A Constructive Critique of Libertarianism

  • Thread starter moving finger
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In summary, the essence of the "I" to which we refer is the source of our will, which can be characterized by our present neurophysiological state (PNS). The PNS includes all causative influences, including memories and experiences, that may affect our present and future choices. While the PNS is a part of the determining factor for our choices, it is not necessarily the only factor, as there may be external causative influences as well. It does not matter how the PNS was created, the only important thing is what it contains. The idea of a non-deterministic source of "free will" is flawed, as our choices are ultimately determined by a combination of our PNS and external causative factors,
  • #1
moving finger
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What is the essence of the agent "I" to which we refer when we say things like "I want to go to the movies", "I will have two eggs for breakfast", "I have free will", or even "I love you"? This "I" to which I refer is the essence of me, it is the source of my will.

My "I" at the present time clearly has much to do with a particular neurophysiological and physical arrangement/pattern/combination of chemicals in my body, which (for brevity) I shall hereafter refer to as my "present neurophysiological state" or PNS. I will even accept (allowing for something possibly non-physical or spiritual or ephemeral in our being) that my PNS MAY also include something called the "soul" (whatever that may be). By definition, then, the PNS includes within itself ALL causative influences (including brain states that we call memories and experiences) which may in any way affect my present or future desires, wishes, choices or actions (hereafter my "choices").

I can therefore in principle characterise my feeling of "I" by specifying precisely my PNS. (Of course, complete characterisation of the PNS may be impossible in practice, but we are talking of things in principle here).

It is important at this point to understand that in my characterisation of the PNS I am NOT making any assumptions about determinism (ie I am not assuming that the universe is necessarilly wholly deterministic). Whilst the PNS may be a source of causative influences, I am not saying that everything I do can be traced back through a fully deterministic causal chain originating in my PNS.

Some of my present and future choices are thus in some way dependent on my PNS. We can say that my PNS is a cause, or a source, of my present and future choices. However, my PNS does NOT necessarily fully determine my present and future choices, because there may be additional causal influences outside of my PNS which also impact those choices. Hence, my PNS is a PART OF the determining factor for my present and future choices, but it may be the case that it is not the ONLY determining factor. To be correct, therefore, we should say that our present and future choices are dependent on the COMBINATION of PNS and external causative factors.

To signify that we consider our PNS is in some way responsible for determining our present and future choices, we often say that such present and future choices are NOT WHOLLY CONSTRAINED by external (present and future) causative factors.

Given that we can specify precisely (in principle) the PNS, we can therefore also specify precisely (in principle) some of the causal sources of our present and future choices.

The question now is : Does the PNS necessarily have anything to do with any antecedent states or antecedent history or antecedent causative influences (hereafter : "antecedent states") OVER AND ABOVE the full specification of the PNS? Remember that the PNS is supposed to be the full characterisation of "I" at the present time, INCLUDING possible causative influences of present and future choices (which implicitly also includes particular brain states that we call our memories and experiences). In other words, having specified precisely a particular PNS, does it matter (does it make any difference to the PNS) what the antecedent states of that PNS are/were?

Clearly, if the PNS is the sum total of the "I" in the present time (which includes within itself all the brain states that we call memories and eperiences) then the antecedent states have no other (additional) effect on the PNS.

In other words, (and this is the key issue) a particular PNS contains the complete specificiation of my present "I", and it could (in principle) arise either spontaneously with no antecedent state, or it could arise from a random antecedent state, or it could arise from a purely deterministic antecedent state - what matters is ONLY the PNS, not HOW the PNS was created.

My PNS is my source of will. It does not matter one iota whether I truly existed prior to this present moment; I could in principle have been created ex nihilo by some divine entity just moments ago; I could have spontaneously assembled by pure chance from indeterministic causes; or I could be part of a completely deterministic machine which can trace back precise chains of deterministic cause and effect to the Big Bang; none of this matters as far as my source of will, my "I", is concerned. The ONLY thing that matters is my PNS, and NOT from whence it came.

Where Libertarians (and others who seek some non-deterministic "source" of "free will") seem to go wrong is that their argument carries with it the implicit assumption that our present and future choices are somehow NOT determined solely by a combination of our PNS and external causative factors, but are instead determined by "something else". Why do I say this? Because Libertarians insist that there must be some non-deterministic source of our choices (and it is supposed to be this non-deterministic source which then renders these as "free will" choices). In other words, according to the Libertarian philosophy, our choices are NOT determined solely by a combination of our PNS and external causative factors, there is "something else" that causes them.

The problem is that the Libertarian has no idea what this "something else" might be. He/she perhaps feels intuitively that the PNS cannot be the result of wholly deterministic antecedent states, and yet he/she cannot get away from the fact (as we have shown above) that the only important fact is the characterisation of the PNS, and NOT from whence the PNS arose. Postulating some kind of indeterminate antecedent states for the PNS changes absolutely nothing - the PNS IS what it IS, regardless of how it arose, and the PNS (combined with external causative factors) determines our present and future choices. The Libertarian would seem not to accept this view, but he/she would seem to want to postulate "some mysterious something else" over and above the PNS, from which our "free will" choices somehow arise. The Libertarian cannot tell us what this "mysterious something else" is, but it certainly has nothing to do with indeterminism.

Comments?

MF

:smile:
 
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  • #2
Libertarians do not object to the idea that their actions arise from their
PNS, they object to the idea that the totality of cuasal influences (PNS plus
external factors) allow no Alternative Possibilities (or 'elbow room' or 'could have done otherwise').
Elbow room can be added into the picture, naturalistically, by the assumption that
the brain operates with a degree of indeterminism. Thus there is not an
extra causal factor, but a lack of complete causal constraint.
One's actions are still determined, inasmuch as they are determined, by the PNS
a nanosecond before the action, but the PNS does not itself evolve deterministically.
This raises issues about whether this version of FW is worth having, whichI answer here:-
http://www.geocities.com/peterdjones/det_darwin.html
 
  • #3
Tournesol said:
Libertarians do not object to the idea that their actions arise from their PNS, they object to the idea that the totality of cuasal influences (PNS plus external factors) allow no Alternative Possibilities (or 'elbow room' or 'could have done otherwise').
Elbow room can be added into the picture, naturalistically, by the assumption
the brain operates with a degree of indeterminism. Thus there is not an
extra causal factor, but a lack of complete causal constraint.
One's actions are still determined, inasmuch as they are determined, by the PNS a nanosecond before the action, but the PNS does not itself evolve deterministically.
This raises issues about whether this version of FW is worth having, whichI answer here:-
http://www.geocities.com/peterdjones/det_darwin.html
OK, to paraphrase, it seems that what you suggest is the Libertarian believes "free will" arises from some kind of indeterminism in the output of the PNS, and has nothing to do with any possible indeterminism in the input to the PNS.

Let us suppose that I wish to make a "free will" decision about whether to do either "A" or "B" (assuming these to be mutually exclusve).

If indeterminism is supposed by the Libertarian to be a "necessary" factor in my free will decision to do "A" or "B", then presumably there must be some "random" input to my decision making which somehow "promotes" (to my decision making process) the preference of "do A" over "do B", or vice versa? Is this correct?

If this is not correct, according to Libertarianism, can you please explain how it is supposed to work?

MF


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  • #4
The Libertarian hypothesises that the action of indeterminism at some stage in the agent's decision-making process somehow (but mysteriously) endows "free will" upon that agent.

Conversely, I suggest that the association of "free will" with indeterminism is erroneous, and the MOST that can ever be accomplished by the introduction of indeterminism anywhere into the agent's decision-making process is ...indeterminism!

Let us try to examine how the Libertarian hypothesis could possibly work.

Let us assume that at a particular point in time an agent is able to follow one of many different possible courses of action, and hence needs to make a very generic decision about "which course of action to follow" from the alternative possibilities available. The Libertarian would say that the agent is able to make a "free will" decision if and only if we can somehow correctly introduce indeterminism into the agent's decision-making process.

Now, if we introduce the indeterminism into the process BEFORE the agent makes a decision (antecedent indeterminism), then this could possibly be translated to "throwing up a different alternative course of action" for the agent to consider in it's decision-making process. But there are in fact no "alternative courses of action" that indeterminism can "throw up" which would not also be accessible to the agent via a purely deterministic process. In other words, a purely deterministic agent would have just as many possible different alternative courses of action available to it as would the agent operating with antecedent indeterminsim.

The introduction of indeterminism BEFORE the moment of the agent's decision does not therefore necessarily lead to a different range of possible alternative courses of action, it simply "introduces indeterminism" into the proceedings prior to the decision-making process and cannot in fact make any difference to the agent's "free will" to choose between the different alternative courses of action.

Now the Libertarian may say therefore that the indeterminism needs to be introduced subsequent to (rather than prior to) the agent's decision-making process. But I hope it is transparently obvious (without me having to explain the details) that any indeterminism in the process subsequent to the agent's decision simply makes the outcome indeterministic, and cannot possibly have any bearing on any free will of the agent during decision making!

Conclusion : There appears to be no way that introducing indeterminism into the agent's decision-making process can actually endow the agent with free will, therefore if an agent does not already possesses free will in the absence of indeterminism (as the Libertarian suggests), then no free will is possible. The Libertarian concept of free will is thus inconsistent.

MF
:smile:
 
  • #5
moving finger said:
What is the essence of the agent "I" to which we refer when we say things like "I want to go to the movies", "I will have two eggs for breakfast", "I have free will", or even "I love you"?
Excellent question. I'm delighted you asked. I happen to think it is the most profound question there is.

moving finger said:
This "I" to which I refer is the essence of me, it is the source of my will.
OK, but I think you made an unfortunate choice of symbolism. I think it would have been better to have chosen a symbol like "TEOMF" (The Essence Of Moving Finger). The symbol "I" carries way too much baggage. For one thing, I would like to use that symbol, as I have done twice so far in this sentence, to refer to something quite different from the essence of moving finger. Secondly, it is too easy to fall into the trap of confusing your "I" with your "PNS" and thinking that they are the same thing.

Thirdly, you could reserve the term "I" for first person references to the author of the post, as you have done throughout, without causing us to wonder if you really meant TEOMF.

moving finger said:
My "I" at the present time clearly has much to do with a particular neurophysiological and physical arrangement/pattern/combination of chemicals in my body, which (for brevity) I shall hereafter refer to as my "present neurophysiological state" or PNS.
Agreed: TEOMF has much to do with your PNS. But it would be a grave mistake to assume that they are one and the same thing.

moving finger said:
I will even accept (allowing for something possibly non-physical or spiritual or ephemeral in our being) that my PNS MAY also include something called the "soul" (whatever that may be).
OK. But what all is included in "our being"? In your case I would submit that it should include at least TEOMF and your PNS. What you didn't say here is that you will accept the possibility of something non-physical as part of TEOMF. Did you overlook that possibility? Or did you rule it out? If you ruled it out, why?

moving finger said:
By definition, then, the PNS includes within itself ALL causative influences (including brain states that we call memories and experiences) which may in any way affect my present or future desires, wishes, choices or actions (hereafter my "choices").
Not by definition. By definition PNS includes all causative influences of the present neurophysiological state of your body along with something possibly non-physical that may be included in that body. It does not necessarily include TEOMS. All we know at this point is that TEOMF "has much to do with" PNS. We also have no reason to suppose that memories and experiences are simply brain states. It seems to me that memories and experiences have much more to do with TEOMF than they do with PNS, particularly since the 'P' in 'PNS' seems to exclude most of the history of the body, whereas TEOMF seems to include that past with its memories and experiences. If I asked if you are essentially the same person you were as a 10-year-old you might say, "yes". But your body now (PNS) is clearly not the same as your 10-year-old body. TEOMF seems to be more persistent than PNS.

moving finger said:
I can therefore in principle characterise my feeling of "I" by specifying precisely my PNS. (Of course, complete characterisation of the PNS may be impossible in practice, but we are talking of things in principle here).
This is a non sequitur. You have said nothing that tells how states of PNS can lead to "feelings" and you are not clear as to what "my" refers. In my view, it should refer to TEOMF since TOEMF is the thing that "want to go to the movies" etc. and so should be the thing that "feels".

moving finger said:
Clearly, if the PNS is the sum total of the "I" in the present time (which includes within itself all the brain states that we call memories and eperiences) then the antecedent states have no other (additional) effect on the PNS.
That may be, but your premise has not been demonstrated and I suspect it is false. I claim that PNS is not the sum total of TEOMS in the present time even throwing in memories and experiences.

moving finger said:
In other words, (and this is the key issue) a particular PNS contains the complete specificiation of my present "I"
You have not shown this to be true. The most you have shown (actually only claimed) is that one "has much to do with" the other.

moving finger said:
My PNS is my source of will.
I don't think so. I think TEOMF is the source of your will based on your opening statement: "This "I" to which I refer is the essence of me, it is the source of my will." Substituting 'TEOMF' for "I" to avoid the confusion I mentioned earlier, we get, " This TEOMF to which I refer is the essence of me, it is the source of my will." It seems we agree on this except for the symbolism.
 
  • #6
moving finger said:
OK, to paraphrase, it seems that what you suggest is the Libertarian believes "free will" arises from some kind of indeterminism in the output of the PNS, and has nothing to do with any possible indeterminism in the input to the PNS.

Well, no-one thinks you have genuine free-will if you base your decisions
on a random external input, like Luke Reinhardt's Dice Man.

OTOH a random event is a causeless cause, and as such intelocks nicely
witht the idea of Origination, providing it occurs internally.

If indeterminism is supposed by the Libertarian to be a "necessary" factor in my free will decision to do "A" or "B", then presumably there must be some "random" input to my decision making which somehow "promotes" (to my decision making process) the preference of "do A" over "do B", or vice versa? Is this correct?

If this is not correct, according to Libertarianism, can you please explain how it is supposed to work?

That is what I call the Burridan model. There is also a Darwinian model
as explained in my essay: http://www.geocities.com/peterdjones/det_darwin.html
 
  • #7
Paul Martin said:
Excellent question. I'm delighted you asked. I happen to think it is the most profound question there is.
...
Substituting 'TEOMF' for "I" to avoid the confusion I mentioned earlier, we get, " This TEOMF to which I refer is the essence of me, it is the source of my will." It seems we agree on this except for the symbolism.
I accept most of your very constructive criticism as being valid - thank you!

I've just realized that I can replace PNS with TEOMF and delete everything except for the last 3 paragraphs.

MF

:smile:
 
  • #8
moving finger said:
Now, if we introduce the indeterminism into the process BEFORE the agent makes a decision (antecedent indeterminism), then this could possibly be translated to "throwing up a different alternative course of action" for the agent to consider in it's decision-making process. But there are in fact no "alternative courses of action" that indeterminism can "throw up" which would not also be accessible to the agent via a purely deterministic process.

How do you know ? You seem to be saying that nature could have engineered
humans to use a deterministic algorithm, a pseudo-random-number generator,
for the creative, imaginative aspect of problem solving. And you are right. But
all that means is that humans are not necessarily based on FW. It could still be a contingent fact that humans were engineered to use real indeterminism. And I offer that, since could-have-done-otherwise is part of our concept of FW, we contingently are that way.

In other words, a purely deterministic agent would have just as many possible different alternative courses of action available to it as would the agent operating with antecedent indeterminsim.

Well, if you substracted the indeterminism from an agent which was
engineered to use indeterminism, their decison-making would be hindered.
You might be able to replace real random numbers with a PRNG, but that
is not what you are saying.

The introduction of indeterminism BEFORE the moment of the agent's decision does not therefore necessarily lead to a different range of possible alternative courses of action, it simply "introduces indeterminism" into the proceedings prior to the decision-making process and cannot in fact make any difference to the agent's "free will" to choose between the different alternative courses of action.

You here seem to be operating within the 'Burridan' model, where choices are
unproblematically given, and FW consists of selecting one. In my theory
antecedent indeterminism contributes to the creative/imaginative process of
coming up with options to be chosen from.

Conclusion : There appears to be no way that introducing indeterminism into the agent's decision-making process can actually endow the agent with free will, therefore if an agent does not already possesses free will in the absence of indeterminism (as the Libertarian suggests), then no free will is possible. The Libertarian concept of free will is thus inconsistent.

What adding or substracting indeterminism will do depends on how it
interacts with everything else (as does a call to a RNG in a computer program). You seem to be thinking in terms of bolting indeterminism onto
a deterministic system without making any other changes. That won't work: you need to engineer the system to use the indeterminism.
 
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  • #9
Tournesol said:
Well, no-one thinks you have genuine free-will if you base your decisions on a random external input, like Luke Reinhardt's Dice Man.

OTOH a random event is a causeless cause, and as such intelocks nicely
witht the idea of Origination, providing it occurs internally.
But this is the inconsistency that I'm trying to point out.
Your phrase “interlocks nicely with the idea of Origination” is simply another way of saying “indeterminism on the one hand, and the idea of Origination on the other, have a common factor in that the idea of Origination is incompatible with determinism, and indeterminism is the absence of determinism” but it does not actually allow us to conclude that the idea of Origination is itself self-consistent.
I see no way to introduce indeterminism into an agent’s rational decision-making process which makes any difference to whether or not the agent has "free will", except in the worst case it simply becomes an indeterministic decision (as you say, Reinhardt's Dice Man). If you see any way it can be done I would be most pleased to hear about it!

Tournesol said:
That is what I call the Burridan model. There is also a Darwinian model as explained in my essay: http://www.geocities.com/peterdjones/det_darwin.html
Thanks for the link, but with respect I have now read your essay several times and it does not explain how the introduction of indeterminism is supposed to endow "free will" (except in the rather trivial case of the Burridan model, which I hope you are not advocating). The essay contains “Darwin” only in the title, I can find no reference to any “Darwinian model” in the body of the essay.

Can you perhaps summarise the Darwinian model?

One sentence in your essay (which I gather you agree with) I found very telling. It is this one :

“Our normal attitude is that John and Mary have their reasons, which are very much part of who they are, and that's that.”

What does this say to me? That it IS what John and Mary ARE, who they are, what they are, and NOT where they came from (it matters not one iota whether they are deterministic agents or whether they suddenly materialised in an incredibly unlikely indeterministic coalescence 5 minutes ago). Their history does not make any difference – the only thing that matters is what they are NOW, and that is how we should judge them.

The fact that we are deterministic agents is irrelevant to our decision making. We deterministic agents still have wants, desires, feelings, emotions, and our decisions are driven by these factors that we contain within ourselves. When we make what we call a “free will” decision, what we are saying is that we CHOOSE TO DO WHAT WE WANT TO DO, deterministically, and not that we do something dictated instead by some random number generator.

MF
:smile:
 
  • #10
moving finger said:
I accept most of your very constructive criticism as being valid - thank you!
Thank you for considering it and for characterizing it as constructive. That was my intent. As for the part you didn't accept, I wonder what it was. I know that at least it included my warning not to confuse PNS with TEOMF, which you apparently have done.

moving finger said:
I've just realized that I can replace PNS with TEOMF and delete everything except for the last 3 paragraphs.
I have just replaced PNS with TEOMF in your last 3 paragraphs and reconsidered it. Here is my assessment.

moving finger said:
My TEOMF is my source of will.
I agree. So far so good.

moving finger said:
It does not matter one iota whether I truly existed prior to this present moment; I could in principle have been created ex nihilo by some divine entity just moments ago; I could have spontaneously assembled by pure chance from indeterministic causes; or I could be part of a completely deterministic machine which can trace back precise chains of deterministic cause and effect to the Big Bang;
Here's that pesky "I" again. The whole purpose of introducing the term 'TEOMF' was to clearly distinguish between The Essence of Moving Finger and the collection of chemicals attached to the ten, or so, moving fingers which keyed in your post. The chemicals constitute what you called PNS.

By saying " It does not matter one iota", I'm sure you mean that it does not matter for purposes of your argument here. I agree with that whether by "I" you mean TEOMF or PNS.

moving finger said:
The ONLY thing that matters is my TEOMF, and NOT from whence it came.
OK

moving finger said:
Where Libertarians (and others who seek some non-deterministic "source" of "free will") seem to go wrong is that their argument carries with it the implicit assumption that our present and future choices are somehow NOT determined solely by a combination of our TEOMF and external causative factors, but are instead determined by "something else".
I can see why it seems that way to you. But I think the error is in not considering that TEOMF is a causative factor external to PNS. TEOMF *is* the "something else", so nothing else is required for non-deterministic free will. Thus our present and future choices are determined solely by a combination of our TEOMF and PNS along with external physical causative factors.

moving finger said:
Libertarians insist that there must be some non-deterministic source of our choices (and it is supposed to be this non-deterministic source which then renders these as "free will" choices).
Here I agree with the Libertarians.

moving finger said:
In other words, according to the Libertarian philosophy, our choices are NOT determined solely by a combination of our TEOMF and external causative factors, there is "something else" that causes them.
This is not true for any Libertarian who agrees with me that TEOMF is the "something else". Our choices are determined solely by a combination of our TEOMF, our PNS, and physical causative factors external to our PNS. Here again is the trap of insisting that TEOMF and PNS are the same thing. I adamantly maintain that they are not.

moving finger said:
The problem is that the Libertarian has no idea what this "something else" might be.
Please refer any such Libertarians to me so I can straighten them out. The "something else" is the TEOx where x is the PNS of the Libertarian.

moving finger said:
He/she perhaps feels intuitively that the TEOMF cannot be the result of wholly deterministic antecedent states, and yet he/she cannot get away from the fact (as we have shown above) that the only important fact is the characterisation of the TEOMF, and NOT from whence the TEOMF arose.
The feelings of the Libertarian notwithstanding, I agree with the importance of a correct characterization of the TEOMF. But I am convinced that you are nowhere close to correctly characterizing it when you consistently confuse it with PNS. They are very dissimilar, and in my view, profoundly so.

moving finger said:
Postulating some kind of indeterminate antecedent states for the TEOMF changes absolutely nothing - the TEOMF IS what it IS, regardless of how it arose, and the TEOMF (combined with external causative factors) determines our present and future choices.
Except that you forgot to include PNS along with TEOMF and external causative factors, I agree completely with this. Nevertheless, I think it is fun to postulate scenarios that account for antecedent states for TEOMF anyway just to attempt to understand reality in general, and not simply the nature of our free will.

moving finger said:
The Libertarian would seem not to accept this view, but he/she would seem to want to postulate "some mysterious something else" over and above the TEOMF, from which our "free will" choices somehow arise.
Only until they realize that TEOMF is that "mysterious something else".

moving finger said:
The Libertarian cannot tell us what this "mysterious something else" is
Let them talk to me and then they will be able to.

moving finger said:
but it certainly has nothing to do with indeterminism.
Ah, but it does. It has everything to do with indeterminism because it is the sole source of indeterminism in our behavior.
 
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  • #11
moving finger said:
I see no way to introduce indeterminism into an agent’s rational decision-making process which makes any difference to whether or not the agent has "free will", except in the worst case it simply becomes an indeterministic decision (as you say, Reinhardt's Dice Man). If you see any way it can be done I would be most pleased to hear about it!

Computer software uses randomness to generate trial-and-error solutions
where there is not a pre-defined algorithm. Why shouldn't humans ?


Can you perhaps summarise the Darwinian model?


It is true that we would not consider an individual to 'own' a
an action or decision if it had nothing to do with his beliefs
and aims at the time he made it -- that is, if we assume
that indeterminism erupts in-between everything that happened
to make him the individual he is, and the act itself.

(I call this the Burridan's Ass model, in which the only
useful role indeterminism can have is as a 'casting vote'
when there are no strong preferences one way or the other.
An alternative is the Darwinian model, according to which
an indeterministic process plays a role analogous to random
mutation , in that it throws up ideas and potential solutions
to problems which another, more rational and deterministic process
selects between. This role of indeterminism places it where
it can do least harm to rationality; it is only called on
where creativity and imagination are required, and it does
not get translated into action without being being subject to a
rational veto. This answers the common charge that indeterminism
would lead to capricious behaviour in all circumstances,
which is equivalent to saying that Darwinian evolution would be
'just random' and unable to explain the orderliness of the natural
world. Both objections look at only the random process in isolation.
)


One sentence in your essay (which I gather you agree with) I found very telling. It is this one :

“Our normal attitude is that John and Mary have their reasons, which are very much part of who they are, and that's that.”

What does this say to me? That it IS what John and Mary ARE, who they are, what they are, and NOT where they came from (it matters not one iota whether they are deterministic agents or whether they suddenly materialised in an incredibly unlikely indeterministic coalescence 5 minutes ago). Their history does not make any difference – the only thing that matters is what they are NOW, and that is how we should judge them.

If their history could have been different, what they are now would be
differerent.
 
  • #12
Tournesol said:
Computer software uses randomness to generate trial-and-error solutions where there is not a pre-defined algorithm. Why shouldn't humans ?
Computer software RNGs are determistic. Re-run the software under the same conditions and you will get the same “random numbers”.

Humans can toss a coin to act as a RNG. Does tossing a coin give you free will where you had no free will before?

Introducing indeterminism into decision-making simply results in indeterministic choices.

You have not shown how introducing indeterminism endows free will.

Tournesol said:
An alternative is the Darwinian model, according to which an indeterministic process plays a role analogous to random mutation , in that it throws up ideas and potential solutions to problems which another, more rational and deterministic process selects between.
Thus the indeterminism occurs BEFORE the agent makes a rational choice, correct? The indeterminism is effectively throwing up some random possible ideas and potential solutions for the agent to consider?

Tournesol said:
This role of indeterminism places it where it can do least harm to rationality; it is only called on where creativity and imagination are required, and it does not get translated into action without being being subject to a rational veto. This answers the common charge that indeterminism would lead to capricious behaviour in all circumstances, which is equivalent to saying that Darwinian evolution would be 'just random' and unable to explain the orderliness of the natural world. Both objections look at only the random process in isolation.
Is the agent still supposed to be operating deterministically? In other words (for example, and just to find out if I am undertstanding this correctly), if we were to run the experiment several times keeping everything the same each time, and (by chance) the indeterministic process “throws up” exactly the same ideas and potential solutions each time we run the experiment, the agent would also deterministically necessarily make the same choices each time?

Tournesol said:
If their history could have been different, what they are now would be differerent.
Not necessarily (only in a deterministic world).
The point I am trying to make is that what is important (what affects their present behaviour and their present choices) is what they are NOW, not whether they have existed deterministically for the last 20 years, nor whether they suddenly coalesced in an improbable indeterministic quantum event 10 seconds ago.

MF

:smile:
 
  • #13
Tournesol said:
An alternative is the Darwinian model, according to which an indeterministic process plays a role analogous to random mutation , in that it throws up ideas and potential solutions to problems which another, more rational and deterministic process selects between. This role of indeterminism places it where it can do least harm to rationality; it is only called on where creativity and imagination are required, and it does not get translated into action without being being subject to a rational veto.

Calling this a Darwinian model is IMHO (and with respect) a little insulting to Charles Darwin, and lends the mechanism suggested above a little too much scientific credibility. The processes underlying the evolution of species are completely compatible with determinism, the so-called “random mutations” need not in fact be due to any ontically indeterministic process. Out of respect to Mr Darwin I suggest the mechanism suggested above be re-named the Random Alternatives (RA) mechanism.

If I understand this RA mechanism correctly, the source of indeterminism is postulated to be introduced prior to the agent’s point of decision (prior to the agent’s moment of choice), and the agent’s choice is still intended to be a deterministic process? Indeterminism is supposed to “generate” a series of random alternative courses of action (much like a random number generator or RNG in a computer) for the agent to consider and from which to choose.

Thus, if we could “re-play” a particular choice that the agent had already made, keeping everything as it was before but allowing the RNG to generate different alternatives, then we may find that the agent “apparently” chooses differently in each re-play, depending upon the random alternative courses of action that are generated by the RNG. This “apparently” different choice by the agent in each re-play is then supposed to be a reflection of the agent’s “free will”.

In fact, if we re-play a particular choice that the agent has made, keeping everything as it was before but allowing the RNG to generate alternative courses of action apparently randomly, then we necessarily must observe one of two alternative scenarios :

EITHER (A) the RNG happens (probabilistically) to generate the same alternatives on the second “run”, in which case the agent (operating deterministically) will necessarily make the same choice as on the first run. In other words, if we could re-play the agent’s moment of choice with all of the conditions exactly as they were before including the alternatives that are generated for the agent to consider, then the agent will necessarily make the same choice as it did before. This is a completely deterministic scenario and is completely compatible with determinism (ie re-play with the same starting conditions and one obtains the same result).

OR (B) the RNG might generate different alternatives on the second “run”, in which case the agent (still operating determinsitically) might make a choice which is different to the choice that it made on the first run. In other words, if we could re-play the agent’s moment of choice with all of the conditions exactly as they were before EXCEPT that the alternatives for consideration are different, then the agent will not necessarily make the same choice as it did before. This (the agent’s choice) again is a completely deterministic scenario and is again completely compatible with determinism (ie re-play with different starting conditions and one may obtain a different result).

The only difference between re-play (A) and re-play (B) is that in (A) the conditions are indeed set to the way they were the first time round, whereas in (B) the conditions (at the moment of choice of the agent) are not the same as they were before. THIS FACT ALONE (and not any supposed “free will” on the part of the agent) is the source of the agent’s ability to make different choices in each run.

In fact, we do not need the RNG in the proposed mechanism to be ontically indeterministic. It need only be an RNG in the sense of a computer software RNG, which operates to generate epistemically random, but ontically deterministic, numbers. What matters in the RA mechansim (the “apparent source of free will”) is ONLY that the agent is provided with DIFFERENT ALTERNATIVES in each re-play (this will ensure that the agent will not necessarily make the same choice in each re-play, scenario B above), and NOT that these alternatives are generated by a genuinely (ontically) indeterminsitic process.

To show how "silly" this notion of random generation of free will is, consider the following :

The Libertarian Free Will Computer

I could quite easily "build" such models of "free-will" agents using computer software, incorporating an RNG to "generate" apparently random alternatives for my deterministic software agent to consider, and from which to choose. Since I am generating the computer agent's alternatives randomly (thus ensuring that it's choice need not be the same each time) does that mean my computer agent now has "free will", where it had no "free will" before (prior to me introducing the RNG)? I think everyone would agree that this notion is very silly. And does it make any difference if the RNG is genuinely random (ontically indeterministic), or whether it simply appears to be random (epistemically indeterminable)? No, of course not. It does not matter what we do with the RNG, we cannot use indeterminsim to "endow" the Libertarian version of free will onto an otherwise deterministic machine

I think one will find that if one models the above RA mechanism and examines it rationally and logically, looking at the possible sequences generated, then one will find that the introduction of the RNG prior to the moment of choice acts in much the same way as introducing the RNG after the moment of choice. In both cases, there is a point at which a deterministic choice is made by the agent based on alternatives available, but in both cases the final result is in fact random. This is not free will. This is simply a random-choice-making mechanism.

MF
:smile:
 
  • #14
moving finger said:
Humans can toss a coin to act as a RNG. Does tossing a coin give you free will where you had no free will before?

It can give software flexibility it didn't have before. That is why it is used

You have not shown how introducing indeterminism endows free will.

It endows the ability to have done otherwise

Thus the indeterminism occurs BEFORE the agent makes a rational choice, correct? The indeterminism is effectively throwing up some random possible ideas and potential solutions for the agent to consider?


yes.
Is the agent still supposed to be operating deterministically? In other words (for example, and just to find out if I am undertstanding this correctly), if we were to run the experiment several times keeping everything the same each time, and (by chance) the indeterministic process “throws up” exactly the same ideas and potential solutions each time we run the experiment, the agent would also deterministically necessarily make the same choices each time?

Yes.

The point I am trying to make is that what is important (what affects their present behaviour and their present choices) is what they are NOW, not whether they have existed deterministically for the last 20 years, nor whether they suddenly coalesced in an improbable indeterministic quantum event 10 seconds ago.

If you are worried about whether someone could have done differently
now, the question of whether the chain of cause and effect leading up to their present state could have been different is highly relevant. Something
which is 'determined' by a random of event is to all intents and purposes
undetermined (as you sometimes admit). So whether my actions are
determined or not does depend on their whole history.
 
  • #15
moving finger said:
Humans can toss a coin to act as a RNG. Does tossing a coin give you free will where you had no free will before?
Tournesol said:
It can give software flexibility it didn't have before.
It does not give “flexibility”, it only introduces indeterminism. Why do you think indeterminism is the same as flexibility?

moving finger said:
You have not shown how introducing indeterminism endows free will.
Tournesol said:
It endows the ability to have done otherwise
Indeterminism does not endow anything apart from indeterminism. The decision process itself is still entirely deterministic, why do you think introducing indeterminism endows free will?

moving finger said:
Is the agent still supposed to be operating deterministically?
Tournesol said:
Yes.

Tournesol said:
The question of whether the chain of cause and effect leading up to their present state could have been different is highly relevant.
No, it is completely irrelevant. If my decisions are deterministic then the only important thing is what is the present circumstance. What preceeded this present moment is irrelevant, only the present moment matters.

Tournesol said:
Something which is 'determined' by a random of event is to all intents and purposes undetermined (as you sometimes admit). So whether my actions are determined or not does depend on their whole history.
EITHER I choose according to a deterministic process OR I do not. You have agreed above that my choice process is indeed deterministic. Therefore introducing any indeterminism prior to my choice simply results in indeterminism. There is no way that such indeterminism can suddenly endow “free will” to a deterministic agent.

I repeat again :
I could quite easily "build" such models of "free-will" agents using computer software, incorporating an RNG to "generate" apparently random alternatives for my deterministic software agent to consider, and from which to choose. Since I am generating the computer agent's alternatives randomly (thus ensuring that it's choice need not be the same each time) does that mean my computer agent now has "free will", where it had no "free will" before (prior to me introducing the RNG)?

MF
:smile:
 
  • #16
moving finger said:
No, it is completely irrelevant. If my decisions are deterministic then the only important thing is what is the present circumstance. What preceeded this present moment is irrelevant, only the present moment matters.

This is one kind of determinism, Cauchy data or memoryless, but not the only kind conceivable. The present state could depend irreducably on the whole worldline leading to the present moment, for example.
 
  • #17
selfAdjoint said:
The present state could depend irreducably on the whole worldline leading to the present moment, for example.
Can you please define "deterministic" according to to this example?

Thanks

MF
:smile:
 
  • #18
Wasn't it Freud who said that all actions are determined by our PNS (well, at least in men anyway.

:rofl:

The Rev
 
  • #19
The Rev said:
Wasn't it Freud who said that all actions are determined by our PNS (well, at least in men anyway.
hmmmmm...does that explain where your brains are?
:rofl:
 
  • #20
selfAdjoint said:
This is one kind of determinism, Cauchy data or memoryless, but not the only kind conceivable. The present state could depend irreducably on the whole worldline leading to the present moment, for example.
SelfAdjoint, grateful if you could please elaborate.

My definition of Determinism is :
The universe, or any self-contained part thereof, is said to be evolving deterministically if it has only one possible state at time t1 which is consistent with its state at some previous time t0 and with all the laws of nature.

It follows from this definition that specifying the precise details of the state (of a deterministic world) at any time (say t0) also then fixes (in principle) it's states at all other times past and future. In other words, the precise state at anyone time contains enough information to generate the entire future and history of that world.

In what sense would your suggested "other" form of determinism differ from this?

Many Thanks

MF
:smile:
 
  • #21
In general relativity, finding a "Cauchy surface" on which the "prior state" becomes uniquely defined is a non-trivial problem, due to the different observers-different times situation there. It is much more general and problematic than in special relativity with its causal light cones.
 
  • #22
selfAdjoint said:
In general relativity, finding a "Cauchy surface" on which the "prior state" becomes uniquely defined is a non-trivial problem, due to the different observers-different times situation there. It is much more general and problematic than in special relativity with its causal light cones.
Agreed, and this is a very good point. The relativity of simultaneity makes it impossible to define a universal "now" which is the same for all observers, this would render objective measurements of determinism difficult, if not impossible, in practice in certain circumstances.

However, I do not think this would change the concept of determinism per se.

Do you believe that the concept of determinism as I have defined it above is incorrect/impossible in the context of relativity?

Or do you believe there is another definition of determinism which is significantly different to the one I have defined above? If so, any idea what it is?

Thanks

MF
:smile:
 
  • #23
moving finger said:
...If my decisions are deterministic then the only important thing is what is the present circumstance. What preceeded this present moment is irrelevant, only the present moment matters. ...
SelfAdjont has handeled this error quite well in his posts 16 & 22. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that if the world is completely deterministic, then it is not only past events that have world lines which converge on "now" that could be important, but the futures ones that divergent from "now" could as well. In my simple minded way, I like to think of a fully deterministic universe as a movie we watch frame by frame, now by now. If there is a end to this "movie" then conceivably it could be played backwards, but it would not be exactly the same - for example, thermodynamists would have discovered that entropy of the entire system tends to decrease etc. so I don't think of it as playable backwards without change for at least these two reasons(possibly that it has no end being the first and 2nd law changes etc being the other)

Do either of you think this "backward in time" influence is just as possible as form the past?
 
  • #24
Billy T said:
SelfAdjont has handeled this error quite well in his posts 16 & 22.
With respect : What is the “error” you refer to? Can you be specific?

I have replied to SelfAdjoint with some questions about his suggestions (as you can see in the thread), but so far there has been little response.

SelfAdjoint implied in post #16 that there could be other definitions of determinism – but has so far declined to be specific about the wording of the “other definitions”, and how they would be different to the one I suggested. I would be interested to know what these “other definitions” could be?

MF
:smile:
 
  • #25
moving finger said:
Where Libertarians (and others who seek some non-deterministic "source" of "free will") seem to go wrong is that their argument carries with it the implicit assumption that our present and future choices are somehow NOT determined solely by a combination of our PNS and external causative factors, but are instead determined by "something else". Why do I say this? Because Libertarians insist that there must be some non-deterministic source of our choices (and it is supposed to be this non-deterministic source which then renders these as "free will" choices). In other words, according to the Libertarian philosophy, our choices are NOT determined solely by a combination of our PNS and external causative factors, there is "something else" that causes them.

The problem is that the Libertarian has no idea what this "something else" might be. He/she perhaps feels intuitively that the PNS cannot be the result of wholly deterministic antecedent states, and yet he/she cannot get away from the fact (as we have shown above) that the only important fact is the characterisation of the PNS, and NOT from whence the PNS arose. Postulating some kind of indeterminate antecedent states for the PNS changes absolutely nothing - the PNS IS what it IS, regardless of how it arose, and the PNS (combined with external causative factors) determines our present and future choices. The Libertarian would seem not to accept this view, but he/she would seem to want to postulate "some mysterious something else" over and above the PNS, from which our "free will" choices somehow arise. The Libertarian cannot tell us what this "mysterious something else" is, but it certainly has nothing to do with indeterminism.

Comments?

MF

:smile:

There are an infinite number of points within your being and an infinite number of moments of change surrounding them. Each moment of change and every instance of your being comprise a 'pair' - hence you have an infinite number of pairs and each instance of your being has 'n' number of possible reactions to any given change. How it reacts DOES depend upon its nature; however, infinite choice is true randomness.

Is that vague enough??
 
  • #26
moving finger said:
With respect : What is the “error” you refer to? Can you be specific?...
Billy T said:
SelfAdjont has handeled this error quite well in his posts 16 & 22.
I agree that no "error" may exist, if this is your position, but when you said something to effect that only the present was controlling your acts / choices etc. at least I , and as I read SelfAdjoint he also, wanted to note that the distant past also was controlling. (This is of course true in a deterministic universe as that is what made the present as it is, but not so obvious in a non deterministics universe.)

However I was trying to state/ imply that some "observation" in the future of particle that is entangled with your present brain could also be controlling, perhaps even in a non deterministic universe, if it was inside the light cone extending from your "now".

Most people are very reluctant to have the future influence the past (It is a common argument against time travel into the past etc.) but in a deterministic universe, I don't see much problem with this. I have not thought enough to know how I think about future influencing the past if universe is not deterministic, but am inclined to think that case unlikely and accept it as an argument against backwards travel in time, but quantum entanglement may permit this "backwards influence" even in this case. (No one is requiring that the "observation" occurs in the same reference frame, so even "future" gets a little confusing, at least to me.)
 
  • #27
MF said:
It does not give “flexibility”, it only introduces indeterminism.

it does both.

Why do you think indeterminism is the same as flexibility?

The relationship between determinism, predictability and rigidity is obvious.

You have not shown how introducing indeterminism endows free will.

I have shown how it endows the ability to have done otherwise without encroaching on the kind of rationallity we actually have.
What else do I need to show?


Tournesol said:
It endows the ability to have done otherwise

Indeterminism does not endow anything apart from indeterminism.

Are you saying that Alternative Possibilities are NOT an implication of indeterminism?

The decision process itself is still entirely deterministic, why do you think introducing indeterminism endows free will?

The total process involves generating ideas as well as selecting from them.
Since the former is indeterministic, the total process is, although selecting is locallly and approximately deterministic.

EITHER I choose according to a deterministic process OR I do not. You have agreed above that my choice process is indeed deterministic. Therefore introducing any indeterminism prior to my choice simply results in indeterminism. There is no way that such indeterminism can suddenly endow “free will” to a deterministic agent.

I have explained how this works.

http://www.geocities.com/peterdjones/det_darwin.html

You need to make a specific objection.

I repeat again :
I could quite easily "build" such models of "free-will" agents using computer software, incorporating an RNG to "generate" apparently random alternatives for my deterministic software agent to consider, and from which to choose. Since I am generating the computer agent's alternatives randomly (thus ensuring that it's choice need not be the same each time) does that mean my computer agent now has "free will", where it had no "free will" before (prior to me introducing the RNG)?

Maybe. Since my theory is naturalistic, it is compatible with the possibility of artificial FW. You seem to require a ghost in the machine: I do not.
 

1. What is Libertarianism?

Libertarianism is a political philosophy that advocates for individual liberty and limited government intervention in personal and economic matters. It is based on the belief that individuals should have the freedom to make their own choices without interference from the government.

2. What are the main principles of Libertarianism?

The main principles of Libertarianism include individual liberty, limited government, free markets, and non-aggression. This means that individuals should have the freedom to live their lives as they see fit, the government should only intervene in cases of harm or rights violations, and the economy should be free from government control.

3. What are the criticisms of Libertarianism?

One criticism of Libertarianism is that it ignores the potential for systemic issues and inequalities in an unregulated free market. Another criticism is that it may not adequately address social issues and could lead to a lack of government support for marginalized communities.

4. How does a constructive critique of Libertarianism differ from other critiques?

A constructive critique of Libertarianism involves acknowledging the strengths and weaknesses of the political philosophy, and offering suggestions for improvement or alternative solutions. Other critiques may simply point out flaws without offering potential solutions.

5. How can Libertarianism be applied in practice?

Libertarianism can be applied through policies such as reducing government regulations, lowering taxes, and promoting personal responsibility. In practice, it may look different in different societies and can be implemented to varying degrees depending on the specific context and values of a society.

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