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Free Will Revisited

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aleph_0
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[Note: I post this in the Debate Forum because I do not consider the case for free will to have been successfully argued. However, I cannot say that I'm pressing an argument for determinism or indeterminacy. What I present here are just my thoughts about the matter, without any claim to being an expert or knowing the answer to every relevant issue. Still, since I do reject that free will is axiomatic, I am making a post that is contrary to Objectivism.]

I would like to pose the question somewhat differently. I’ve often thought about life in other societies—should we judge harshly those in Eastern countries who adopt and espouse irrational beliefs such as communism, Islam, or Taoism? Should we judge Americans so well for living out relatively rational philosophies?

Had just about any American been born in Saudi Arabia or China, he would have become a Muslim, or Taoist, or Confucian, or he may have been some brand of aphilosophical, irrational person. Whatever the case, to assert that there is something unique in the people born in America that makes them resist irrational beliefs more than Easterners do would involve some kind of bizarre racism, or what I could only call "locationism". You would have to assert that something in our blood creates an independent mind, which is lacking in the East; or you would have to assert that there is something in the act of being born in the West that creates it. Both of which are difficult to comprehend.

So, it seems, Americans are not really to blame for our virtues—we were born into a society that instilled them into us, and had we not been born into this society, we would not have developed these virtues. Obviously, there are exceptions. Ayn Rand, Michelangelo, Darwin, Socrates, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and many others all resisted their prevailing cultures. They were by far in the vast minority, however, and the rate at which such independent people appear in America should be no greater than the rate at which they appear in Saudi Arabia.

So perhaps modern Americans are the beneficiaries of historic Western individuals who successfully prevailed against conservatism, though one should wonder why the East has no similar story. But now I wonder, what made these individuals into independent-thinkers. The Objectivist will answer, free will.

How did they get free will?

They were born with it. It’s in their identity.

So they didn’t choose to be independent—that’s just their identity, it’s how they were born?

No, no. They were born with free will, they were tabula rasa, and from this state some people chose to be great.

That’s a hard theory to understand. We’re all born with the exact same free will, we’re all tabula rasa, and yet some choose to be good while others bad. How can the exact same identity come to two different conclusions except by indeterminacy? And if it is a matter of indeterminacy, how can one be blamed or praised for the outcome?

I suppose that the proponent of free will could deny that we do not all have the same free will, though I’m not sure what that would mean. Some of us are born with a different will? Again, how can we be praised or blamed for this? We’re not all tabula rasa? Sounds like nature or nurture determines who we are in this case.

If, as the Objectivist says, free will is merely the identity of man in action—from whence does this identity spring? Is it given to us at birth? Then it is not our fault. If it is created by us, then we create our own identity, and you’re now espousing existentialism.

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I think you are misconstruing that's one society and it's most general ideas, or more generally most of the citizen's "sense of life" are what most people (average non-philosophical man) implicitly "learn". This does not in any way imply that if the average "American sense of life" and the average "Islamic sense of life" were magically transposed, i.e., the American version in the Middle East's citizens and vice versa, that it is somehow caused by ones ethnicity. The United States explicitly refutes your argument because American's are of all ethnicities from all parts of the world united under the lingering power of the correct ideas and values.

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I'm not sure you understand what I was getting at--I was not saying taht ethnicity determines personal behavior. In fact, I pointed out that I found such an idea problematic at best. What I was pointing out was that, by and large, any given American born into Islamic culture would himself be a Muslim. Still, even this is not quite the point, but merely an illustration. The point I was getting at is: What determines the choices that an individual makes? The Objectivist answer is, free will (Or, put another way, nothing external determines one's choices. One makes his own choices.) From there I make my point directly, as you can see above.

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I understand, you are trying to say that one's sense of life is "forced" on him deterministically by his environment. If this were true I would be a altruist who goes to my local Baptist church every Sunday morning and maybe even a couple of other times a week like my grandparents who tried to "force" just such a life on me at a very young age. But the fact IS that I chose to be an independent thinker who searches for the answers to questions I don't understand until I DO. My environment in no way has determined my choice accept maybe limiting them to a degree, i.e., lack of money, etc., but even these things are things I choose to change or not depending on my prerogative.

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I wouldn't quite say that a sense of life is forced upon people deterministically. Like I pointed out, some have defied the culture in which they find themselves. I am an atheist in a largely Protestant culture. I've pointed out other examples. What I am saying is that, on average, most Americans--rational or not--would be Muslims had they been born in a Muslim country. If this is not true, I would expect a rather radical explanation for why so many Muslims are in Saudi Arabia, and why their children so predominantly come to me Muslims while our children do not. The fact that you and I are not Christians is relevant, but mind you that we live in a liberal society where the pressures to be Christian are not the pressures that Saudis face to be Muslims.

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What I am saying is that, on average, most Americans--rational or not--would be Muslims had they been born in a Muslim country. If this is not true, I would expect a rather radical explanation for why so many Muslims are in Saudi Arabia, and why their children so predominantly come to me Muslims while our children do not.
I think you should take this as accepted and agreed. I doubt anyone here would disagree. [i recently made a similar comment in an unrelated thread.]

The fact that you and I are not Christians is relevant, but mind you that we live in a liberal society where the pressures to be Christian are not the pressures that Saudis face to be Muslims.
In many muslim countries, you will find people who also rebel "in their own minds", but dare not speak out. Not sure how this hurts the free-will thesis though. It actually adds an extra level of explanation as to why people in the US are "effectively" more rational, even though they may not be "naturally" so.

You point to Rand, Darwin and so on and ask: what made them great independent thinkers. You say the Objectivist answer is: free-will.

I don't think it is. Explicit coercion and political repression, mentioned above, is one factor. However, perhaps more than that, there are deep philosophical ideas that encourage or discourage the exertion of free-will. For instance, at some point, while moving away from being savages, toward becoming modern, people more fully recognized the notion of man as a thinker and shaper of his environment. They explicitly discover the power of rationality over faith. etc.

In other words, the American has as much free-will as the other guy. However, he is taught some very fundamental ideas about the efficacy of man's mind, and about himself as an independent actor, and this forms the basis of much of his further exertion of his mind qua independent thinker. If you pan away from the U.S. to India and Pakistan, and other once British colonies, you'll find a segment of society that has been grown up with such values too, and are similarly independent thinkers.

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In many muslim countries, you will find people who also rebel "in their own minds", but dare not speak out. Not sure how this hurts the free-will thesis though. It actually adds an extra level of explanation as to why people in the US are "effectively" more rational, even though they may not be "naturally" so.

You point to Rand, Darwin and so on and ask: what made them great independent thinkers. You say the Objectivist answer is: free-will.

I don't think it is. Explicit coercion and political repression, mentioned above, is one factor. However, perhaps more than that, there are deep philosophical ideas that encourage or discourage the exertion of free-will. For instance, at some point, while moving away from being savages, toward becoming modern, people more fully recognized the notion of man as a thinker and shaper of his environment. They explicitly discover the power of rationality over faith. etc.

In other words, the American has as much free-will as the other guy. However, he is taught some very fundamental ideas about the efficacy of man's mind, and about himself as an independent actor, and this forms the basis of much of his further exertion of his mind qua independent thinker. If you pan away from the U.S. to India and Pakistan, and other once British colonies, you'll find a segment of society that has been grown up with such values too, and are similarly independent thinkers.

Fair enough, the religiosity of citizens of eastern states may be challenged on the basis that people may keep their rationality to themselves. However, I doubt this to be true based on the activism of even some relatively peaceful citizens of Iraq to support religious or religion-guided government. Also, Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Infidel paints a picture of Somali life which seems devoid of any hint of secularism, even in Ali herself until she was exposed to the liberal conversations of Western Europe.

No matter, the point remains the same: Suppose we are all born the same, that we all begin tabula rasa, and that we have free will. From this, some then choose to be good and others to be bad. This seems like indeterminacy, though, not agency. Suppose that we are not all born the same, either by environment or by internal nature, which then causes us to act differently from each other. Again, because the relevant causative agent seems to be environment, nature, or both, one's free will doesn't seem to be the agent in charge.

It is the Objectivist thesis that free will is man's identity in action, but where does he get his particular identity? If he gets it from birth, and the nature of his identity then causes him to act properly or badly, it hardly seems to be his fault. I recognize that, in the Objectivist picture, man gets his identity from birth, but then he uses that identity to act freely. However, the choices that he makes are determined by his identity, no? And who made that identity what it is? If it were his inborn nature or his environment we're obviously not dealing with free will. The only other option is that he creates his own identity, which is existentialism.

For instance, take the situation where an infant is conceived into the world and he begins to receive information from his senses. At some point, at the moment of consciousness or later, he develops volition and may focus and understand the information or choose not to. The moment he has volition, he will make one of several choices. He makes choice x. What made him choose x? His identity? What made his identity such that he would choose x? His nature, his experiences, or himself? If it's the former two, he has no will--if it's the later, then existentialism is correct and a nonbeing can create its own being. Nothing informed the child's identity but the child--but then, then child's volition didn't exist until it willed itself into existence by forming its identity. I'm not categorically dismissing this option; to me it's the only valid way of believing in free will. I just wanted to draw it out.

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For instance, take the situation where an infant is conceived into the world and he begins to receive information from his senses. At some point, at the moment of consciousness or later, he develops volition and may focus and understand the information or choose not to. The moment he has volition, he will make one of several choices. He makes choice x. What made him choose x? His identity? What made his identity such that he would choose x? His nature, his experiences, or himself? If it's the former two, he has no will--if it's the later, then existentialism is correct and a nonbeing can create its own being. Nothing informed the child's identity but the child--but then, then child's volition didn't exist until it willed itself into existence by forming its identity. I'm not categorically dismissing this option; to me it's the only valid way of believing in free will. I just wanted to draw it out.

His identity didn't make him choose x, his identity gave him the ability to make choices. A human does not have a choice to have or not to have a philosophy, by his nature he will have a philosophy, he only has the choice of which philosophy he will have. There are some given things in the universe that a human does not have a choice about, like for example existence exists. In the same way humans don't have the choice to have or not to have free will, they all have it, its a characteristic of our exsistence. Now when you talk about rationality and say that people tend to be more rational in the united states then in Iran for example its a different subject. There are many variables involved that might make someone rational or irrational, this being because rationality is not human nature, its a choice. A human can choose to be rational or irrational the same way he can choose to think or not to think. Plus Iran like most muslim countries is a police state, where people can't really express them selves openly. This makes it much harder to evaluate how rational the general population is.

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There's an old saying in Objectivism, that in a free society, Reason will flourish -- I'm only beginning to really understand what that phrase means. All it takes to defeat evil ideas is the freedom of good ideas. However, if anyone has a good idea in an irrational society, one with no freedom of speech, he won't be able to express it, so the problem only perpetuates. It isn't environment determining someone's thinking; its the punishment of the good for being that kills any intellectual flourishing.

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It isn't environment determining someone's thinking; its the punishment of the good for being that kills any intellectual flourishing.
Both are factors. The "environment" is a factor in that people who are not exposed to a certain idea may never figure it out themselves, and may never think of challenging the alternative idea that they are taught. Also, the schools, colleges and media in closed societies, often teach certain false "facts" and distorted "history". This too leads people to false conclusions.
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That’s a hard theory to understand. We’re all born with the exact same free will, we’re all tabula rasa, and yet some choose to be good while others bad. How can the exact same identity come to two different conclusions except by indeterminacy? And if it is a matter of indeterminacy, how can one be blamed or praised for the outcome?

On the issue of cultural influence, nothing more needs to be said that has not been stated persuasively by others; the nub of the matter is that influences are just that, influences, which man is free to act upon or reject, because he has free will.

On the more important issue of accepting the validity of this crucially important attribute of consciousness, let me stress that context is nearly everything. Every instance of persistent confusion about free will (setting aside cases of outright evasion) depends on an error of context-dropping. A good point to remember is not to make this too complicated: recall that Objectivism holds free will to be axiomatic; it follows that it should be extremely obvious to you, if you hold on to the proper context.

To set the context, begin with an empiral observation gained via introspection: that when you choose to vary your level of focus -- though influenced by various factors, such as this post that you are reading exhorting you to try the experiment -- the ultimate decision is yours, and is, in the applicable context of your mind, free of external control and internal prior restraint. For example, suppose you command yourself to count down from ten, and when you reach zero, to vary your focus at that instant. You count down, and this may influence what happens when you reach zero, but it is not dispositive; you are still free to vary your focus or not, in that instant. The attempt at prior restraint fails; it is not dispositive, nor are external factors, such as sights and sounds. You can repeat the experiment any number of times, and from this generalize that when you choose, you do so free of antecedent conditions in this context. Hence, the choice to focus could have been otherwise.

What about the neurons in your brain, however? Surely, you might think, they must reduce the whole matter to a fatalistically pre-determined outcome, like so many billiard balls. But this commits the critical error of context-dropping. The axiomatic free will validation is a matter of philosophy, unconcerned with neurology. The validation is introspective in nature and depends upon that context. It cannot be denied on the basis of claims arising in other, derivative contexts. To accept that line of argumentation as bearing upon free will would either be attacking a straw man (to disprove a contextless claim that was never made) or to bring to bear evidence irrelevant to the context (because not arising out of introspection). The attempt, now blazingly obvious, to smuggle in the inappropriate premise that neurology is philosophically more fundamental than the axiom of consciousness and the corollary of volition, must be rejected, as a matter of philosophy. Once again, context is (nearly) everything.

So what is the conclusion? That we have free will in the context of our minds (i.e. the context in which free will applies, by definition), and that neurology has not displaced philosophic axioms so as to render the concept of free will invalid. Now, with the argument laid before you, do you accept that man has free will?

Edited by Seeker
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His identity didn't make him choose x, his identity gave him the ability to make choices.

Right, this is what I meant when I said "I recognize that, in the Objectivist picture, man gets his identity from birth, but then he uses that identity to act freely." To elaborate on what followed this, there surely is something that makes a person choose one thing rather than another. It cannot be that the choices, in any sense, just happen without cause. This would be mere indeterminism: Random events that come to be, in the way that the universe just exists. The universe needs no explanation for why it exists, one must simply acknowledge that it does. Likewise, indeterminate events just happen, and there is no more to the story. This is not free will--one cannot be blamed for indeterminate events any more than one can be blamed for the way that the world has come to exist.

So the Objectivist has to maintain that one's self--one's own identity, not just as a man, but one's individual, personal identity--causes one to choose x rather than its alternatives, y, z, and so on. Identity qua man may mean that he has free will, but identity qua this particular man means that he makes these choices. It is in this later context of personal identity that I ask, what creates this identity? If it is anything external, the thesis is no longer free will. If one creates one's own identity, then one's identity comes into being by the will to create oneself. A nothing becomes a something.

A good point to remember is not to make this too complicated: recall that Objectivism holds free will to be axiomatic; it follows that it should be extremely obvious to you, if you hold on to the proper context.

As I pointed out at the beginning, I reject this out of hand. I acknowledge a = a, the laws of logic, consciousness, and senses as axioms. But free will I have no automatic, immediate awareness of. My experience when acting based on my thoughts may perfectly well be a chain of necessary events which are a function of my nature and experience; or they may be an exercise of will, either seems possible. In any case, even if you take free will to be axiomatic, there are two reasons why one would find this conversation still constructive. First, you may find out about the nature of your free will; second, you may find out that the free will thesis is internally inconsistent, and need to revise either your beliefs about free will or the argument which purports to show that it's inconsistent.

What about the neurons in your brain, however? Surely, you might think, they must reduce the whole matter to a fatalistically pre-determined outcome, like so many billiard balls.

I want to stress that, while the argument you present here is complicated and possibly valid, it is not the argument I make here. This is an argument from materially causative pre-determination. My topic concerns the logic of free will. In much the same way, you when deduct, "If this new species is a mammal, then it is an animal; and this new species is a mammal; therefore it is an animal," the fact that the new species is a mammal does not materially cause it to be an animal. It's not a series of events, each caused by its antecedent. It's a logical causation. So I will reinforce that I am not talking about the argument for determinism from material causation.

But no, I do not accept that there is free will, nor do I take it that you have sufficiently argued against the argument from material causation. I do believe that it's possible we have free will, but only in the very counter-intuitive, existentialist account.

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In any case, even if you take free will to be axiomatic, there are two reasons why one would find this conversation still constructive. First, you may find out about the nature of your free will; second, you may find out that the free will thesis is internally inconsistent, and need to revise either your beliefs about free will or the argument which purports to show that it's inconsistent.

You have not shown how it is internally inconsistent.

My topic concerns the logic of free will.

So does mine.

nor do I take it that you have sufficiently argued against the argument from material causation.

You have not shown in what manner an argument from material causation will not fail on account of context-dropping as I described.

My experience when acting based on my thoughts may perfectly well be a chain of necessary events which are a function of my nature and experience; or they may be an exercise of will, either seems possible.

I have given you a process for validation by direct experience that there are no dispositive antecedent conditions, the denial of which amounts to evasion.

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You have not shown how it is internally inconsistent.

So does mine.

You have not shown in what manner an argument from material causation will not fail on account of context-dropping as I described.

I have given you a process for validation by direct experience that there are no dispositive antecedent conditions, the denial of which amounts to evasion.

By the numbers:

I have not tried.

The particular subject you were writing about at the time was not mine--you were discussing material causation.

I have not tried; it is non sequitur.

I figured someone would say that. I find it laughable that I should be accused of evasion since I address everything directly and, upon introspection, have no desire to evade anything. However, I never make it a point to prove my motives--I simply act honestly and leave it to rational people to judge appropriately.

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By the numbers:

I have not tried.

The particular subject you were writing about at the time was not mine--you were discussing material causation.

I have not tried; it is non sequitur.

I figured someone would say that. I find it laughable that I should be accused of evasion since I address everything directly and, upon introspection, have no desire to evade anything. However, I never make it a point to prove my motives--I simply act honestly and leave it to rational people to judge appropriately.

Nevertheless, the central topic of this thread is your unwillingness to accept free will by performing your own act of introspective validation; the rest is just window dressing that serves to obfuscate by pretending that there is anything else to discuss once the validation has been completed. Validate free will and your cultural determinism thesis becomes as irrelevant as the argument by neuroscience does, which is why I chose to focus on validation and its consequences. It makes no more sense to entertain fanciful ideas of an infinite god given the axiom of identity than to entertain the notion of cultural determinism given the self-evident fact of volition.

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It cannot be that the choices, in any sense, just happen without cause. This would be mere indeterminism: Random events that come to be, in the way that the universe just exists. The universe needs no explanation for why it exists, one must simply acknowledge that it does. Likewise, indeterminate events just happen, and there is no more to the story. This is not free will--one cannot be blamed for indeterminate events any more than one can be blamed for the way that the world has come to exist.

This is where you've lost context. See my two posts from yesterday that talk about the words "determinate", "indeterminate", and "random" (1 and 2). Important bits:

What is meant by "determinism"? It does not seem possible to define this word without using the word "determine", which would then require that, for determinism to be true or at least acceptable as a possibility, the causal links and their end result would have to be capable of being determined (by a thinking machine or rational being). As was brought up previously, this is impossible to do. And it is not simply impossible because we don't currently fully understand the laws of physics. No, it is and will always be impossible, due to inherent uncertainties and the nature of chaos (e.g. butterfly effect).

An indeterministic universe is held to be random. However, the idea of "randomness" cannot be divorced from "predictability". In other words, a random process is merely an unpredictable one - one for which a thinking machine or rational being cannot exactly determine the end result.

Likewise, a deterministic universe is one that can be exactly predicted. Such a universe exists only in the realm of mathematical thought.

All processes have a random - ie, unpredictable - component.

So what I'm getting at is that these ideas of "random" and "deterministic" are not truly physical phenomena, but the result of a mind attempting to classify observations and interpretations. What you seem to be trying to do is take these ideas, strip them of their context, and apply them directly to physical entities.

Particles do not interact according to the laws of physics. Rather, the laws of physics are the result of thinking machines and rational beings making observations of particles. Likewise, particles do not move randomly or deterministically. Rather, particle motion is determined to be random or predictable by thinking machines and rational beings.

Going back to responsibility [in your case, blame], and given the strict contextual boundaries of the terms "random" and "deterministic", it then becomes a matter of asking why it is necessary for a person's action to be exactly predictable by an outside observer (either in advance of the action, or after-the-fact through precise measurement and calculation), in order for that person to be held responsible [ie, blamed] for that action?

This does not entirely address your argument, but simply the words you are choosing to use. You can still fall back to saying, "but don't particles just bounce into eachother; we can't have free will if we're just made up of particles bouncing into eachother" (or something to that effect), in which case I will direct you to the following post by Grames in that same thread:

A fallacy of composition arises when one infers that something is true of the whole from the fact that it is true of some part of the whole (or even of every proper part). The argument that if the brain consists only of neurons, molecules and atoms none of which have free will, then the brain as a whole cannot have free will is an instance of the fallacy of composition.

The converse of the fallacy of composition is the fallacy of division when one infers that something true of a whole must be true of all or some of its parts. The arguement that if a person has free will then some of his neurons or even atoms must then have free will is instance of this fallacy.

The two fallacies identified above are sufficient to demonstrate the falsehood of the idea of determinism. One further step remains to be taken, a demonstration of the validity of volition. The only possible demonstration which avoids all logical paradoxes is an appeal to your power of perception. You feel your own power to choose and no logical arguments can interpose themselves between your power to choose and your perception of your own power to choose.

Example fallacy:

1. Atoms are not visible to the naked eye

2. Humans are made up of atoms

3. Therefore, humans are not visible to the naked eye

You could generalize this as well, by replacing "visible to the naked eye" with "X". True, atoms on their own move without order or purpose. But we are not individuals atoms. We are huge collections of atoms, ordered in very particular ways, with different parts having different purposes; and we can define our own purposes. How that transformation took place is up to the chemists and biologists to discover. However, what they would be discovering is not the existence of free will, but its evolution. Check out Freedom Evolves by Daniel Dennett for a good analysis of this.

Edited by brian0918
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Right, this is what I meant when I said "I recognize that, in the Objectivist picture, man gets his identity from birth, but then he uses that identity to act freely." To elaborate on what followed this, there surely is something that makes a person choose one thing rather than another. It cannot be that the choices, in any sense, just happen without cause. This would be mere indeterminism: Random events that come to be, in the way that the universe just exists. The universe needs no explanation for why it exists, one must simply acknowledge that it does. Likewise, indeterminate events just happen, and there is no more to the story. This is not free will--one cannot be blamed for indeterminate events any more than one can be blamed for the way that the world has come to exist.

So the Objectivist has to maintain that one's self--one's own identity, not just as a man, but one's individual, personal identity--causes one to choose x rather than its alternatives, y, z, and so on. Identity qua man may mean that he has free will, but identity qua this particular man means that he makes these choices. It is in this later context of personal identity that I ask, what creates this identity? If it is anything external, the thesis is no longer free will. If one creates one's own identity, then one's identity comes into being by the will to create oneself. A nothing becomes a something.

Cause and effect work perfectly fine with free will. Just because there is a cause for everything, does not show or prove that anything was pre-determined. The fact that man must make choices at every point of his life(free will) and that there is a time line of events that lead up to a certain choice(cause and effect) does't not make the person choose x over y or over any other possibilities. The person is certainly influenced by past events, but he still posses volition to make any choice he wants. He is not pre-determined to choose x(determinism), nor did this situation randomly materialize out of no where(indeterminism).

Edited by avgleandt
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All living organisms, unlike inanimate matter, are aware of reality in some form and pursue some values to sustain/further their life.

But animals and plants, unlike Man, are automatically aware of reality and automatically pursue values in it.

In contrast, Man:

1. chooses to become aware of reality (at the conceptual level),

2. chooses to discover the values which sustain and further his life, and

3. chooses to take the actions necessary to gain such values.

So, free will, in Man, involves (in essence) the primary choice to focus on things in reality, and the primary choice to live in reality (by discovering values and acting to gain them.)

If Man has no free will, there's nothing he can focus on in reality and nothing he can pursue in it. And if he cannot focus on anything in reality, nothing he asserts, (including the assertion denying his own free will) refers to anything in reality at all!

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Going back to the original point of supposed "locationalism"-- it is true that one's culture influences ones values, although one can always choose to ignore those influences. I think sNerd was touching on this point earlier that the culture here in the U.S is more rational on a sense of life scale than most other parts of the world. This is true. I can tell that today at work about five different people said "It is what it is" which equates to A is A, and one guy responded "And that's all it can be" which equates A can not be non-A. This is rational terminology used by "average" people every day in this country. Our culture does encourage most men to be rational here by default, although usually not explicitly--such as these people having studied Objectivism at all. I know they haven't even heard of it. However this positive cultural influence is just that--an influence on men's free will. Obviously, not everyone here chooses to be rational--look at all the drug-addicts and what-not here. But that no way implies "indeterminency" of the mind, but just the opposite-- it show's that some men choose to evade the positive cultural influences of our country, i.e., it implies the existence of free will.

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It should be stressed however that observing others' behavior is not the means of validating free will. The validation of free will is by introspection. I would say that others' behavior reflects, rather than implies, free will. The concept is valid regardless of that.

At the same time, I would not expect others to accept the concept without properly validating it for themselves, which is why introspective validation is the critical element in this discussion. There are indeed quite interesting ideas to discuss about cultural influences around the world, but aleph_0 has tied this discussion to the validity of free will which necessarily makes proper validation of that axiomatic concept the only issue properly before us. Cultural influences, though interesting in their own right, are an improper point of focus when the validity of free will has been questioned.

[As a side note, I mistakenly transposed parts of a sentence earlier, when I should have said: "It makes no more sense to entertain the notion of cultural determinism given the self-evident fact of volition than to entertain fanciful ideas of an infinite god given the axiom of identity." Whew, now that's been dealt with!]

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It should be stressed however that observing others' behavior is not the means of validating free will. The validation of free will is by introspection. I would say that others' behavior reflects, rather than implies, free will. The concept is valid regardless of that.

At the same time, I would not expect others to accept the concept without properly validating it for themselves, which is why introspective validation is the critical element in this discussion. There are indeed quite interesting ideas to discuss about cultural influences around the world, but aleph_0 has tied this discussion to the validity of free will which necessarily makes proper validation of that axiomatic concept the only issue properly before us. Cultural influences, though interesting in their own right, are an improper point of focus when the validity of free will has been questioned.

[As a side note, I mistakenly transposed parts of a sentence earlier, when I should have said: "It makes no more sense to entertain the notion of cultural determinism given the self-evident fact of volition than to entertain fanciful ideas of an infinite god given the axiom of identity." Whew, now that's been dealt with!]

I'm not sure I understand what you are suggesting be done for one to validate free will. Are you saying I should look at my actions, and decide for myself if I have free will? In my opinion, it is generally unreliable for one person to accept their own perceptions of reality without outside evidence. For example, if there is a room full of people, and one person claims to have seen a ghost, while all the others claim otherwise, it would irrational for that one person to cling to that belief. Is this what you are suggesting be done - use my personal observation, backed up by no outside evidence, to come to a conclusion?

Edited by brian0918
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I'm not sure I understand what you are suggesting be done for one to validate free will. Are you saying I should look at my actions, and decide for myself if I have free will? In my opinion, it is generally unreliable for one person to accept their own perceptions of reality without outside evidence. For example, if there is a room full of people, and one person claims to have seen a ghost, while all the others claim otherwise, it would irrational for that one person to cling to that belief. Is this what you are suggesting be done - use my personal observation, backed up by no outside evidence, to come to a conclusion?

Since you use the phrase "outside evidence" here to refer to others' perceptions of reality vis-a-vis your own, the answer is: of course you rely on your own perceptions of reality without others' perceptions all the time. You don't need others' perceptions of your own existence to know that you exist and possess consciousness, do you? Of course not ("generally unreliable"?! You cannot be serious, unless you generally see things that aren't there, like ghosts). Free will is an attribute of your own consciousness. You definitely do not need others' perceptions to validate the concept, only your own introspective evidence.

There are various specific techniques for validating free will, but they are all characteristically simple. For one example, see the technique I offer here in Post #11. For another example, see Dr. Peikoff's on OPAR p. 70 ("You the reader can perceive every potentiality I have been discussing simply by observing your own consciousness. ...").

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I'm not sure I understand what you are suggesting be done for one to validate free will. Are you saying I should look at my actions, and decide for myself if I have free will? In my opinion, it is generally unreliable for one person to accept their own perceptions of reality without outside evidence. For example, if there is a room full of people, and one person claims to have seen a ghost, while all the others claim otherwise, it would irrational for that one person to cling to that belief. Is this what you are suggesting be done - use my personal observation, backed up by no outside evidence, to come to a conclusion?

It should be clear to all of us that "outside evidence" here has no meaning, but this conclusion can serve a different purpose than the one brian0918 is implying. The implication for him is that if there's no "outside evidence," then there's really no way to prove free will. I would say that there's no "outside evidence" because of the nature of what we're dealing with. We're not talking about a heart, a physical thing which is in principle observable by anyone with perceptual capabilities; we're dealing with a mental capacity, which is not perceivable by anyone's extrospection and is not susceptible to sensory "evidence."

Each of us, individually, is capable of directly observing only our own consciousness; "introspection" is a term which refers to a certain class of organisms which can observe the contents of their own consciousness'. Notice that the act of introspection has no "outside evidence" either, since no one else can be sure when we are or are not introspecting (beside our reports).

But what makes you think a discussion of the validation of free will is similar in type to a discussion of ghosts?

Of course, I disagree with your view of one person's "general unreliability" when it comes to accepting how one considers the world around him, and the epistemological consequences that would entail.

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It should be clear to all of us that "outside evidence" here has no meaning, but this conclusion can serve a different purpose than the one brian0918 is implying. The implication for him is that if there's no "outside evidence," then there's really no way to prove free will. I would say that there's no "outside evidence" because of the nature of what we're dealing with. We're not talking about a heart, a physical thing which is in principle observable by anyone with perceptual capabilities; we're dealing with a mental capacity, which is not perceivable by anyone's extrospection and is not susceptible to sensory "evidence."

Each of us, individually, is capable of directly observing only our own consciousness; "introspection" is a term which refers to a certain class of organisms which can observe the contents of their own consciousness'. Notice that the act of introspection has no "outside evidence" either, since no one else can be sure when we are or are not introspecting (beside our reports).

But what makes you think a discussion of the validation of free will is similar in type to a discussion of ghosts?

Of course, I disagree with your view of one person's "general unreliability" when it comes to accepting how one considers the world around him, and the epistemological consequences that would entail.

I understand and agree with what you're saying, so long as you're not going so far as to say that one should believe in ghosts simply because they think they saw one once, without any further evidence.

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I understand and agree with what you're saying, so long as you're not going so far as to say that one should believe in ghosts simply because they think they saw one once, without any further evidence.

Wouldn't that be the reason to believe something, i.e., that you experienced first hand and weren't under the influence of drugs or having any know mental defects? What other people say is irrelvant. I don't need anybody's evidence but my own introspection to know that I possess free will. Earlier I meant that you can see--indirectly--free will in action through the behaviour of others, but you validate its existence first hand via introspection.

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