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The Dallas Examined Life Philosophy Group Message Board › Free will and determinism - Wait...what?

Free will and determinism - Wait...what?

Jim B.
user 4260314
Arlington, TX
Post #: 295
This was the topic of the last meetup. We strayed from the topic quite a bit. I came away more confused than I was going in. The message board may be a better place to discuss it, if for no other reason than that of possibly reaching a slightly more productive kind of confusion. The thing is, although I haven't read that extensively in this area, what I have read suggests that no really intelligible solution has been put forward, and maybe not even an intelligible framing of the problem, but... who knows. One of the parts I have difficulty with is the "versus" part, as in "free will versus determinism". And of course, the defining of the terms "free will" and "determinism" may be the hardest part of all.
Nathaniel
user 10963465
Group Organizer
Mesquite, TX
Post #: 117
Here's a youtube video which I highly recommend on the topic, he does a much better job of explaining the uselessness of the term "free will" than I did at the meetup:

http://www.youtube.co...­

It's a bit long, but it lays the arguments out very well.
Nathaniel
user 10963465
Group Organizer
Mesquite, TX
Post #: 119
I think a few things must be stated about the universe we live in and their relation to the concept of free will.

Firstly, is the idea of determinism. We could be talking about the idea that something like a god has planned everything out for us ahead of time or we could simply be talking about the causal nature of the universe. In the former, we obviously have no free will because things will be as they will be and it is all so by the design of a god. In a universe where all events are the result of previous events we would be little more than a rock rolling down a hill.

Let me explain further. Say we take a rock and push it down a hill. The rock has no choice about the path it takes. It simply rolls. It hits patches of moss on which it slides. It hits other rocks off of which it bounces. It tumbles down a trajectory that is quite complicated, but cannot be said to be the result of free will on the part of the rock. Its movement is governed entirely by the laws of physics. In such an instance, Newtonian physics works just fine. The thing is, this is how the universe works, science can demonstrate this fairly easily. The problem this causes with the concept of free will is that even our own thoughts are like these rocks. The content, quantity and quality of our every thought is determined by events that occurred in the past either by our direct experience or by the evolution of the various systems which allow us to think. In a purely physical world, we are just rocks rolling down hills. We could not have made ANY decision except the one we made because of this simple fact. The mere fact that there were other options is irrelevant. For instance, lets say I write a simple computer program. When I type in a number, it gives returns the sum of that number and the previous number I gave it. It has the ability to give me quite a few numbers. However, the answer it returns is the only answer it could possibly have returned. Lets make it a bit more complex and say that when the previous number was even it does a simple summation but when it was odd it does multiplication. Now it's more complex, but it certainly doesn't have free will. Add even more complexity to the computer, hell program an advanced AI that is capable of understanding human language, hearing stories, decoding their content and then telling them back to you. They have computers that do this now, BTW. Let me make this clear though, despite the fact that this computer is very complex, and can even seem to make mistakes, it does not have free will. It is just like the rock rolling down the hill.

Now, some brought up quantum physics. This made about as much sense as when people say the universe only exists because people are looking at it. It illustrates a complete lack of understanding about the quantum world and even the implications of the introduction of randomness to a deterministic universe. First, lets assume that true randomness has been injected into our obviously deterministic universe. This does not solve the free will problem. Lets say that the rock rolling down the hill occasionally hits various spring loaded plates. These plates send the rock flying in random directions upon contact. Does the rock now have free will? A new bit of code is written for the storytelling computer which causes it to introduce a few random variables into the mix. Does the computer now have free will? Lets even go as far as to say that you now do things sometimes for completely random reasons, that is, you just do it for no reason and no prompt, does this make you and your will any more free? The fact of the matter is, this would give us even less control over our actions. It solves nothing, it only complicates things further.

Now, the fact of the matter is, yes the quantum world might as well be random. We're not sure if it is indeed random or if the hidden variable hypothesis is correct and there may never be a way of knowing, we're just not sure. However, in the macro world Newtonian physics pretty much works like it's supposed to. There's little to no randomness at large scale and there's a good reason why. When quantum physics speaks of "observations" they're talking about interactions between these quantum particles. While they may behave randomly in isolation, in bulk they behave in very predictable ways. This is because with each interaction it limits the number of possibilities that quantum particle can actually do. I WISH our physicist was there on Thursday to explain this because my capacity to do so is quite limited (being an art major).

Lastly, there's the mystic universe. That is, some contend that we have souls which grant us free will. We can do as we do by virtue of this soul. This very neatly allows us to ignore the concepts of determinism and randomness of our universe because there is something which is almost outside of this universe which acts as a ghostly puppeteer to control our actions. There are many problems with this stance. The first is that there is no evidence for the existence of such a thing. The second is that it still doesn't escape the problem of determinism. Does the soul do what it does for no reason? If it has special information or even just memories, then it makes the decisions it does based on previous experience. Once again, just because the algorithm for the decision making process is complex, doesn't mean it is random and even if it were random it doesn't make it any different from the rock rolling down the hill.

Alright, so what does solve this problem? Not a damn thing. We already know that our decisions are made based off of previous experience. We may even concede that we occasionally pick something at random. Although this certainly doesn't make us have free will. There is no way to escape any of this that I can see. Make the brain as complex as you want, make it infinitely complex. Make there be so many rules, so many logic gates, so many dedicated systems and hierarchical algorithms that I will never be able to figure it all out. What you've got is a deterministic machine, no different from the rock. Give it random variable injection and you've got a rock hitting randomizing plates. Still no free will.

So what is free will anyway? The best philosophical definition I've found is thus:
"The ability to have done something else"

However, as I've clearly illustrated, every action we perform could not have been made otherwise. Even if it could have been made otherwise, there is no way to prove it. In my first computer program example, it is meaningless to say "the program can output any number" because the number it spits out is always dependent upon the input I give it. Even having access to many choices does not change matters because the process by which I arrive at that choice is just as deterministic as the rock.

This is why I argue that the concept of free will makes no sense. Either the definition is flawed and needs to be revised or it needs to be thrown out entirely. I understand that it has implications in ethics, but perhaps even ethics needs to take something else into consideration because the concept of free will makes absolutely no sense no matter which way you slice it. Let me also preempt any arguments from unwanted consequences. Just because the concept of moral responsibility is fundamental to the way we think and behave, does not make it true. It, like many things our brain cooks up, may simply be a useful fiction.
Jim B.
user 4260314
Arlington, TX
Post #: 296
You do a good job of laying out the basic determinist position. I take it you're a hard determinist. I think that hard determinism makes more sense than soft determinism, or compatibilism, although every major position that I'm familiar with has major problems, imo.

I don't really see how the philosopher lecturing on the video presents a possible solution to the problem. I know he's not suggesting a definitive solution but giving an example of the "semantic migration" he thinks is needed to reconcile the first person and neuroscientific perspectives. He seems to be saying that certain behavioral abnormalities are caused by certain conditions in the brain. He doesn't say what the nature of behavioral normality is, or how the concept of "control" makes sense in this context. What is the nature of this control, by what, over what, in terms of what? And how does this approach achieve the kind of reconciliation that's needed? He's saying that both free will talk and determinism talk fall out as useless in terms of the empirical problem of tumors, lesions, spikes, and other problems in the brain causing certain behaviors, that free will/determinism talk reduces to neuroscientific talk because that's the only kind that has any kind of empirical purchase in these matters. But who would have ever disagreed with any of this? Isn't he saying that because no one has come up with a definitive solution, therefore the free will problem is a pseudo problem hiding behind semantic inertia? It could very well be a case of semantic inertia, but why would that mean we have to shift the focus to an entirely different question, such as, what facts about the brain cause certain behavioral abnormalities?

I WISH our physicist was there on Thursday to explain this because my capacity to do so is quite limited (being an art major).

I was an art major too. I'm way above my level of incompetence discussing quantum physics!
Nathaniel
user 10963465
Group Organizer
Mesquite, TX
Post #: 120
I am indeed a hard determinist. It just makes the most sense to me. It's fairly easy to argue a deterministic worldview. To many it sounds like a bleak concept and implies that we may well be slaves to physics (which may be why so many have such an aversion to the concept). However, just like the example of it being all part of a god's plan, it still leaves us free to do as we like. It doesn't strip us of what we feel is our free will (even if it is only an illusion). Whether I enjoy my life or descend into existential depression, it's all governed by the laws that run this deterministic universe and yes, whatever happens is the only way it could have happened, but that doesn't prevent me from trying to make the future something worth living.

The philosopher in the lecture seems to be suggesting that self control is a useful concept whereas free will is not. Of course, this is a purely pragmatic way of thinking. It may also be related to the concept of explanatory power. If a concept has more explanatory power than another, it is considered the better concept. Within the framework of an obviously deterministic universe, free will fail to explain anything. It has no predictive power either. Self control, on the other hand, does have potential utility as a concept. We can also predict whether or not someone might have an impairment of their ability to control their actions.

There are a few other things that I remembered might also be relevant. The first is the multiverse hypothesis. If every possible outcome of every possible event caused a branching of the universe such that we do indeed make every choice, then once again, we have no free will. Granted, I this is not even what the many worlds hypothesis states anyhow since it is speaking of the quantum world and macro level events are not governed by quantum randomness. For example, when I am going to work I don't choose at random which direction I turn at each intersection. Even such a multiverse would follow deterministic rules... although I suppose it might also be possible that there are universes out there that do not abide by causality. But that's also irrelevant because we don't live in those universes.

One interesting thing to bring up is the idea of time travel. Heck, even the perception of time is a big deal. The mere fact that we are capable of predicting the future, even if our accuracy decreases exponentially as the temporal distance we "see" increases. We tend to know with fairly good accuracy what is going to happen a few milliseconds from now. In fact, when we see a ball thrown at us it takes a few milliseconds for the visual data to get to our brain and a few more to process it and by that time it's already moved. Because of this, our brains actually produce an illusion of the apparent location of the ball so that where we see it to be matches up with where it is by the time it comes to our awareness. In effect, we see what was predicted as the future in past so that our perception of now syncs properly. What's more, we can think about future events. Ponder over what might be. These "mights" end up influencing our decisions. This is where causality gets a little shaky. In effect, what might have been influences what was. What might be, influences what will be. The thing is, however, that even these preponderances are the result of past events, they are still casually linked to the past. It makes things a bit more complicated, but it doesn't really change causality. Instead of a straight line, you can have a branching line which curves back in on itself in sometimes simple, sometimes complex ways. Possibilities converge and diverge in our minds and we spit out the action we think is best. But it still comes down to dominoes, falling down one after the other. It's a beautiful show, but certainly does not describe what we would call free will. What we think of each of these possible future events, what value we place on various possible states of affairs, what methods we choose, what possibilities our minds conjure, these all depend upon past events. We still haven't escaped determinism.

Now, for literal time travel. If I could travel back in time and give myself the plans for my time machine and explicit instructions to make a copy of those plans and travel back in time and give them to myself... then I've got information which came from nowhere. I have essentially escaped causality. The information in my head (the schematics of the time machine) came from nowhere, de novo. But does that make my will any more or less free? Let's there where a wormhole which opened in two different points in space and time. Through this wormhole travels a photon, which is transported back in time, is hurled across space and then goes back through the wormhole's other opening, thus completing the cycle. The photon keeps this up forever... or perhaps that's not a good term since it only exists within those two points in time. The photon exists outside of causality, it is essentially self-caused... or perhaps caused by the mere possibility of it's own existence. However, this photon still does not have free will.

I'm grasping at straws here and I still can't find something that could invalidate determinism or make free will a coherent concept. Even within a theological framework it doesn't make sense. We could resort to all sorts of woo woo concepts and I doubt they would do any good.

I firmly believe that what we think of as our free will DOES exist, but it isn't what we think it is. The fact of the matter is, we are experiencing SOMETHING. But I don't think it is free will. It is likely our ability to ponder the future, to deliberate, that we feel gives us the perception of free will. I also believe our sense of moral responsibility gives us the perception that we had free will to choose our actions. Even though it may be true, we do not feel like we are slaves to our physics. So basically, the experience is real, but reality is different from how we perceive it (shocker, I know).

I also don't believe moral responsibility is necessary for a system of ethics. I could cook one up which is just as good as many of it's competitors which does not rely on moral responsibility at all. Notice the qualifiers, I won't claim perfection, just that it could stand up to a similar amount of scrutiny as other ethical theories. But I don't want to turn this into an ethical discussion, so I'll get away from that.

Does anyone have any other ideas of how to make sense of free will? I know that determinism isn't the only way to look at things. I would like someone to at least try to make a case for an alternative.

On a side note, I think I'm going to steal the phrase "above my level of incompetence" for future use. I had to watch a long lecture of quantum physics to get to where I'm at and it was only introductory. We didn't even cover entanglement... which I found disappointing. I suppose that I'll have to be the one who is annoyed when people bring up bad quantum physics in philosophy discussions for the sake of all physicists not in attendance.
Jim B.
user 4260314
Arlington, TX
Post #: 297
The philosopher in the lecture seems to be suggesting that self control is a useful concept whereas free will is not. Of course, this is a purely pragmatic way of thinking. It may also be related to the concept of explanatory power. If a concept has more explanatory power than another, it is considered the better concept. Within the framework of an obviously deterministic universe, free will fail to explain anything. It has no predictive power either. Self control, on the other hand, does have potential utility as a concept. We can also predict whether or not someone might have an impairment of their ability to control their actions.

Yes. That's also what I got from what he was saying. All I was saying was that he seems to abolish the problem and switch to a completely different one. Yes, the free will/determinism problem, regardless of how it's understood, is not amenable to certain research paradigms, but why is that necessarily such a big deal? One would already have to have decided that one kind of answer reached through one kind of research program could possibly count, which seems to be a case of deciding the outcome of the question beforehand.

If you assume a physicalist worldview, as the philosopher in the video does, how could there be any real 'control'? How could there be any 'me' to exercise control, because what's called 'me' would just be discharging what lower level causes are determining anyway? Within a physicalist outlook, 'I' exercise 'control' in the same way that 'I' am 'morally responsible' for what 'I' do, and in the same way that 'I' have 'free will'. In other words, as you say, all these things exist only 'for us,' only within the web of human attitudes, which is all ultimately illusion and doesn't do any real causal work. So 'control' doesn't get us any further in terms of explanatory power than any of the other illusory attitudes that will eventually drop out within a fully developed scientific account.

Does anyone have any other ideas of how to make sense of free will? I know that determinism isn't the only way to look at things. I would like someone to at least try to make a case for an alternative.

How much time have you got? : ) As you so well point out, the real problem is in first making some kind of sense of "free will" and "determinism". Free will can't mean the self is a causa sui, because this seems to be an unintelligible idea. The chain of explanations for any action of mine will inevitably lead beyond my life into areas that cannot possibly be the subject of my attention or knowledge. My self as self causing means that I would have to be able to encompass everything not only about myself but the entire world. I would have to be able to act in the world from outside the world. In other words, I would have to be able to act but with nothing already given with which to act, a logically incoherent idea. In order to do anything, I already have to be something. Otherwise, I am involved in a regress in which my choosing is ultimately based on nothing, or total randomness. But these points are just the beginning. Free will as traditionally understood also involves very strange notions of the self, i.e. a self-moving substance, of event, of action, and of cause. It posits the idea of a substance (the self) as causing events, which contradicts physical science's understanding of events.

I can't present a true argument for free will without first trying to establish what it is I'd be arguing for. The points I could raise would not constitute an argument but questions about certain assumptions. Much of what I'd say would have to point to current unknowns, so that I could rightly be accused of 'hand waving' and of positing a 'mystery stuff gap filler'. What I would have to say would really not amount to much more than calling into question certain assumptions about determinism as traditionally understood. The most I could hope for would be to suggest that the problem has not been definitively solved, but at the same time suggesting that it's a real problem that should not be dismissed or abolished in favor of a completely different kind of problem. Just because we can't currently figure something out doesn't mean it's not a real problem.

The 'level of incompetence' phrase is from a book from years ago called "The Peter Principle" which attempted to explain why corporate and other bureaucratic structures generally suck so bad.
Nathaniel
user 10963465
Group Organizer
Mesquite, TX
Post #: 121
Yes, the free will/determinism problem, regardless of how it's understood, is not amenable to certain research paradigms, but why is that necessarily such a big deal? One would already have to have decided that one kind of answer reached through one kind of research program could possibly count, which seems to be a case of deciding the outcome of the question beforehand.

When viewed from a physicalist and deterministic philosophy, the concept of free will makes no sense. We've already agreed on that. Heck, in most philosophies the concept makes no sense. He, and I, assume that to be the way the world works precisely because science can demonstrate this to be the case. To us, free will is like a square circle. It is an impossible self contradictory concept, as such it cannot exist. At that point it's like trying to determine the nature of invisible pink unicorns. Granted, it might be that we don't have complete information on these unicorns, which cannot exist as both invisible and pink (as pink requires that it be visible). So either the concept of free will needs to be heavily amended or it needs to be thrown out as rubbish.

If you assume a physicalist worldview, as the philosopher in the video does, how could there be any real 'control'?

Here we run into the problem of "what is a thing?" and the paradox of the heap. As you know, I like to describe things as conceptual systems. The rock rolling down the hill is a system in itself, a collection of atoms and molecules which constitute a specific solid form. One might think of it as static in nature, but that's not even true. As it strikes other rocks, minute cracks propagate through it as certain molecular bonds are stressed. It's quite a bit more complex than one might think. Now, if that were an animal rolling down hill, lets say a hedgehog for the sake of my amusement, it would have an even more complex means of affecting it's trajectory. I use that word because both the hedgehog and the rock affect their path as they roll down the hill. The hedgehog has a flexible backbone which allows it to contort it's body to change the way it might roll as well as legs by which to stabilize itself, perhaps even to stop itself from rolling.

You seem to be thinking in terms of first cause, that the "I" which causes my actions be the first cause of said actions. Did I ever mention that I hate first cause arguments in all their forms? In this instance, I don't think it's necessary. If you take it this way, then descriptions of causality make no sense. For example, lets examine what has caused the current weather outside my window. Well, if we think back far enough I must conclude that it is due to the starting conditions of the universe. It's sort of similar to a joke I like to use when someone asks the question "where did you come from?" and I respond with "well, when a mommy and daddy really love each other..." If you set up dominoes to fall down in a complex manner such that it eventually rings a bell at the end of the chain, you might say that what caused the bell to ring was the first domino being knocked down. However, you could easily remove one or two dominoes from the chain to stop the bell from ringing. You might even do this after the first has been knocked down. At that point you have no power to change the past (those already knocked down), but you can change the position of those which have yet to fall. The fact of the matter is, knocking down the first caused the second to fall, which caused the third to fall, which caused the fourth to fall, and so on. Even though my thoughts were caused by something else, my thoughts end up causing my actions. What caused the bell to ring? Really, it was that the last domino fell and knocked into it, which was caused by the previous domino falling, and so on. You don't have to get to the first cause to sort out the immediate cause. Even in cases where you can sort out the cause of something far back in the causal chain, it's often irrelevant, as you cannot change the past.

My self as self causing means that I would have to be able to encompass everything not only about myself but the entire world. I would have to be able to act in the world from outside the world. In other words, I would have to be able to act but with nothing already given with which to act, a logically incoherent idea. In order to do anything, I already have to be something. Otherwise, I am involved in a regress in which my choosing is ultimately based on nothing, or total randomness.

So, in order to choose, one must be god, but god cannot make any choices in such a state. What is chosen can only be chosen randomly, as any other method of choice would require parameters which could be said to be the REAL cause of the choice. Simply knowing what could be would constitute as an input, which falls down a causal chain to spit out a choice. That being said, I don't think you're too far off. The problem seems to lie in the way we using "cause" here. Strike that and go to affect. The rock affects it's fall down the hill, the hedgehog affects how it rolls down the hill and a man may also affect how he might roll down the hill.

Control might be a good term for legal, medical and scientific terms, but I don't think it holds the weight necessary for a philosophical discussion of the topic. Affect, however, makes sense to me as the term does not come with agency bias.

Once again, I do believe that we are trying to describe something real when we talk of free will, I just think that what we think it is and what it really is are two different things. The brain is complex, very much so for humans. Part of what makes the brain so complex is the fact that, unlike a simple computer program which simply runs off the same algorithms every time, the brain modifies the algorithms it goes through based on past experiences. Basically, we learn by rewiring our brains. The programming equivalent would be the neural network. It mimics the brain somewhat by changing the method by which it comes to a particular conclusion based on experience. To further complicate things, the human brain can also look down on a great deal of this process and affect things accordingly. This complexity may be what gives rise to the phenomena which the concept of free will is attempting to describe. It is not separate from causality, it requires no special self-material. It's just complex, and capable of modifying itself on many levels. This even helps explain why we are reluctant to attribute free will to animals, which we often assume are slaves to their processes. It is our ability to observe and manipulate our processes, and even those with which we use to observe and manipulate, which seems to give rise to this notion that we are free.
Jim B.
user 4260314
Arlington, TX
Post #: 298
You make a lot of very good points and I agree with much of what you say.

When viewed from a physicalist and deterministic philosophy, the concept of free will makes no sense.

I agree with you that the concept of free will, as traditionally understood, makes no sense, but I think the concept of determinism, as traditionally understood, also makes no sense. ( I can go into that further in a future post.) I think that the problem of free will is basically a framing problem, just as the 'hard problem' of consciousness is a framing problem. There seems to be a 'blind spot' that is made up by us, by our very being, which prevents either problem from not only being solved but even clearly formulated or understood. It may be that we are doomed to always 'being in our own way' and thus blocking our view of what makes up the blind spot, or it may be that a larger conceptual framework is needed to reconcile free will and determinism.

Within the current conceptual framework, 'free will' and 'determinism' seem to be irreconcilable, if not mutually exclusive, concepts, like 'round' and 'square,' as you mention. Keith Kelly sent out an article about how Zeno's Paradox could be thought of as a possible analogy for the free will problem. (I'll post it on here.) According to the author of the article, Zeno's Paradox was a genuine puzzle only because, until fairly recently, mathematics understood 'finite' and 'infinite' as irreconcilables. If you had one, you had to chuck the other. Because of recent developments in math, these concepts are now understood as reconcilables after all. In a similar way, in the 18th and 19th centuries, mechanical and electromagnetic phenomena, including action at a distance, were thought of as being contradictory. Efforts to explain the electromagnetic in terms of the mechanical were doomed to failure. With Maxwell there was the beginning of the emergence of the concept of 'field' as a basic, irreducible phenomenon of physics. While mechanical and electromagnetic phenomena may not have been perfectly reconciled, they're both understood now within a larger context that makes sense out of both, so that they're no longer viewed as these mysterious, contradictory concepts. Granted, these analogies are crude at best. Zeno's paradox was a strictly mathematical problem and probably far easier to solve than free will would be. They're only meant to illustrate how what is thought to be utterly and categorically irreconcilable may only be so due to a certain way of thinking.

So either the concept of free will needs to be heavily amended or it needs to be thrown out as rubbish.

Agreed.

You seem to be thinking in terms of first cause, that the "I" which causes my actions be the first cause of said actions. Did I ever mention that I hate first cause arguments in all their forms? In this instance, I don't think it's necessary.

I agree. I was mentioning the self-causing self as an example of the unintelligibility of a certain framing of the concept of freedom.
Nathaniel
user 10963465
Group Organizer
Mesquite, TX
Post #: 122
Determinism isn't really the problem. In the various ways we can think of the universe we're still stuck with the same problem. Now, I might be guilty of not being able to come up with all the possible ways the universe could be arranged but I can get a general feel for some of the possibilities.

1. Things are strictly deterministic and the states of the universe are like dominoes.
2. Things are strictly random and the states of the universe disregard causality.
3. Things are governed by an uncaused and unknowing (because knowledge of the past influencing the future renders this causal) consciousness.
4. There's a combination of the three.

The third really makes no sense and could possibly be reduced to the second as such an uncaused and unknowing consciousness would have no choice but to choose at random. Some philosophers have suggested that the fact that things are mostly deterministic while being a little random give us the wiggle room necessary for free will. I disagree. It still makes no sense. Being a little random does free us from determinism a bit, but it does not free us from the laws of the universe. I am currently writing a program to help people learn to read Japanese. The program follows very strict rules but works mostly like flash cards. As such, it randomly displays questions. What questions it displays are based on the user's progress and accuracy with previous questions, so you could say that portion is causal. There are many different questions that the program is free to choose from. Sometimes that choice is constrained by the rules of the program. Sometimes it chooses randomly, and sometimes it cannot choose randomly (it will not present the same question two times in a row, unless that second question is the only question left to ask). I say all this to illustrate a point. The program is complex, follows rules, but also makes random choices. Granted, the random function in this language isn't truly random (I think it may be actually be sin(time)... but that's besides the point). The fact of the matter is, this doesn't give the program "wiggle room" for free will. It will never have what we think of as free will. The reason is simple, the program will never escape the rules of it's own code. The random portion of the program doesn't give it freedom, it just gives it a portion which is random but ultimately caused. Take the device used to kill/not kill Schrodinger's cat. The device will randomly release radiation or not which will result in the death, or not, of the cat. This quantum event is random. However, even if it were random it would be the same as the program I'm writing. That is, the "code" of the universe is inscribed into the quantum world, it just happens to have a random function. The outcome may seem to be uncaused, but it is actually caused by the very nature of the universe itself

No matter how much we struggle, no matter how much we ponder and no matter how the universe operates, the universe is what it is and the rules are what they are and that is the world we live in regardless of whether we know the rules or not. Man has been walking on the ground for far longer than we've known about gravity, but we've been drawn to the Earth all the same. We are bound to follow the rules, bound within this mostly deterministic world whose nature has caused us to be as we are at any given moment regardless of configuration.
Jim B.
user 4260314
Arlington, TX
Post #: 299
Determinism isn't really the problem.

I disagree. Determinism, as traditionally understood, has problems, as does free will.

No matter how much we struggle, no matter how much we ponder and no matter how the universe operates, the universe is what it is and the rules are what they are and that is the world we live in regardless of whether we know the rules or not.

Yes, of course, but that would be true regardless of what the nature of reality is. It's of no help in telling us what that nature might be. You can't legitimately assume that determinism is the case and then use that assumption to argue for determinism.

Consciousness and human action, among other things, simply do not resolve neatly into an account of deterministic physical causes. You can still hold a position while admitting that there are problems with it, that not all of the puzzles surrounding it have been solved. Absolute certitude is more of an emotional state, imo, than an epistemological state. You may very well be right. All I'm saying is that, as far as I can tell, there are serious problems with all the positions in the free will/determinism question.
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