Free Will

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Re: Free Will

#13661  Postby GrahamH » Aug 05, 2019 4:20 pm

romansh wrote:
GrahamH wrote:
I'm tempted to associate free will with liberty - experiencing a wide open space of possibilities with safe paths to take rather than a closed-in hard to navigate maze.

That's fine from a compatibilist point of view [I am not suggesting you are one]. If I were to use the phrase … this is how I might think of it too.

Nevertheless, we can ask are these safe path possibilities really available to us? I suspect the reason I entertain the idea of free will, is because by and large I am almost completely oblivious to the underlying mechanisms of decision making.


I'd say they are "available to us" in the sense thy are logically and physically possible, and we can grasp that possibility. I'd not say they are "available to us" in the "could have done otherwise" sense. We take the path take due to mainly untraceable influences that are not under conscious control. Indeed, I don't think conscious mind is in control of anything as such although I think "presenting events in consciousness" is an important function of the brain.
Why do you think that?
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Re: Free Will

#13662  Postby zoon » Aug 05, 2019 5:24 pm

romansh wrote:
zoon wrote:
I’ve been arguing that free will is still a useful concept, because we don’t want to blame or punish someone for an action they were coerced into doing. To blame somebody when they were coerced would not encourage them to change their behaviour, and would sent the wrong message to everyone else?

I think by all means praise someone if you want and think praise will get more of that behaviour. Praise is a reinforcing behaviour, is it not?

So should we blame people and perhaps penalize them for trying addictive drugs and risk becoming addicted? Are they using their free will here? Is, say, succumbing to peer pressure or perhaps curiosity free will by your definition?

zoon wrote:For this purpose, I’m defining someone with free will in a minimal way, as someone who is uncoerced and mentally capable. I’m also thinking this use of the concept of free will may fade away as brain mechanisms become better understood.


Are you suggesting people with low IQs have less free will here? Or perhaps a summary judgement on mental capability? While my mental capability is not bad (I suspect) in certain situations it might be positively dangerous.

While you may be advocating certain definitions of free will as useful, I am advocating of doing away with the idea all together as being more accurate and less likely to cause mischief.

I think my view here is that any human group, from hunter-gatherers onwards, needs to consist mainly of people with enough mental capacity to cope with the rules and take an active part in maintaining them. Anyone in the group who does not have that mental capacity is to some extent being carried, looked after, by the ones who do have the capacity. The line between being treated or not as a full member of the group may be blurred, but it’s there, most noticeably as children grow up? Many societies mark a transition between treating a young person as a child, and then as an adult.

Humans are unique in managing close and detailed cooperation with conspecifics who are not close relatives (unlike, for example, ants: the ants in a colony cooperate in detail, but are also close relatives). Without relatedness, individuals in human groups are often competing at the same time as cooperating. As far as I can tell, scientists studying human evolution think that we can only manage this combination of cooperation with competitiveness because we have high intelligence (e.g. a 2018 paper on the evolution of cooperation and cognition in humans here, which I think I’ve linked to before.) The ability to set up rules and then gang up on rule-breakers, which is seen in all human societies, is likely to have been an aspect of our social evolution? The rules enable effective cooperation in different situations, but, because of our competitiveness as non-relatives, there is always the temptation for individuals to steal a march on the other group members by (surreptitiously or otherwise) breaking the rules. If this rule-breaking is not to spread and lead to the breakdown of cooperation, the other group members need to be quick to spot an infraction and threaten the perpetrator with sanctions if they don’t make reparations and mend their ways.

If a group is to survive and be effective, this internal wrangling cannot take up too much of its time. People with the necessary mental capability will be careful not to cheat too often, and if they do cheat and are caught and sanctioned, they will be quick to express remorse and re-ingratiate themselves (unless they’ve gone too far and get thrown out of the group). These people, who have the necessary mental capacity, will be actively managing their relationship with the rest of the group at all times, including the times when they have been punished for rule-breaking. Being punished is usually temporary and not especially painful, it’s not nearly as bad as losing one’s status as a functioning adult member of the group? Most punishments in small-scale societies, and in the small sub-groups which make up large-scale societies, don’t go much further than being laughed at or cold-shouldered for a few days. Fully competent members of human societies are forever cycling between helping to enforce the rules, and finding themselves on the other side and needing to make amends. All of this takes high-functioning brains, using evolved processes which we don’t by any means entirely understand.

Where people have full social competence as described above, it makes sense to treat them as having personal responsibility on the occasions when they break rules? They are probably well aware that they took a chance and were rumbled, they can take a punishment and sort out their own reintegration into society again (assuming the punishment wasn’t as final as execution). To treat them as if they had been mentally ill, and attempt to change their way of thinking, would be an invasion of their privacy as well as a waste of everyone’s time and energy? (This is unless they were actually coerced in some way, in which case their action would not have been free.)

The people you mention are those who are not mentally capable of operating within the rules of society, whether because of drugs or low IQ? Punishments are inappropriate if they are unable to realise that they have broken the rules in the first place. These people are incapable of integrating themselves into human society in the way that normal people manage, they have to be looked after? To treat them as having personal responsibility for infringing rules would be to assume capabilities which they don’t have? Such people are not given the freedom of action which normal adult members of society have, they are not punished, but most normal people would not want to be in their situation.

I think all human societies make this distinction between people who can operate as a part of the society, and those who for mental reasons are incapable? Ordinary functioning as an adult in a human society requires active intelligence, using evolved processes which we don’t altogether understand. Treating the capable people as having personal responsibility for their actions is an efficient and effective aspect of maintaining human cooperation in groups. I’ve been using “free-willed” as a description for such people, I’m not too worried about the nomenclature, but it does seem to me that while we continue to use our evolved social brains for cooperating, it makes sense to treat most adults in human societies, most of the time, as having personal responsibility for their actions. ?
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Re: Free Will

#13663  Postby romansh » Aug 06, 2019 12:33 am

Sorry zoon … too many words and not enough clarity.

You said the people I mentioned [those that succumb to curiosity and peer pressure] are not capable of operating in society? I am lost. Succumbing to peer pressure is surely part of society?

I asked a question those who do not have mental difficulties do they have free will? Because I thought you implied in a earlier post they might not. I am looking for clarification.
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Re: Free Will

#13664  Postby zoon » Aug 06, 2019 9:48 am

romansh wrote:Sorry zoon … too many words and not enough clarity.

You said the people I mentioned [those that succumb to curiosity and peer pressure] are not capable of operating in society? I am lost. Succumbing to peer pressure is surely part of society?

I asked a question those who do not have mental difficulties do they have free will? Because I thought you implied in a earlier post they might not. I am looking for clarification.

My apologies too, I didn’t read the first part of your post #13652 carefully before replying, you were talking about people who haven’t yet become addicted to drugs. Yes, I would call these people free-willed. I would not say that people have free will if they have mental difficulties which prevent them from coping with the complexities of social rules in ordinary life.

I would say that an action was free-willed if the actor was mentally competent and was not being coerced. If that action was in violation of a local social rule, then I think it is appropriate for that society to hold the actor personally responsible for their action, and to punish them.

I don’t feel very strongly about the use of the term “free will”, although I think it’s a useful brief phrase which already covers a concept that’s otherwise somewhat long-winded to spell out. I do feel strongly that while we don’t understand brains, it’s not a good idea to make radical changes to the social and legal practices of holding mentally competent (i.e. “free-willed”) people personally responsible for their actions, and punishing rule-breakers. I think those practices are compatible with our being the kind of causal mechanisms which science suggests.
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Re: Free Will

#13665  Postby Cito di Pense » Aug 06, 2019 11:52 am

zoon wrote:
romansh wrote:Sorry zoon … too many words and not enough clarity.

You said the people I mentioned [those that succumb to curiosity and peer pressure] are not capable of operating in society? I am lost. Succumbing to peer pressure is surely part of society?

I asked a question those who do not have mental difficulties do they have free will? Because I thought you implied in a earlier post they might not. I am looking for clarification.


I would not say that people have free will if they have mental difficulties which prevent them from coping with the complexities of social rules in ordinary life.

I would say that an action was free-willed if the actor was mentally competent and was not being coerced. If that action was in violation of a local social rule, then I think it is appropriate for that society to hold the actor personally responsible for their action, and to punish them.


You don't have much of a clue about how to do this, do you, and because of that, you write only the broadest and most useless generalities, as if you were only just desperate to license yourself to use a certain kind of language without a sense of how to apply it. A mentally competent person may get drunk one night, and just stay home watching TV. On another occasion, that person's judgement is equally-impaired and he or she may take the wheel of an automobile; we treat driving as ordinary social life and treat getting drunk as an aspect of ordinary social life, in case you've been living in a cave for your adult life. We have laws that simply make drunk driving illegal, regardless of degree of mental competence when sober. Your glib platitudes about personal responsibility are just fucking stupid, because it's trivially easy to blow a big hole in them. There's a term we apply to people who demand (or at least unreasonably prefer) a perfectly-organized system of rules before proceeding, even if they want to base those rules on some prospective scientific analysis that has, in fact, been shown to be impossible to perform.
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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

#13666  Postby zoon » Aug 06, 2019 1:38 pm

Cito di Pense wrote:……
We have laws that simply make drunk driving illegal, regardless of degree of mental competence when sober. …...

The mental competence of the driver when sober is definitely taken into account. In the UK, a child of 9 who drives a car on a public road, drunk or sober, has not committed a criminal act, because they are too young for criminal responsibility. It’s the parent, or whoever was supposed to be safeguarding and controlling the child, who is more likely to be charged. Similarly, if someone who has been sectioned under the Mental Health Act manages to get drunk and then drive a car on a public road, the question for the law would probably be: who was supposed to be looking after them.

Of course, these are rare cases in practice, but to say that the law with regard to drunk driving takes no account of mental competence when sober is piffle.
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Re: Free Will

#13667  Postby Cito di Pense » Aug 06, 2019 3:52 pm

zoon wrote:
Cito di Pense wrote:……
We have laws that simply make drunk driving illegal, regardless of degree of mental competence when sober. …...

The mental competence of the driver when sober is definitely taken into account. In the UK, a child of 9 who drives a car on a public road, drunk or sober, has not committed a criminal act, because they are too young for criminal responsibility. It’s the parent, or whoever was supposed to be safeguarding and controlling the child, who is more likely to be charged. Similarly, if someone who has been sectioned under the Mental Health Act manages to get drunk and then drive a car on a public road, the question for the law would probably be: who was supposed to be looking after them.

Of course, these are rare cases in practice, but to say that the law with regard to drunk driving takes no account of mental competence when sober is piffle.


Then your degree of free will depends to a large extent on whether you're operating heavy machinery or just watching TV. How's that? You didn't cite those exceptions, which would have been simple for you to add, in your post 13664. Fuck the piffle, zoon. Pretending that creating a working definition of free will is some act of intellectual merit is the piffle. This is all you wrote:

I would not say that people have free will if they have mental difficulties which prevent them from coping with the complexities of social rules in ordinary life.


You didn't write about specific regulations in a specific society, about people who have been 'sectioned'. You only wrote about "mental difficulties which prevent..." in what I just quoted. You made no attempt in 13664 to say what you denoted by "mental competence". I gather that your conception of so-called "free will" applies, then, to people who have not been 'sectioned' by a mental health authority, which is only a restricted kind of coercion. I still don't think you have any clear definition of free will other than "not coerced", and you could easily spare yourself writing the reams of bullshit you write about how you find the concept useful, if only you quit all this obfuscation, and drew the line at coercion.

Of course, that's not very impressive filosofeezing, ending as it does in yet another Department of Tautology Department patented tautology.

zoon wrote:
Of course, these are rare cases in practice, but to say that the law with regard to drunk driving takes no account of mental competence when sober is piffle.


And that, dearie? That's a technical quiblble that goes no way to helping you explain what you denote by 'free will'. That's just you trying to save a little face after your bullshit is ripped up. Free will, the way you sell it, is local to this or that society, not a really impressive construct.
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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

#13668  Postby zoon » Aug 07, 2019 5:58 pm

Cito di Pense wrote:
I still don't think you have any clear definition of free will other than "not coerced", and you could easily spare yourself writing the reams of bullshit you write about how you find the concept useful, if only you quit all this obfuscation, and drew the line at coercion.

As you say, I would probably do better to stick to the core compatibilist argument: we ordinarily make a distinction between actions which were coerced, and actions which were uncoerced, or free. This distinction has consequences both in ordinary social life and in the law; we are much more likely to hold someone personally responsible for an uncoerced, or free, action, and to respond with blame and punishment, or praise and reward. All this makes reasonably obvious sense as a way of managing cooperation, and if an uncoerced action is taken to be free-willed, it’s a version of free will which is entirely compatible with our being mechanisms that are as determinate as science indicates. I’m happy to call uncoerced actions free-willed, continuing traditional usage, but there’s no general agreement, if other people consider the term “free will” is better avoided because it has too many supernatural and anti-science connotations, I won’t press the point.

OK, this is the department of tautology, but to say that we don’t have free will at the same time as saying that there is a working distinction between coerced and uncoerced actions runs close to contradicting oneself? I think the insistence that we definitely don’t have anything that could be called free will is sometimes connected to countering libertarian arguments such as that free will justifies the death penalty? Fair enough, I haven’t often argued with fundamentalists.

This version of free will as uncoerced action does depend on the assumption that the person concerned has mental competence, but my attempts to define free will in terms of mental competence were indeed running into trouble.
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Re: Free Will

#13669  Postby romansh » Aug 07, 2019 6:18 pm

zoon wrote:
As you say, I would probably do better to stick to the core compatibilist argument: we ordinarily make a distinction between actions which were coerced, and actions which were uncoerced, or free. This distinction has consequences both in ordinary social life and in the law; we are much more likely to hold someone personally responsible for an uncoerced, or free, action, and to respond with blame and punishment, or praise and reward.

What we are doing is separating different causes into various buckets. Which is fine. Some of these buckets of causes under certain conditions can be deemed freely willed. And in turn the actions resulting from these buckets of causes under certain conditions can be considered worthy of sanction or reward. Depending on our world views, upbringing etc, we can have a fine old time debating whether actions were freely willed.

All this does though, it allows us to take the eye off that someone could not have done otherwise, given their buckets of cause. And in deference to Cito … for there is a really interesting filozeeffical implication to how the universe, filofeezers and non filofeezers tick.
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Re: Free Will

#13670  Postby Cito di Pense » Aug 07, 2019 8:04 pm

zoon wrote:This distinction has consequences both in ordinary social life and in the law; we are much more likely to hold someone personally responsible for an uncoerced, or free, action, and to respond with blame and punishment, or praise and reward.


You're still having trouble letting go of the word free. It's just a colloquial 'freedom', a social convention, and not a scientific (or even philosophical) point. We seek personal responsibility by degrees, by "extenuating circumstances", until there isn't anything general to discuss. Yet people go back and forth about it because this or that person insists on some sense of the word free. And then somebody else insists on some sense of the word determined. These aren't physicists, but filosofeezers. Freedom is a metaphysical abstraction, like, you know, justice, or even mercy. People are forever rolling up to a Rational Skeptics' website thinking that, because they've dropped belief in god(s) all these other shit terms are still fair game.

Sure it's fun to toss the concepts around, and to pretend to be filosofeezers. In at least one legal system I know of, a trial doesn't end in the determination of innocence, but only with the defendant being declared not guilty of some crime. We have the words un-coerced and personal responsibility. We don't need free. Or you could try to account for why we might want to keep the word around. I think it's just maintaining a philosophical tradition. A stupid one.

Innocence is a leftover from churchy things, and hasn't been present since the Garden of Eden, which you know is a story. Do you have any idea why people go on and on about this? It's like an obsession. Free is not a synonym for un-coerced, except colloquially. Don't be fooled, just because this thread is located in the Philosophy sub-forum. I'm perfectly happy with presence of coercion, which is something for which someone can present evidence. Trying to establish absence, as in the absence of coercion is like trying to establish the absence of black swans. People are headed for metaphysical presence, and that is a deep, deep pile of bullshit. Just say "NO" to metaphysics.
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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

#13671  Postby Cito di Pense » Aug 07, 2019 8:22 pm

romansh wrote:
zoon wrote:
As you say, I would probably do better to stick to the core compatibilist argument: we ordinarily make a distinction between actions which were coerced, and actions which were uncoerced, or free. This distinction has consequences both in ordinary social life and in the law; we are much more likely to hold someone personally responsible for an uncoerced, or free, action, and to respond with blame and punishment, or praise and reward.

What we are doing is separating different causes into various buckets. Which is fine. Some of these buckets of causes under certain conditions can be deemed freely willed. And in turn the actions resulting from these buckets of causes under certain conditions can be considered worthy of sanction or reward. Depending on our world views, upbringing etc, we can have a fine old time debating whether actions were freely willed.


And what you're doing is hunting around for causes. That's fine when you can keep track of all the billiard balls and their collisions, which are deemed perfectly elastic, but that is only a model. When we can't do that, we fall back on colloquial language, and probabilities, and are not fussing with metaphysical causes. You seem to prefer going down the hole of determinism, instead of down the hole of freedom. It's still just a big hole filled with bullshit and populated by dichotomists who imagine they're the little lights in the darkness, thinking they might be smart enough to carry an argument, when it's just the torch they're carrying for their belief systems. What a bunch of fucknuttery.

GrahamH wrote:
I'm tempted to associate free will with liberty - experiencing a wide open space of possibilities with safe paths to take rather than a closed-in hard to navigate maze.


Look! There's another one who wants to keep a candle burning in the window. Sing with Uncle John Fogerty: Long as I can see the light!
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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

#13672  Postby romansh » Aug 07, 2019 11:07 pm

Cito di Pense wrote: And what you're doing is hunting around for causes.

I think you are wrong there. I don't have to hunt for them, in that I understand that they are there.

Cito di Pense wrote: That's fine when you can keep track of all the billiard balls and their collisions, which are deemed perfectly elastic, but that is only a model.

Do you think you are the only one here that recognizes that all we have as you say only a model?

Cito di Pense wrote:When we can't do that, we fall back on colloquial language, and probabilities, and are not fussing with metaphysical causes. You seem to prefer going down the hole of determinism, instead of down the hole of freedom. It's still just a big hole filled with bullshit and populated by dichotomists who imagine they're the little lights in the darkness, thinking they might be smart enough to carry an argument, when it's just the torch they're carrying for their

Well it's better than a sourpuss hole that no polite discussion can escape.
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Re: Free Will

#13673  Postby Cito di Pense » Aug 08, 2019 4:19 am

romansh wrote:
Cito di Pense wrote: And what you're doing is hunting around for causes.

I think you are wrong there. I don't have to hunt for them, in that I understand that they are there.

Cito di Pense wrote: That's fine when you can keep track of all the billiard balls and their collisions, which are deemed perfectly elastic, but that is only a model.

Do you think you are the only one here that recognizes that all we have as you say only a model?

Cito di Pense wrote:When we can't do that, we fall back on colloquial language, and probabilities, and are not fussing with metaphysical causes. You seem to prefer going down the hole of determinism, instead of down the hole of freedom. It's still just a big hole filled with bullshit and populated by dichotomists who imagine they're the little lights in the darkness, thinking they might be smart enough to carry an argument, when it's just the torch they're carrying for their

Well it's better than a sourpuss hole that no polite discussion can escape.


Do you intend to be taken seriously? I hope somebody makes s serious reply to this glorious personal testimonial of yours.
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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

#13674  Postby ChristianGenius » Aug 13, 2019 9:28 pm

The only correct answer is that it's impossible to determine whether or not free-will exists ;)
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Re: Free Will

#13675  Postby Felix » Aug 13, 2019 11:56 pm

Free Will is relative!
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