|Jul27-06, 12:56 AM||#1|
Routes to Ultimate Responsibility
(I wasn't sure whether to post this in general philosophy or in metaphysics - it raises metaphysical questions about the meaning of ultimate responsibility but the hard-determinist in me tells me that the topic itself is of a general nature - I'll let the moderators decide)
In the perennial debate on free will and determinism it is important to understand where each camp lies in relation to the other, what the basic premises of each camp are, and where the battle-lines are drawn. This is an attempt to sketch-out a high-level map of that territory.
I suggest basic definitions of free will and determinism as follows :
Determinism is the premise that “same past” entails “same future”; in other words that whatever happens today is determined precisely by antecedent states of the world; that given the past there is one and only one possible future in this world.
Free will is the premise that an agent with free will possesses ultimately responsibility for its actions. This notion of ultimate responsibility (UR) is perhaps the most fundamental aspect of free will, though in most explanations of free will the principle of alternate possibilities (PAP) is also assumed.
Note : I will not go into a deeper examination of just what UR is supposed to mean at this point – since this will lead us into yet another debate on the coherency of UR. Suffice it to say that UR is supposed to mean that free will agents are the ultimate cause “of themselves” – UR is the modern terminology equivalent of causa sui (latin for “cause of itself”). To a libertarian UR is supposed to be a coherent notion, but to both hard determinists and compatibilists the notion of UR entails a contradiction or incoherency.
Given the above definitions, we can ask whether free will is compatible with determinism. I believe that almost everyone would agree that (as defined above) free will and determinism are incompatible premises – if one is true then the other must be false. The thesis that free will is incompatible with determinism is called incompatibilism. There is one camp however, the compatibilists, who claim that free will and determinism are compatible premises. How do they achieve this compatibilism? Quite simply by redefining the meaning of either free will (the common approach) or determinism (the uncommon approach) such that these terms are then compatible.
I have tried to sketch the “family tree” of free will vs determinism beliefs in the attached figure (you will need to refer to it to make sense of the rest of this post).
The Incompatibilist Camp
Referring to the figure, the incompatibilists who embrace free will and reject determinism are the libertarians, whereas the incompatibilists who embrace determinism and reject free will are the hard-determinists. In the libertarian camp, both UR and PAP are held to be true premises, whereas in the hard-determinist camp both UR and PAP are held to be false.
Note : Here I am assuming that a hard-determinist does not necessarily believe that there are no indeterministic processes in the world – but she does believe that any such indeterministic processes do not have any bearing on the question of the truth or falsity of free will. In other words, the hard-determinist premise is that free will is false, and not necessarily that there are no indeterministic processes in the world. In other words, that indeterminism (if it exists) does not open the door to free will. I realise this idea that a hard-determinist does not necessarily reject the notion of indeterministic processes may sound contradictory, and will likely be a point for discussion.
The Compatibilist Camp
The compatibilist camp is also split. The ones who retain the above definition of determinism, and redefine free will such that it is compatible with determinism, I call true compatibilists (mainly because the vast bulk of compatibilists fall into this camp). To a true compatibilist, free will is nothing more nor less than being able (ie being physically unconstrained) to do what you want to do. PAP is not necessarily true, and UR is certainly not true, for a true compatibilist.
The compatibilists who retain the above definition of free will, and redefine determinism such that it is compatible with free will, I have shown by a broken line in the figure. There is only one champion of this view to my knowledge (professor Norman Swartz), and his approach I believe leads him back into the libertarian camp. In this camp, UR and PAP are held to be true.
Almost all of the above (I believe) is pretty much accepted in the free will vs determinism arena.
The Libertarian camp
Now we get to the contentious part.
I have further divided the libertarian camp into two sub-camps. There are the libertarians who believe that the concept of free will (ie how agents actually acquire UR) can be fully explained on a purely naturalistic basis (ie without invoking any mystical, magical or supernatural powers). In other words that there is a rational and logical explication for how UR can arise and can operate in the world which does not appeal to any unknown mystical forces. These I call naturalist libertarians. The naturalist libertarian believes that PAP can be satisfied via indeterminism, and that some suitable combination of indeterminism and determinism within an agent can somehow give rise to UR. The difficulty for the naturalist libertarian is in actually demonstrating (as opposed to assuming) that a particular combination of indeterminism and determinism gives rise to UR. I do not believe this has been successfully demonstrated, hence I label the naturalist libertarian camp in the figure as one which PAP can be satisfied, but in which UR is false. (Naturalist libertarians will no doubt argue that they assume UR is true – I do not dispute that – what I dispute is that the naturalist libertarian can show that UR is true in his model of libertarianism).
The other libertarian sub-camp is the camp of supernaturalist libertarians (I believe these comprise the vast majority of libertarians) who acknowledge that, though PAP can be satisfied by indeterminism alone, UR cannot. For these libertarians, the ultimate explanation of UR rests neither in determinism nor in indeterminism nor in any combination of the two, rather it lies outside of the natural world altogether in some mystical realm to which we have no access, in which it is supposed to be possible for an agent to be the cause of itself. This seems to be the only way that we can arrive at UR – by pushing the “explanation” for free will into the mystical realm where we ultimately end up with no rational explanation at all……. We simply say “and then a miracle happens”.
I would be interested in constructive comments from other members.
Have I interpreted the beliefs and premises of the various camps correctly? Am I misrepresenting or missing anything?
|Jul27-06, 08:12 AM||#2|
Libertarianism based on indeterminism supports UR easily
Only Some Entities are Credited with Volition.
His account also misses the fact that we impute volition only to certain entities. We do not say a stone is free simply because it is not in a cage, although we might say that of a bird. Freedom is not just a negative condition of being free of constraint, it is also a positive power which only some entities possess.
Believers in free will, libertarians, often emphasise two key features of free will: alternative possiblities (AP), the idea that there is a genuine choice available at a given time, and Origination or ultimate responsibility (UR), the idea that there is a genuine sense in which you are the originator of your voluntary acts, and therefore bear responsibility for them.
In other words there is a choice to be made, and it is indeed you who are responsible for making it.
Ideally, UR should have an objective explanation (rather than a conventional one, like deeming certain pieces of paper to be "money"). For naturalists, it should have ane explanation grounded in physics. The hypothesis of indeterminism can fulfil the role of an explanation of UR as well as being the obvious explanation for AP.
An indeterministic cause is an event which is not itself the effect of a prior cause. Thus, if you trace a cause-effect chain backwards it will come to a halt at an indetermistic cause; the indeterministic cause stands at the "head" of a cause-effect chain. Thus, such causes can pin down the UR, the originative power, of agents.
There are two important things to realise at this point:
Firstly, I am not saying that indeterministic causes correspond one-to-one to human decisions or actions. It takes billions of basic physical events to produce an action or decision. The claim that indeterminism is part of this complex process does not mean that individual decisions are "just random". (As I expand here).
Secondly, I am also not saying that indeterminism by itself is a fully sufficient criterion for agenthood. If phsyical indeterminism is widespread (as argued here), that would attribute free will to all sorts of unlikely agents, such as decaying atoms. Our theory requires some additional criteria. There is no reason why these should not be largely the same criteria used by compatibilists and supercompatibilists -- rule-following rationallity, lack of external compulsion, etc. Where their criteria do not go far enough, we can supplement them with UR and AP. Where their criteria attribute free will too widely to entities, our supplementary criteria will narrow the domain.
With diagrams here:
|Jul28-06, 02:21 AM||#3|
Many thaks for the response, much appreciated.
I have many questions, but here is one that springs to mind :
On the subject of UR (which I believe is the single most crucial premise in the libertarian account, and the one that is all too frequently glossed over) you say that
May I ask what do you mean exactly by “unaccountably” in this context?
Do you mean :
(a) that there is no naturalistic ontic explanation for the source of UR (ie the explanation is supernatural)
(b) that there is a naturalistic ontic explanation, but the details of any particular chain are simply epistemically inaccessible to us (for reasons of experimental or quantum uncertainty, chaos, etc)
It still seems to me that you have not in fact shown that your Darwinian model possesses UR – you simply assume it does because you have mixed indeterminism and determinism and produced something which can operate rationally but unpredictably.
Here is a simple argument which shows that the idea that indeterminism leads to UR is incoherent….
The Problem with Indeterminism
What happens if we replace your indeterministic RIG (iRIG) with a deterministic RIG (dRIG)?
A dRIG would be something similar to the random number generator (RNG) on your computer – for all practical purposes this RNG produces a sequence of “random” numbers which are (in principle) indistinguishable from the sequence of random numbers that would be produced by an indeterministic RNG. The one key difference is that if we reset the deterministic RNG, then it produces exactly the same series of “random” numbers all over again (this is why it is called deterministic). Apart from this, there is absolutely no in principle difference between the output of an iRIG and a dRIG.
Thus, we could remove the iRIG from your Darwinian model, and replace it with a similarly configured dRIG, and the model would operate in exactly the same way as it did before. The dRIG would produce deterministically “random” ideas which are evaluated and selected by the SIS. In operational terms, and in terms of the behaviour and output of the model, the model with the dRIG would be literally indistinguishable from the original model incorporating the iRIG.
But the new model, with the dRIG, is now a deterministic model. It acts both rationally and (unless we know the RNG algorithm) unpredictably, in exactly the same way as the original model, but if we reset the dRIG and start all over again, the new model will behave identically to the way that it behaved the first time. Apart from this, there is absolutely nothing anywhere in the operation, behaviour or output of the model which is in any way different to the original model with the iRIG. Aside from resetting the dRIG, neither the model itself (if it could express an opinion), nor anyone else external to the model, would be able to tell whether the model was operating deterministically or not.
If the original model (with the iRIG) possesses UR, as you claim, then on what rational basis can we claim that the new model (with the dRIG), which is internally and externally operationally indistinguishable from the original model, does not possess UR?
The libertarian would doubtlessly claim that only the model with the iRIG has access to “alternate possibilities”, the model with the dRIG (being completely deterministic) “cannot do otherwise” than what it does, and it is this difference (according to the Libertarian) which ensures that the iRIG version possesses UR, whereas the dRIG version does not. But the two models are completely indistinguishable, both to external observers and internally to the models themselves! If both models were operating side by side, and you did not know which was which, there is absolutely no test of their operation, behaviour or output that you could perform that would allow you to say “this one has UR, and this one does not”. Indeed, if the models were somehow able to report on their own “perceptions” of their internal decision-making processes, their reports would be indistinguishable. There would be no rational operational basis at all for discriminating between the two models. If one of the models possesses UR and the other does not, then it would seem that this UR is purely epiphenomenal, in other words it is totally ineffective in terms of its influence on the operation, behaviour or output of the model which possesses it (and I think you can see where this argument would lead us – Chalmers has used the same argument to show that zombies should be physically possible if consciousness is epiphenomenal).
If there is no rational operational basis for discriminating between the two models, then it seems clear that at least one of the following three statements must be true :
1) Both models possess UR, or
2) Neither model possesses UR, or
3) UR is purely an epiphenomenon, with absolutely no causal efficacy at all
Conclusion : UR (if it exists at all in the Darwinian model) is either totally ineffectual, or does not entail indeterminism (and is therefore compatible with determinism), or both.
Good to exchange ideas with you, Tournesol,
|Jul28-06, 06:09 AM||#4|
Routes to Ultimate Responsibility
chains of events Causal originiation is a necessary but insufficient criterion
for responsibility. The other criteria are rationallity and self-control.
I explain those as well.
lapsing back into the "false because supernatural" idea.
of UR, because the source of UR (or the casual componenet thereof)
is indetermisic. It is a false dichotomy to
assume if there is no natural explanation, there must
be a supernatural one.
No. Real CHDO needs real indeterminsim.
Supernaturalism again ?
(( haven't got time for the rest ))
|Jul28-06, 06:34 AM||#5|
Actually, I have largely answered it here:
We have shown :-
1. That free will is incompatible with determinism.
2. That free will requires indeterminism.
3. How, specifically, free will is based on indeterminism.
4. That indeterminism can manifest itself in the macroscopic world.
It could be the case that, while all these ingredients are in place they fail to come together, meaning that my arguments fall short of a definitive proof. Whether the brain actually uses indeterminism as I have hypothesised is a matter for empirical investigation, and therefore beyond the bounds of philosophical argument. My thesis is falsifiable.
What are the consequences if it actually falsified ? We do not have to abandon the idea of free will entirely. We could lapse back into the weaker defintion used by compatibilists, for instance (just as the empirical discovery that atoms can be split prompted us to stop defining them as ultimate units of matter). The argument against compatibilism is that it does not work with the stronger concept of free will embodied in our natural language and everyday prices, and in the absence of evidence for determinism there is no motivation to adopt a weaker definition. However, the discovery that the brain is effectively deterministic might provide us with just such a motivation.
|Jul28-06, 07:28 AM||#6|
Real Randomness and Pseudo-randomness: objectivity
Some people claim it is impossible in principle to empirically detect the difference between real, intrinsic randomness and pseudo-randomness. Whilst initially plausible, this is in fact doubtful as sophisticated procedures like the Aspect experiment show. Even if it is true, the main thrust of the argument is that a free will is possible if determinism is possible, not that indeterminism-based free will is actually true. The possibillity of indeterminism-based free will is thus established even if the truth of indeterminsim based free-will is epistemically inaccessible. "it is not necessarily true" is no rebuttal to "it is possible".
Real Randomness and Pseudo-randomness: subjectivity
A variation on that argument has it that substituting pseudo-randomness for real randomness in the brain would make no subjectively detectable difference. It is difficult to see how anyone could be sure at the time of writing. There is considerable disagreement about how and to what extent subjective consciousnes relates to the physical. Whether a physical system is random or deterministic has a physical basis -- it is part of the total physical situation. Physicalism requires only that consciousness supervenes on the physical, not that it supervenes on any particualr aspect of the physical, so it is physicalistically allowable for the difference between real- and pseudo-randomness to be subjectively detectable. As ever, it should be born in mind that the claim "naturalistic libertarian free will is possibly true" is not contradicted by scenarios the claim naturalistic libertarian free will is possibly false", only be the claim that it is actually false.
Real Randomness and Pseudo-randomness: necessity
Yet another variation on the same objection has it that real randomness is not actually necessary to solve the "engineering" problem -- that pseudo-randomness would have been just as good. As stated that is true, buit it is not very relevant. Nature might have evolved a pseudo-random-number generator in the brain, but that doesn't mean She did. It might have been "easier" to take afvantage of the thermal noise present in all systems. In any case, the usual response applies. The modality is wrong. To say that our thesis might not have been true does not mean it is actually false. And in any case, it is only a claim to the effect that something is possible
|Jul28-06, 08:25 AM||#7|
|Jul28-06, 09:35 AM||#8|
if you believe in hidden variables, you basically think
QM is pseudo-random -- a deterministic system which cannot
be predicted. The Aspect experiment test for local hidden variables.
|Jul28-06, 12:16 PM||#9|
I agree with everything MF says.
I'd just like to expand that personally I think that free will is an emergent concept that we create in our heads.
Say, a bird can be free, but at the same time it's not because it's bound to everything it does in such a way that it cannot escape.
It cannot suddenly fly out of the universe.
Same with humans, we have certain restraints in place, but theoretically, nothing is stopping us from getting rid of these restraints.
We can build machinery and techology to further enhance our mobility and "freespace" (the space we can interact with and move in physically.)
Thus we have the POTENTIAL to be completely free, even from the universe.
What we must do is first find the physical and objective restraints in place, like say we are not able to escape gravity with our bodies, we cannot fly, we cannot throw airplanes with our mere hands and so forth.
But all those physical restraints can be eradicated with machines and technology.
Then there are the mental restraints.
We cannot think a new thought that is unprovoked, that is, we cannot make up something completely new that has no relation or event in the universe from before.
I see the brain as a solver.
It solves something based on physical restraints.
For instance, the brain receives data, like an apple lying outside a basket, and solves in itself that the apple belongs in the basket.
Following this we see that every little thing that happens in the brain, is a logical precursor for the next event.
Anything from emotions, to thoughts to all those other small quirks we have, THEY ALL HAVE A LOGICAL PRECURSOR.
BUT, and this is a big but, these precursors are MENTAL in nature.
That is, the concept that an apple CAN BE put in a basket, is a physical one, but the concept that the apple BELONGS in the basket, is a mental one.
Thus we have two kinds of logical events here, one is what the agent believes, the other is what can physically be done.
Now, likewise with UR, there is two things that can be said.
In the choice of whether the apple belongs in the basket or not, we get UR.
On a mental level, the logic is "hey that apple looks like it needs a home, I'm going to put the apple in the basket now."
What's happening here is that the agent sees something(a physical dilemma of whether or not the apple belongs in the basket), and then decides to put the apple in the basket.
On the physical level, there are several restraints.
For one the person himself is in the room, that is a restraint because he has now looked at the basket and an apple and the emotions and thoughts are in the workings.
The other physical restraint is that of the brain.
Why did he decide to put the apple in the basket?
Well, it seems that he has an idea, that is created from somewhere in his childhood, that apples belongs in baskets.
This is also a restraint, because he's following a logical aftereffect of this logic.
But what matters the most here, is that we recognize that he has two choices, both stemming from deterministic logic.
The two logical options here are the ones that he can either 1. leave the apple as it is, or 2. put the apple in the basket and most likely feel more satisfied for doing so.
See? Nature is even giving us emotional reasons to follow through on logic things.
But it's not FORCING us.
He didn't HAVE to put the apple in the basket.
The virtual choice is created in his head, I mean a robot wouldn't care if the apple was in the basket.
So we see that it is all a matter of viewpoint also, he cared about the apple because he saw a discrepenancy in the physical world that mismatched his idea of what the physical world should be.
Then the brain tries to solve this discrepancy and it gets enjoyment for doing so.
I mean why even bother about solving the problem if there is no reward?
The reward comes from the fact that the brain WANTS to solve problems, no matter how small or insignificant.
Thus my conclusion is that free will, UR etc, are all logical problem solver that emerge in the brain, and that are VIRTUAL choices.
Whether or not we can do mind over matter does not matter, because we still have the choice on our level.
|Jul28-06, 02:13 PM||#10|
Even accepting this characteristization of hidden-variables theories (which I am uneasy about - I think it papers over a lot of things that have to be thought carefully about ), but even so, your account of the Aspect experiment doesn't show it had anything to do with pseudo-random versus random; it showed physics is not given by a particular pseudo-random theory. And the features of that theory which Aspect falsified did not depend on the character of pseudo-randomness.
What physics does is described by quantum mechanics; QM's mathematical formalism has a component which provides different outcomes on different occasions, and the Born interpretation (which, note, is an interpretation of what the math says) says a number you can get out of QM is a probability for the different outcomes to occur. And experiment provides frequentist support for that interpretation. But nothing says whether QM itself is random or pseudo-random. There might yet be some deterministic underpinning of it discovered; all we know at this point is that such an underpinning won't be described by a finite set of hidden parameters.
|Jul31-06, 11:43 PM||#11|
If you are going to reply that I am responsible because I am responsible for my SIS, then you fall into the infinite regress problem of UR – if I am responsible for my SIS, then how did it come about that I am responsible for my SIS in the first place – there must be yet another mechanism which underlies your model which creates UR for the SIS, and if you claim it is yet another Darwinian mechanism then we are into “turtles all the way down”. The only way you can avoid the infinite regress is by hand-waving and refusing to explain the detailed mechanism (which seems to be your current tactic), or to appeal to supernatural forces (which neither you nor I believe in). Seems you’re stuck, doesn’t it?
The basic argument against the naturalistic attempt to explain free will and UR can be summarised as follows :
The naturalist assumes that we can construct a coherent and rational model of an agent possessing free will and UR using “natural” building blocks. Each building block may be broken down into deterministic and/or indeterministic components.
Deterministic components are needed to provide the necessary qualities of rationality and control, whereas indeterministic components are needed to provide (the libertarian requirement of) “alternate possibilities”. The naturalist assumes that a suitable mixture of these deterministic and indeterministic components will provide for not only a rational, controlling and unpredictable agent, but also (more importantly) an agent with ultimate responsibility (UR) for its actions.
The naturalist cannot assume that UR already exists within any of the basic building blocks (components) of her explanation (this would beg the question as to where that UR came from, leading to infinite regress), thus she must instead assume the agent does not possess UR for any of the individual basic building blocks, but instead that UR somehow *emerges* from the particular way that these building blocks go together.
This is where the naturalist gets stuck, because there IS no way that she can show how UR can arise within the agent from a judicious mix of deterministic and indeterministic components, when for each of these components in isolation the agent does not possess UR.. Let us take the Darwinian model as an example, to illustrate why this is not possible.
The combined RIG/SIS is alleged to provide free will/UR. But clearly the SIS does not (in isolation) provide for UR – the agent is not responsible for its SIS, the SIS is simply taken as a “given” deterministic algorithm. (If the naturalist wants to claim the agent is responsible for his SIS, then we are into infinite regress…….). Similarly, the agent is not responsible for his RIG, the RIG is simply taken as a “given” random number generator. (If the naturalist wants to claim the agent is responsible for his RIG, then we are into infinite regress…….). When the RIG asnd SIS are combined in the Darwinian model, the outcome is therefore simply stochastic. Given a particular SIS algorithm (which the agent is not responsible for), the output of that algorithm is simply determined by the input, and the input is simply a random number generated by the RIG. The output of the Darwinian model, therefore, is determined by a random input. Where is the “agent responsibility” in any of this?
The same argument can be extended to any naturalistic combination of deterministic and indeterministic components. There is simply no way that the naturalist can demonstrate how UR could arise, unless she assumes UR in one of the components. The naturalist is faced with the same problem as the magician who needs to pull a rabbit out of a hat. There are two ways to do this – either by supernatural forces, or by sleight of hand. The naturalist cannot resort to supernatural forces, thus she must use sleight of hand – she relies on smoke and mirrors and hand-waving, hoping that nobody notices when she slips the pre-existing rabbit into the hat.
One cannot generate UR by simply mixing together indeterminism and determinism in any old fashion, and simply hoping that UR results. You need to show that your combination actually produces UR, which you have not done.
From your earlier post, you would seem to be saying that these “criteria” are :
To summarise : You are simply assuming that your Darwinian model gives rise to UR, you have not given any rational means by which we can establish that it does indeed possess UR.
Indeterminism alone is not a sufficient condition for UR. Neither is rationality. Neither is lack of external compulsion (whatever that means). And simply “adding them all together” also does not produce a set of jointly sufficient conditions. A computer can act indeterministically, rationally and free of external compulsion, but I would not agree that it necessarily follows that the computer in question possesses UR.
What, then, are the jointly sufficient conditions for UR?
If free will entails UR, then I claim (as per post #3) that you have NOT shown that UR entails indeterminism. All you can show (I believe) is the following :
EITHER (a) both models possess UR, OR (b) neither model possesses UR, OR (c) UR is epiphenomenal.
If (a), then UR does not entail indeterminism. If (b) then we have not shown that UR exists or is even possible. If (c) then UR is totally ineffective as far as agent behaviour is concerned.
Which alternative would you like to choose? Or would you like to propose another possible solution to my thought-experiment?
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