Free Will

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Re: Free Will

#12881  Postby zoon » Aug 02, 2018 9:13 am

Cito di Pense wrote:
zoon wrote:If you have a link to an authoritative source claiming that Paul Bloom is wrong, I should be interested to see it. If you are merely saying that he is talking nonsense on the basis that the experimental evidence presented in Nature by a Yale professor doesn’t fit your preconceived ideas, I see no reason to pay attention.


The kind of crap written by authors like Bloom is so vague and general as to prevent even their colleagues from figuring out if any of it is wrong. That's why he spends so much effort making statements of the form "this may lead to that". Bloom doesn't insist that "hard-wired" infantile responses form the foundation of systems of moral reasoning among adults; he'd be an idiot to do so at this stage. Adult humans do in general respond more favorably to fair behavior than to cruel behavior, but that this is hard wired is not established by making crude observations of infant humans. Late juvenile and adolescent humans are often quite cruel to one another as they try to establish their own little pecking orders, and they form alliances based on this kind of pettiness. This doesn't prove anything, either, but when you try to discuss this kind of shit with someone who thinks it's just a bunch of shit, all you and your interlocutor are going to do is trade counter-examples.

You've been beating the drum for this sociobiology trip of yours for years, the underwater basket-weaving class of the behavioral sciences, and now you're shoving it into a discussion of 'free will'. The stuff you read undoubtedly makes suggestions to you, and if you enjoy being subject to those kinds of suggestions, that's your privilege. You should be offering specific examples that show any facts related to your claims, or the claims of the folks you like to cite. If you like reading that shit, do your best and extract the facts that you think supports the general and vague theories you or Bloom are spouting. The thing about underwater basket-weaving is that, even if the basket is really ugly and doesn't hold anything, least of all water, the fact that somebody wove it is considered impressive.

Paul Bloom made a clear statement, in Nature (not a popular publication touting his books), that his work with babies “supports the view that social evaluation is a biological adaptation.” Since that 2007 letter (linked again here), he has repeated that claim in various articles and books. If a number of professionals in the field objected to this view, I would have expected you to have been able to find some evidence of that objection. Your failure to do so reinforces my view that Paul Bloom is merely adding to a consensus among professionals in the field that we are not blank slates in our social interactions: a number of underlying patterns of behaviour appear to be wired in by evolution, then developed in each individual in different ways depending on their experiences. For example, Steven Pinker, currently a professor of psychology at Harvard, has written a book “The Blank Slate”, arguing against the blank slate view of human nature, and Michael Tomasello, head of the Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, has written a book with a title which speaks for itself: “A Natural History of Human Morality”.

Both of those books were published in 2016. By contrast, the blank slate view of human nature was the consensus view among social scientists for much of the last century, especially the first half, when far less was known about child development. As far as I can tell, you are attempting to defend an outdated hypothesis.

To repeat: if you find an authoritative source supporting your view, I should be interested to see it; please provide the link.
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Re: Free Will

#12882  Postby romansh » Aug 02, 2018 11:31 am

Zoon wrote:
Paul Bloom made a clear statement, in Nature (not a popular publication touting his books), that his work with babies “supports the view that social evaluation is a biological adaptation.” Since that 2007 letter (linked again here), he has repeated that claim in various articles and books.


I don't think that there is an issue that evolution has imbued us with the capacity to have emotions. Pinker in the his Blank Slate clearly says that our actions are a result of both nature (our genetic past environment) and nurture (our immediate environment). Robert Sapolsky hammers this home in Behaviour where clearly he argues against free will. So assuming we don't have free will, what are the benefits of labelling the absence of certain constraints as free will?

Note that nature and nurture are two different aspects environment. We, including our actions, are a product of the environment.
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Re: Free Will

#12883  Postby romansh » Aug 02, 2018 12:02 pm

Cito di Pense wrote: Some people genuinely (IMO) want to inflict suffering, even on those who could not have done otherwise. The rational response is to separate or sequester people whose "not having done otherwise" inconveniences us too much.

In the heat of the moment I occasionally find myself wishing to inflict suffering, but when not drunk with hormonal emotions I can't find a logical reason to inflict such suffering.

Cito di Pense wrote:The prison system inflicts suffering because of the way it is run (by people you'd probably say are unable to run it any other way). I don't know if you really believe that, now that you think about it.

I would be careful that we are not conflating, envisaging running prisons any other way with being able to run them other ways. I can envisage different reaction pathways for a given chemical reaction; I might be able to manipulate them too, but ultimately there is nothing magical here.

As to "really believing", the answer is a curious mixture. In sober debate I cannot give a rational reason for believing we can do otherwise in any meaningful way. In the heat of the moment I am in the mix with Laklak's ground apes.

Cito di Pense wrote: It's not exactly that people could or could not have done otherwise

And here we are stuck in our mental world, completely oblivious to the underlying mechanisms to ultimately what will be our actions.

The non sequitur of "the mechanism for us doing otherwise" escapes us.
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Re: Free Will

#12884  Postby Cito di Pense » Aug 02, 2018 2:37 pm

zoon wrote:Paul Bloom made a clear statement, in Nature (not a popular publication touting his books), that his work with babies “supports the view that social evaluation is a biological adaptation.” Since that 2007 letter (linked again here), he has repeated that claim in various articles and books. If a number of professionals in the field objected to this view, I would have expected you to have been able to find some evidence of that objection.


Maybe they don't object because "that view" is simply not subject to evidence to the contrary. If it's just a view, it's not really a hypothesis, yet. What would constitute evidence to the contrary? Did you ever think of that? Did they? Yeah, they probably did, and didn't think it worthwhile arguing with somebody in a bullshit-fest like that one. Infants display reactions that can be interpreted as social evaluation, but you can't really interview them, can you? So you're stuck reading those sorts of tea leaves, and it allows you to have the view that social evaluation is a biological adaptation, if we accept that infants are doing social evaluation rather than reacting to pheromones, their auditory environment, or something like that. It's a bullshit fest, if you ask me. If you are a specialist in this kind of stuff, kindly announce the sorts of observations that lead to that "view". If you're not, and you're just treating Bloom as your guru-du-jour, kindly stop saying shit like this:

zoon wrote:Your failure to do so reinforces my view...


Believe what you want to believe, zoon. Your failure to suggest what the contrary evidence would look like reinforces my view. The contrary view is not that infants are blank slates, but rather, that they are not performing social evaluation. That's how things go in this, the garbage pail of the behavioral sciences.

zoon wrote:Paul Bloom is merely adding to a consensus among professionals in the field that we are not blank slates in our social interactions: a number of underlying patterns of behaviour appear to be wired in by evolution, then developed in each individual in different ways depending on their experiences.


You're relying on the observations of infants, interpreted in a particular way, presumably by your guru-du-jour.

zoon wrote:For example, Steven Pinker, currently a professor of psychology at Harvard, has written a book “The Blank Slate”, arguing against the blank slate view of human nature, and Michael Tomasello, head of the Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, has written a book with a title which speaks for itself: “A Natural History of Human Morality”.


This isn't about whether humans are blank slates at birth or early infancy. This is about whether infants are performing social evaluation. Good luck interviewing them. If you do, share with them some of the drool you've been pouring into this thread.

zoon wrote:Both of those books were published in 2016. By contrast, the blank slate view of human nature was the consensus view among social scientists for much of the last century, especially the first half, when far less was known about child development. As far as I can tell, you are attempting to defend an outdated hypothesis.


Once again, zoon: This isn't about whether humans are blank slates until a certain age. This is about whether infants are performing social evaluation, which is the content of your stupid claims (or rather, those of your guru-du-jour).

zoon wrote:To repeat: if you find an authoritative source supporting your view, I should be interested to see it; please provide the link.


People in this field are quite busily making claims and suggesting 'views' that are not really subject to contrary evidence. All it consists of are the interpretations of observations without knowing what falsifying observations would look like. Why don't you take a shot at describing what this contrary evidence should look like? See, it's like proving that God doesn't exist. I'll bet that's another one you like to dick around with. The contrary view to the notion that infants are performing social evaluation is not that infants are blank slates.
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Re: Free Will

#12885  Postby Cito di Pense » Aug 02, 2018 2:48 pm

romansh wrote:
Cito di Pense wrote: Some people genuinely (IMO) want to inflict suffering, even on those who could not have done otherwise. The rational response is to separate or sequester people whose "not having done otherwise" inconveniences us too much.

In the heat of the moment I occasionally find myself wishing to inflict suffering, but when not drunk with hormonal emotions I can't find a logical reason to inflict such suffering.


Sure you can. At the very least, you might want to make sure it doesn't happen again too soon, but those measures may be some you can't stomach because of your fee-fees.

romansh wrote:
Cito di Pense wrote:The prison system inflicts suffering because of the way it is run (by people you'd probably say are unable to run it any other way). I don't know if you really believe that, now that you think about it.


[I would be careful that we are not conflating, envisaging running prisons any other way with being able to run them other ways. I can envisage different reaction pathways for a given chemical reaction; I might be able to manipulate them too, but ultimately there is nothing magical here.

As to "really believing", the answer is a curious mixture. In sober debate I cannot give a rational reason for believing we can do otherwise in any meaningful way. In the heat of the moment I am in the mix with Laklak's ground apes.


In the end, romansh, you don't really have a fuck of a lot to say about the problem. None of us does, so you're not really holding the short end of a very long stick.

romansh wrote:
Cito di Pense wrote: It's not exactly that people could or could not have done otherwise


And here we are stuck in our mental world, completely oblivious to the underlying mechanisms to ultimately what will be our actions.

The non sequitur of "the mechanism for us doing otherwise" escapes us.


Probably, you shouldn't spend too much effort trying to figure any of this out. I think you're pretty much on the right track as far as that goes.
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Re: Free Will

#12886  Postby zoon » Aug 02, 2018 5:46 pm

romansh wrote:Yes MAD has kept us from utter annihilation. I personally would not rely on the emotive aspect of this strategy to keep us alive. Otherwise it will be back to flints.

Overall, I have not heard the benefits of emotional retribution other that on occasions it can be swift, whether it is appropriate or not.

I seem to have given a wrong impression. I’m not advocating a more emotional and less rational approach to social interactions. I’m saying there is scientific evidence that our social interactions, including those where we are using our reasoning powers to their fullest extent, are often based on patterns of behaviour which are wired in by evolution. The evidence comes from studies on different cultures, on child development, and on non-human animals, especially those such as chimpanzees which are closely related to us.

Perhaps in future we may be able to reshape our social behaviour from scratch, but so far we don’t know how, any more than we yet know how to reshape our bodies away from the evolved vertebrate model.

romansh wrote:Zoon wrote:
Paul Bloom made a clear statement, in Nature (not a popular publication touting his books), that his work with babies “supports the view that social evaluation is a biological adaptation.” Since that 2007 letter (linked again here), he has repeated that claim in various articles and books.


I don't think that there is an issue that evolution has imbued us with the capacity to have emotions. Pinker in the his Blank Slate clearly says that our actions are a result of both nature (our genetic past environment) and nurture (our immediate environment). Robert Sapolsky hammers this home in Behaviour where clearly he argues against free will. So assuming we don't have free will, what are the benefits of labelling the absence of certain constraints as free will?

Note that nature and nurture are two different aspects environment. We, including our actions, are a product of the environment.

I think we may now be in agreement on the part of this discussion where I have been digging in my heels: that our social thinking is, as Pinker argues in “The Blank Slate”, shaped in part by underlying patterns which are the result of evolution. I don’t feel so strongly about the exact usage of the phrase “free will”.

Paul Bloom uses his studies on babies as evidence that adult social behaviour may be shaped by fairly complex evolved patterns. Steven Pinker, on pages 38 and 39 of “The Blank Slate”, presents an example of another line of evidence, this time from different cultures where the patterns of interaction are more similar than they may seem at first sight. Michael Tomasello’s evidence towards the same conclusion is taken from his studies on toddlers and on chimpanzees. For example, a 2014 paper here by Tomasello and others entitled: “Differences in the early cognitive development of children and great apes”, describes how chimpanzees and bonobos are quicker than children to gain cognitive skills in managing the physical world, while children, from the age of 2, are better than apes in social cognition, and the gap widens with age.

Since we appear to be in reasonable agreement on the facts of the case, the question of what meaning the phrase “free will” should carry becomes a fairly minor difference of opinion? As you say, Robert Sapolsky takes the line that we simply don’t have free will, since all the evidence points to our being determinate mechanisms. He’s an incompatibilist, who considers that free will and determinism are incompatible. A number of philosophers are incompatibilists, though I think a somewhat higher proportion are compatibilists, and there are subspecies of both. I’m not going to say that I think one is right and the other wrong (at least, of those who agree that we are indeed almost certainly determinate), though, unlike you and Prof Sapolsky, I would call myself a compatibilist.

My feeling is that Robert Sapolsky backs himself into some slightly odd corners in defence of his position; for example, at the end of the chapter on free will in “Behave” (pages 612/613 of the hardback edition), he says that we shouldn’t really compliment someone on their cooking at a dinner party, since they had no free will to do otherwise. Then he says (page 613): “I can’t really imagine how to live your life as if there is no free will”. He is largely concerned with not overdoing retribution, not judging others too harshly, but I’m not so clear that free will as such is invariably the issue there. He goes on about epilepsy being an illness for which people used to be punished, which is true, but that was because it used not to be recognised as a physical illness: serious physical illness has always been regarded as something which meant the person didn’t have free will to do otherwise at the time, there’s nothing new except a redefinition of epilepsy. Also there’s the question of capital punishment in the US (where free will is held to be important), but most developed countries don’t have capital punishment anyway. Looking at “Behave” again, perhaps the part you are thinking of is towards the end of the chapter “Biology, the criminal justice system and free will”, pages 609 to 613 hardback edition? Quoting those pages (I hope 5 pages out of nearly 800 isn’t infringing copyright):

Robert Sapolsky wrote:
Now for the really impossible issue, the one that “changes everything” – the issue of punishment. Maybe, just maybe, a criminal must suffer punishment at junctures in a behaviourist framework, as part of rehabilitation, part of making recidivism unlikely by fostering expanded frontal capacity. It is implicit in the very process of denying a dangerous individual their freedom by removing them from society. But precluding free will precludes punishment being an end in and of itself, punishment being imagined to “balance” the scales of justice.

It is the punisher’s mind-set where everything must be changed. The difficulty of this is explored in the superb book The Punisher’s Brain: The Evolution of Judge and Jury (2014) by Morris Hoffman, a practicing judge and legal scholar. He reviews the reasons for punishment: As we see from game theory studies, because punishment fosters cooperation. Because it is in the fabric of the evolution of sociality. And most important, because it can feel good to punish, to be part of a righteous and self-righteous crowd at a public hanging, knowing that justice is being served.

This is a deep, atavistic pleasure. Put people in brain scanners, give them scenarios of norm violations. Decision making about culpability for the violation correlates with activity in the cognitive dlPFC. But decision making about appropriate punishment activates the emotional vmPFC, along with the amygdala and insula: the more activation, the more punishment. The decision to punish, the passionate motivation to do so, is a frothy limbic state. As are the consequences of punishing – when subjects punish someone for making a lousy offer in an economic game, there’s activation of dopaminergic reward systems. Punishment that feels just feels good.

It makes sense that we’ve evolved such that it is limbic froth that is at the center of punishing, and that a pleasurable dopaminergic surge rewards doing so. Punishment is effortful and costly, ranging from forgoing a reward when rejecting a lowball offer in the Ultimatum Game to our tax dollars paying for the dental plan of the prison guard who operates the lethal injection machine. That rush of self-righteous pleasure is what drives us to shoulder the costs. This was shown in one neuroimaging study of economic game play. Subjects alternated between being able to punish lousy offers at no cost and having to spend points they had earned to do so. And the more dopaminergic activation during no0cost punishment, the more someone would pay to punish in the other condition.

Thus the nearly impossible task is to overcome that. Sure, as I said, punishment would still be used in an instrumental fashion, to acutely shape behaviour. But there is simply no place for the idea that punishment is a virtue. Our dopaminergic pathways will have to find their stimulation elsewhere. I sure don’t know how best to achieve that mind-set. But crucially, I sure do know we can do it – because we have before: Once people with epilepsy were virtuously punished for their intimacy with Lucifer. Now we mandate that if their seizures aren’t under control, they can’t drive. And the key point is that no one views such a driving ban as virtuous, pleasurable punishment, believing that a person with treatment-resistant seizures “deserves” to be banned from driving. Crowds of goitrous yahoos don’t excitedly mass to watch the epileptic’s driver’s license be publicly burned. We’ve successfully banished the notion of punishment in that realm. It may take centuries, but we can do the same in all our current arenas of punishment.

Which brings us to the huge practical challenge. The traditional rationales behind imprisonment are to protect the public, to rehabilitate, to punish, and finally to sue the threat of punishment to deter others. That last one is the practical challenge, because such threats of punishment can indeed deter. How can that be done? The broadest type of solution is incompatible with an open society – making the public believe that imprisonment involves horrific punishments when, in reality, it doesn’t. Perhaps the loss of freedom that occurs when a dangerous person is removed from society must be deterrence enough. Perhaps some conventional punishment will still be needed if it is sufficiently deterring. But what mush be abolished are the views that punishment can be deserved and that punishing can be virtuous.

None of this will be easy. When contemplating the challenge to do so, it is important to remember that some, many, maybe even most of the people who were prosecuting epileptics in the fifteenth century were no different from us – sincere, cautious, and ethical, concerned about the serious problems threatening their society, hoping to bequeath their children a safer world. Just operation with an unrecognizably different mind-set. The psychological distance from them to us is vast, separated by the yawning chasm that was the discovery of “It’s not her, it’s her disease.” Having crossed that divide, the distance we now need to go is far shorter – it merely consists of taking that same insight and being willing to see its valid extension in whatever directions science takes us.

The hope is that when it comes to dealing with humans whose behaviors are among our worst and most damaging, words like “evil” and “soul” will be as irrelevant as when considering a car with faulty brakes, that they will be as rarely spoken in a courtroom as in an auto repair shop. And crucially, the analogy holds in a key way, extending to instances of dangerous people without anything obviously wrong with their frontal cortex, genes, and so on. When a car is being dysfunctional and dangerous and we take it to a mechanic, this is not a dualistic situation where (a) if the mechanic discovers some broken widget causing the problem, we have a mechanistic explanation, but (b) if the mechanic can’t find anything wrong, we’re dealing with an evil car; sure , the mechanic can speculate on the source of the problem – maybe it’s the blueprint from which the car was built, maybe it was the building process, maybe the environment contains some unknown pollutant that somehow impairs function, maybe someday we’ll have sufficiently powerful techniques in the auto shop to spot some key molecule in the engine that is out of whack – but in the meantime we’ll consider this car to be evil. Car free will also equals “internal forces we do not understand yet.”

Many who are viscerally opposed to this view charge that it is dehumanizing to frame damaged humans as broken machines. But as a final, crucial point, doing that is a hell of a lot more humane than demonizing and sermonizing them as sinners.

POSTSCRIPT: NOW FOR THE HARD PART

Well, so much for the criminal justice system. Now on to the really difficult part, which is what to do when someone compliments your zygomatic arches.

If we deny free will when it comes to the worst of our behaviors, the same must also apply to the best. To our talents, displays of willpower and focus, moments of bursting creativity, decency, and compassion. Logically it should seem as ludicrous to take credit for those traits as to respond to a compliment on the beauty of your cheekbones by thanking the person for implicitly having praised your free will, instead of explaining how mechanical forces acted upon the zygomatic arches of your skull.

It will be so difficult to act that way. I am willing to admit that I have acted egregiously in this regard. My wife and I have brunch with a friend, who serves fruit salad. We proclaim, “Wow, the pineapple is delicious.” “They’re out of season,” our host smugly responds, “but I lucked out and found a decent one.” My wife and I express awestruck worship – “You really know how to pick fruit. You are a better person than we are.” We are praising the host for this supposed display of free will, for the choice made at the fork in life’s road that is pineapple choosing. But we’re wrong. In reality, genes had something to do with the olfactory receptors our host has that help detect ripeness. Maybe our host comes from a people whose deep and ancient cultural values include learning how to feel up a pineapple to tell if it’s good. The sheer luck of the socioeconomic trajectory of our host’s life has provided the resources to prowl an overpriced organic market playing Peruvian folk Musak. Yet we praise our host.

I can’t really imagine how to live your life as if there is no free will. It may never be possible to view ourselves as the sum of our biology. Perhaps we’ll have to settle for making sure our homuncular myths are benign, and save the heavy lifting of truly thinking rationally for where it matters – when we judge others harshly.


Robert Sapolsky seems to think we should go on using punishment much as before, as a deterrent, to shape behaviour, but he seriously, very seriously, objects to our enjoying the doling out of punishment. This strikes me as somewhat Calvinistic; if we are going to go on punishing, why not enjoy it? - or at any rate, why go to immense trouble to stop enjoying it? We don’t have to think of the enjoyment as a virtue, more as a side-effect. We do need to be careful not to punish too much, and as a UK citizen, I’m all for not having the death penalty, but I think he’s putting unnecessary emphasis on the side effect of enjoyment. If he’s only objecting to the sense of spiritual virtue, then I’m OK with that. I’m also somewhat wary of his likening criminals to cars with faulty brakes which need to be taken to an auto repair shop: is he suggesting brain surgery for shoplifting? Perhaps this may happen in the future, but we’re hardly there yet. He says it’s more humane to treat people as broken machines than as sinners, but I don’t think we’re supposed to care about a car’s feelings, while sinners are not to be punished too much. Again, he wants to keep words like “evil” and “soul” out of courtrooms, but I suspect they are much commoner in US courtrooms than in those of most other developed countries. Praising a host’s pineapple-choosing virtuosity makes him happier and encourages more good fruit at the next party, with or without free will.

Them’s my sentiments, but I’m not saying you’re wrong about the use of the phrase “free will”, and I certainly find Sapolsky’s views on punishment interesting.
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Re: Free Will

#12887  Postby zoon » Aug 02, 2018 5:49 pm

Cito di Pense wrote:
zoon wrote:Paul Bloom made a clear statement, in Nature (not a popular publication touting his books), that his work with babies “supports the view that social evaluation is a biological adaptation.” Since that 2007 letter (linked again here), he has repeated that claim in various articles and books. If a number of professionals in the field objected to this view, I would have expected you to have been able to find some evidence of that objection.


Maybe they don't object because "that view" is simply not subject to evidence to the contrary. If it's just a view, it's not really a hypothesis, yet. What would constitute evidence to the contrary? Did you ever think of that? Did they? Yeah, they probably did, and didn't think it worthwhile arguing with somebody in a bullshit-fest like that one. Infants display reactions that can be interpreted as social evaluation, but you can't really interview them, can you? So you're stuck reading those sorts of tea leaves, and it allows you to have the view that social evaluation is a biological adaptation, if we accept that infants are doing social evaluation rather than reacting to pheromones, their auditory environment, or something like that. It's a bullshit fest, if you ask me. If you are a specialist in this kind of stuff, kindly announce the sorts of observations that lead to that "view". If you're not, and you're just treating Bloom as your guru-du-jour, kindly stop saying shit like this:

zoon wrote:Your failure to do so reinforces my view...


Believe what you want to believe, zoon. Your failure to suggest what the contrary evidence would look like reinforces my view. The contrary view is not that infants are blank slates, but rather, that they are not performing social evaluation. That's how things go in this, the garbage pail of the behavioral sciences.

zoon wrote:Paul Bloom is merely adding to a consensus among professionals in the field that we are not blank slates in our social interactions: a number of underlying patterns of behaviour appear to be wired in by evolution, then developed in each individual in different ways depending on their experiences.


You're relying on the observations of infants, interpreted in a particular way, presumably by your guru-du-jour.

zoon wrote:For example, Steven Pinker, currently a professor of psychology at Harvard, has written a book “The Blank Slate”, arguing against the blank slate view of human nature, and Michael Tomasello, head of the Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, has written a book with a title which speaks for itself: “A Natural History of Human Morality”.


This isn't about whether humans are blank slates at birth or early infancy. This is about whether infants are performing social evaluation. Good luck interviewing them. If you do, share with them some of the drool you've been pouring into this thread.

zoon wrote:Both of those books were published in 2016. By contrast, the blank slate view of human nature was the consensus view among social scientists for much of the last century, especially the first half, when far less was known about child development. As far as I can tell, you are attempting to defend an outdated hypothesis.


Once again, zoon: This isn't about whether humans are blank slates until a certain age. This is about whether infants are performing social evaluation, which is the content of your stupid claims (or rather, those of your guru-du-jour).

zoon wrote:To repeat: if you find an authoritative source supporting your view, I should be interested to see it; please provide the link.


People in this field are quite busily making claims and suggesting 'views' that are not really subject to contrary evidence. All it consists of are the interpretations of observations without knowing what falsifying observations would look like. Why don't you take a shot at describing what this contrary evidence should look like? See, it's like proving that God doesn't exist. I'll bet that's another one you like to dick around with. The contrary view to the notion that infants are performing social evaluation is not that infants are blank slates.

Why do you expect anyone to take your inexpert opinions seriously, when you have produced no citation indicating anyone more competent than yourself criticises Professor Bloom’s work? Read the article if you want to know more about interviewing infants.
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Re: Free Will

#12888  Postby romansh » Aug 02, 2018 11:41 pm

Zoon
Complimenting people? Why not, especially if it enhances the desired behaviour? It also allows us to understand we were fundamentally lucky when we get compliments or have done well for ourselves.

Can't be "good" without God?

Can't be "good" without free will?

Can't be "good" without a deterrent?
How far from you current path would you deviate if there were no deterrents? Just understanding that actions will have consequences as usual. Of course there are others who need those deterrents, not us. But the deterrents do play a role, having said that, the immediate circumstances play a far larger role. Unfair deterrents are counter productive. Hence Blackstone type formulations.

You did advocate for retributional punishment zoon (which includes suffering according to SEP), I am wondering if this includes those wo could not have done otherwise. I am wondering why you have not tackled this aspect?
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Re: Free Will

#12889  Postby Cito di Pense » Aug 03, 2018 4:59 am

zoon wrote:
Why do you expect anyone to take your inexpert opinions seriously, when you have produced no citation indicating anyone more competent than yourself criticises Professor Bloom’s work? Read the article if you want to know more about interviewing infants.


If you're a student or researcher or practitioner in this field, you should know much better than I do that the nature-nurture debate rages on, and we all are forced to admit that our responses as adults develop from a combination of influences. The moral judgements of infants have relatively little weight in the political arena; perhaps we can agree that life might be just ducky if the world were run by infants, who make inarticulate and non-negotiable demands (also a function of inherited characteristics) much more often than they make ethical judgements. Oh, wait. We already have a political example of an oversized, orange infant pretending to run things in the government of a major world power. Perhaps I should reconsider the moral capacities of not-fully-developed individuals to see what infantile responses look like when played in the large.

What you're describing (or rather, emphasizing) is what might only be a current fashion in one subfield of behavioral studies. In another generation, the fashion might be to emphasize something else. The human capacity that far outstrips in effectiveness any other capacities inherited at birth is the capacity to learn, to imitate, and eventually (with high enough functioning) to innovate. You should try out your capacity for innovation sometime instead of touting your favorite authority to somebody who doesn't really give a shit, because your judgement skills have not really been demonstrated in anything you've written lately beyond recognizing my contempt for your rhetorical ploys.

zoon wrote:Sapolsky seems to think we should go on using punishment much as before, as a deterrent, to shape behaviour, but he seriously, very seriously, objects to our enjoying the doling out of punishment.


If you know anything about these sorts of responses ("enjoyment"), you'll understand that it's too much work not to enjoy something that we enjoy, even if it's killing us. What to do? What to do? Maybe we can just enjoy disagreeing with Sapolsky, who wags his finger and tells us we shouldn't enjoy something that we enjoy. It's not just Calvinistic, zoon. Everybody (except maybe romansh, sometimes) enjoys wagging the finger. There are pecking orders to be maintained, a feature of the lives of social animals I'm sure you find utterly essential. We can't have an overabundance of chiefs and a deficit of Indians, which is what happens when infants run things.

What you see is that social innovation is prevented from taking flight by most people's resistance to change, which is basically just laziness. Any social innovation is subject to revocation by the inborn laziness of relying on tradition. The only innovation you're offering is that moral or ethical thinking is a result of inborn capacities and our social history instead of divine forces. To which (of genetics or history) do you really want to give more weight? Judgements determined by interviews of infants?
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Translation by Elbert Hubbard: Do not take life too seriously. You're not going to get out of it alive.
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Re: Free Will

#12890  Postby zoon » Aug 03, 2018 5:12 pm

romansh wrote:Zoon
Complimenting people? Why not, especially if it enhances the desired behaviour? It also allows us to understand we were fundamentally lucky when we get compliments or have done well for ourselves.

Can't be "good" without God?

Can't be "good" without free will?

Can't be "good" without a deterrent?
How far from you current path would you deviate if there were no deterrents? Just understanding that actions will have consequences as usual. Of course there are others who need those deterrents, not us. But the deterrents do play a role, having said that, the immediate circumstances play a far larger role. Unfair deterrents are counter productive. Hence Blackstone type formulations.

You did advocate for retributional punishment zoon (which includes suffering according to SEP), I am wondering if this includes those who could not have done otherwise. I am wondering why you have not tackled this aspect?

My intention was to argue against attempts to root out all considerations of free will or retribution from the legal system and from ordinary social life. I certainly did not intend to advocate reverting to an infantile dependence on evolved intuition alone.

As far as I can tell, Sapolsky changes his mind in the course of the quotation from his book which I posted in #12886 above. For most of the quote, he is fulminating against leaving any trace of free will or retribution in the legal system, on the grounds that they are unscientific and disastrous. Then, when he tries to follow through to ordinary life and claims that we really shouldn’t compliment people, he begins to think this is looking silly, as you point out above. By the final paragraph of the quotation he’s saying it’s not in fact feasible to take free will out of our social thinking, and at that point I’m inclined to agree with him. The final paragraph is:
Robert Sapolsky in ‘Behave’ wrote:I can’t really imagine how to live your life as if there is no free will. It may never be possible to view ourselves as the sum of our biology. Perhaps we’ll have to settle for making sure our homuncular myths are benign, and save the heavy lifting of truly thinking rationally for where it matters – when we judge others harshly.

I’m dubious about the prospect of “truly thinking rationally” (at least while we understand brains as little as we do), but if he just means bringing more of our unemotional, calculating brain to bear when the stakes are higher, then I agree with that paragraph. I also think that’s what the legal system, and common sense, both do anyway. If someone treats me with mild rudeness, I can be mildly rude back without thinking twice, and without the law coming down on me. If they are more seriously rude, I think more carefully about what may be going on. If someone punches me, then it’s illegal for me to punch them back, that’s when the rule of law comes in. A country without the rule of law tends to develop Mafia-style vendettas, as people exact retribution repeatedly on an individual or clan basis, and these are explicitly discouraged by nationwide legal systems.

I was arguing against you when I thought you were trying to take free will out of our social thinking altogether, in the way that Robert Sapolsky seems to be saying in most of the quote.

I have a feeling that Sapolsky’s main disagreement with the US legal system in its current form, is where the death penalty is concerned. Among hunter-gatherers, and up to mediaeval times, the death penalty was effectively the only way to take seriously dangerous or disruptive people out of circulation. Imprisonment isn’t possible for hunter-gatherers, and was too expensive to use for the ordinary criminal system for much of history. In the US today, a very much wealthier place, this is no longer the case; in fact, executing someone is far more expensive than simply keeping them shut up, because of all the lawsuits. I think studies show that the death penalty is also not a clear deterrent; the prospect of being caught and imprisoned for life is roughly equally effective. Retribution remains the only “reason” for keeping a penalty which is far more fearsome than any other in the legal system. I agree strongly with Sapolsky that this is an undesirable state of affairs, but I think it’s better addressed by eliminating the death penalty than by attempting to eliminate free will and retribution altogether from our thinking.

Do you consider that I’ve answered your question? Ordinarily, there is a default assumption that people should not cause each other to suffer, and retribution is one of the exceptions. This default prohibition is very much a part of our evolved intuition, I don’t think it’s a scientific or independently reasoned point. This is one reason why I’m not happy with Sapolsky’s fierce attempts to take free will out of the justice system, his reason is mostly that by default it’s not good to make people suffer, but if he’s saying we ought to forget our irrational impulses then we ought to forget about not wanting people to suffer, or at least the emotional aspect of not wanting them to suffer. He’s emotionally saying we ought to take emotion out of the system. If I’m only going with cold reason and we are to think of ourselves as machinery like car engines, where’s the problem in causing suffering? As Sapolsky says at intervals, it’s complicated. I don’t see any point in attempting any root and branch surgery like trying to take free will out of our thinking, until we know more about how it all works.

Perhaps try to answer your question again. The more I try to answer it, the more I come back to Sapolsky’s remark towards the end of his long book: “It’s complicated”. Your question, I think, assumes a fairly simple dichotomy between two psychological backgrounds to punishment:
1) The evolved, emotional background. This gives us a nice warm fuzzy feeling when an evil-doer, acting on their mythical free will, commits a crime and gets their comeuppance. Apart from the warm fuzzy feeling, there are no good outcomes for retributive punishment, deterrence is merely accidental. Retributive emotions can lead to far fiercer punishments than are required for deterrence.
2) The logical, scientific background of punishment for deterrence. The science is simple: punishment results in aversion by a Pavlovian response in the criminal, and the fear of punishment deters everybody else. No free will, just cause and effect. The logic is also straightforward: deterrence brings down crime and keeps the community functional.
I think that when Sapolsky argues fiercely in the first part of the quote that the criminal justice system should be overhauled to eliminate evolved emotions altogether, he’s assuming something like the simple dichotomy above – it’s a no-brainer, stick to the science and logic. Then he tries to apply this simple view of human nature to a more ordinary social interaction (complimenting one’s host at a dinner party), and it immediately feels ludicrous. He changes tack, and says that in practice he doesn’t think we can manage social life without making use of evolved patterns of interaction which we don’t yet fully understand. I think I’m with Sapolsky in my opinion that the dichotomy is very far from being as simple and clear-cut as I’ve written it above. For one thing, deterrence in human societies is not at all a matter of simple stimulus and response; everyone has their own internal model of how the local society works, and thinks in terms of how to influence it. For another, I suspect absolute free will is a bit of a theological red herring (it was historically central in law courts based on Christianity), and that our evolved emotions where punishment is concerned are more closely linked to effective deterrence. If a form of punishment doesn’t have a useful practical effect, such as discouraging crime, then we start to feel uncomfortable with it: this is the underlying reason why we don’t want to punish people who were coerced or mentally ill. (For example, people who support the death penalty in the US typically at least try to argue that it has a clear deterrent effect.) Our logical brains do think in terms of deterrence, and we do need to bring logic and science to bear, but I think the logic is shaped and backed up by more evolved patterns than we’re aware of. I’m speculating, I don’t have a clear answer any more than Sapolsky does.
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Re: Free Will

#12891  Postby scott1328 » Oct 01, 2018 5:14 pm

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Re: Free Will

#12892  Postby Keep It Real » Oct 01, 2018 6:49 pm

I'm not sure what I take from that video...definately that there are several valid components to a punitive justice system...not much else though.
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Re: Free Will

#12893  Postby scott1328 » Oct 01, 2018 7:37 pm

It answers better than I could why Romansh’s insistence that “could have done otherwise” definition of free will is a bad definition, and furthermore makes a good case for why a compatibilist definition is in alignment with what people mean when they refer to free will in every other case except in philosophy and religion forums.

eta: changed to reference Romansh rather than Rumracket
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Re: Free Will

#12894  Postby Cito di Pense » Oct 02, 2018 10:27 am

scott1328 wrote:It answers better than I could why rumracket’s insistence that “could have done otherwise” definition of free will is a bad definition, and furthermore makes a good case for why a compatibilist definition is in alignment with what people mean when they refer to free will in every other case except in philosophy and religion forums.


That's how definitions work, scott. They're a starting point, and not a conclusion. What we don't do is define something, and then conform our observations to accord with it.
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Re: Free Will

#12895  Postby scott1328 » Oct 02, 2018 12:46 pm

Cito di Pense wrote:
scott1328 wrote:It answers better than I could why rumracket’s insistence that “could have done otherwise” definition of free will is a bad definition, and furthermore makes a good case for why a compatibilist definition is in alignment with what people mean when they refer to free will in every other case except in philosophy and religion forums.


That's how definitions work, scott. They're a starting point, and not a conclusion. What we don't do is define something, and then conform our observations to accord with it.


What a pithy bromide, have you been taking lessons from surreptitious?
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Re: Free Will

#12896  Postby Cito di Pense » Oct 02, 2018 1:34 pm

scott1328 wrote:
Cito di Pense wrote:
scott1328 wrote:It answers better than I could why rumracket’s insistence that “could have done otherwise” definition of free will is a bad definition, and furthermore makes a good case for why a compatibilist definition is in alignment with what people mean when they refer to free will in every other case except in philosophy and religion forums.


That's how definitions work, scott. They're a starting point, and not a conclusion. What we don't do is define something, and then conform our observations to accord with it.


What a pithy bromide, have you been taking lessons from surreptitious?


This is so simple, scott, that it does not require more than a pithy bromide. Putting -ism or -ist on the end doesn't (by itself) make the ruckus non-trivial. "Could have done otherwise" is the same as having had free will. At least in the Department of Tautology Department, Subjunctive Subsection.
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Re: Free Will

#12897  Postby scott1328 » Oct 02, 2018 5:15 pm

Cito di Pense wrote:
scott1328 wrote:
Cito di Pense wrote:
scott1328 wrote:It answers better than I could why rumracket’s insistence that “could have done otherwise” definition of free will is a bad definition, and furthermore makes a good case for why a compatibilist definition is in alignment with what people mean when they refer to free will in every other case except in philosophy and religion forums.


That's how definitions work, scott. They're a starting point, and not a conclusion. What we don't do is define something, and then conform our observations to accord with it.


What a pithy bromide, have you been taking lessons from surreptitious?


This is so simple, scott, that it does not require more than a pithy bromide. Putting -ism or -ist on the end doesn't (by itself) make the ruckus non-trivial. "Could have done otherwise" is the same as having had free will. At least in the Department of Tautology Department, Subjunctive Subsection.

I have no idea what you are trying to get at. Say directly what you mean. I posted a video I found interesting. In the exceedingly unlikely event that you actually watched it, direct your criticisms toward it. Otherwise, if you have not watched it, you have no basis for criticism.
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Re: Free Will

#12898  Postby romansh » Oct 04, 2018 6:06 pm

scott1328 wrote:It answers better than I could why Romansh’s insistence that “could have done otherwise” definition of free will is a bad definition


While I don't insist on any one definition ... I do think could have done otherwise? is an interesting point of view. While a little over half of philosophers appear to go for a compatibilist view point, it has been long recognized by libertarians as a cop out. And I would point you back to the Jerry Coyne video most people seem to think of free will as libertarian.

I agree with the the restitution, rehabilitation, incapacitation, deterrence view point, but implying that if we have no free will automatically will result in a not guilty verdict is a straw man.

Having two identical people except one has no free will ... how do we tell the difference. Early on the implies we can't tell the difference, later it suggests one will keep choosing chocolate ice cream: really?

A capacity to do otherwise?

Yes my actions will be shaped by the environment. Do I have capacity not to be shaped by environment, I think not?
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Re: Free Will

#12899  Postby scott1328 » Oct 04, 2018 6:41 pm

romansh wrote:
scott1328 wrote:It answers better than I could why Romansh’s insistence that “could have done otherwise” definition of free will is a bad definition


While I don't insist on any one definition ... I do think could have done otherwise? is an interesting point of view. While a little over half of philosophers appear to go for a compatibilist view point, it has been long recognized by libertarians as a cop out. And I would point you back to the Jerry Coyne video most people seem to think of free will as libertarian.

I agree with the the restitution, rehabilitation, incapacitation, deterrence view point, but implying that if we have no free will automatically will result in a not guilty verdict is a straw man.

Having two identical people except one has no free will ... how do we tell the difference. Early on the implies we can't tell the difference, later it suggests one will keep choosing chocolate ice cream: really?

A capacity to do otherwise?

Yes my actions will be shaped by the environment. Do I have capacity not to be shaped by environment, I think not?

Did you watch the video? Did you get to the part that directly addresses the badness of the exact definition you use?
If you are unwilling or unable to watch the video, there is a transcript available from the YouTube site.
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Re: Free Will

#12900  Postby romansh » Oct 04, 2018 7:10 pm

scott1328 wrote:
Did you watch the video? Did you get to the part that directly addresses the badness of the exact definition you use?
If you are unwilling or unable to watch the video, there is a transcript available from the YouTube site.

Yes I watched it.
It's a little bit like the badness of the definition of phlogiston.

There were strawmen. eg if we have no free will then not guilty.

The Virginia man story ... should have gone along the lines … he started molesting his step daughter. Was imprisoned for it. When in prison he complained of vertigo and headaches. He eventually was diagnosed with the tumour. It was removed. His sexual tendencies went away and was eventually released. But slowly they came back. As had his tumour. On removing the tumour for the second time he returned to normal.

Anyway I even quoted his/the video's suggested alternative definition.

There were bits I agreed with. The question remains … how do we treat people (including ourselves) who cannot have done otherwise?

My point being if cannot distinguish between people who have and do not have this capacity to have done otherwise why even bother with the concept of free will.

Free will as definition has been reduced to a point where we can no longer (or care to more like) identify accurately the underlying causes for our actions. Free will is an unnecessary concept like phlogiston.
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