Free Will

on fundamental matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind and ethics.

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Re: Free Will

#81  Postby susu.exp » Mar 22, 2010 5:55 am

Mr.Samsa wrote:I have to agree with Loren's comments above - you seem to be defining free will as 'unpredictability'. Whilst it's true that free will necessarily entails an element of unpredictability, it's not necessarily true that unpredictability entails free will.


Could you elaborate on that? What would be the additional properties of free will apart from unpredictability?

Mr.Samsa wrote:I have to disagree with your statements about humans and animals being unpredictable though (in the sense that they are entirely unpredictable). If you simply mean that there will always be some error variance in an otherwise highly predictable system, then I'd agree but you don't seem to be suggesting this.


I´ve given a rather precise meaning in my post noting that "there are truly unpredictable events in nature (though the probabilities with which they occur can be predicted)." If we can not predict something with certainty but only give a probabioity distribution for possible behaviours it is unpredictable in the sense above.

Mr.Samsa wrote:Mice don't turn either way with a 50% probability - the probability of the direction they choose is determined partially by genetic factors but also environmental history.


What I gave was an abstract example, which did assume there was no environmental history. Can you give a reference for genetic factors? It was to illustrate the point that there are situations in which maximizing the variance in a behaviour is the optimal strategy, another one would be a game of rock/paper/scisors where the optimal strategy is picking each of them with a constant probability of one third. The definition of unpredictable used does not imply equiprobability.

Mr.Samsa wrote:That's why when we put mice in a T-maze we can reliably predict their movements between 95-100% of the time as we can control the variables that determine their choices (the same applies to humans in similar situations as well).


They don´t - and that´s the crucial bit - determine the choices. They merely make particular choices more likely than others.

Mr.Samsa wrote:So the question is not whether animals/humans are unpredictable or predictable, the only question is whether the slight error variance we get in behavioral experiments is enough to warrant positing a model of free will to explain it or whether should we assume this is a result of confounding/unknown variables until evidence for free will appears.


You are proposing here that we do have the option of assuming some hidden variables that would make a stochastic system, which neuronal systems are by the grace of the physics they employ deterministic. And the simple reply to this is that no we can not. My point was not about our ability to predict something at our current state of knowledge, but about the property of a system. No matter how precise our knowledge gets the system remains stochastic and thus we can only predict probabilities.

Loren Michael wrote:The universe is complex enough that even if it were strictly, classically deterministic it would still be impossible to make accurate predictions beyond extremely narrow confines.


This is besides the point. The point is that even given perfect knowledge of the universe, knowing everything there is to know, it would still be unpredictable.

Comte de St.-Germain wrote:What you have described is why I - in my few comments about Free Will - have always maintained a 'psychological determinism'. This immediately cuts off the nonsense about quantum mechanics, because determinism is emergent at higher levels.


No it isn´t. The maths there is rather simple - the only way to go from a stochastic system to a deterministic one is to introduce an infinity. There are macroscopic properties of a gas that are deterministic, provided that there are infinitely many gas molecules. Evolution is deterministic, provided population sizes are infinite. Large scale systems can be approximately deterministic, but unless infinite they aren´t deterministic. And large scale systems that are also non-linear may not even be approximately deterministic - as small deviations are amplified.
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Re: Free Will

#82  Postby NoFreeWill » Mar 22, 2010 7:12 am

susu.exp wrote:
Mr.Samsa wrote:I have to agree with Loren's comments above - you seem to be defining free will as 'unpredictability'. Whilst it's true that free will necessarily entails an element of unpredictability, it's not necessarily true that unpredictability entails free will.


Could you elaborate on that? What would be the additional properties of free will apart from unpredictability?


Free will would require some sort of free agent at least partially responsible for choices.
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Re: Free Will

#83  Postby NoFreeWill » Mar 22, 2010 7:21 am

susu.exp wrote:
Comte de St.-Germain wrote:What you have described is why I - in my few comments about Free Will - have always maintained a 'psychological determinism'. This immediately cuts off the nonsense about quantum mechanics, because determinism is emergent at higher levels.


No it isn´t. The maths there is rather simple - the only way to go from a stochastic system to a deterministic one is to introduce an infinity. There are macroscopic properties of a gas that are deterministic, provided that there are infinitely many gas molecules. Evolution is deterministic, provided population sizes are infinite. Large scale systems can be approximately deterministic, but unless infinite they aren´t deterministic. And large scale systems that are also non-linear may not even be approximately deterministic - as small deviations are amplified.


Whether or not human behaviour is stochastic or deterministic is not relevant to the free will debate. What advocates of free will need to demonstrate is the existence of a free agent that is capable of making choices without being influenced by anything else in the universe.

Good luck with that!
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Re: Free Will

#84  Postby mizvekov » Mar 22, 2010 7:41 am

NoFreeWill wrote:
Whether or not human behaviour is stochastic or deterministic is not relevant to the free will debate. What advocates of free will need to demonstrate is the existence of a free agent that is capable of making choices without being influenced by anything else in the universe.

Good luck with that!

I'm having a hard time making sense of this.
Please define 'free agent', and while you are at it, please also explain what the else in 'anything else in the universe' is excluding.
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Re: Free Will

#85  Postby NoFreeWill » Mar 22, 2010 8:07 am

mizvekov wrote:
I'm having a hard time making sense of this.
Please define 'free agent', and while you are at it, please also explain what the else in 'anything else in the universe' is excluding.


A free agent would have to be some essential entity capable of acting independently from all other entities in the universe. Another way of putting would be that a free agent can act without prior causes. Some religionists assert that free will has a supernatural origin.

The else to which I referred would be the same free entity.

Anyway, I'm not claiming free will exists. Why not let someone who does, state what it is and where it comes from.
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Re: Free Will

#86  Postby katja z » Mar 22, 2010 8:21 am

bookmarking :coffee:
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Re: Free Will

#87  Postby Mr.Samsa » Mar 22, 2010 8:40 am

susu.exp wrote:
Mr.Samsa wrote:I have to agree with Loren's comments above - you seem to be defining free will as 'unpredictability'. Whilst it's true that free will necessarily entails an element of unpredictability, it's not necessarily true that unpredictability entails free will.


Could you elaborate on that? What would be the additional properties of free will apart from unpredictability?


Well it sort of differs depending on your exact definition of free will but all of them as far as I'm aware demand the existence of some agent that can direct behavior by overriding external variables. So positing absolute unpredictability is just as troublesome for free will as positing determinism because it's impossible for a free agent to change behavior when the inputs and outputs are unpredictable. The problem being that "free will" is by it's very definition incoherent, and cannot possibly exist even in some optimal world unless we water it down to simply meaning "unpredictability". Then we're left trying to figure out why humans have free will but we don't say the same of weather patterns.

susu.exp wrote:I´ve given a rather precise meaning in my post noting that "there are truly unpredictable events in nature (though the probabilities with which they occur can be predicted)." If we can not predict something with certainty but only give a probabioity distribution for possible behaviours it is unpredictable in the sense above.


Fair enough, I accept that. (Sorry for missing that in your original post).

susu.exp wrote:
Mr.Samsa wrote:Mice don't turn either way with a 50% probability - the probability of the direction they choose is determined partially by genetic factors but also environmental history.


What I gave was an abstract example, which did assume there was no environmental history. Can you give a reference for genetic factors?


References for genetic influences on behavior? That's a pretty broad topic, surely you've read Tinbergen's studies on fixed-action patterns etc? Beyond that, there are probably studies that are investigating the selection process of neural networks, but I'm not sure of any off the top of my head.

susu.exp wrote: It was to illustrate the point that there are situations in which maximizing the variance in a behaviour is the optimal strategy, another one would be a game of rock/paper/scisors where the optimal strategy is picking each of them with a constant probability of one third. The definition of unpredictable used does not imply equiprobability.


My apologies then. I thought your example was meant to imply that mice are actually unpredictable, to such a degree that even predators are unable to develop an evolutionary strategy to help catch them. The problem with optimal strategies in real life though, is that they necessarily ignore the environmental history of the organism - whilst it may be best for the mouse to alternate directions, it's not going to do this. The probability of it choosing left or right will be shaped almost entirely by it's history with each option.

susu.exp wrote:
Mr.Samsa wrote:That's why when we put mice in a T-maze we can reliably predict their movements between 95-100% of the time as we can control the variables that determine their choices (the same applies to humans in similar situations as well).


They don´t - and that´s the crucial bit - determine the choices. They merely make particular choices more likely than others.


Determine as in "shape or influence", no? Are you objecting to the word based on philosophical grounds or does it have some mathematical connotations that I'm not aware of?

Put another way - introducing the variables in a behavioral experiment are exactly the same as introducing variables into a physics experiment. Whilst it's true that on some deeper metaphysical level that the sloping gradient might not "determine" the direction of a rolling ball, we can say with some certainty that even if the ball "chose freely to roll down the hill" instead of up it, the slope was at least a factor in the end result. The same can be said of behavioral experiments.

susu.exp wrote:
You are proposing here that we do have the option of assuming some hidden variables that would make a stochastic system, which neuronal systems are by the grace of the physics they employ deterministic. And the simple reply to this is that no we can not. My point was not about our ability to predict something at our current state of knowledge, but about the property of a system. No matter how precise our knowledge gets the system remains stochastic and thus we can only predict probabilities.


I accept that. I'm not arguing for determinism, I'm just arguing against free will.
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Re: Free Will

#88  Postby Comte de St.-Germain » Mar 22, 2010 9:37 am

My apologies then. I thought your example was meant to imply that mice are actually unpredictable, to such a degree that even predators are unable to develop an evolutionary strategy to help catch them. The problem with optimal strategies in real life though, is that they necessarily ignore the environmental history of the organism - whilst it may be best for the mouse to alternate directions, it's not going to do this. The probability of it choosing left or right will be shaped almost entirely by it's history with each option.


Hence, psychological determinism. The fact that stochastic models are better at accounting for human and animal behaviour is because of the complexity and number of factors, not because of the essential unpredictability of human behaviour because 'neurons just fire randomly and thus shit happens randomly'.
More importantly, this is completely divorced from free will. Indeed, the idea of randomness argues against free will, since whatever part of behaviour is up to chance is clearly not 'free' to be decided by the agent.
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Re: Free Will

#89  Postby Audley Strange » Mar 22, 2010 5:50 pm

[quote="susu.exp"]I´d be interested in Audley laying out an epistemological approach to figuring out what is "real".

That does not rely solely on thought and language to be measured.
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Re: Free Will

#90  Postby YanShen » Mar 23, 2010 1:41 am

Mr. Samsa, glad to see you back in action arguing against free will. :)
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Re: Free Will

#91  Postby Mr.Samsa » Mar 23, 2010 1:50 am

YanShen wrote:Mr. Samsa, glad to see you back in action arguing against free will. :)


I tried to stay away, but this shit is like crack to me.. ;)
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Re: Free Will

#92  Postby YanShen » Mar 23, 2010 1:54 am

Like you had any choice... :)
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Re: Free Will

#93  Postby Teuton » Mar 23, 2010 1:56 am

NoFreeWill wrote:What advocates of free will need to demonstrate is the existence of a free agent that is capable of making choices without being influenced by anything else in the universe.


The belief in absolute agential autonomy is pure superstition.
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Re: Free Will

#94  Postby Mr.Samsa » Mar 23, 2010 1:58 am

YanShen wrote:Like you had any choice... :)


:rofl:
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Re: Free Will

#95  Postby mizvekov » Mar 23, 2010 2:14 am

NoFreeWill wrote:
mizvekov wrote:
I'm having a hard time making sense of this.
Please define 'free agent', and while you are at it, please also explain what the else in 'anything else in the universe' is excluding.


A free agent would have to be some essential entity capable of acting independently from all other entities in the universe. Another way of putting would be that a free agent can act without prior causes. Some religionists assert that free will has a supernatural origin.

The else to which I referred would be the same free entity.

Anyway, I'm not claiming free will exists. Why not let someone who does, state what it is and where it comes from.

That still does not define it, you need to define 'entity' now.
Is an atom an entity? If yes, then any unstable atom has free will, since radioactive decay is not caused by anything.

More to the point, what would be an experiment to disprove your position here?
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Re: Free Will

#96  Postby YanShen » Mar 23, 2010 2:19 am

I think part of the problem surrounding the issue of free will is the naive belief that there's one single place in our minds from which our consciousness arises. Daniel Dennett has derisively labeled this belief the "Cartesian Theater".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartesian_theater
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Re: Free Will

#97  Postby mizvekov » Mar 23, 2010 2:23 am

Comte de St.-Germain wrote:
My apologies then. I thought your example was meant to imply that mice are actually unpredictable, to such a degree that even predators are unable to develop an evolutionary strategy to help catch them. The problem with optimal strategies in real life though, is that they necessarily ignore the environmental history of the organism - whilst it may be best for the mouse to alternate directions, it's not going to do this. The probability of it choosing left or right will be shaped almost entirely by it's history with each option.


Hence, psychological determinism. The fact that stochastic models are better at accounting for human and animal behaviour is because of the complexity and number of factors, not because of the essential unpredictability of human behaviour because 'neurons just fire randomly and thus shit happens randomly'.

So, the best models are stochastic ones, but you are sure it's actually deterministic because of...???
Is that a faith position?

Comte de St.-Germain wrote:
More importantly, this is completely divorced from free will. Indeed, the idea of randomness argues against free will, since whatever part of behaviour is up to chance is clearly not 'free' to be decided by the agent.

So, free will demands both non-randomness and non-determinism....
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Re: Free Will

#98  Postby Teuton » Mar 23, 2010 2:45 am

mizvekov wrote:
That still does not define it, you need to define 'entity' now.


Anything that is/exists is an entity.
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Re: Free Will

#99  Postby mizvekov » Mar 23, 2010 3:22 am

Teuton wrote:
mizvekov wrote:
That still does not define it, you need to define 'entity' now.


Anything that is/exists is an entity.

That does not help at all. What is a thing, what is 'exist', and how do you know a thing exists or not?
Does the number '2' exist? Does the electromagnetic force exist? Do 'rabbits' exist?

Okay, I'm not being direct enough. The problem is, you are not using the scientific method at all.
I still can't put together what is the axiomatic system here, let alone how to falsify it.
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Re: Free Will

#100  Postby Loren Michael » Mar 23, 2010 6:19 am

YanShen wrote:I think part of the problem surrounding the issue of free will is the naive belief that there's one single place in our minds from which our consciousness arises. Daniel Dennett has derisively labeled this belief the "Cartesian Theater".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartesian_theater


Maybe it's a Cartesian Theater... observing another Cartesian Theater, which is observing a Cartesian Theater and so on, until eventually the last Cartesian Theater is observing the first one.

:shock:
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