How physicists handle the idea of Free Will?


by fbs7
Tags: free, handle, physicists
Pythagorean
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May5-12, 11:04 PM
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Quote Quote by Goodison_Lad View Post
I'm sorry, but I'll have to risk repeating myself: as I said in earlier posts, qualia is different because it is pure experience itself - it is entirely subjective.

It seems to me that no EEG, MRI scan, blood test or any other tool currently at the disposal of neuroscientists is likely to get us any nearer to the understanding the nature of conscious experience. Things that contribute to consciousness – sure. They’ll tell us, I’ve no reason to doubt, about all sorts of systems that combine to produce the content of which we are aware, but not the actual conscious experience itself. Of course, the usual caveat applies: that may change one day.

This is why I think it represents a great challenge for scientists who want to understand it in terms of brain systems.

So I’m afraid I can’t really give you any clearer reason for conscious experience being fundamentally different to objectively investigable phenomena than this.
I agree with, and have stated in some way, everything you've said here. None of it seems to touch on my argument that the nature of gravity has the same explanatory gap as consciousness. The two phenomena are themselves different (action at a distance vs. subjective experience). But both phenomena can only be characterized, not "explained".

We ask "why" and the only answers we ever really get are "how".
John Creighto
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May5-12, 11:53 PM
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Quote Quote by Pythagorean View Post
I agree with, and have stated in some way, everything you've said here. None of it seems to touch on my argument that the nature of gravity has the same explanatory gap as consciousness. The two phenomena are themselves different (action at a distance vs. subjective experience). But both phenomena can only be characterized, not "explained".

We ask "why" and the only answers we ever really get are "how".
May, ask for you in another thread to distinguish between what you mean by "why" vs "how". I suspect this is a big topic in and of itself.
Pythagorean
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May6-12, 12:02 AM
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How is the mechanism for how something works.

It's a lot harder to explain what "why" is because it doesn't have a stable definition. It can be used for "how" or it can be used to assay motivation for humans/animals. The final and third way it's applied, I think, is a misattribution of human motivation to the universe: "why is there entropy?? Why anything at all". Some people will be satisfied with a how answer; others will bring up the hard problem.
Ferris_bg
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May6-12, 01:36 AM
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Quote Quote by http://consc.net/papers/facing.html
It is undeniable that some organisms are subjects of experience. But the question of how it is that these systems are subjects of experience is perplexing. Why is it that when our cognitive systems engage in visual and auditory information-processing, we have visual or auditory experience: the quality of deep blue, the sensation of middle C? How can we explain why there is something it is like to entertain a mental image, or to experience an emotion? It is widely agreed that experience arises from a physical basis, but we have no good explanation of why and how it so arises. Why should physical processing give rise to a rich inner life at all? It seems objectively unreasonable that it should, and yet it does.

If any problem qualifies as the problem of consciousness, it is this one. In this central sense of "consciousness", an organism is conscious if there is something it is like to be that organism, and a mental state is conscious if there is something it is like to be in that state. Sometimes terms such as "phenomenal consciousness" and "qualia" are also used here, but I find it more natural to speak of "conscious experience" or simply "experience".

The difference between the hard problem of consciousness and the other hard problems for science is in the way the questions "why" have arisen. If we have only our cognitive type of experience, we wouldn't ask questions like "how it feels", but we would still ask questions like "why is there gravity, cognition etc". Having the subjective experience of how it feels however totally changes the picture. You are certain about the existence of something, which you can't study objectively.
Quote Quote by http://consc.net/papers/facing.html
What makes the hard problem hard and almost unique is that it goes beyond problems about the performance of functions. To see this, note that even when we have explained the performance of all the cognitive and behavioral functions in the vicinity of experience - perceptual discrimination, categorization, internal access, verbal report - there may still remain a further unanswered question: Why is the performance of these functions accompanied by experience? A simple explanation of the functions leaves this question open.

There is no analogous further question in the explanation of genes, or of life, or of learning. If someone says "I can see that you have explained how DNA stores and transmits hereditary information from one generation to the next, but you have not explained how it is a gene", then they are making a conceptual mistake. All it means to be a gene is to be an entity that performs the relevant storage and transmission function. But if someone says "I can see that you have explained how information is discriminated, integrated, and reported, but you have not explained how it is experienced", they are not making a conceptual mistake. This is a nontrivial further question.
pftest
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May6-12, 03:08 AM
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Quote Quote by Q_Goest View Post
To your point, we would generally say there is a mind<>brain relationship in the same way there is a relationship between any phenomena which supervenes on its base.
Yes i think thats right. And because physically there are no such things as a "base level" and a "higher level", the whole supervenience relationship is always a conceptual one. Even in the case of a rock that supervenes on its molecules. Physically speaking, the only relationships that exist in a rock are the forces between the particles. Psychologically, a human mind can imagine the rock to exist at several different levels (the whole rock > its molecules > their atoms > their particles). Those latter psychological relationships are what we call supervenience. So my conclusion is that supervenience is to physicalism like what god is to atheism. I wanted to address this because i was under the impression that people generally believe supervenience to be a physicalist view on consciousness, whereas i think it is the exact opposite.
pftest
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May6-12, 03:19 AM
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Quote Quote by Pythagorean View Post
I agree with, and have stated in some way, everything you've said here. None of it seems to touch on my argument that the nature of gravity has the same explanatory gap as consciousness. The two phenomena are themselves different (action at a distance vs. subjective experience). But both phenomena can only be characterized, not "explained".

We ask "why" and the only answers we ever really get are "how".
There do exist questions that get "why-answers", for example: why did person X kill person Y (Y insulted him). Or why does person Z drink non-sparkling water (it tastes better). Basically any action that involves consciousness includes a "why-answer".

So "why-answers" do exist just as much as "how-answers". If we have an explanatory gap, we can insert either one. Or both, I think we can see in human beings that both types of answers can be at work at the same time.

And i should note that when science gives a "how-answer" it is agnostic on the presence of a "why-answer", it doesnt state such an answer is absent. A formula may describe how someone moves his legs while walking, but at the same time the person may be walking that way to avoid kneepain. So science may search for a "how-answer" for gravity, and even when it finds one it wont say anything about the involvement of a conscious state (as is the case in human brains). This is true for the most basic physical laws out there.
Q_Goest
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May6-12, 06:26 AM
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Hi pftest
Quote Quote by pftest View Post
Yes i think thats right. And because physically there are no such things as a "base level" and a "higher level", the whole supervenience relationship is always a conceptual one. Even in the case of a rock that supervenes on its molecules. Physically speaking, the only relationships that exist in a rock are the forces between the particles. Psychologically, a human mind can imagine the rock to exist at several different levels (the whole rock > its molecules > their atoms > their particles). Those latter psychological relationships are what we call supervenience. So my conclusion is that supervenience is to physicalism like what god is to atheism. I wanted to address this because i was under the impression that people generally believe supervenience to be a physicalist view on consciousness, whereas i think it is the exact opposite.
The discussion around the rock being made of particles is probably not the best example for the term "supervenience". A rock in this case is made of something and that's not really what supervenience is meant to pick out.

Standford encyclopedia of philosophy defines it this way:
A set of properties A supervenes upon another set B just in case no two things can differ with respect to A-properties without also differing with respect to their B-properties. In slogan form, “there cannot be an A-difference without a B-difference”.
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/supervenience/

Another good explanation is given by Maudlin, "Computation and Consciousness":
States of awareness and sensory events take place in time; they are fairly precisely datable. One can assert that Sam had a toothach at 12:05 or that Sheila spent five minutes wondering about Fermat's last theorem. A natural, indeed nearly inescapable, explanation for this is that conscious events and episodes supervene on concurrent physical events and processes. One's phenomenal state at a time is determined entirely by one's brain activity at that time. Hence, two physical systems engaged in precisely the same activity through a time will support the same modes of consciousness (if any) through that time. Let us call this the supervenience thesis.
The term 'supervenience' can also be used outside of the philosophy of mind. We can say the pressure of a gas supervenes on the molecules in the gas. The pressure is a property that depends on the molecules in the gas. We can't change the pressure without changing something to do with the molecules. Compressing them isentropically for instance, imparts energy to the molecules and changes the pressure. Expanding the molecules through a restriction in a pipe results in an isenthalpic expansion of the molecules and a subsequent change in the pressure. So the pressure can be said to supervene on the molecules.

We generally say the mind supervenes on the brain because we naturally assume that what we think or experience at any time is because of what's going on in the brain. So these mental states supervene on the physical states.
madness
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May6-12, 06:32 AM
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Quote Quote by Pythagorean View Post
You argument is that there is no gravity. That's really not satisfactory...
I don't see how you can selectively use that argument on gravity and not on consciousness.

They're both products of the same system of perceptions.

I think if you're to take Lowe's view, you can't be selective about it.
As I said before, I have direct knowledge of my conscious experiences. There is no way to gain knowledge of any "gravity" above and beyond the trajectories of the particles which it is said to act on. I haven't yet had the time to read the full Lowe paper, so can't know if I agree with him or not.
Diracula
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May6-12, 06:35 AM
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It seems to me that supervenience is completely compatible with physicalism, and is probably even a necessary condition for a physical interpretation of mind/consciousness. You change the matter in the skull --> you change the mind. You change the mind --> something in the brain matter must change as well. What am I missing?
Q_Goest
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May6-12, 06:41 AM
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Hi Diracula,
Quote Quote by Diracula View Post
It seems to me that supervenience is completely compatible with physicalism, and is probably even a necessary condition for a physical interpretation of mind/consciousness. You change the matter in the skull --> you change the mind. You change the mind --> something in the brain matter must change as well. What am I missing?
You're not missing anything. That's correct.
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May6-12, 06:56 AM
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Quote Quote by Pythagorean View Post
Also, you know my position, it's a fairly common position: it's the physicalist position. Again a misrepresentation, claiming that these are my personal wishes and desires. I also share some views with Lowe.
Your views clearly don't coincide with Lowe's. Lowe is even less of a physicalist than Chalmers. He says in the very first sentance, that Chalmers "... concedes too much to such physicalists in allowing that some, at least, af these problems..." will fall prey to physicalist methods. Your views of hard physicalism clearly don't match his.

Lastly, it's unfair to post a reference and expect somebody to read it all. If you have a specific point to make from a reference, quote it, interperet it, and state how its relevant. Otherwise it's just more "oh the answers in there, you're just too ignorant to see it... but don't mind me not being able to state it".
Numerous people have now explained for you why gravity is not a "hard problem" as the term is defined in philosophy. You can read the original paper by Chalmers on line here:
http://consc.net/papers/facing.html
or just Google. You and I have discussed things on this forum for years and in my experience, you consistently come up with your own ideas about philosphy of mind instead of learning what is in the literature. Even when people have given you references, you still go back to arguing your own ideas. That results in threads getting hijacked - we end up going off on a tangent that never gets resolved. It's unfair and inconsiderate of you to continually insist on your own ideas about philosophy.
Q_Goest
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May6-12, 07:17 AM
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Hi John,
Quote Quote by John Creighto View Post
However, when it comes to why does mass curve space. Why can't some laws be fundamental and not need further explanation? Aristotle would refer to this as the concept of a first cause but this does not imply a God. Aristotle thought that there should be some principles which existed at the beginning of the universe. He called these principles, "Unperishable Principles" and he discusses this in his book Metaphysics:
http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/a/aristotle/metaphysics/
You might be interested in the "psychophysical laws" that Chalmers has suggested. He argues that there must be fundamental laws, similar to relativity or quantum mechanics for example, that have no further explanation.
The question then arises: how do these novel fundamental properties relate to the already acknowledged fundamental properties of the world, namely those invoked in microphysics? In general, where there are fundamental properties, there are fundamental laws. So we can expect that there will be some sort of fundamental principles — psychophysical laws — connecting physical and phenomenal properties. Like the fundamental laws of relativity or quantum mechanics, these psychophysical laws will not be deducible from more basic principles, but instead will be taken as primitive.
Ref: Chalmers, "Consciousness and its place in nature"
http://consc.net/papers/nature.html

The flip side to that comes from the physicalist view that every phenomena can be explained in purely physical terms.
Maui
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May6-12, 07:41 AM
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Quote Quote by Q_Goest View Post
Your views clearly don't coincide with Lowe's. Lowe is even less of a physicalist than Chalmers. He says in the very first sentance, that Chalmers "... concedes too much to such physicalists in allowing that some, at least, af these problems..." will fall prey to physicalist methods. Your views of hard physicalism clearly don't match his.



You mean the Big Bang is not the Explanation for everything? But I drank a coffee and the reason for that is obviously the infinitely low entropy at the time of the BB. Similarly, the nature of consciousness is easily explained by causality and easily traceable to the BB by physicalists. Physicalism and the BB possess at least a million times more answers than any religion ever did. And the reason for that is guess what? The reason why reasons exist at all is the same - the Big Bang is by far the most powerful explanatory tool ever devised by men. Big Bang Akbar! (at least both positions share the same common beginning - consciousness is observered to arise only after a BB, same with the physical, you need a BB :) )
pftest
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May6-12, 08:13 AM
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Quote Quote by Q_Goest View Post
The term 'supervenience' can also be used outside of the philosophy of mind. We can say the pressure of a gas supervenes on the molecules in the gas. The pressure is a property that depends on the molecules in the gas. We can't change the pressure without changing something to do with the molecules. Compressing them isentropically for instance, imparts energy to the molecules and changes the pressure. Expanding the molecules through a restriction in a pipe results in an isenthalpic expansion of the molecules and a subsequent change in the pressure. So the pressure can be said to supervene on the molecules.

We generally say the mind supervenes on the brain because we naturally assume that what we think or experience at any time is because of what's going on in the brain. So these mental states supervene on the physical states.
Isnt the gas pressure example identical to the rock<>molecules example? Gas pressure consists of moving molecules in the same way as the rock consists of its molecules. After all, there is nothing more to gas pressure than what it consists of, so it is reducible without remainder to that.
Maui
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May6-12, 08:21 AM
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Quote Quote by pftest View Post
Isnt the gas pressure example identical to the rock<>molecules example? Gas pressure consists of moving molecules in the same way as the rock consists of its molecules. After all, there is nothing more to gas pressure than what it consists of, so it is reducible without remainder to that.


Not quite so, your idea would reduce well if there were classical ball-like solid particles, instead of fields. Nothing is really well reducible to anything remotely similar to what we experience as an observable world. That's why it is often said that qm isn't a description of our world.

But Q_quest might have meant another point - something along the lines of weak supervenience - e.g. that individual molecules don't possess a property that can be labeled "pressure".
Q_Goest
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May6-12, 08:30 AM
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Quote Quote by pftest View Post
Isnt the gas pressure example identical to the rock<>molecules example? Gas pressure consists of moving molecules in the same way as the rock consists of its molecules. After all, there is nothing more to gas pressure than what it consists of, so it is reducible without remainder to that.
You could say there is some property of the rock that is supervenient on the molecules, but simply saying that a rock is supervenient on its molecules doesn't pick out something that will differ in a rock when its molecules change. The statement is a bit too generic.

We could, for example, say the hardness of a diamond is supervenient on its molecules if we're referring to the molecule's crystalline structure, thus a change to that crystalline structure leads to a change in the hardness. Or we could say that my pet rock that I keep in my window is supervenient on its molecules perhaps because my pet rock depends on it being a certain set of molecules. It's a matter of identifying something about this particular rock which, when changed, changes that particular something.
pftest
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May6-12, 08:40 AM
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Quote Quote by Q_Goest View Post
It's a matter of identifying something about this particular rock which, when changed, changes that particular something.
But that is exactly what happens in "consists-of" relationships. Change some molecules in the rock, and of course the rock changes, because the rock = its molecules. The same goes for gas pressure or the hardness of a diamond. I do not see how supervenience is anything more than that. Your example of your pet rock puzzles me but you must have a reason for mentioning it. How is it different from an example of a normal rock? In both cases the rocks consist of their molecules, what am i missing?
pftest
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May6-12, 08:47 AM
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Quote Quote by Maui View Post
Not quite so, your idea would reduce well if there were classical ball-like solid particles, instead of fields. Nothing is really well reducible to anything remotely similar to what we experience as an observable world. That's why it is often said that qm isn't a description of our world.
I dont think it makes a difference for my argument that supervenience is a mental abstraction, whether a rock consists of particles or fields, in both cases it is a "consist-of" relationship. Change the molecules and the rock changes. Change the fields and the rock changes.


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