Anton Zeilinger's comment about free will being required for science

  • #26
Demystifier
Science Advisor
Insights Author
Gold Member
10,958
3,670
Because some observables do have values at all tmes.
What observable has a value all the time in many world and GRW interpretations?
 
  • #27
martinbn
Science Advisor
1,889
581
What observable has a value all the time in many world and GRW interpretations?
I dont know. Why do you think they are realist interpretations? And my last question was who states that there is no reality?
 
  • #28
PeterDonis
Mentor
Insights Author
2019 Award
30,781
9,742
I never understood how is compatibilism different from the claim that free will is an illusion.
Because saying that free will is real, but is not what you thought it was, is not the same as saying free will is an illusion. Dennett's opinion (with which I tend to agree) is that people who think compatibilism means that free will is an illusion, have not really thought through the implications of the intuitions that underlie that thought. If they did, they would realize that those intuitions do not form a consistent set: it is impossible for anything real to actually have all the properties those intuitions say free will should have. The compatibilist view preserves everything that is worth wanting about free will, while still making free will something that can actually exist. (Dennett has similar views about consciousness.)
 
  • Skeptical
  • Like
Likes bhobba and Demystifier
  • #29
Demystifier
Science Advisor
Insights Author
Gold Member
10,958
3,670
I dont know. Why do you think they are realist interpretations?
Because they say that the wave function is real, i.e. not merely a representation of our subjective incomplete knowledge.

And my last question was who states that there is no reality?
I told you that several times, but when I quoted their statements which show that, each time you would interpret their words differently. But to a certain extent I understand you, because those people write in a quite vague manner, because they don't want to be too explicit about non-realism (because it's philosophically unappealing) and at the same time they need some kind of non-realism to avoid Bell nonlocality.

Being frustrated with vagueness of non-realist interpretations, in one paper I have decided to explain directly and blatantly how a non-realist theory may really look like and what consequences of such a theory really are. That resulted in the paper http://de.arxiv.org/abs/1112.2034 . I would really be interested to see whether you find it a realist or a non-realist interpretation.
 
  • #30
Demystifier
Science Advisor
Insights Author
Gold Member
10,958
3,670
(Dennett has similar views about consciousness.)
But he says that consciousness is an illusion, doesn't he?

(BTW, when it comes to consciousness, I agree with Chalmers.)
 
  • Like
Likes atyy and nrqed
  • #31
nrqed
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Gold Member
3,721
277
Because saying that free will is real, but is not what you thought it was, is not the same as saying free will is an illusion. Dennett's opinion (with which I tend to agree) is that people who think compatibilism means that free will is an illusion, have not really thought through the implications of the intuitions that underlie that thought. If they did, they would realize that those intuitions do not form a consistent set: it is impossible for anything real to actually have all the properties those intuitions say free will should have. The compatibilist view preserves everything that is worth wanting about free will, while still making free will something that can actually exist. (Dennett has similar views about consciousness.)
I am trying to make sense of this. Especially "preserves everything that is worth wanting about free will, while still making free will something that can actually exist."

Sounds like they redefine free will to be something else than what is usually understood. My point what the usual definition of free will is inconsistent with physical laws. But I will certainly look at what Dennett says.
 
  • #32
A. Neumaier
Science Advisor
Insights Author
2019 Award
7,461
3,355
I am trying to make sense of this. Especially "preserves everything that is worth wanting about free will, while still making free will something that can actually exist."

Sounds like they redefine free will to be something else than what is usually understood. My point what the usual definition of free will is inconsistent with physical laws. But I will certainly look at what Dennett says.
There is no 'usual definition'; it depends on whom you ask.

Philosophical notions like 'free will' are always defined by their usage, not by an authoritative definition. This means that the meaning is necessarily somewhat fuzzy.

Attempts to define them in a way that can be used to make logical deductions necessarily idealize the issue, which can be done in many ways.

These attempts are prone to throwing out the baby with the bath water unless one takes care to preserve 'everything that is worth wanting about free will, while still making free will something that can actually exist.'
 
  • #33
nrqed
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Gold Member
3,721
277
There is no 'usual definition'; it depends on whom you ask.

Philosophical notions like 'free will' are always defined by their usage, not by an authoritative definition. This means that the meaning is necessarily somewhat fuzzy.

Attempts to define them in a way that can be usded to make logical deductions necessarily idealize the issue, which can be done in many ways.

They are prone to throwing out the baby with the bath water unless one takes care to preserve 'everything that is worth wanting about free will, while still making free will something that can actually exist.'
Thanks. I would be very curious to have an example of something that is "worth wanting about free will" while not being in contradiction with physical laws.
 
  • #34
Lord Jestocost
Gold Member
609
416
It is one thing to claim that a given theory does not describe reality, and another to claim that there is no reality (irrespective of our theories). Taking non-realism seriously means the latter, not the former.
In “Niels Bohr and the Philosophy of Physics: Twenty-First-Century Perspectives” (edited by Jan Faye and Henry J. Folse), Arkady Plotnitsky defines realism and the non-realist’s attitude in the following way (chapter 8):

I define "realism" as a specific set of claims concerning what exists and, especially, how it exists. In this definition, any form of realism is more than only a claim concerning the existence, or reality, of something, but rather a claim concerning the character of this existence. Realist theories are sometimes also called ontological theories. The term "ontological" carries additional connotations. They are, however, not important for the present discussion, and these terms will be used interchangeably here. What defines realism most generally is the assumption that a structure of reality, rather than only reality itself, exists independently of our interactions with it, or at least that the concept of structure would apply to reality. In Other words, realism is defined by the assumption that the ultimate constitution of the domain considered possesses attributes and the relationships among them, which may be either (a) known in one degree or another and, hence, represented, at least ideally, by a theory or model; or (b) unknown or even unknowable.

Non-realist interpretations of quantum phenomena and quantum mechanics, at least that of Bohr and others in the spirit of Copenhagen, not only do not make any of these realist assumptions, but also, in Bohr's ([1958] 1987b, 62) language, "in principle [exclude]" them. Quantum Objects exist, are real, but the nature of this existence places them beyond representation, at least by quantum theory, or even conception, although Bohr might not have been willing to go that far. The reality of quantum Objects is a reality without realism.


[Italics in original]
 
  • #35
Demystifier
Science Advisor
Insights Author
Gold Member
10,958
3,670
The reality of quantum Objects is a reality without realism.
This reminds me of Mermin's correlations without correlata. :wideeyed:
 
  • Like
Likes DanielMB
  • #36
224
54
(BTW, when it comes to consciousness, I agree with Chalmers.)
In that regard I am closer to Paul and Patricia Churchland.
 
  • #37
PeterDonis
Mentor
Insights Author
2019 Award
30,781
9,742
he says that consciousness is an illusion, doesn't he?
No. He has been repeatedly misquoted as saying that, and he has repeatedly tried to correct such misquotations. His actual position is that consciousness is real, but does not have all of the properties that most people's untutored intuitions think it has.
 
  • Like
Likes Minnesota Joe and eloheim
  • #38
PeterDonis
Mentor
Insights Author
2019 Award
30,781
9,742
I would be very curious to have an example of something that is "worth wanting about free will" while not being in contradiction with physical laws.
When you made the post I have just quoted above, I assume you weren't forced to make the post: nobody held a gun to your head. Nobody dictated the words you wrote. You weren't under the influence of any drug or any device implanted in your brain that made it tell your body to do things you didn't choose. You chose to make the post and chose what it would say, and your body made the post happen in accordance with your choice. In other words, your making the post was an example of you exercising your free will.

And yet all of this is perfectly consistent with physical laws, even deterministic physical laws. What I called "choice" above is a process in your brain. It's not magic. Your brain took all the inputs that came into it up to the point of you choosing to make your post and what it would say, and your brain made those choices using those inputs. Whatever process took place inside your brain could be deterministic from the standpoint of physical law, but it's still your brain, using the inputs from your experiences and choosing what to say, without any other influence. That's a kind of free will worth wanting, and it's perfectly consistent with physical laws.
 
  • Like
Likes dextercioby
  • #39
224
54
When you made the post I have just quoted above, I assume you weren't forced to make the post: nobody held a gun to your head. Nobody dictated the words you wrote. You weren't under the influence of any drug or any device implanted in your brain that made it tell your body to do things you didn't choose. You chose to make the post and chose what it would say, and your body made the post happen in accordance with your choice. In other words, your making the post was an example of you exercising your free will.

And yet all of this is perfectly consistent with physical laws, even deterministic physical laws. What I called "choice" above is a process in your brain. It's not magic. Your brain took all the inputs that came into it up to the point of you choosing to make your post and what it would say, and your brain made those choices using those inputs. Whatever process took place inside your brain could be deterministic from the standpoint of physical law, but it's still your brain, using the inputs from your experiences and choosing what to say, without any other influence. That's a kind of free will worth wanting, and it's perfectly consistent with physical laws.
Yes, but that's not what most people think about free will. Most people really think that they could have done otherwise in such and such situation....for example.
 
  • Like
Likes eloheim
  • #40
Lord Jestocost
Gold Member
609
416
"Those who maintain a deterministic theory of mental activity must do so as the outcome of their
study of the mind itself and not with the idea that they are thereby making it more conformable with our experimental knowledge of the laws of inorganic nature.
"

Arthur Stanley Eddington in "THE NATURE OF THE PHYSICAL WORLD"
 
  • #41
PeterDonis
Mentor
Insights Author
2019 Award
30,781
9,742
Most people really think that they could have done otherwise in such and such situation....for example.
Dennett has a long discussion of "could have done otherwise" in both of his books on free will (Elbow Room and Freedom Evolves).

The TL;DR is that "could have done otherwise" can have at least two different meanings, and neither of them have the implications that most people intuitively think of when they think that deterministic physical laws rule out "could have done otherwise".

If "could have done otherwise" means "could have done otherwise under the exact same physical conditions", which is the only case for which "could have done otherwise" is actually false for deterministic physical laws, then it's meaningless, because the exact same physical conditions will never occur again.

If "could have done otherwise" means "could have done otherwise under the same relevant conditions", then deterministic physical laws permit this to be true, because "the same relevant conditions" comprises a huge set of different physical conditions, and therefore allows a huge set of possible different physical processes to occur in your brain. In fact, your brain, in order for it to support any meaningful kind of free will (i.e., that your brain can actually reliably tell your body to make happen what you choose), has to ignore most of the microphysical variation in states inside it.

To put it another way, what is important for free will is that, if you make a choice you later believe to have been a bad one, you can change how you make choices so that, under the same relevant conditions in the future, you can make a better choice. And this is perfectly possible with deterministic physical laws, because changing how you make choices doesn't require you to change any physical laws; it only requires you to change the configuration of your brain. And as long as that change in your brain's configuration happens because you choose it--i.e., because of other processes happening in your brain, not because someone held a gun to your head or implanted a chip in your brain that skews its function, etc.--then you have free will in the sense that matters.
 
  • Like
Likes bohm2, Minnesota Joe and A. Neumaier
  • #42
224
54
Dennett has a long discussion of "could have done otherwise" in both of his books on free will (Elbow Room and Freedom Evolves).

The TL;DR is that "could have done otherwise" can have at least two different meanings, and neither of them have the implications that most people intuitively think of when they think that deterministic physical laws rule out "could have done otherwise".

If "could have done otherwise" means "could have done otherwise under the exact same physical conditions", which is the only case for which "could have done otherwise" is actually false for deterministic physical laws, then it's meaningless, because the exact same physical conditions will never occur again.

If "could have done otherwise" means "could have done otherwise under the same relevant conditions", then deterministic physical laws permit this to be true, because "the same relevant conditions" comprises a huge set of different physical conditions, and therefore allows a huge set of possible different physical processes to occur in your brain. In fact, your brain, in order for it to support any meaningful kind of free will (i.e., that your brain can actually reliably tell your body to make happen what you choose), has to ignore most of the microphysical variation in states inside it.

To put it another way, what is important for free will is that, if you make a choice you later believe to have been a bad one, you can change how you make choices so that, under the same relevant conditions in the future, you can make a better choice. And this is perfectly possible with deterministic physical laws, because changing how you make choices doesn't require you to change any physical laws; it only requires you to change the configuration of your brain. And as long as that change in your brain's configuration happens because you choose it--i.e., because of other processes happening in your brain, not because someone held a gun to your head or implanted a chip in your brain that skews its function, etc.--then you have free will in the sense that matters.
All that is coherent and sensible, but I wouldn't use the term Free Will to refer to that. I would prefer to create a new term.

Why?

First, because most people (at least most people with whom I speak about these things) think about free will in a totally different way. They really think Free Will is non-physical, that is, beyond the realms of Physics.

Second, precisely because of this, most of them also think that a non-biological machine will never have and cannot ever have this "non-physical ability" that they supposedly have to make "non physical choices".
 
  • Like
Likes eloheim
  • #43
PeterDonis
Mentor
Insights Author
2019 Award
30,781
9,742
I would prefer to create a new term.
So would many people. That doesn't mean it should actually be done. At least not if we're going to be discussing science. The reasons you give for people having a different definition of Free Will are manifestly non-scientific, so a scientific discussion cannot and should not take notice of them.

most people (at least most people with whom I speak about these things) think about free will in a totally different way. They really think Free Will is non-physical, that is, beyond the realms of Physics.
Whatever people might claim when they are asked for an explicit definition, the operational definition of "free will" that people use in their everyday lives is not based on any claims about "free will" being beyond the realm of physics, but on everyone's common sense notion of what it means to make a free choice as opposed to a coerced one, which is what the more elaborate discussion I gave, which you agree is "coherent and sensible", is based on. So, for example, if you are asked if you signed a legal document of your own free will, you're not being asked whether you have some magical non-physical ability. You're being asked a straightforward question about whether you were coerced or not.

precisely because of this, most of them also think that a non-biological machine will never have and cannot ever have this "non-physical ability" that they supposedly have to make "non physical choices".
If robots with human-like intelligence are ever developed, I suspect a lot of people's intuitions about this will drastically change once they have interacted with such robots and seen what their actual capabilities are.
 
  • #44
A. Neumaier
Science Advisor
Insights Author
2019 Award
7,461
3,355
most of them also think that a non-biological machine will never have and cannot ever have this "non-physical ability" that they supposedly have to make "non physical choices".
How would a biological machine or a human being make "non physical choices"?
 
  • #45
nrqed
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Gold Member
3,721
277
When you made the post I have just quoted above, I assume you weren't forced to make the post: nobody held a gun to your head. Nobody dictated the words you wrote. You weren't under the influence of any drug or any device implanted in your brain that made it tell your body to do things you didn't choose. You chose to make the post and chose what it would say, and your body made the post happen in accordance with your choice. In other words, your making the post was an example of you exercising your free will.

And yet all of this is perfectly consistent with physical laws, even deterministic physical laws. What I called "choice" above is a process in your brain. It's not magic. Your brain took all the inputs that came into it up to the point of you choosing to make your post and what it would say, and your brain made those choices using those inputs. Whatever process took place inside your brain could be deterministic from the standpoint of physical law, but it's still your brain, using the inputs from your experiences and choosing what to say, without any other influence. That's a kind of free will worth wanting, and it's perfectly consistent with physical laws.
I don't understand what you mean by "chose" or "did not choose".

If the inputs and the connections on my brains determined what I would post, what do you mean by saying that I "chose" to post it?? At what point did I have the choice to not post it if everything was deterministic?? If you say that my brain made a choice even though everything was deterministic, then would you say that a tree "choses" to fall if I cut it? If not, what is the difference between me being able to choose and the tree not being able to choose?
 
  • Like
Likes eloheim
  • #46
PeterDonis
Mentor
Insights Author
2019 Award
30,781
9,742
I don't understand what you mean by "chose" or "did not choose".
I mean whatever process happens in you (mostly your brain) when you, for example, think of what to write in your post, and then write it and click "Post Reply" to post it.

If the inputs and the connections on my brains determined what I would post, what do you mean by saying that I "chose" to post it??
That it was the inputs and connections in your brain that determined what you would post, not something else.

what is the difference between me being able to choose and the tree not being able to choose?
That a tree doesn't have a brain. Which means a tree is not even sensitive to all the complex information that your brain is sensitive to. A tree can't post on PF, not just because it doesn't have hands or eyes, but because it can't even process the information that is conveyed to you and I by reading PF, let alone form the kind of context that you and I have for reading PF by spending years learning about physics and other abstract topics.

When you compare what goes on in your brain when you post on PF to a tree falling, you are simply ignoring the huge difference in complexity between the two cases, and assuming it can't make any real difference. But it does. Enough additional complexity is a qualitative change. As Philip Anderson famously said, "More is different".
 
  • #47
A. Neumaier
Science Advisor
Insights Author
2019 Award
7,461
3,355
When you compare what goes on in your brain when you post on PF to a tree falling, you are simply ignoring the huge difference in complexity between the two cases, and assuming it can't make any real difference. But it does. Enough additional complexity is a qualitative change. As Philip Anderson famously said, "More is different".
It is not the complexity (hence not just ''more'') but the structure of the brain that allows sufficiently detailed information processing to create choices that are for practical purposes free.
 
  • Like
Likes dextercioby
  • #48
PeterDonis
Mentor
Insights Author
2019 Award
30,781
9,742
It is not the complexity (hence not just ''more'') but the structure of the brain that allows sufficiently detailed information processing to create choices that are for practical purposes free.
I think this is just a matter of choice of words. I agree the structure of the brain is important; I would say that an important reason why the structure of the brain is important is that it is complex and heterogeneous. If the brain were just three pounds of jello it would not support information processing.
 
  • #49
nrqed
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Gold Member
3,721
277
It is not the complexity (hence not just ''more'') but the structure of the brain that allows sufficiently detailed information processing to create choices that are for practical purposes free.
I find it extremely strange that one would assign free will to something just because it is very complex. I don't understand how to define "choices that are for practical purposes free". How can someone not be a choice but can be a choice "for practical purposes"? It is a choice only because we cannot reproduce the system on a computer?
If I am free to choose if I post this or not, explain to me at what point am I making a decision? In a deterministic system, it is impossible. Even including quantum effects, there is no such instant. So I don't see how one can say that free will exists if no choice is ever made.
 
  • Like
Likes eloheim
  • #50
PeterDonis
Mentor
Insights Author
2019 Award
30,781
9,742
I don't understand how to define "choices that are for practical purposes free".
When you post here, is anyone coercing you? Is anyone holding a gun to your head? Is there a chip implanted in your brain that's causing your hands to move and type things that you don't intend to type?

If the answers to those and all questions along similar lines are "no", then your posts here, for all practical purposes, are your free choice. If you want to agonize over whether your posts are your free choice in some magical non-physical sense, that's your free choice too, and I can't stop you, but I don't see what relevance it has to this discussion. We are discussing science here, and any view that only allows "free choice" to exist if it is a magical, non-physical property that can't be analyzed by science, is irrelevant here.
 

Related Threads on Anton Zeilinger's comment about free will being required for science

  • Last Post
10
Replies
228
Views
6K
  • Last Post
Replies
0
Views
2K
Replies
25
Views
5K
  • Last Post
Replies
3
Views
635
  • Last Post
Replies
24
Views
6K
Replies
63
Views
4K
Replies
6
Views
403
Replies
59
Views
1K
Replies
40
Views
873
Top