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Do we have free will, or is everything already planned for us?

Everything is either determinate or indeterminate

Postby Cooing » Sun Oct 14, 2018 7:52 am

The way I see free will is that everything is either determinate or indeterminate. If something is determinate (has a cause) then it was caused by something and is not free will. And if something is indeterminate (not determined by anything) then it is random and cannot be free will. Thus every decision either has a cause or has no cause, neither of which is free will.

Decision making appears to be subconscious. I see no good reason why we can't make all our decisions subconsciously with the conscious mind merely constructing a verbal narrative of our thoughts after the fact for the purpose of communication.
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Re: Everything is either determinate or indeterminate

Postby jimwalton » Sun Oct 14, 2018 8:01 am

You'll have to explain how something being indeterminate, and therefore random, negates free will. Free will, it seems to me, is exactly that.

Let me put it this way. You think everything is determined, that we have no real choices, and we have no control. What you are saying is that life is like a self-driving car that has randomized a route. As we ride along, it’s a farce to say that at a certain intersection I decided to go left, or that I chose to take a scenic route, that I discovered a pretty little town, or that I was going from L.A. to New York, or even that I was taking a good route. I’m doing no such thing. The car is on autopilot. The only reality is what is. I may end up in New York, but I can hardly say that was the purpose. The car is on randomized autopilot—there is no purpose.

Making the analogy to real life, if there is no free will, there is no such thing as science. It’s a farce for Crick and Watson to be rewarded for discovering DNA. They did no such thing. It was on the route, and they had no part in it. It was given to them. They didn’t think it through. They had no choice. There is no such thing as speculating a hypothesis, as researching data, weighing evidences and arriving at a conclusion. In other words, there is no such thing as science. There is only following the route. No one "discovers" anything. It is all set, it is all given. For that matter, we're not really thinking. It's a misnomer to call it thinking, because all I can do is follow the route.

It’s also not fair to speak of something as true or false. There is only what is. Truth or falseness has nothing to do with it. Nor can I claim the route is good or bad. What does that have to do with anything? The route is the route, that’s all. Will I get to New York? Who’s to say. There’s no purpose in the trip. It’s purely randomized, and therefore meaningless. I may get to New York, but I just as easily might go in an endless circle. And I can’t say that’s wrong or bad. It is what it is.

If I take free will out of life, the only reality is what is. Science, reason, intelligence, right and wrong, good and bad, and purpose are all meaningless terms and concepts. I can’t affirm that anything makes sense, because I can't assert that the course was at least designed intelligently or for a reason. "Sensibility" has no place, and learning is a misleading concept. The only thing I can affirm is that what is, is. Truth is not part of the equation because all that is happening is that we are traveling: survival. The set up was blind (we can’t say the route is purposeful or intelligent), all changes in direction were randomized (we can't say that any particular end is inherent in the route), and even if we grant that the car has Artificial Intelligence and can "learn" as it goes (natural selection), we can't assert any particular thing it is "learning" because its only program and mode is to drive. Without free will, we negate education, science, reason, intelligence, truth, and morality. It's all necessarily a farce. We are claiming that there is nothing besides what inevitably is.

The core of the problem with this perspective is that it's fundamentally self-defeating. If we subscribe to it, we can't claim it’s true or right or that we have come to this conclusion by reason. Those are impossible assertions.
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Re: Everything is either determinate or indeterminate

Postby Cooing » Tue Oct 16, 2018 9:50 am

>If you're a pure determinist, then you do not believe it for rational reasons.

You can both believe something because you are determined to believe it and believe something for rational reasons at the same time. Reasoning is a process - just because the process of reasoning is determined, that does not mean it doesn't take place. A calculator must make it's calculation and calculate an answer even though it has no free will. Likewise, a human must think rationally and come to a rational decision even though it has no free will.

> You think everything is determined, that we have no real choices, and we have no control.

I understand what you're saying. What's the point of making a decision if the decision is already determined? The point is that you don't have a choice, you're going to do what you're going to do anyway, there's nothing you can do about it (including making rational decisions.) You do things because you have desires - when you are hungry, you eat because you don't like the feeling of being hungry, you can't help it. You will also always do whatever you can to ensure the survival of your species because that's what you are, a human, you can't help it. It's irrational and there's no purpose to it but humans are irrational and we can't help what we do. We have been designed by 4 billion years of evolution to do only one thing and do it well - survive. You can't change you're own programming, you can't change your own DNA, and even if you consciously think that you can decide to go against your own programming, you would just be deluding yourself because you don't have conscious control over you're own actions, everything you do is controlled by your subconscious mind, even your conscious thoughts are controlled by your subconscious and your most basic subconscious desire is to ensure the survival of your genes above all else because that's all that life is, that which must survive (our species) at any cost. If you don't live, you're not life. Yes, it's irrational, has no purpose, and we have no control, but hey, it's fun and we can enjoy the ride, right? It's still an extraordinary privilege to be a human and be aware of our own existence for this short time instead of just being a rock.

> You'll have to explain how something being indeterminate, and therefore random, negates free will. Free will, it seems to me, is exactly that.

I don't understand this. If a decision is random then it's not a decision at all. If I flip a coin to decide if I should do something then whether or not I do it depends on the random chance of the flip of a coin and is therefore not a choice at all.

> It’s a farce for Crick and Watson to be rewarded for discovering DNA. They did no such thing. It was on the route, and they had no part in it.

Yes, everything we do is a farce. We are humans, we are farcical creatures, we can't help it. Everything we do is irrational and out of our control and 99% of the time we don't even realise it. About Crick and Watson, yes, they had no choice but to do what they did, but just as we have a desire to eat when we're hungry, we have a desire to celebrate success when we see it and rewarding Crick and Watson is a part of our complex social behaviour even though it makes no sense. I personally do not praise or blame anyone for anything (on an intellectual level) if I can help it because I understand that nobody is in control and nobody should be blamed or praised for anything they have no control of but it is still in my interest to encourage actions that align with my goal of the survival of my species and to discourage actions which go against that goal. I do this not because it makes sense in the big picture but because it helps me achieve my goals. And because I have no control over my goals (they're subconscious,) I may as well just go along with them because it's unavoidable anyway and doing so will avoid internal conflict and confusion in my own mind and therefore unnecessary suffering.
Nice comment by the way, I've never heard the case for free will put so thoroughly before.
Cooing
 

Re: Everything is either determinate or indeterminate

Postby jimwalton » Tue Oct 16, 2018 10:10 am

> You can both believe something because you are determined to believe it and believe something for rational reasons at the same time. Reasoning is a process - just because the process of reasoning is determined, that does not mean it doesn't take place.

If your brain is follow a set, unalterable path dictated by chemistry and biology, we cannot call it "reasoning." Reasoning speaks of thinking things through, but that's not what you're describing. No one is thinking, but only functioning. There is no such thing as truth; there is only what is, and there can be no other possibility. We are only functioning robots, not reasoning brains.

> A calculator must make it's calculation and calculate an answer even though it has no free will. Likewise, a human must think rationally and come to a rational decision even though it has no free will.

A calculator is making no decisions or being rational. It is only following a program from which it cannot derivate. There is no "coming to a rational decision." A calculator cannot weigh alternatives, consider possible causes and conclusions and infer what is most reasonable.

> The point is that you don't have a choice, you're going to do what you're going to do anyway, there's nothing you can do about it

In other words, you are not thinking through this conversation, considering what to say and how to make your case. Instead you are following an inviolable course, and (unconsciously) robotically putting the words on paper. You cannot claim you are a determinist by a rational process. I think determinism is self-defeating. If you have decided to be a pure determinist, then you're not a pure determinist. If you're a pure determinist, then you do not believe it for rational reasons. You believe it because you were determined to believe it and you don't control what makes sense to you. It is impossible to believe in determinism for rational reasons. The only way you can believe in determinism for rational reasons is if determinism is false. If determinism is true, then it doesn't make any sense for you to say that determinism is true, because if it is true, then you are assuming there are rational reasons for believing it. Fine, believe it, but if you're right, then your position is no better than the opposite, rationally, because you believe people believe things aside from any rational basis.

> You will also always do whatever you can to ensure the survival of your species because that's what you are, a human, you can't help it.

Analytical philosopher Patricia Churchland says, "Boiled down to essentials, a nervous system enables the organism to succeed in the four Fs: feeding, fleeing, fighting, and reproducing. The principle chore of nervous systems is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive. … Improvements in sensorimotor control confer an evolutionary advantage: a fancier style of representing is advantageous so long as it is geared to the organism's way of life and enhances the organism’s chances of survival. Truth, whatever that is, definitely takes the hindmost."

What Churchland is saying is that from a naturalist perspective, what evolution guarantees is at most that we behave in certain ways—in such ways as to promote survival, or more exactly reproductive success. The principal function or purpose, then, of our cognitive faculties is not that of producing true or near true beliefs, but instead that of contributing to survival by getting the body parts in the right place. What evolution underwrites is only (at most) that our behavior is reasonably adaptive to the circumstances in which our ancestors found themselves; hence it doesn't guarantee true or mostly true beliefs. Our beliefs might be mostly true, but there is no particular reason to think they would be: natural selection is not interested in truth, but in appropriate behavior. What Churchland therefore suggests is that naturalistic evolution—that is, the conjunction of metaphysical naturalism with the view that we and our cognitive faculties have arisen by way of the mechanisms and processes proposed by contemporary evolutionary theory—gives us reason to doubt two things: (a) that a purpose of our cognitive systems is that of serving us with true beliefs, and (b) that they do, in fact, furnish us with mostly true beliefs.

So I've added a few things here, but I'm trying to give evidence against what you are claiming. If we're just here to survive, we cannot assume that our reasoning abilities, falsely so called, lead us to reliable thoughts and what we could consider to be truth. We just are, and do. There is no rationality, and basically no way to know anything about truth. It's a self-defeating line of thought.

> Yes, it's irrational, has no purpose, and we have no control, but hey, it's fun and we can enjoy the ride, right?

No, I guess not. If it's irrational, against reason, and with no guarantee of truth, it's meaningless, stupid, and mundane.

> Yes, everything we do is a farce.

Then I guess I have to ask why we are having this conversation? Why do you pursue truth if truth is unattainable, if reason is a charade, and if everything we do is a farce? to me it's a view of life that is unsustainable and self-defeating.

> Nice comment by the way, I've never heard the case for free will put so thoroughly before.

Thanks, I guess, but it's all a farce, right? ;)
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Re: Everything is either determinate or indeterminate

Postby Cooing » Wed Oct 17, 2018 9:38 am

> If your brain is following a set, unalterable path dictated by chemistry and biology, we cannot call it "reasoning." Reasoning speaks of thinking things through, but that's not what you're describing. No one is thinking, but only functioning.

I don't understand where you're getting this idea from that thinking and functioning are not the same thing.

> A calculator cannot weigh alternatives, consider possible causes and conclusions and infer what is most reasonable.

No, but a computer can beat humans at playing chess. It has to look at all the possible moves, predict what is opponent may move, evaluate possible future positions, and make a decision. Yes, it's deterministic and it's just following it's programming but how is this any different from what a human brain does, except obviously that a human brain is far more complex than a chess playing computer? Google's alphaGO computer can play Go better than any human and it wasn't even programmed with a strategy on how to play. It was just given the rules of the game and it learned on it's own, in just a matter of hours, how to play go better than any human. Although this is extremely rudimentary compared to what a human can do, it is still a form of learning, reasoning and decision making. So my question is: what exactly is it about the human brain that makes you think it is something more than just a very complex biological computer? Because as far as I know, we have no good reason to believe it is anything more.

> the conjunction of metaphysical naturalism with the view that we and our cognitive faculties have arisen by way of the mechanisms and processes proposed by contemporary evolutionary theory—gives us reason to doubt two things: (a) that a purpose of our cognitive systems is that of serving us with true beliefs

I agree. Knowing the truth is secondary to surviving and the only purpose we can have for knowing truth (when we do) is when it helps with our survival.

> and (b) that they do, in fact, furnish us with mostly true beliefs.

What we do know and what don't know about the nature of reality is certainly debatable and people are debating what we know and are trying to discover more about reality all the time. We certainly know enough about the truth of reality to enable us to become the dominant species on Earth and to land a man on the Moon etc. Having an accurate understanding about the physical nature of reality, I would say, is certainly a great benefit to our goal of surviving. But yes, when it is not in our interest to know the truth then it's better that we don't.

> and with no guarantee of truth

Yes, there is no guarantee of truth, we can not know anything with 100% certainty. Any one of us could be nothing more than a brain in a vat with everything we think we know about reality being nothing more than an illusion. This is the problem of hard solipsism. All we can do is deal with the reality that we experience, there is no other option.

The human brain is a biological machine, right? And it's a machine that can carry out the process of thinking? By saying that we have free will, what you are saying is that the mechanics of the human brain does not follow the usual laws of cause and effect that seems to govern the behaviour of everything else in the universe. What reason do you have to believe this?

Another way to look at free will is like this: There are only two things that control our thinking and every decision we make, how the brain works (i.e. it's physical structure) and our past experiences. You cannot change how your brain works (it's physical nature) and you have no control over your past experiences. So your thinking and decisions are determined solely by these factors, neither of which you have any control over.

> Then I guess I have to ask why we are having this conversation?

Because we are social animals.

> Why do you pursue truth if truth is unattainable,

Absolute truth (certainty) is unattainable but we pursue truth in general because it allows us to deal with the reality in which we live and therefore increases our chances of survival.

> but it's all a farce, right?

When I say it's a farce, I mean that there is ultimately no purpose for the existence of life itself. But life is not a farce to individual humans because humans have purpose, wants, and desires.
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Re: Everything is either determinate or indeterminate

Postby jimwalton » Wed Oct 17, 2018 9:47 am

> I don't understand where you're getting this idea from that thinking and functioning are not the same thing.

True reasoning is able to explore lines of reasoning outside of the program, so to speak. It's how science works. It's how Crick & Watson discovered DNA, or Pasteur discovered what he did about contamination, disease, and eventually vaccination. If you're claiming that evolutionary biology, through natural selection and mostly deleterious mutation set the patterns in their brains so that it was programmed in that they discover these things, you are making a blind leap of faith that is monstrous in its scope, a leap of faith that betrays all sense of mathematics and probability.

> No, but a computer can beat humans at playing chess.

Chess is an extremely regulated and set-pattern mode of thinking. There are only x # of alternatives, given a board of 64 squares and players with regimented move patterns. You can't begin to compare chess, as heady and complex as it is, with the mathematical and scientific discoveries of the last 3 centuries. It's a false comparison of data processing.

> So my question is: what exactly is it about the human brain that makes you think it is something more than just a very complex biological computer? Because as far as I know, we have no good reason to believe it is anything more.

Because the human brain is capable of emergent proficiency that is not reducible to the sum of its parts. Just for a little bit of explanation. "Physicalism" is the position that claims physical existence is all there is. Everything can be explained by mindless molecules and chemical neural events, and all perception of reality is governed by the laws of neurobiology. But if this is the case, I believe that reason, volition, and even language are suspect. Reason necessitates considering unique paths of cause and effect, possibilities, plausibilities, and even nonsense. I believe that determinism is reductionistic. Reason requires dynamic neuronal processes including not just data processing, but also social-relational processes and an assessment of possibilities and probabilities. As such, deterministic neural connections are inadequate to explain the capabilities and functioning of the brain. And since language is effective only if it is endowed with meaning, and meaning is non-material (neither matter nor energy), the essence of meaning is entirely distinct from both energy and matter. Language therefore demands a non-material source, since it is impossible that the meaning of language has a material cause. The laws of chemistry and physics offer no clue whatsoever that matter can assign meaning or otherwise deal with meaning at even the most rudimentary level. Atoms cannot assign meaning to meaningless symbols to form vocabulary or to give meaning to vocabulary. Therefore I conclude that high-level conscious thought, including free will, is non-reducible to mere neural activity.

> I agree. Knowing the truth is secondary to surviving and the only purpose we can have for knowing truth (when we do) is when it helps with our survival.

And yet, if we have evolved through the processes of natural selection and deleterious genetic mutation, both of which are blind processes, neither of which communicate with each other, and neither of which are intelligent, we have no reason to believe that any thought in our brain is reliably true. It may be, and it just as plausibly may not be, and therefore we cannot trust our reasoning processes to be yielding true thoughts. Therefore all reason is suspect—even your analyses taking place in this conversation. You have no basis on which to conclude anything—ANYTHING—is true. Therefore your whole case is self-defeating.

> Yes, there is no guarantee of truth, we can not know anything with 100% certainty.

I'm not talking about "can not know anything with 100% certainty." If you take your line of reasoning to its logical conclusion, we can't trust our reasoning power even to 1%, because there is at best a 50-50 chance anything it true or right. Every thought is a toss of the coin and is therefore unreliable. We can NEVER know.

> The human brain is a biological machine, right? And it's a machine that can carry out the process of thinking? By saying that we have free will, what you are saying is that the mechanics of the human brain does not follow the usual laws of cause and effect that seems to govern the behaviour of everything else in the universe. What reason do you have to believe this?

If it's all physical processes going on in the brain, how could anything possibly correspond to what is not real? If the brain is generating the thought, and it has no other options, then it is corresponding to reality. How can a statement not correspond to reality if everything is reducible to synaptic firings? But the next and more important question is: If the synaptic firings are uncontrollable, but can just as well lead to false conclusions as well as true, how can we EVER trust them? "Reason" is now a roll of the dice, and is not to be trusted, and therefore there is no such thing, really.

> Absolute truth (certainty) is unattainable but we pursue truth in general because it allows us to deal with the reality in which we live and therefore increases our chances of survival.

We cannot pursue truth in general if we are nothing more than the result of matter + time + chance, brought about by natural selection and deleterious genetic mutation, where truth is a toss of the coin and therefore unreliable and impossible to discern. If "shuffle" is the only mechanism in the system, "truth" is a total charade. You have to take your thoughts to their logical conclusion, which is that there can be no logical conclusion, and therefore your position is self-defeating.

> When I say it's a farce, I mean that there is ultimately no purpose for the existence of life itself. But life is not a farce to individual humans because humans have purpose, wants, and desires.

We cannot have purpose if there is ultimately no purpose. Our only possible "purpose" is at best imagined and contrived. If there is ultimately no purpose, our sense of purpose is completely fictional and farcical.

Take your thoughts to their only possible conclusions. If we are the result of naturalism and nothing else, truth is undiscernible if it even exists. All knowledge is unreliable at core. Reasoning is a roll of the dice and capricious, not constant enough to be dependable. There is no way to tell what is right and wrong in terms of logic, thoughts, or even morals. Survival is the only game in town, and our wants and desires conform to survival. Science is non-existent. Reasoning is suspect. "Right" and "wrong" are undefinable (rape and genocide are no different from beneficence or love, since survival is the only factor at work). Purpose is an illusion. We are nothing more than chemicals tracing through an unavoidable pattern of "thinking" (loosely so called) and behavior. There is no such thing as justice (criminals didn't have a choice, and judges aren't making decisions but only following a script).

In my humble opinion, this is not only an inaccurate picture of life, but an impossible one. It is self-defeating at every turn.
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Re: Everything is either determinate or indeterminate

Postby Cooing » Tue Oct 23, 2018 4:17 pm

Monkey's wave sticks at thunderstorms. They think that a thunderstorm is some malevolent force that's attacking them. And humans did the same once. We didn't understand the cause so we attributed the storm to some agency or spirit or God. Then we found out that it was just chemistry. We did the same with fire. We didn't understand how it worked so we believed that there was some spirit or magic spark or essence that fire possessed. We were wrong, it was just chemistry. We didn't understand how the body worked, how a living, animated thing can become a dead inanimate thing like some kind of life force had left it. Life itself seemed to be possessed by some force, some special quality, some unexplainable magical thing that only possessed life and animated dead matter. Again, we were wrong, it was just biology and chemistry. Now with consciousness and intelligence we are doing the same thing. Yes, we don't understand how it works. We have powerful computers that despite their processing power and large quantities of memory are completely unable to replicate even the most simple of biological brains. We simply have no idea what consciousness is or what general intelligence is or how to replicate it. But just because we don't understand how it works that does not mean (and there is no evidence) that there is some some kind of special quality, some magical spark, some incomprehensible or mysterious or supernatural quality that it possesses, some "emergent proficiency that is not reducible to the sum of its parts," there is nothing "outside of the program," no "essence of meaning" not contained within matter. When we understand it, it will turn out to be just chemistry, just like everything else has turned out to be just chemistry. Unless you have evidence that there is some special quality, something more than just matter, then all you are doing is expressing an instinct, a gut feeling, a belief, as many have done before. Without real evidence, you have no good reason to believe such a thing exists. We have been wrong many times in the past and we will be wrong many times in the future. All our reasoning and "logic," even our smartest brains have failed us many times. The only thing we can be sure of, the only thing that we know for sure is real, has always been real and always will be real is evidence. Not conclusions, not inferences, not explanations, just evidence.

Also, having reread previous comments, I'm still not exactly sure what your position is regarding the first argument I made for no free will. Sorry to repeat myself but maybe if I put it in syllogistic form, maybe you could tell me which premise (or conclusion) you disagree with and then maybe I could understand your position better.

Premise 1: Everything is either determinate or indeterminate.

Premise 2: That which is determinate is not free will.

Premise 3: That which is indeterminate (i.e. not determined in any way by anything at all) is truly random and is not free will.

Conclusion: There is no free will.

> If you're claiming that evolutionary biology, through natural selection and mostly deleterious mutation set the patterns in their brains so that it was programmed in that they discover these things,

No, the method by which they discovered these things was programmed in (or rather, it evolved.)

> Reason necessitates considering unique paths of cause and effect, possibilities, plausibilities, and even nonsense. ... dynamic neuronal processes including not just data processing, but also social-relational processes and an assessment of possibilities and probabilities.

I see no reason why we couldn't program a computer to do all of these things once we figure out how.

> meaning is non-material (neither matter nor energy)

No, meaning is only generated within a brain. Every meaning that has ever existed is directly correlated with a particular arrangement of matter and energy within a particular brain at a particular time.

> And yet, if we have evolved through the processes of natural selection and deleterious genetic mutation, both of which are blind processes, neither of which communicate with each other, and neither of which are intelligent, we have no reason to believe that any thought in our brain is reliably true.

I don't see how your conclusion follows from your premise. Natural selection has given us the ability to reason and the understand the world in which we live. If we didn't have a good understanding of reality, we would think that a lion was just some kind of bush (albeit, a fast moving and hairy bush with teeth) and then we'd be eaten for lunch. If we couldn't reason, we wouldn't be able to build a hut, start a fire or store food for the winter. Natural selection is the very thing that has ensured that we have the ability to reason.

> If it's all physical processes going on in the brain, how could anything possibly correspond to what is not real? If the brain is generating the thought, and it has no other options, then it is corresponding to reality. How can a statement not correspond to reality if everything is reducible to synaptic firings? But the next and more important question is: If the synaptic firings are uncontrollable, but can just as well lead to false conclusions as well as true, how can we EVER trust them? "Reason" is now a roll of the dice, and is not to be trusted, and therefore there is no such thing, really.

I don't understand this paragraph.

> We cannot pursue truth in general if we are nothing more than the result of matter + time + chance

Why not?

> We cannot have purpose if there is ultimately no purpose.

Yes we can because we don't consciously decide our purpose and can't consciously change our purpose, it's build into us, it's in our DNA. Even the thought that you have no purpose only exists to serve your purpose.

> If we are the result of naturalism and nothing else, truth is undiscernible ...

Why?

> All knowledge is unreliable at core. Reasoning is a roll of the dice and capricious, not constant enough to be dependable. There is no way to tell what is right and wrong in terms of logic, thoughts, or even morals.

Yes, I hear what you're saying but I don't know why you think this.
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Re: Everything is either determinate or indeterminate

Postby jimwalton » Tue Oct 23, 2018 4:17 pm

> They think that a thunderstorm is some malevolent force that's attacking them.

Intriguing. How do you know what a monkey is thinking?

> We didn't understand the cause so we attributed the storm to some agency or spirit or God.

Interesting. How do you know this was the process?

> We did the same with fire. We didn't understand how it worked so we believed that there was some spirit or magic spark or essence that fire possessed.

I would venture a guess that you don't know what was in the minds of the cavemen.

> We didn't understand how the body worked,

I have become convinced already that you are speaking opinion and not fact. You can't know any of this stuff you are saying with such conclusive knowledge.

> But just because we don't understand how it works that does not mean (and there is no evidence) that there is some some kind of special quality, some magical spark, some incomprehensible or mysterious or supernatural quality that it possesses, some "emergent proficiency that is not reducible to the sum of its parts," there is nothing "outside of the program," no "essence of meaning" not contained within matter.

That's true, but nor can you conclude it's not. I was only speaking based on the current status of neurobiological research as I have come across it and understand it. I'm not a neuropsychologist. I can only read and try to understand. We have to let science keep depositing into the conversation.

> Sorry to repeat myself but maybe if I put it in syllogistic form, maybe you could tell me which premise (or conclusion) you disagree with and then maybe I could understand your position better.
Premise 1: Everything is either determinate or indeterminate.
Premise 2: That which is determinate is not free will.
Premise 3: That which is indeterminate (i.e. not determined in any way by anything at all) is truly random and is not free will.
Conclusion: There is no free will.

Your argument falls apart at Premise 3. In a deductive argument, all of the premises need to be completely valid. But Premise 3 is truly debatable and not at all certain. How do we know that all that is indeterminate is truly random? It's quite possible that the growth of a red maple tree (since every red maple has a different specific branch pattern) is truly random since every red maple is of the same general shape and size. There is obviously some randomness in the system, and yet it may not be truly random, since the trees conform to the general size and shape of red maples. And how do we know, consequently, that free will cannot enter into the indeterminate situation? This is where your deductive argument has fallen into weakness.

> I see no reason why we couldn't program a computer to do all of these things once we figure out how.

That's a god-of-the-gaps argument that I'm not ready to buy.

> No, meaning is only generated within a brain. Every meaning that has ever existed is directly correlated with a particular arrangement of matter and energy within a particular brain at a particular time.

I can't argue with this. We can only process anything in our consciousness. Even truth and science, then, only exist in relation to ourselves. Truth is always personal. It's something we process within a brain. But does this mean there is no such thing? Nonsense. The subjectivity of truth in us is not the end of truth, but rather the beginning of it. The act of knowing always actively involves the human agent. Truth lives in my engaging. But that doesn't begin to mean that truth is the snapping of my neurons. Not in the least.

> Natural selection has given us the ability to reason and the understand the world in which we live.

But if our reason is the result of natural selection, we have reason not to trust reason, since reason came about through a non-reasoned process that didn't involve reason, may not have used reason, and cannot guarantee that there even is such a thing. It came about through blind processes of chance, mutation, and nothing else. "Truth" is not in the system, and "understanding" can never be trusted.

> I don't understand this paragraph.

If all there is are physical processes, all we end up with is "what we end up with." Something being "true" has nothing to do with anything, and there's no way to know it anyway. The only components in the system are matter + time + chance. We can't trust reasoning or understanding. If the synaptic firings are uncontrollable, and they just happen, but can just as well lead to false conclusions as well as true, how can we EVER trust them? We can't. They're just firing in uncontrollable sequences with no purpose or intelligence involved. And though you may claim that through evolutionary processes we have learned about truth and become capable of reason, you must remember that in your worldview those were never part of the system. It's like claiming, given enough time, that a traffic light will one day learn what your car looks like and turn green just for you. It's impossible because it's a just mechanistic. And you believe nature is mechanistic. There is no place for reason to arise.

> "We cannot pursue truth in general if we are nothing more than the result of matter + time + chance." Why not?

Because nature is mechanistic. "Truth" isn't in the system. Suppose I flip a coin. Heads or tails are the only choices. But if I flip it enough times, will it give me the truth? That's nonsense. Truth has nothing to do with it. It's a coin. It's mechanistic. If nature is mechanistic (matter + time + chance), then we can't assume that eventually reason will evolve.

> because we don't consciously decide our purpose and can't consciously change our purpose, it's build into us

Built in us???? How, if we're just mechanistic? Mutation is a near-sighted, unintelligent process of churning out instruction manuals, every one with errors in it. Natural selection is a near-sighted, unintelligent binary process of either acceptance or rejection. New instruction manuals are built off the accepted models, despite their errors, putting in more errors (genetic mutation). Neither natural selection nor genetic mutation communicate with each other. Both work in a blind situation, and neither are intelligent. At what point can you claim purpose is built into us?
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Re: Everything is either determinate or indeterminate

Postby Cooing » Sun Oct 28, 2018 2:46 pm

> Intriguing. How do you know what a monkey is thinking?

Why else would a monkey wave a stick at a thunderstorm?

> Interesting. How do you know this was the process?

Wikipedia: List of thunder gods, Wikipedia: List of fire gods

> I have become convinced already that you are speaking opinion and not fact. You can't know any of this stuff you are saying with such conclusive knowledge.

From wikipedia: "Vitalism is the belief that the life-principle is non-material. ... It appealed to philosophers such as Henri Bergson, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Wilhelm Dilthey, anatomists like Marie François Xavier Bichat, and chemists like Justus von Liebig. Vitalism included the idea that there was a fundamental difference between organic and inorganic material, and the belief that organic material can only be derived from living things. This was disproved in 1828, when Friedrich Wöhler prepared urea from inorganic materials."

Is just one example

And of course, almost all religions, cultures and mythologies have a notion of a soul of some description (and for which no evidence has ever been found.)

My point was that we have believed many different (and wrong) things in the past and today there are many religions all over the world, the adherents of which are just as convinced that their religion is the one true religion as you are of yours. Even today, some people are capable of believing that the Earth is flat or that it's less that 6,000 years old. It would seem that belief itself is unreliable and if it is and we cannot trust our own beliefs then what can we trust. Only evidence. If our beliefs are not supported by evidence then maybe we shouldn't believe them.

> That's true, but nor can you conclude it's not.

Yes, I cannot prove it but given that everything else in the universe appears to be working in a deterministic manner, it would seem reasonable to assume that the brain does too, assuming no evidence to the contrary.

> It's quite possible that the growth of a red maple tree (since every red maple has a different specific branch pattern) is truly random since every red maple is of the same general shape and size. There is obviously some randomness in the system...

Almost anything could influence the growth of a tree from the environment (weather, other flora and fauna) to the tree's exact genome, even down to the exact time a particular photon originating from another galaxy hit a particular leaf. You would have to know the position and momentum of every particle in the universe in order to predict the exact way in which a tree will grow because of the chaotic nature of how the universe works. But chaotic and highly complex behaviour is not the same as indeterminacy.

> How do we know that all that is indeterminate is truly random?

To me, these are synonyms. If something happens which is indeterminate, this means that it has no cause and if something happens that has no cause then it is random. How can a decision which has no cause be called a decision at all? On what basis was the decision made? It seems to me that any decision has to be, by necessity, determined by something, otherwise it is not a decision. You said that Adam and Eve chose "wrong" because their desire to eat from the tree and therefore determine their own future was stronger than their desire to obey and trust in God. So the determining factor in that decision was the desire to determine their own future, thus their decision had a cause, therefore it was determined by that cause. They couldn't have chosen to obey God because that would have indicated that their desire to obey God was stronger than their desire not to which, as it turns out, it was not.

>> I see no reason why we couldn't program a computer to do all of these things once we figure out how.

> That's a god-of-the-gaps argument that I'm not ready to buy.

You're right, it's an argument from ignorance but every argument is technically an argument from ignorance since none of us are omniscient. What matters is the content of the argument (is it justified) rather than it's form. I think that general intelligence is nothing more than data processing and that the secret to AGI is not intelligence itself but rather a mechanism of motive - building an internal model of reality and deciding which actions will best serve a goal. This sounds simple but it's something that has evolved over billions of years and is not easy to replicate. But we have already replicated many functions of the brain (image recognition, speech recognition, etc) so I think it's just a matter of time before we discover the secret of general intelligence.

> But if our reason is the result of natural selection, we have reason not to trust reason, since reason came about through a non-reasoned process that didn't involve reason, may not have used reason, and cannot guarantee that there even is such a thing. ... If the synaptic firings are uncontrollable, ... how can we EVER trust them?

Because intelligence is an emergent property of physics. Atoms and natural selection don't have to be able to reason in order to comprise something that can reason, just as grains of sand and molecules of air don't have to know how to build sand dunes and waves and rocks don't have to know how to build beaches. As complex and as intelligent as we are, we are still just nothing more than physics doing its thing.

> At what point can you claim purpose is built into us?

"Purpose" is just a word we use to describe our complex behaviour. At first we were just self-replicating molecules. As we evolved, the life that did the right things and made the right decisions to survive got to reproduce and those that didn't died. Thus the mechanism for survival was bred into us. As we became more intelligent, social, and self-aware, this survival mechanism only got stronger and is still evolving today. And it still determines who gets to reproduce and who doesn't, only now (because of the complexity of our social and self-aware behaviour) we call it "purpose."
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Re: Everything is either determinate or indeterminate

Postby jimwalton » Fri Nov 09, 2018 3:22 am

> Why else would a monkey wave a stick at a thunderstorm?

1. Because he didn't like the noise
2. Because it was a random movement
3. Because monkey behavior involves shaking sticks

> Wikipedia: List of thunder gods, Wikipedia: List of fire gods

We know that the ancients worshipped thunder and fire gods. What we don't know is the process by which they got to that behavior. Your assumption of "We didn't understand the cause so we attributed the storm to some agency or spirit or God" is unverifiable, and possibly a fallacy of presentism: assuming that what and how we think in the modern world is what they thought in the ancient world. We don't know that their lack of understanding caused them to attribute the storm to a deity.

Then you support it with the opinions of 19th and 20th c. philosophers, and then by saying "all religions have a notion of the soul." None of those speak to how you know the process of thought by which the ancients came to the conclusion that the storm was the action of a deity.

On top of that, the oldest religious practice we can really hang our hats on is Gobekli Teki in Turkey. Their worship centered around stable and reliable food sources (agriculture), not attributing soul to a fire. Archaeologist Jacques Cauvin once suggested that "the beginning of the gods was the beginning of agriculture," and Gobekli may prove his case.

Your claim doesn't hold.

> but given that everything else in the universe appears to be working in a deterministic manner

You know from our lengthy conversation that this is not a given at all. There's no sense in my rehashing screens and screens of material, arguments, and evidences.

> Only evidence. If our beliefs are not supported by evidence then maybe we shouldn't believe them.

I agree with this 100%. The Bible defines faith as making an assumption of truth based on enough evidence to make the assumption reasonable. Faith in the Bible is always evidentiary.

> You would have to know the position and momentum of every particle in the universe in order to predict the exact way in which a tree will grow because of the chaotic nature of how the universe works.

It's the Butterly Effect. But the point is that you cannot conclude that "That which is indeterminate (i.e. not determined in any way by anything at all) is truly random." Your 3rd premise is too questionable to hold together.

> Indeterminate...random...To me, these are synonyms.

And herein lies the problem. You may be able to state that all known ravens are black, but you can't say it with certainty. There just may be a raven out there that is albino. You just speculated that the red maple tree might be determined by the positions and momentum of other particles in the universe. But you are guessing and speculating. You don't know, actually. It's a fallacy of weak induction, and the argument doesn't hold enough for your make your conclusions.

> If something happens which is indeterminate, this means that it has no cause

You're on very shaky logical ground here. Are you saying things happen that have no causes? The deeper you go, the less your argument holds together.

> You said that Adam and Eve chose "wrong" because their desire to eat from the tree and therefore determine their own future was stronger than their desire to obey and trust in God. So the determining factor in that decision was the desire to determine their own future, thus their decision had a cause, therefore it was determined by that cause

This is correct. The cause was not God but rather their own consciousness, self-determination, and free will.

> They couldn't have chosen to obey God because that would have indicated that their desire to obey God was stronger than their desire not to which, as it turns out, it was not.

And we can't possibly evaluate the percentage balance of the moral and mental battle going on inside of them. Who knows how it started out, what was weighing heavier in their minds, how their thoughts (you know how people argue with themselves) waged war inside them, whether the balance was swayed. You've probably heard of "Twelve Angry Men." The minds of the jurors were changed by inputting reason and evidence, emotion and persuasion. You absolutely cannot conclude that Adam and Eve "couldn't have chosen to obey God" unless that is your a priori presupposition, your foregone conclusion before considering other evidences and arguments. If that is the case, nothing anyone says will change your predetermined conclusion.

> You're right, it's an argument from ignorance but every argument is technically an argument from ignorance since non of us are omniscient.

Neither is this true. If you're claiming that reason cannot possibly enter an argument, that ignorance is the only avenue—why are we having this conversation?

> Because intelligence is an emergent property of physics.

There is absolutely NO evidence, let alone a supportable conclusion, that the forces of physics can lead to intelligence and reasoning.

> Atoms and natural selection don't have to be able to reason in order to comprise something that can reason, just as grains of sand and molecules of air don't have to know how to build sand dunes and waves and rocks don't have to know how to build beaches.

We've covered this ground, and I'm not sure further conversation is beneficial. You're just making up evidences, support, and conclusions. This one in particular is another fallacy of weak induction called false analogy. Sand comprising a beach is NOTHING like atoms leading to reason.

Thank you for the conversation, but this is just no longer productive. You make up what monkeys were thinking, assume what the ancients believed about fire, and then construct one logical fallacy after another to frame up what you believe. I"m sorry, and I'm not trying to be mean, but it just doesn't wash.

    * random and indeterminacy are synonyms
    * events can have no cause
    * ignorance is the basis of all arguments
    * atoms can lead to reasoning
    * Purpose has nothing to do with actual purpose but is just a word to describe our complex behavior

Sorry. I've enjoyed the conversation, but I don't see the point in pursuing this further. Thanks.


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