you can show that that reason and knowledge, etc. are real?

I'm not sure whether that is best described as setting the bar impossibly high or ridiculously low.
 
But I have already exercised my free will (if it exists) by choosing not to be a believer.
So you say. The question is if its a choice you should be able to choose either at any point in time (otherwise what choice?) and you aren't able to make any choice other than what you have already made.

Do you honestly contend that free will only resides in the ability to think/believe anything at all, no matter how unevidenced or ridiculous?
Offtopic because I cant resist - Ah religious belief is unevidenced and ridiculous is it?
In any case if you don't like "ridiculous" beliefs that you can choose - take a cuisine/sport/movie you dont like and "choose" to like it.
 
So you say. The question is if its a choice you should be able to choose either at any point in time (otherwise what choice?) and you aren't able to make any choice other than what you have already made.

The same argument can be applied in reverse. Since none of us can "play the tape over," we are equally unsure of whether we would be able act, or even think, differently, in a given moment.

You are welcome to believe that you can't "choose" anything, such that you might have done otherwise, of course, and perhaps such a stance is even plausibly logical, but unless you are willing to admit what follows from this (no science, no reason, no ethics, no law, no public opinion, no philosophy, no history, no art) then why would you expect anyone to take you seriously?
 
All you need to do is propose something remotely plausible. That's all. I think you should agree that this is a minimum requirement for a hypothesis.

I've said before, I have pretty complex thoughts about how decision-making "works." But before I take an interest in trying to persuade you of my point of view (which would require a significant investment of my time), I would start by getting you to see the logical inconsistencies of your own position (and Coyne's). Are you serious enough about your own position to commit to treating other human beings as automatons, and accept such treatment for yourself? If not, why should I take you seriously at all?
 
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I don't believe (and I doubt Chris does) that we can or do choose to do all the things we do.

Absolutely so. The fact that we are able to make choices about some limited sphere of alternatives in no way implies that we have a boundless capacity to exercise our will. The very concept of the rational Will that runs throughout Western Philosophy and all too often dominates our conversations about ourselves, from Plato to Kant to the existentialists, is rightly in tatters today. That myth of the rationalist "free will" I happily reject. This does not mean that we are left completely impotent when reflecting upon how best to direct our thought and behavior.

In other words the fact that we often fail to achieve our goals does not obviate the whole concept of goal-making any more than the failure to, say, mount a rational argument obviates intelligent discussion. We're all flawed, but not to the point of sheer irrelevance.
 
In any case if you don't like "ridiculous" beliefs that you can choose - take a cuisine/sport/movie you dont like and "choose" to like it

I think it's been said numerous times on all sides that we can't always choose what to like, enjoy, or believe. But that doesn't preclude choosing to give something a second look, or approach it from a new angle--and sometimes this does in fact lead to a change in disposition. Sometimes not.

I hope we can now get past the fallacy that because one can't change every little (and big) thing that arises in our out of oneself, one can therefore never make any choices whatsoever. That one's getting a little stale.
 
The question is if its a choice you should be able to choose either at any point in time (otherwise what choice?) and you aren't able to make any choice other than what you have already made.

So, unless I can choose to believe that I am, in fact, an 800 lb gorilla, I don't have free will?

religious belief is unevidenced and ridiculous is it?

Of course, I didn't say that, but you can choose to ignore that.

take a cuisine/sport/movie you dont like and "choose" to like it.

There have been foods that I initially didn't like that I came to appreciate but that's rather tangled up in the physical sensation of taste. There are sports that I usually don't like that I followed for a while because of my appreciation for a particular team and its players. And there are movies that I initially didn't like that I came to think were good on reflection, and vice versa.

Nobody is saying that we have absolute ability to choose without constraints and only an absoluteist would think that was necessary for "free will" ... not unlike how theists think you have to have a god in order to have morality.
 
So, unless I can choose to believe that I am, in fact, an 800 lb gorilla, I don't have free will?
Are you implying your blogger profile photo is fake?
All the choices you were asked to make are routine everyday choices - not impossible gotchas(Im not asking you to choose to fly).

Nobody is saying that we have absolute ability to choose without constraints
But that isnt the point. The question is why, if you have free will and choice , you just arent able to make the choices that others do. If for e.g. you don't find religious evidence convincing , and "chose" to be agnostic , why would you ever expect to choose otherwise given the same facts and the same state of the brain?

But clearly altering the physical facts like additional experiences could make you change and become a theist/atheist. But you could keep asking the same question.

There is never a clear answer given for this as far as Im aware.

It seems to me that most people mistake awareness (of why their brain made the decision it did) with choice.
 
@Chris
too many things to respond to and not enough time so Ill stick to the couple that most interest me.
a. The logical consequences of if we dont have free will. - I dont see how some of the things you mention follow. I would think that "reasoning" as we think of it doesn't exist (but our brains are still reasoning mechanisms and some would be better than others even if they havent chosen to be so - The eye still sees whether or not it has a choice).
I would also think that people would react to this by changing the definition of reasoning so that it describes what we experience similar to what some people do for free will - neither of which I have any issue with.
b. The ability to accept the consequences of not having free will has of course nothing to do with whether or not it actually exists. I do not know why you think that should be a precondition for you to put your cards on the table. If you merely want to state that you don't think I'm going to accept anything you say then why respond at all?

As mentioned multiple times , I would like there to be a third alternative but so far no one has ever given anything remotely plausible of how given the same inputs you can have a different output (which is non - random). This holds even if you add supernatural entities into the mixture. I would think that when there are other plausible explanations , then the free will one is at the bottom of the possibilities.
 
I dont see how some of the things you mention follow.

I know Deepak. We must be patient.

I would think that "reasoning" as we think of it doesn't exist (but our brains are still reasoning mechanisms and some would be better than others even if they havent chosen to be so.

OK, so no reasoning "as we think of it." I'm happy with that. From here it's not far to conceding that there's also no science "as we think of it," no ethics, no politics and so on.

This is Jerry's dilemma--and yours. If we're going to say that you and I don't reason, but our brains do, we would have to also say that Jerry Coyne doesn't do science--his brain does. And Ray Comfort doesn't do theology, his brain does.

Suppose you are tempted to say that Jerry is "right" and Ray is "wrong." Why should my brain believe you? Isn't having that opinion just something your brain does?

I would like there to be a third alternative but so far no one has ever given anything remotely plausible of how given the same inputs you can have a different output (which is non - random).

I would like there to be a third alternative to describe the event horizon of a black hole, which is macro in mass but quantum in size, and therefore reveals an as-yet unreconciled conflict between gravity and the strong force.

But we can't have everything.
 
All the choices you were asked to make are routine everyday choices - not impossible gotchas(Im not asking you to choose to fly).

In a sense you are. If free will in some form Chris and I am talking about exists, my prior choices will, to a greater or lesser extent, constrain my future choices. If I chose to accept science as the best source of "knowledge," I can't just chose to believe in revelation without going back and choosing to undo that choice and all the other choices that led me to the belief that science is the best source of knowledge in the first place. In some sense, that would make choice one of the "states of our brain" but would not negate "free will" for the mere fact that it is a cascade of smaller choices we make over time.

The question is why, if you have free will and choice , you just arent able to make the choices that others do.

But I have (if I can) made different choices than they have, including how much effort to expend on thinking about it.

If for e.g. you don't find religious evidence convincing , and "chose" to be agnostic , why would you ever expect to choose otherwise given the same facts and the same state of the brain?

Let's ask it this way ... I was raised in Catholic tradition with a lot of kids who had the same influences and experiences I did. I turned out different than a lot of them. If it is so important to to provide a hypothesis for how this is all supposed to work, why did I turn out different?

I did think like those other people once and changed. What evidence do you have that, given the same facts and the same state of the brain that I had that I would necessarily be an agnostic?

no one has ever given anything remotely plausible of how given the same inputs you can have a different output

Now all you have to do is explain why there are people who think differently despite similar experiences ... without handwaving, of course.
 
Now all you have to do is explain why there are people who think differently despite similar experiences
Are you serious?
a. Systems that have memory can behave differently for the same input because not only does the current input matter , but also persistent state. Trivial to do this e.g. programs that calculate trends.
b. Systems that have the same input and same memory can still behave differently if the underlying process is different i.e. your brain - Again trivial to demonstrate - programs that do the same thing written by two different programmers
c. Randomness.

Again none of these are meant to be evidence that free will doesn't exist - merely that there are plausible explanations for why things exist as they do with no free will.

Your turn now - given the same set of circumstances why/how would you have chosen differently ? If its the time you spent thinking on a topic , why would you choose to spend more / less time on thinking.
 
Chris
From here it's not far to conceding that there's also no science "as we think of it," no ethics, no politics and so on.

No I don't see how that follows. I don't think there are objective morals doesn't imply that morality is useless.
we would have to also say that Jerry Coyne doesn't do science--his brain does. And Ray Comfort doesn't do theology, his brain does.
Of course. Do you think otherwise?

But we can't have everything.
What you don't have is any reason for believing as you do. You can try and knock as many holes as you want into whatever I think , but you haven't given a single good reason for believing as you do.
You might not have a choice in that matter , but that speaks poorly of the brain that luck has given you.
 
Again none of these are meant to be evidence that free will doesn't exist - merely that there are plausible explanations for why things exist as they do with no free will.

In other words, handwaving. Systems that have the same input and same memory can still behave differently but I can't behave differently if I have the same input and same memory. Your explanation is "plausible" for the same reason "goddidit" is "plausible" ... it can explain anything and everything.

What you don't have is any reason for believing as you do.

But, then, neither do you. Since you admit there is nothing called "science," why believe that there is such a thing as natural "causes" that would support determinism?

All you are doing is spouting the unevidenced output of a "computer" of unknowable reliability. The very notion of "plausibility" involves the ability to choose between possibilities that you deny exists.

This has become tiresome. Feel free to have the last word.
 
[CS] From here it's not far to conceding that there's also no science "as we think of it," no ethics, no politics and so on.

[DS] No I don't see how that follows. I don't think there are objective morals doesn't imply that morality is useless.


Deepak, you are so close, don't bail now. You've already allowed that reasoning is inconsistent with Coyneian Determinism, and that any sensation we have of deductively or inductively choosing our conclusions must be illusory--in other words that the causes of our actions and thoughts may or may not be known to us, but we cannot have confidence in our apparent understanding of them, because any real investigative powers would require an agency that Coyneian Determinism does not permit. Things are as they are, and whether we see them accurately or are deceived is something we can do nothing about, since we cannot direct our cognition toward the problem.

This all follows quite naturally, and moreover is explicit in the literature on epiphenomenalism (the doctrine that thought cannot direct action, it can only passively reflect cognitive processes.) What is true for Reason in this regard is true for Science as well.

Since you seem very concerned with making sure that no one holds any opinions that don't have any hypothetical foundation (although you won't respond to the counter-suggestion that you should thereby disavow gravity), perhaps you would venture how Science is possible at all once you remove all the elements that rely upon a self or "I" to direct the proceedings: to inquire into causes, to formulate hypotheses, to construct experiments, evaluate data, compare results against the hypothesis, to reject or confirm theoretical suppositions?

If everything has been decided for us in advance by causal forces which we cannot negotiate with, then how could we have any confidence that such exercises are not just a delusion, as related to truth value as the quatrains of Nostradamus--who also could not do anything other than what he actually came to do?

Neither explanation is plausible--the ability to choose or the inaability to choose. They both run into (so far) insoluable problems. Just as trying to describe a black hole runs into insoluable (so far) problems given the current language of physics. Both gravity and the strong force should apply, but they conflict. What then? Do we jettison one or the other, or look for as-yet-unknown resolution?
 
@John
In other words, handwaving.
What? The fact that we can create systems that have human like behavior without any free will is handwaving? What exactly are the defenders of free will who provide no plausible explanations (much less proof) but insist on their views (by comparing them to plausible scientific hypothesis') doing then?

Systems that have the same input and same memory can still behave differently but I can't behave differently if I have the same input and same memory.
The only way the same input and same memory behave differently is randomness (as far as we know). So if you think free will/choice is the same as acting randomly then fine.
The question you asked had different inputs, different memory , and different processes. That's why different humans can behave differently.

Since you admit there is nothing called "science,"
No I said probably no reasoning as we think of it (but our brains are reasoning engines). Science I would think depends on your definition.

All you are doing is spouting the unevidenced output of a "computer" of unknowable reliability.
And yet we rely on unreliable computers all the while.
 
@Chris
and that any sensation we have of deductively or inductively choosing our conclusions must be illusory
Did I say it was illusory? A calculator can add two numbers. if it could also be aware that it is adding two numbers, as well as aware of the rule of mathematics it would be like us. It doesn't make it illusory.

Since you seem very concerned with making sure that no one holds any opinions that don't have any hypothetical foundation
Sorry , no. What you don't have is any hypothetical foundation for your views. Ive repeated multiple times that go ahead give a plausible explanation i.e. a hypothetical. I haven't asked for proof / evidence.
Im not concerned in any case - I'm merely pointing it out.
 
Did I say [the sensation of choice] was illusory?

What am I to surmise, old chap, when you say things like:

"All we can say is that it appears to us that we engage in moral reasoning. ... Whether we actually do is the question."

"As far as I know [Coyne] believes in a version of given the same inputs the same output is expected (discounting randomness for now) for a given brain. I do not see it could be otherwise."

"It seems to me that most people mistake awareness (of why their brain made the decision it did) with choice."

Do you no longer stand by these remarks? Especially that last one, which quite clearly suggests that people only *think* "they" are making choices, when in fact they are merely aware of the choices made by their brains, which "they" cannot exercise any influence over.

If we cannot choose our actions by conscious reflection, then we cannot (among other things) take credit for our successes, nor praise or blame others for their successes or failures. If someone were to reproach Coyne for an assertion in one of his books or papers, the only meaningful response he could make is that he had no control over what he wrote. He could neither defend the assertion nor concede the error. He might be able to say, in your words above, that he was "aware" of his brain making a certain decision, but could take no more credit for it being correct than for making new blood cells, nor more blame for it being wrong than for a genetic copying error in his chromosomes. Science, in this way, is something that happens to Jerry Coyne, not something that he "does." The only difference between "doing" science and growing one's hair is that we are aware of one while it is taking place, while the other occurs outside our realm of detection.

Such a stance, then, defeats both science and reason as being anything more than an amusing pastime with no more relation to truth than revelation or augury.

Whether I or John are justified in postulating a capacity for influencing our behavior through conscious reflection is just not germane here. Whether we are correct or not, the same things logically follow from Coyne's view. The only question I am concerned with here is whether you can see the logical corrolaries of such a view. I'll let this be my last attempt in this thread to explicate these logical corrolaries. Perhaps in another thread I can share more about how I think conscious choice might work. Until then, I'm still curious to see if you can face up to the intellectual consequences of your own beliefs. I think you can, but you'll have to resist the urge to evade the question by asking whether I can.
 
@Chris

Do you no longer stand by these remarks?

Perhaps I am missing something - but I don't see how you arrive at the conclusions you do from these remarks that I stand by.

Especially that last one, which quite clearly suggests that people only *think* "they" are making choices, when in fact they are merely aware of the choices made by their brains, which "they" cannot exercise any influence over.

Again go back to what do you mean by choice. It is inescapable that the brain does "choose" between alternates - however the question is what would make it "choose" differently. If you look at Coyne's defintion which is what most people think of as "choice" - then there is no known way for it to work - whats worse there is no known hypothetical either. I've always felt that choice defined this way is incoherent.

Also it is trivial to come up with examples where we seemingly have no choice - in our preferences for food for example. It certainly appears that I choose what to eat(but can I?) , but it doesn't appear that I can choose what tastes good to me. However your interpretation of the words above would be that there is no point enjoying food and its where I fail to follow your logic.
 
Again go back to what do you mean by choice. It is inescapable that the brain does "choose" between alternates.

Is it really all that inescapable? If we're speaking biologically, then why use the word "choose" at all? This is where I think you want to have your cake and eat it too.

We wouldn't say that a heart "chooses" to skip a beat, it just does so for biochemical reasons that the heart can't help but obey. We wouldn't say that DNA "chooses" to recombine in a certain way. So why say that the brain "chooses" to conduct the neural activity that we experience as a "decision"? Isn't the brain just another part of the body, just as subject to physical and Darwinian laws as every other part?

If you really believe that "choice" (construed as the ability to actively select, through reflection, between alternatives) is philosophically and scientifically impossible, then why use the word? Why risk misunderstanding? Why not use more passive language, since this would more accurately reflect your belief that human affairs are best understood as biological processes that the mind cannot influence, only witness?

My suspicion is that you need to smuggle Reason back in, and reason cannot by definition be passive. But don't let me put words in your mouth. How would you justify using such arcane and outdated animistic language, especially when you've been invited over and over again by John and myself to explain how these things really work, without regard for sentiment.

I mean this quite literally. I entreat you to tell me what is really going on when a human being "decides" something, or reasons among alternates, or thinks scientifically. What is really happening in a deterministic sense, without reference to "mind" or "self" (neither of which have any real existence in scientific naturalism anyway)? What is your "hypothesis," presented without animistic metaphors, without the language of agency?
 
@Chris
We wouldn't say that a heart "chooses" to skip a beat,
But I do say that a program chooses all the while. I do say that the HTTPS protocol is "negotiated" and a suitable algorithm/key "chosen".

It is unfortunate that the terminology is imprecise , but that's how the language we have is.

My suspicion is that you need to smuggle Reason back in,
Not really. I can accept a reasoning engine exists without necessarily needing it to choose.

. I entreat you to tell me what is really going on when a human being "decides" something, or reasons among alternates,
Have I claimed to know this? I've only stated that awareness is orthogonal to reasoning so the fact that we might know(sometimes) why our brains came to certain conclusion does not necessarily indicate it chose.

My position has been limited to when Coyne comes to his conclusion , I can understand what he is saying , how he has come to this conclusion and I have some understanding on how this might work. Though it might not be true.

When you say that you have choice(given Coyne's definition of "choice") - I have no idea how that is supposed to work or even what is being proposed. It fails to meet my minimum requirements of taking your view seriously (even though it might be true). But I have stated this so many times that its now tiresome.
 
. [CS] I entreat you to tell me what is really going on when a human being "decides" something, or reasons among alternates,

[DS] Have I claimed to know this? I've only stated that awareness is orthogonal to reasoning so the fact that we might know(sometimes) why our brains came to certain conclusion does not necessarily indicate it chose.

My position has been limited to when Coyne comes to his conclusion , I can understand what he is saying , how he has come to this conclusion and I have some understanding on how this might work. Though it might not be true.


Right. So explain the hypothesis, then. In philosophically consistent language. If that's all that separates us, that you have a hypothesis and I don't, this shouldn't be so hard.
 
Chris
So explain the hypothesis, then. In philosophically consistent language.
I'm not a philosopher(and do you know of any philosophers who use philosophically consistent language in their blog posts?) and I don't think you need me to explain how Physical/Mechanical/Biological systems work without free will - If you genuinely dont know then I suggest you look it up before you have an opinion on free will.
 
I'm not a philosopher(and do you know of any philosophers who use philosophically consistent language in their blog posts?) and I don't think you need me to explain how Physical/Mechanical/Biological systems work without free will - If you genuinely dont know then I suggest you look it up before you have an opinion on free will.

In other words, you have a hypothesis, but won't--or can't--formulate it when asked. I'm not asking you to explain determinism; that part isn't problematic. I'm asking you explain rational thought (as used by scientists, for example) without resorting to the terminology of agency. Can you do that? Any scientific theory will do: Heliocentrism, Gravitation, General Relativity, Natural Selection. Briefly explain how one of these theories arose and came to be written down on paper where others could comprehend it, using deterministic language only, so that each effect has a proximate cause, and intentionality is not among them (being irrelevant to the determinist causal chain).

I'm not saying Coyneian determinism is wrong as it relates to human thought and activity, but if you can't explain how it works beyond "some neurons fired and next thing you know there's the Principia," then perhaps you too have difficulty meeting "the minimum standard of being taken seriously."
 
@Chris
In other words, you have a hypothesis, but won't--or can't--formulate it when asked.
No Im saying that you can find numerous examples of explanations of how systems work - computers / living cells / tree's etc without any agency. You know this and I know you know this.

Briefly explain how one of these theories arose and came to be written down on paper where others could comprehend it,
What does this have to do with free will? Comprehension/Awareness/Consciousness are all separate to "choice" or "free will". I fail to see your point. I did something and Im aware Im doing it doesn't imply free will. You taste something - you like it - do you have free will?
 
I fail to see your point. I did something and Im aware Im doing it doesn't imply free will. You taste something - you like it - do you have free will?

This is the same move you've made numerous times throughout this thread. I didn't ask how it was possible to taste something without volition. That's unproblematic. I asked how it was possible to do science without volition. To theorize the standard model, to build the CERN collider, to devise tests, to come up with competing accounts for neutrinos appearing to go faster than light, test those competing accounts, to interpret data suggesting higgs boson activity.

I'm not asking for a detailed account, which would be lengthy and get in to a field none of us has advanced knowledge in. A basic account of how this, or any other scientific endeavor, comes to pass without human volition, will do.

If all you can say is that "systems are deterministic" then you've failed to meet your own minimum standard here. That's question begging, just as invoking god or a soul would be. What we need is a plausible account of how deterministic systems are responsible for science without any influence by human volition. Do you have one, or are you just certain things must work this way out of your faith that they must be so?
 
No Im saying that you can find numerous examples of explanations of how systems work - computers / living cells / tree's etc without any agency. You know this and I know you know this.

Just to be extra clear here. We do not reply upon volition or agency to explain how a car works or a leaf grows on a tree. There are sciences that explicate these things quite clearly, and these sciences are universally accepted.

On the other hand, in the past, whenever we have tried to explain the fullness of human endeavors, including not just reflexes and sensations, but complex behaviors like science, philosophy, politics, economics, and art, without resort to agency or volition, we end up with theories that don't stand up to serious scientific or philosophical inquiry. We get junk science, like BF Skinner's behaviorism.

If you or Coyne have something better to offer that would demonstrate that all human behavior is an effect of prior cause, or "response" to prior "stimuli" in Skinner's language, then please share it. If you don't, then just admit it. People have been hurling dogmas at each other on this topic for at least a century; there's nothing new to claiming the mantle of determinism. What remains to be supplied is a plausible description of how such an explanation can account for human civilization in the same way that it can for cars and leaves.
 
@Chris
I asked how it was possible to do science without volition
Ah I see you've been reading Pigliucci by using the term volition - but Im not sure what that adds - since the term "will" is ambiguous.

Lets try again
a. I feel hungry (no choice here)
b. I eat (perhaps choice here)
c. I like it (no choice here)
d. I write a book about my experience, I paint a picture for the food I ate , I conduct experiments related to human tastes (perhaps choice here)
You keep asking that how are b) and d) possible without choice and the flippant answer is the same way a) and c) are.

i.e. why does the act of eating need choice (we do say I choose to be vegetarian , and I choose to eat healthy foods)?
In the absence of competing requirements the brain directs your body to eat. i.e Input(hunger) + Process(brain shaped by evolution) + State(foods that i have liked and many more things that we have no conscious idea about) = Output(Directs hand and mouth to eat).
Similarly I draw a painting (art) about this food - it doesn't necessarily indicate anything about choice.

Its what I dont understand if given the same input, the same state, the same process - the output differs , then we call such a thing as "random". You insist there is a third alternative - well what is it?
 
In none of your four examples do you use deterministic language, as I requested. How would you write them from an objective observer's point of view, without reference to the illusory entity of "self" or "I"?

For example, instead of "I feel hungry" you might write: "After the ATP in the organism's cells are depleted, owing to an exhaustion of sugars and lipids in the cells, a signal is sent to the brain indicating that new food sources are needed."

Instead of "I eat" you might write "The organism experiences this depletion as hunger, and instinctively becomes more responsive to stimuli indicating the presence of food, such as color and aroma. In organisms with the capacity for learning, a conditioned response is triggered, and the organism may emit sounds designed to trigger food production by other organisms, whether by crying for a mother's breast, or asking a waitress for a cheeseburger."

Neither of the above is intended to be scientifically accurate--I'm not a biologist or a behaviorist. But in my examples I've shown at least tentatively plausible causes for various behaviors, without a need to invoke any unnecessary entities or any kind of subjective sensation, just as we would expect when talking about a car or a plant.

The question is whether such language can be supplied to explain the most complex and involved human behaviors--the ones we believe we are influencing with our sense of volition. Can you offer anything? Even a hyperlink to something plausible you can get behind? This is the matter that it seems to me you have evaded this far. What would a deterministic, causal-chain explanation of complex, apparently willful, human behavior look like?

Give me something plausible, and then I'll take your request seriously for the "third alternative."
 
@Chris
In none of your four examples do you use deterministic language, as I requested.
Because I have already told you I don't see the point. Does "I feel hungry" indicate choice? if not then why does it matter if I use deterministic language or not?
 
I'm asking you to put your money where your mouth is. You say you disbelieve in choice/will/volition because it conflicts with determinism. It follows from this that the behaviors that appear to us to be choice-driven can more accurately be described deterministically. If this is so, there should be some substantiation. Show me. Or admit that you are making an appeal to your faith in the universal application of determinism, without any real investigation of how it would work in the realms under discussion.
 
@Chris
The question is whether such language can be supplied to explain the most complex and involved human behaviors--the ones we believe we are influencing with our sense of volition.
So in your example of "I eat" , do you choose to eat whatever you eat or not? If yes then you have provided your own description and I don't have to right?

or I could just say that organisms which can experience pleasure and have evolved to cooperate, the organism then records such activities using tools that have been developed (i.e. art). Again I dont get the point of this exercise.

Give me something plausible,
Ive already told you input + process = output.
Tons of examples that don't need volition - that's plausible enough for me , your mileage may vary.

What act according to you necessarily needs volition?

So far we seem to have
a. reason - The brain does reason but can it choose to do so? I would think the answer is a no - simply because we cannot will it away - demonstrated by agnostics remaining agnostics. Whatever conclusion you arrive at cant be changed by simply willing it.Seems to imply that given a set of facts and experiences, your brain is only able to arrive at a conclusion. Can you call this reason? Hard to say, the brain does evaluate a set of data and arrive at a conclusion. I guess where you stand on this question depends on whether you agree or disagree with the statement a computer computes or a calculator adds.

b. Science - depends on what you mean. I dont follow your logic here

c. Art - I dont follow your logic here either.

Anything else?
 
If reality is awareness without volition, why is it that we don't experience it as a movie, where we can observe everything but have no apparent choices?
 
@Anonymous
why is it that we don't experience it as a movie,
Since even people who believe in free will seem to agree that there are some things they dont choose, and those things aren't experienced as a movie , why would you expect this?
I'd think that because the brain is the one that has the awareness and is the decision maker, you get an integrated experience.

But since you bring it up - if the brain is the experiencing agency and the "will" is behind our choices then shouldn't the "will" perceive reality as a movie with a remote control?
 
Deepak,

I'm not sure I know of a way to be much clearer about why I think the Coyneian position is logically inconsistent without a commitment to deterministic language in describing human affairs. So I'll let it go.

About the matter of skepticism generally, I'll say this. There's nothing wrong with being a skeptic. If that's your temperament, then be who you are with pride, I say. But it's important to remember that if skeptics had ruled the day, we would likely still believe in a geocentric cosmos. There was simply no way to accept Copernicus' theory given the other scientific assumptions of the time. Galileo was right about heliocentrism, but he was wrong about elliptical orbits, and wrong about gravity (specifically the moon's affect on the tides, a proto theory that Newton was able to build upon)--both of which he considered to be superstitions. It took a Kepler to make Copernican theory work, by challenging the assumptions of the hardcore skeptics.

And as John has mentioned numerous times on this site, we had, for 229 years, no explanation for how matter could act upon matter at a distance, as the theory of gravitation required--until Einstein. The theory was entirely at odds with the reigning scientific doctrines of atomism and materialism, and yet it was more or less universally embraced by the scientific community. What kind of scientific dark age might we have had if universal gravitation was ruled out a priori by the scientific community, since there was no plausible hypothesis explaining action at a distance?

In such situations, something has to give--maybe the other side's sacred dogmatic beliefs, maybe one's own. We can't know until we get there.
 
@Chris
Again if you think asserting you have free will is the same level as other scientific hypothesis then I suppose anything goes. How about asserting you have a soul? Can I not use the same reasoning you do to say the soul deniers are wrong/dogmatic etc?

If you uniformly treat all outlandish claims with "Science/Scientists didnt know or were wrong" or "Even Einstein was wrong" etc etc then fine - but since I doubt you do that for "Homeopathy works" or "Ghosts exist" I dont see why you should do it for free will.

In the end the brain is a physical system , it has to work.
 
Again if you think asserting you have free will is the same level as other scientific hypothesis then I suppose anything goes.

You continue to either miss or evade the point. For 229 years there was no hypothesis for action-at-a-distance. Newton's stance was to just say Goddidit so as not to have to poke at the matter too sharply. The point is not that Newton was wrong, it's that physics progressed for two centuries without anyone having a decent idea of how matter could act upon matter from a distance, in seeming violation of all known theories of matter.

If there was evidence that homepathy worked anywhere near as predictably as Newtonian mechanics, we might have a similar situation. It doesn't, so we don't. But when it comes to volition, the situation is much more similar. We can observe the near universal phenomenon of seeming to choose, and then seeing the effects of that apparent choice.

Perhaps there is a better explanation than volition, but none has been offered. The best you can say about any specific case I might mention is that "systems are deterministic," which is just question-begging. Show me the actual causal relationship that leads to complex human behavior like writing and publishing a scientific paper and I might--might--be inclined to think volition was just an illusion. You can't show me even the most basic and fundamental model of how that might work, and can't cite anyone who has worked on the problem. This is a scientific defense?

In the end the brain is a physical system , it has to work.

So sayeth Pastor Shetty, long may he never waver in his faith!
 
@Chris
So sayeth Pastor Shetty, long may he never waver in his faith!
Well alright. ill concede yours doesn't.
 
@Chris
You continue to either miss or evade the point. For 229 years there was no hypothesis for action-at-a-distance.
Some things are observed to be so and can exist without hypothesis.
Since for free will the observation is under question the analogy doesn't work.

Show me the actual causal relationship that leads to complex human behavior like writing and publishing a scientific paper
Show me non life becoming life and I wont be a creationist, huh?
Show me all the transistional fossils and I wont be an IDiot huh?
Human behavior is being mimicked in a variety of ways, already, by simulations so you might get your answer in your lifetime.

But its curious why you think free will is restricted to a few complex things (it needn't be all ofcourse - but which ones? and why only those?).
 
But its curious why you think free will is restricted to a few complex things (it needn't be all ofcourse - but which ones? and why only those?)

You really need to work on your gotchas, Deepak.

I don't think that. I choose these kinds of examples because they crystallize the point I'm trying to make. Namely that some things--hunger perhaps--can plausibly exist outside the realm of volition. Certain others are much harder to account for. They tend to be the things we ascribe the most value to. Since I know you ascribe value to reason and science, it seemed a good place to meet.

But at almost 70 comments and counting, you have exhausted me in your point-missing, whether "willful" or determined. Good day!
 
@Chris
You really need to work on your gotchas, Deepak.
fwiw it wasn't a gotcha. Im curious as to what you actually believe. Just as Im also curious if you believe that only humans have free will or other species have them too. If other species then which ones do you think have free will - If only humans then how do you think this happened in an evolutionary world.
As before I genuinely find the term free will incoherent.
 
As before I genuinely find the term free will incoherent.

No you don't, because you claim you have no ability to choose between what is coherent and incoherent.

That's enough! Further comments will be deleted. Move to another thread to pursue your gotcha games.
 
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