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Rand's argument against determinism

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I did not say, that I will only choose chocolate in this situation. This is just as baseless, as stating that I could have chosen a different flavor.

As I said, the reason why it took me some time to decide is that I (or my mind) can't instantly solve a problem. I need time to process the information I posses to come up with the answer to the question: "what flavor will satisfy my need for ice-cream the most?".

I never intended to make a distinction between "my mind" and "I". They are the same thing.

I agree with the law of identity. I don't understand your point in the last two sentences. I think free will is unprovable and it is baseless to proclaim it exists (or that we posses free will). Furthermore I think the concept of free will is unthinkable in terms of causality.

Your first sentence makes no sense. Are you saying that you didn't have to choose chocolate, but you can't prove that you could have chosen anything else? Your scenario had you, in fact, choosing chocolate in that situation, and you said there was no reason after the fact to think that you could have ever chosen strawberry (in that same situation). I'm saying that the fact that you physically stood there and made a choice is all the evidence you need to conclude that you had a choice.

The first basis for thinking that free will exists is that we seem to observe it. So what reason do I have to doubt that observation? Can you not observe yourself in any particular instant making "self-caused" actions? Why would self-causation be in conflict with causation? Mind is not like any other thing, you can't generalize about it by looking around at other things. You have to understand mind by studying mind itself, and the only mind you have access to is your own. Do you think you don't have a choice between replying to this thread or doing something else? I personally have a choice between replying to your post vs. doing laundry, at the moment, and I frigging hate doing laundry, it's the worst chore ever. So that's why I made this choice to put it off and post here instead. What other proof do you need of free will? What other proof could there possibly be?? :confused:

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Your first sentence makes no sense. Are you saying that you didn't have to choose chocolate, but you can't prove that you could have chosen anything else?

I believe that crizon is saying that whatever "choice" he makes (or made with respect to chocolate ice-cream, for example, instead of strawberry, which on another occasion he may very well "choose"), he simply had to make it. He is after all arguing for determinism.

crizon, would it be fair to say that your own view of yourself is that you're an automaton, that whatever you "think" (I'm using "think" loosely to mean "ideas" going though your awareness.), do or say, you simple had to "think," do or say? Etc? An automaton that is conscious, but which can't do anything but what it is caused to do by forces outside it's control? [Oh yes, an automaton that also has the illusion that it can make choices?]

Edited by Trebor

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edit: this is a response to bluey

Well what do mean by choice?

If you mean by choice, that I could have done something else, then I don't observe that I made a "choice".

In one sense it is correct, when you say "I can either do the laundry or replying to this post", when you fundamentally mean, that you just don't know yet, what you are going to do. Or in other words, you don't know the solution to this problem ("what am I going to do?") yet.

The literal sense is obviously false. You can always do only one thing and that is all I can observe.

Looking back, I was constantly faced with problems and I always could just pick one option. This is what I observe. I am faced with problems and I find a solution, only one solution.

Sure, I have a feeling that I am in control of myself. That I can choose whatever I want. I think this is a result of the fact that we can not predict ourself.. our mind simply can not understand itself on it's own. It's like trying to create a model of a model of a model.

I do not reject the concept of "free will" as used in ethics, because one has to acknowledge that this feeling of being in control is human nature and completely rejecting it would be against human nature.

What I don't see is any argumentation of why and how free will is in fact a property of reality, because it always implies that you could have done something different in the exact same situation.

Edited by crizon

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I believe that crizon is saying that whatever "choice" he makes (or made with respect to chocolate ice-cream, for example, instead of strawberry, which on another occasion he may very well "choose"), he simply had to make it. He is after all arguing for determinism.

crizon, would it be fair to say that your own view of yourself is that you're an automaton, that whatever you "think" (I'm using "think" loosely to mean "ideas" going though your awareness.), do or say, you simple had to "think," do or say? Etc? An automaton that is conscious, but which can't do anything but what it is caused to do by forces outside it's control? [Oh yes, an automaton that also has the illusion that it can make choices?]

I am not argueing for determinism.

The statement: "I will always do the same thing in the same conditions" can also not be proven, because once again: I will never be in the same situation again.

I am denying the proof for free will. I am not saying that I can disprove it.. I think free will, as presented by Objectivism is not provable and not disprovable.

To your question:

I personally don't think that the world is determined. I think there is a fundamental randomness in reality.

Concerning our mind, I think that we are "partially" random and "partially" determined, that we have a part in our mind that produces a "stream of consciousness" or a "brainstorming-faculty" that more or less randomly produces ideas and another part that can sort out good ideas from bad onces.. the more reasonable part that decides what ideas are worth pursuing.

In fact I believe that a human can make different actions in the same circumstances, but not because of free will, but because kind of "smart randomness".

I don't think of myself as an automaton. I am still myself and I'm not less worth or "just a computer" just because I deny a prove of something that I fundamentally can't understand (on a level of causality).

But this is just my opinion and clearly not a proof of anything.

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I am not argueing for determinism.

The statement: "I will always do the same thing in the same conditions" can also not be proven, because once again: I will never be in the same situation again.

I can't sort out your confusing claims.

I am denying the proof for free will. I am not saying that I can disprove it.. I think free will, as presented by Objectivism is not provable and not disprovable.

Okay, given that you think that free will, as presented by Objectivism, is neither provable nor disprovable, then you apparently understand free will as presented by Objectivism. In other words, you couldn't go so far as to say that free will as presented by Objectivism is neither provable nor disprovable unless you understood the Objectivist presentation of free will.

Leaving aside whether or not your claim about the Objectivist view of free will is true — that it can neither be proven nor disprove — please then tell me what it is that you hold to be the Objectivist presentation of free will.

As to the rest of what you say, it seems that you are merely jumping from one side of the fence to the other. The world is fundamentally random, you're not arguing for determinism, but you believe that you're part determined, part random, etc. Free will is an illusion, you have to "choose" what you "choose," etc.

How about defining a few terms, as you are using them, and explaining a few things.

Random?

Determined?

Fundamental randomness of the world?

Causality?

Smart randomness?

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edit: this is a response to bluey

Well what do mean by choice?

If you mean by choice, that I could have done something else, then I don't observe that I made a "choice".

In one sense it is correct, when you say "I can either do the laundry or replying to this post", when you fundamentally mean, that you just don't know yet, what you are going to do. Or in other words, you don't know the solution to this problem ("what am I going to do?") yet.

The literal sense is obviously false. You can always do only one thing and that is all I can observe.

Looking back, I was constantly faced with problems and I always could just pick one option. This is what I observe. I am faced with problems and I find a solution, only one solution.

Sure, I have a feeling that I am in control of myself. That I can choose whatever I want. I think this is a result of the fact that we can not predict ourself.. our mind simply can not understand itself on it's own. It's like trying to create a model of a model of a model.

I do not reject the concept of "free will" as used in ethics, because one has to acknowledge that this feeling of being in control is human nature and completely rejecting it would be against human nature.

What I don't see is any argumentation of why and how free will is in fact a property of reality, because it always implies that you could have done something different in the exact same situation.

By "choice" I mean that at some point in time you have the option of two different actions, which you have to choose between. Before I have made a choice, there is no solution to the problem of "what am I going to do?" I have to choose, I'm not just waiting passively to see which happens automatically. It's because you can only pick one option that you have to make a choice. That is what I observe, it's not just a feeling, it's clearly a fact that I have to make a choice between one or the other or both or neither, because I am the entity that is going to act on that choice and nothing makes me act other than my deciding to do so.

I don't see why you have a problem with this. My observation is that: a) before taking an action, it appears that I have a choice between one or more actions, b ) that I do decide on an action and take it, c) after I have taken the action, I can still remember my options and evaluate the results of my actions in light of what I could have done, and d) I can remember to make the same or a different choice the next time I am faced with a similar decision. What part of this do you disagree with? And why? Do you just doubt your perceptions, or do you have some reason to think that they're wrong?

What is left to be called "free will" in an ethical sense, if there is no free will in reality? You're saying that people don't have a choice of what their actions are, but because they feel like they do, they must be treated as if they actually do? But ... why??

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Okay, given that you think that free will, as presented by Objectivism, is neither provable nor disprovable, then you apparently understand free will as presented by Objectivism. In other words, you couldn't go so far as to say that free will as presented by Objectivism is neither provable nor disprovable unless you understood the Objectivist presentation of free will.

Leaving aside whether or not your claim about the Objectivist view of free will is true — that it can neither be proven nor disprove — please then tell me what it is that you hold to be the Objectivist presentation of free will.

Well as I said: I don't understand it on the basic level, where it is supposed to be a third option to chance and determinism. (Maybe I did not choose the right words.)

I do understand the claim though, that we can do different things in the same conditions. I don't need to understand a concept totally to reject it's proof.

I don't need to understand god to deny a proof like: "1+3 = 5, therefore god exists", because 1+3 does not equal 5.

I think any claim like "We can do different things, in the same conditions" has no basis and is not observable (or self-evident.. however you like to call it).

As to the rest of what you say, it seems that you are merely jumping from one side of the fence to the other. The world is fundamentally random, you're not arguing for determinism, but you believe that you're part determined, part random, etc. Free will is an illusion, you have to "choose" what you "choose," etc.

How about defining a few terms, as you are using them, and explaining a few things.

Random?

Determined?

Fundamental randomness of the world?

Causality?

Smart randomness?

Now you are getting a bit hairsplitting. I said in my last post, that this was my personal subjective opinion of how the our mind works. I am not claiming that this is a solid proof and I'd have no problem to acknowledge that this is wrong, when I'm pointed to information that contradicts my view.

I have no problem with you asking for definitions of words that I use, but maybe you should try to understand what I meant to say before we go into a lengthy discussion about definitions again.

But anyways..

random: Any event that has a probability below 100% of occurring or something that follows no pattern. Dictonary definition?

Determined: Any event that has a 100% probability of occurring or something that follows a strict pattern (ie when event a, then event b as opposed to when event a then event b or event c)

Fundamental randomness: Randomness as a property of reality as opposed to randomness that just occurs because of lack of our information in a complex system, like randomness in weather. In other words that there are entities that act random in a principle way, meaning that even if we had complete information, we still could not forecast it's actions or that all information can't be obtained fundamentally.

Causality: Any relation of 2 points in time. You can say event (or point) b in time was caused by event a, without specifying if that relation was random or determined. I'm not sure if thats the dictionary definition, but I think it makes sense.

Smart randomness: Well.. somewhat like I described it. I meant that we for one thing don't act random 100%, but also don't act completely determined. As I said I think there is a part in humans that produces random ideas and another part that sorts out ideas worth pursuing.

Sort of like if you have a random number generator, and a set of rules that say "Just take numbers that can be divided by 2 and have 5 digits". The output would still be random, but "less random" than the output of the random number generator (who randomly produces numbers without restrictions).

I picture the mechanism in our brain similar to that.

But again: This all was just my personal view and not part of my argument against the proof of free will.

By "choice" I mean that at some point in time you have the option of two different actions, which you have to choose between. Before I have made a choice, there is no solution to the problem of "what am I going to do?" I have to choose, I'm not just waiting passively to see which happens automatically.

Well.. waiting passively would be solution or result to the problem of "what am I going to do?" :)

But yes you are right, I think. We have to think in order to solve the problems that we are constantly faced with and humans do thinking consciously. Our method of solving problems involves consciouses.

I think the only time when a human is not faced with problems (in a wide sense) is when his brain ceases to be active.

It's because you can only pick one option that you have to make a choice. That is what I observe, it's not just a feeling, it's clearly a fact that I have to make a choice between one or the other or both or neither, because I am the entity that is going to act on that choice and nothing makes me act other than my deciding to do so.

I don't see why you have a problem with this. My observation is that: a) before taking an action, it appears that I have a choice between one or more actions, b ) that I do decide on an action and take it, c) after I have taken the action, I can still remember my options and evaluate the results of my actions in light of what I could have done, and d) I can remember to make the same or a different choice the next time I am faced with a similar decision. What part of this do you disagree with? And why? Do you just doubt your perceptions, or do you have some reason to think that they're wrong?

What is left to be called "free will" in an ethical sense, if there is no free will in reality? You're saying that people don't have a choice of what their actions are, but because they feel like they do, they must be treated as if they actually do? But ... why??

I think the use of the word "choice" is troublesome here, because it always implies free will, which is why I try to avoid it in such a discussion. That's why I asked you in my last post what you mean by "choice".

I can agree with what you wrote here, except for one part but I would formulate this way:

a) before taking an action, I am confronted with a problem that I don't know the solution to yet

B) I eventually find a solution to the problem

c) After I found a solution I can use the information I obtained from it's effects to reflect on whether or not it was the correct one

d) (this is where I disagree because I think the formulation is too vague)

I can remember the problem, it's solution and effects and can use these information to help myself find solutions for similar problems. The exact same problem though will never arise again, because knowing that I was in a certain situation before, would alter the situation and the problem, because you now have different information. Your set of mind is part of the problem.

The crucial part is though, whether or not you claim that a human can make different choices (or find different solutions), when faced with the exact same problem or situation.

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I do understand the claim though, that we can do different things in the same conditions. I don't need to understand a concept totally to reject it's proof.

You have stated several times in various ways that we can't prove that we have free will because we cannot go back in time, as it were, to the exact same situation and demonstrate that we could make an alternative choice.

You are setting up, and accepting, a ridiculous, impossible, unnecessary requirement.

If you could go back in time to the exact same situation, you would be exactly as you were in the exact same situation, but unlike what you seem to imply, you would not be facing some alternative fact. You would be the same person, in the same situation, confronting a single fact, not alternative fact(s): You would have to make a choice. (The same choice, if you like. The same choice, but not necessarily the same choice among the options you are aware of.)

You keep putting forth this so-called requirement, but there is nothing special about a choice you had to make in some situation in the past, versus a choice that you have to make in the present, or for that matter, any choice you will have to make in the future. In each and every case, you confront one fact, not alternative facts (requiring some, even impossible, double-blind experiment), the single, irrevocable, fact that you have to make a choice. There's simply no getting around that one.

So drop the lame "requirement."

In every case when you are confronted with a choice, the choice is up to you. There's no difference between your being in some unrepeatable situation in the present versus some unrepeatable situation in the past or the future. Every situation is unique, unrepeatable, in that sense, but you still have to make a choice when you are confronting the necessity to do so, past, present, or future.

Now if you are going to insist that you still could not have chosen other than you did originally, then you are in fact arguing for determinism.

But anyways..

...your "definitions" snipped....

Your "definitions" confuse metaphysics with epistemology, existence with consciousness. Perhaps these will help:

Chance

Causality

Necessity

Free Will

Volitional

But again: This all was just my personal view and not part of my argument against the proof of free will.

I'm aware that you are only giving your personal view.

For the record, Objectivism does not offer a proof of free will. Free will doesn't require proof; it's a self-evident fact. Further, the concept of "proof" genetically depends upon free will. You couldn't even conceive of the concept of "proof" or ask for proof of anything without having already accepted free will, self-evidently.

[Edited for clarity.]

Edited by Trebor

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You have stated several times in various ways that we can't prove that we have free will because we cannot go back in time, as it were, to the exact same situation and demonstrate that we could make an alternative choice.

You are setting up, and accepting, a ridiculous, impossible, unnecessary requirement.

Quoting from your links:

“Volitional” means selected from two or more alternatives that were possible under the circumstances, the difference being made by the individual’s decision, which could have been otherwise.

Because man has free will, no human choice—and no phenomenon which is a product of human choice—is metaphysically necessary. In regard to any man-made fact, it is valid to claim that man has chosen thus, but it was not inherent in the nature of existence for him to have done so: he could have chosen otherwise.

Choice, however, is not chance. Volition is not an exception to the Law of Causality; it is a type of causation.

This ridiculous requirement is obviously in the very definition of volition, which means the same as free will.

If you could go back in time to the exact same situation, you would be exactly as you were in the exact same situation, but unlike what you seem to imply, you would not be facing some alternative fact. You would be the same person, in the same situation, confronting a single fact, not alternative fact(s): You would have to make a choice. (The same choice, if you like. The same choice, but not necessarily the same choice among the options you are aware of.)

If you were aware of the fact that you are going back in time to the exact same moment of the "choice", then you have more information compared to the first time, therefore changing the situation. But that doesn't matter, since it's impossible anyways.

You keep putting forth this so-called requirement, but there is nothing special about a choice you had to make in some situation in the past, versus a choice that you have to make in the present, or for that matter, any choice you will have to make in the future. In each and every case, you confront one fact, not alternative facts (requiring some, even impossible, double-blind experiment), the single, irrevocable, fact that you have to make a choice. There's simply no getting around that one.

So drop the lame "requirement."

In every case when you are confronted with a choice, the choice is up to you. There's no difference between your being in some unrepeatable situation in the present versus some unrepeatable situation in the past or the future. Every situation is unique, unrepeatable, in that sense, but you still have to make a choice when you are confronting the necessity to do so, past, present, or future.

Now if you are going to insist that you still could not have chosen other than you did originally, then you are in fact arguing for determinism.

How do you define choice?

I mostly heard Objectivists define choice with the attribute of free will. IE "choice is the exercise of man's volitional faculty" or variations like that.

If you define choice similar to that, then no, I do not observe that I make choices and I see no proof or self-evidence for that.

Your "definitions" confuse metaphysics with epistemology, existence with consciousness. Perhaps these will help:

Chance

Causality

Necessity

Free Will

Volitional

Hardly any of those links are definitions. The first one merely states that chance doesn't exist but nothing about what it means. The other ones (except for volitional) aren't that great either, because they touch other topics right and left and are generally quite vague in their formulations and mostly consist of assertions.

I heard Dr. Peikoffs Podcast the other day and as part of one of his answers he mentioned that the Oxford Dictionary was his favorite source for definitions.

You sound like Objectivism's definitions are the only right ones, which is obviously false. You asked me for my definitions and I gave you mine.

I'm aware that you are only giving your personal view.

For the record, Objectivism does not offer a proof of free will. Free will doesn't require proof; it's a self-evident fact. Further, the concept of "proof" genetically depends upon free will. You couldn't even conceive of the concept of "proof" or ask for proof of anything without having already accepted free will, self-evidently.

[Edited for clarity.]

Well those are all just assertions:

What do you perceive that makes you conclude that free will is self-evident? (please provide your definition of choice here, if you haven't already done so. I have a feeling you will use that word here)

Why does the concept of proof or my ability to think require free will?

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Determinism without its predictive power is robbed of all of its danger to ethics. Fatalism is hard to justify if you don't know which fate you should resign yourself to. Nevertheless, determinism is still an attack on the possibility of knowledge at the epistemological level so cannot be left unrefuted.

I want to retract this statement because I now understand it is wrong. Fatalism is just one possible erroneous consequence of determinism. If one gains the habit of regarding tables as not real because they are really swarms of particles, then one will inevitably come to regard people as not real because they too are swarms of particles. "People are not real" has disastrous ethical consequences.

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This ridiculous requirement is obviously in the very definition of volition, which means the same as free will.

*** Long post ***

You've missed my point.

One either has free will, or one doesn't. Man either has free will, or he does not. (I'm using "free will" "volition" "choice" equivalently, referring to the same phenomena, mans ability to select among alternatives, fundamentally a phenomena of his consciousness, his conceptual consciousness.)

If man does not have free will, then his conceptual knowledge is an illusion, which has been your contention, at least with respect to free will. You either believe it's an illusion, think it's an illusion, have doubts it's not an illusion, etc.

If man does not have free will, then he is determined, his conceptual faculty is determined. What he thinks, he had to think. (It doesn't matter how he is determined, if he's determined, he's determined, he doesn't have free will.)

The Law of Causality does require that the same entity in the exact same situation will act in the exact same way.

But causality for man's conceptual consciousness is not causality for billiard balls. Or, it is and it isn't, depending upon what you're talking about. It's the same in the sense that causality applies as surely to the one as to the other. Both obey causal law, both are bound in their actions to their identity, neither can act contrary to its nature, its identity.

Let's say that you and I play a game of pool, you know, the game with the balls on the table. It doesn't matter, for this discussion, what particular game we play, but we can play eight-ball if you need to know what game.

The point is, when you strike the cue ball with the cue stick, the ball rolls, and if it hits another ball, that ball will roll as well. If you have studied the layout of balls well, and if you make the right calculation and then strike the cue ball the right way, the "one" ball, let's say, will go into the corner pocket.

However, if you strike a human being with a cue stick, he may do many things, but he will not roll into another ball on the pool table and cause that next ball to roll, nor will he go into the corner pocket, etc.

He may in fact become angry with you and hit you back.

Billiard balls do not get angry at you when you hit them. People do, or might at least depending on the situation.

Why? Why the difference in actions of the different things given the same action on your part?

Different entities act differently because they are different. The Law of Causality is the Law of Identity applied to the actions of entities. What a thing does is caused by it's identity.

Causality doesn't require that a human act like billiard ball, and it doesn't require that a billiard ball act like a human. It merely says that each will act according to it's nature, it's identity.

Repeatedly, you have insisted that only were we able to create the exact same situation would we be able to test whether or not a person could make another choice than the one they made the original time.

So, I'm accepting your ridiculous challenge to show that it's not necessary and that even were it possible it would not serve the function you claim it would. It would not "prove" one way or the other that the person has free will, the person who hypothetically goes back in time to the exact same situation.

Again, as a reminder, causality only implies that a human being must act as a human being, now, in the past, in the future, even were it possible for him to be in the exact same situation, exact in every way. A human being is a human being, not anything else. A is A.

What's ridiculous is your condition on the "proof" of free will or volition. It is literally not possible to go back to and repeat the exact-same-conditions in which a person made a choice.

Literally, if they could go back again to the exact same condition, they would be in the exact same condition. That's not possible, but let's say it can be done.

And, with You.

Let's send you back to the exact same condition, standing there at that shop you mentioned previously, choosing between chocolate ice-cream and strawberry ice-cream.

Ready?

Okay, you're back there confronting the same choice. I, the head of the research department for Ridiculous Experiments, watch to see what you choose, chocolate or strawberry. I record the event, and make the needed entries into a log.

So what?

Let's say you choose chocolate the second time, just like the first time. (Of course, for you, it's the first time. Only for me or others observing this experiment is it your second time.)

Are you now convinced of free will?

What if then on the third time, you choose strawberry?

Are you now convinced of free will?

Let's say that we run this ridiculous experiment over and over and over.

Now, obviously, for you, each and every repeat is just like the first time, so you can't compare them, you're totally ignorant of what you did previously or what you will do on the next occasion. This is, after all, the exact same situation.

So, as yet, you're in no better a position than you were the first time, nor with each and every choice you confront now, have confronted, or will confront. They're al the same to you, regardless of whether you pick chocolate ice-cream or strawberry ice-cream, you are confronting and making the same choice each and every time, by design of the experiment, and by fact of your own experience, excepting that you do not know that it's the same as any other time. For you, there is no other time, else we've failed to comply with your ridiculous requirement for the "proof" of free will.

We have got to do something about that, else you'll never have your "proof."

Oh, I know.

We bring you back to the lab of Ridiculous Experiments.

Okay, you're back to where we were when we decided to do the experiment, and now you remember all the many exact same situations of your choosing between chocolate and strawberry ice-cream. (To aid your memory, if needed, of course we have recorded the exact same event over and over, but we've been sure to use new media for each recording, and we've properly filed them all. There's no question about the recorded evidence of the experiment.)

So we have given you the memory now of all of those exact same events or conditions of your making the choice between chocolate and strawberry ice-cream. You're requirements are met, in full, in sufficient numbers for you to now have the data that you claim to be necessary to "prove" free will or volition.

So, what can you now conclude from the data?

What if we ran the experiment for 60 times, and the results varied. (Hypothetically, we can do such things.) Say that we ran two sets of 60 times each, or as many more sets of 60 as you demand.

For the first two sets, the results are:

First set: You chose chocolate all 60 times

Second set: Sometimes you chose chocolate; sometimes you chose strawberry (If the proportions matter to you, you'll have to let me know. I assume that it's not important how many times you choose strawberry, only that you at least do choose it in some of those exact same conditions.)

What would the results in the first set tell you? (All 60 times, you chose chocolate ice-cream.) Would you then have your "proof" of free will?

What would the results in second set tell you? (In this set of 60 times of the exact same conditions, sometimes you chose chocolate ice-cream, sometimes you chose strawberry ice-cream.) Would you then have your "proof" of free will?

Again, Causality doesn't demand that all existents act the same as all other existents in the exact same situation; it would only require that the exact same thing act the exact same way in the exact same situation, were it possible to have everything exactly the same again, and again, etc., however many times necessary for your ridiculous requirement on the "proof" of free will.

In all of those hypothetically exact same situations of you standing there at the shop making a choice between chocolate ice-cream and strawberry ice-cream, regardless of whether you always chose chocolate ice-cream or whether you chose chocolate ice-cream sometimes and strawberry ice-cream the other times, you fully acted in accord with the Law of Causality: You were in the exact same situation, and you did the exact same thing.

Get it?

Regardless of the choice you made, chocolate or strawberry ice-cream, you made a choice, a single choice, the exact same choice.

Each and every time in those many exact same situations, you had to make the exact same choice in the exact same conditions, and you made this exact same choice whether you chose chocolate ice-cream invariably, or you chose chocolate ice-cream sometimes and strawberry ice-cream other times.

You understand? You made the exact same choice because you were in the exact same situation. That choice was: chocolate ice-cream or strawberry ice-cream.

And you made your choice each and every time. You either chose chocolate ice-cream or you chose strawberry ice-cream.

Why did you choose chocolate some or all the times you made that exact same choice (between chocolate ice-cream and strawberry ice-cream)?

What was the cause of the choice you made between chocolate ice-cream and strawberry ice-cream?

You're absolutely not going to like this.

The cause of your particular choice of chocolate or strawberry ice-cream is the same cause for every choice you have ever made, are making, and will make:

YOU.

Now you'll protest, I'm sure. (I wonder why I'm sure of that.)

We've met your ridiculous requirements. You've made the choice of chocolate ice-cream or strawberry ice-cream over and over and over in the exact same conditions, and you have acted completely consistent with the requirements of Causality -- that in the exact same situation the exact same thing, you, will act in the exact same say.

But you see, you're in no better a place for your "proof" with respect to free will than you were, and are, without running the ridiculous experiment.

So, what did you get out of the experiment?

By your nature, you will have to make choices. You cannot get around that fact. You've been making choices all your life. By your nature you are determined to have to make choices, and what choice you make in each and every choice is 100% up to you. You are the cause of the choices you make.

There's a somewhat confusing equivocation there in the use of the word "choice."

By your nature, you are caused to have to make choices. That you can, and must, make choices comes with the territory, comes with being a human being. You have the capacity of choice, of volition, of free will, of necessity, due to causality, determinedly so, because of the kind of entity you are. But what you pick or select or choose with each and every choice you make is yours to choose.

There's no proof of free will; it's self-evident.

In 10 seconds, make a choice between saying "Green" or "Purple" out loud (you don't have to yell) or not saying either "Green" or "Purple" out loud. (I've given you more than a simple this versus that, A versus non-A, choice to make.)

I'll wait.

.

.

.

.

Okay, what was your choice? What did you do?

Did you say "Green" out loud. Or did you not say "Purple" out loud? Or did you choose not to say either out loud?

You cannot escape the fact that you had to make a choice. I pushed that choice onto you by presenting it to you. Once you are aware of the choice, you have to make it, one way or the other.

The way you make it, the choice you make in that choice, is entirely up to you. And, you can observe yourself making that choice directly. [Did I hear you say, "No way, I'm not going to make that choice! I'm not saying either "Green" or "Purple" out loud." That's your choice, and it's the third option I presented.]

Although your nature is the cause of the fact that you have to make a choice, You are the cause of the choice you make, the selection among the alternatives presented to you in the choice.

So again, what did you choose to do? Did you say "Green" out loud? Did you say "Purple" out loud? Or did you not say either out loud?

Whatever, whichever, you chose, YOU chose.

The same happens all the time in life. You become aware of the need to make a choice, and you make it. Once you are aware of the need to make a choice, there's no escaping it. You have to choose. Even the refusal to choose is a choice in such a context.

Who makes your choice? You do.

What causes you to make the choice you make?

You.

And you know it.

[Edited for clarity.]

Edited by Trebor

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*** Long post ***

You've missed my point.

One either has free will, or one doesn't. Man either has free will, or he does not. (I'm using "free will" "volition" "choice" equivalently, referring to the same phenomena, mans ability to select among alternatives, fundamentally a phenomena of his consciousness, his conceptual consciousness.)

If man does not have free will, then his conceptual knowledge is an illusion, which has been your contention, at least with respect to free will. You either believe it's an illusion, think it's an illusion, have doubts it's not an illusion, etc.

If man does not have free will, then he is determined, his conceptual faculty is determined. What he thinks, he had to think. (It doesn't matter how he is determined, if he's determined, he's determined, he doesn't have free will.)

This is not true. If man does not have free will, he does not have to be determined; he could also act (partially) random.

The Law of Causality does require that the same entity in the exact same situation will act in the exact same way.

But causality for man's conceptual consciousness is not causality for billiard balls. Or, it is and it isn't, depending upon what you're talking about. It's the same in the sense that causality applies as surely to the one as to the other. Both obey causal law, both are bound in their actions to their identity, neither can act contrary to its nature, its identity.

Let's say that you and I play a game of pool, you know, the game with the balls on the table. It doesn't matter, for this discussion, what particular game we play, but we can play eight-ball if you need to know what game.

The point is, when you strike the cue ball with the cue stick, the ball rolls, and if it hits another ball, that ball will roll as well. If you have studied the layout of balls well, and if you make the right calculation and then strike the cue ball the right way, the "one" ball, let's say, will go into the corner pocket.

However, if you strike a human being with a cue stick, he may do many things, but he will not roll into another ball on the pool table and cause that next ball to roll, nor will he go into the corner pocket, etc.

He may in fact become angry with you and hit you back.

Billiard balls do not get angry at you when you hit them. People do, or might at least depending on the situation.

Why? Why the difference in actions of the different things given the same action on your part?

Different entities act differently because they are different. The Law of Causality is the Law of Identity applied to the actions of entities. What a thing does is caused by it's identity.

Causality doesn't require that a human act like billiard ball, and it doesn't require that a billiard ball act like a human. It merely says that each will act according to it's nature, it's identity.

Repeatedly, you have insisted that only were we able to create the exact same situation would we be able to test whether or not a person could make another choice than the one they made the original time.

So, I'm accepting your ridiculous challenge to show that it's not necessary and that even were it possible it would not serve the function you claim it would. It would not "prove" one way or the other that the person has free will, the person who hypothetically goes back in time to the exact same situation.

Again, as a reminder, causality only implies that a human being must act as a human being, now, in the past, in the future, even were it possible for him to be in the exact same situation, exact in every way. A human being is a human being, not anything else. A is A.

What's ridiculous is your condition on the "proof" of free will or volition. It is literally not possible to go back to and repeat the exact-same-conditions in which a person made a choice.

Literally, if they could go back again to the exact same condition, they would be in the exact same condition. That's not possible, but let's say it can be done.

And, with You.

Let's send you back to the exact same condition, standing there at that shop you mentioned previously, choosing between chocolate ice-cream and strawberry ice-cream.

Ready?

Okay, you're back there confronting the same choice. I, the head of the research department for Ridiculous Experiments, watch to see what you choose, chocolate or strawberry. I record the event, and make the needed entries into a log.

So what?

Let's say you choose chocolate the second time, just like the first time. (Of course, for you, it's the first time. Only for me or others observing this experiment is it your second time.)

Are you now convinced of free will?

What if then on the third time, you choose strawberry?

Are you now convinced of free will?

Let's say that we run this ridiculous experiment over and over and over.

Now, obviously, for you, each and every repeat is just like the first time, so you can't compare them, you're totally ignorant of what you did previously or what you will do on the next occasion. This is, after all, the exact same situation.

So, as yet, you're in no better a position than you were the first time, nor with each and every choice you confront now, have confronted, or will confront. They're al the same to you, regardless of whether you pick chocolate ice-cream or strawberry ice-cream, you are confronting and making the same choice each and every time, by design of the experiment, and by fact of your own experience, excepting that you do not know that it's the same as any other time. For you, there is no other time, else we've failed to comply with your ridiculous requirement for the "proof" of free will.

We have got to do something about that, else you'll never have your "proof."

Oh, I know.

We bring you back to the lab of Ridiculous Experiments.

Okay, you're back to where we were when we decided to do the experiment, and now you remember all the many exact same situations of your choosing between chocolate and strawberry ice-cream. (To aid your memory, if needed, of course we have recorded the exact same event over and over, but we've been sure to use new media for each recording, and we've properly filed them all. There's no question about the recorded evidence of the experiment.)

So we have given you the memory now of all of those exact same events or conditions of your making the choice between chocolate and strawberry ice-cream. You're requirements are met, in full, in sufficient numbers for you to now have the data that you claim to be necessary to "prove" free will or volition.

So, what can you now conclude from the data?

What if we ran the experiment for 60 times, and the results varied. (Hypothetically, we can do such things.) Say that we ran two sets of 60 times each, or as many more sets of 60 as you demand.

For the first two sets, the results are:

First set: You chose chocolate all 60 times

Second set: Sometimes you chose chocolate; sometimes you chose strawberry (If the proportions matter to you, you'll have to let me know. I assume that it's not important how many times you choose strawberry, only that you at least do choose it in some of those exact same conditions.)

What would the results in the first set tell you? (All 60 times, you chose chocolate ice-cream.) Would you then have your "proof" of free will?

What would the results in second set tell you? (In this set of 60 times of the exact same conditions, sometimes you chose chocolate ice-cream, sometimes you chose strawberry ice-cream.) Would you then have your "proof" of free will?

Again, Causality doesn't demand that all existents act the same as all other existents in the exact same situation; it would only require that the exact same thing act the exact same way in the exact same situation, were it possible to have everything exactly the same again, and again, etc., however many times necessary for your ridiculous requirement on the "proof" of free will.

In all of those hypothetically exact same situations of you standing there at the shop making a choice between chocolate ice-cream and strawberry ice-cream, regardless of whether you always chose chocolate ice-cream or whether you chose chocolate ice-cream sometimes and strawberry ice-cream the other times, you fully acted in accord with the Law of Causality: You were in the exact same situation, and you did the exact same thing.

Get it?

Regardless of the choice you made, chocolate or strawberry ice-cream, you made a choice, a single choice, the exact same choice.

Each and every time in those many exact same situations, you had to make the exact same choice in the exact same conditions, and you made this exact same choice whether you chose chocolate ice-cream invariably, or you chose chocolate ice-cream sometimes and strawberry ice-cream other times.

You understand? You made the exact same choice because you were in the exact same situation. That choice was: chocolate ice-cream or strawberry ice-cream.

And you made your choice each and every time. You either chose chocolate ice-cream or you chose strawberry ice-cream.

Why did you choose chocolate some or all the times you made that exact same choice (between chocolate ice-cream and strawberry ice-cream)?

What was the cause of the choice you made between chocolate ice-cream and strawberry ice-cream?

You're absolutely not going to like this.

The cause of your particular choice of chocolate or strawberry ice-cream is the same cause for every choice you have ever made, are making, and will make:

YOU.

Now you'll protest, I'm sure. (I wonder why I'm sure of that.)

We've met your ridiculous requirements. You've made the choice of chocolate ice-cream or strawberry ice-cream over and over and over in the exact same conditions, and you have acted completely consistent with the requirements of Causality -- that in the exact same situation the exact same thing, you, will act in the exact same say.

But you see, you're in no better a place for your "proof" with respect to free will than you were, and are, without running the ridiculous experiment.

So, what did you get out of the experiment?

By your nature, you will have to make choices. You cannot get around that fact. You've been making choices all your life. By your nature you are determined to have to make choices, and what choice you make in each and every choice is 100% up to you. You are the cause of the choices you make.

There's a somewhat confusing equivocation there in the use of the word "choice."

By your nature, you are caused to have to make choices. That you can, and must, make choices comes with the territory, comes with being a human being. You have the capacity of choice, of volition, of free will, of necessity, due to causality, determinedly so, because of the kind of entity you are. But what you pick or select or choose with each and every choice you make is yours to choose.

There's no proof of free will; it's self-evident.

In 10 seconds, make a choice between saying "Green" or "Purple" out loud (you don't have to yell) or not saying either "Green" or "Purple" out loud. (I've given you more than a simple this versus that, A versus non-A, choice to make.)

I'll wait.

.

.

.

.

Okay, what was your choice? What did you do?

Did you say "Green" out loud. Or did you not say "Purple" out loud? Or did you choose not to say either out loud?

You cannot escape the fact that you had to make a choice. I pushed that choice onto you by presenting it to you. Once you are aware of the choice, you have to make it, one way or the other.

The way you make it, the choice you make in that choice, is entirely up to you. And, you can observe yourself making that choice directly. [Did I hear you say, "No way, I'm not going to make that choice! I'm not saying either "Green" or "Purple" out loud." That's your choice, and it's the third option I presented.]

Although your nature is the cause of the fact that you have to make a choice, You are the cause of the choice you make, the selection among the alternatives presented to you in the choice.

So again, what did you choose to do? Did you say "Green" out loud? Did you say "Purple" out loud? Or did you not say either out loud?

Whatever, whichever, you chose, YOU chose.

The same happens all the time in life. You become aware of the need to make a choice, and you make it. Once you are aware of the need to make a choice, there's no escaping it. You have to choose. Even the refusal to choose is a choice in such a context.

Who makes your choice? You do.

What causes you to make the choice you make?

You.

And you know it.

[Edited for clarity.]

You are right, that this experiment would _not_ proof free will (I never said it would), it could merely disproof determinism (if I picked different favours), but the explanation for 2 different actions in twice the same situation could simply be randomness.

Here is where one of my problems lies: Volition is supposed to be neither determinism nor randomness, but it offer any information on the level of causation. You wouldn't proof or disproof volition with such an experiment, because it simply does not say where the claim that a human "could have done otherwise" in the same situation differs from randomness.

You often said, that I have to make a choice, that choice is in the nature of man, that I can't get around of making choices, but you still have not given me a definition or your understanding of the word choice.

Your argumentation rests on the assumption that I do in fact make choices, so I can't agree or disagree until I know what you mean by choice.

And I don't understand why you claim that this thought experiment was my "requirement". It was Peikoff who wrote "[...]he could have chosen otherwise." So Peikoff made a claim about the outcome of an impossible experiment, not me. It is not me who argues for the existence of free will.

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Prospectivist_Objectivist,

Ayn Rand has said she is against religion because it puts emotion and intuition over reason. Early, in this thread, I have seen people make arguments based on intuitive feeling (of free will) as a rebuttal to you.

You will not get that from me. I will concede that we are all determined, choice is an illusion, and arguments for compatibilism (in respect to choice) are often made from of fear that someone's morality will be challenged.

I find it unnecessary to want to evade determinism in arguments, due to one important fact: Determinism of the brain happens at such a complex level that it is utterly insane to treat it as if it has any bearing on practical, macroscopic matters like capitalism/politics!

Another thing is that while choice (free will) is illusory, freedom is not. Your will itself, to do something, is determined. And you are also determined to do that something. But, so long as the path to fulfill your will is not barricaded, you are free to fulfill that will. Determinism is actually the cause of freedom (not choice).

I recommend this very honest video from Richard Dawkins:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kCxn7lHnBc

If you have time, here's another interesting one by Steven Pinker:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4A_r6_GGv3U

That's my 2 cents.

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I think there is determinism. Those forces aren't blind - evolution, for instance, rewarded life-preserving traits.

There is free will, in the sense that man's ability to make choices is intrinsic to his nature. When you are making a choice, it is you, and your volitional faculty, that is making it. In your own will you are free. This means that God and other men cannot force their wills upon you.

The 'choice' to focus or not, I think, needs to be learned. You have to either come across it through experience and identify its benefits, or have it taught to you. Once this choice is learned, you will exercise it or not. That depends on how well you learned, and what your values are. If your life is a wreck, and you have been abused the whole time through, then perhaps there is no future for your rational mind. That is who you are, frankly. One would hope such cases could be solved. That pain could be eased, but like anything else, reality is the arbiter of fortune.

That's the core of the argument over determinism I think: justice. If my upbringing or genetic makeup cause me to commit crimes, can I properly be 'punished' for them? Yes! I reject this idea that crimes need to be punished for the sake of justice. Justice is a guide that tells what actions are proper in response to what actions are not. A murderer is only to be made miserable or killed if this serves either of two purposes 1) He will no longer harm others 2) His punishment is in accordance with a system of law that successfully disincentivizes the crimes. The satisfaction of seeing he who caused your suffering suffer is an entirely irrational and emotionalistic desire. The desire to kill a man who is set on killing you - that is rational. The desire to imprison a man who would destroy your property - that is rational.

So, if someone is 'born' with an increased tendency to burst into violent rage, then they should be locked up. Because that is their nature. There is no reason for extra mercy because 'they can't help it' - as if volition and 'wanting someone to suffer for the hell of it' makes destruction of value any worse - it's ethical hedonism. Likewise, there is no reason for extra malice because 'they knew better'. The matter of volition accords attention only to the matter of proper punishment. A sane man needs no rehabilitation, only punishment. An insane man needs no lesson, no punishment, just treatment. An insane man may be kept aware from those he would harm, but other limitations on his freedom would be unjust. Limiting freedom as a consequence for a volitional crime - this is justified because it is an incentive for a volitional man.

A volitional man is one who uses reason to arrive at decisions, period. Although people may choose to evade, I think the idea is that - since you are essentially incentivism non-evasion when it comes to crime comission because of the instituted punishment foreordained by law for crime - if you have the general capacity to use reason, then you are subject to the law's punishment.

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If the universe turns out to be deterministic (that is, the laws of physics are deterministic), there are two major problems with extrapolating that to human behavior:

1) You will always have finite information, and the behavior of the brain and the universe as a whole can be extremely sensitive to small changes in conditions. So while I might now everything to the limit the laws of physics allow me, I will likely still be unable to select a single possible future, but rather be left with many that are possible given present information. So, to argue that "there is one future and you can't do anything to change it" is to blow right by the fact that it is literally impossible for you to know exactly what they future is, and as a result, you must make decisions about how to act based on the possible futures you can project. That faculty is enormously important and powerful in human beings, it is a huge part of decision making. You can't know what the future will be, so you have to come up with what to do based on the possible futures. In reference to a finite being, the future has multiple avenues that all can come to be depending on what decision he makes, as such, he has volition (in that he selects from a number of possible paths).

2) "You", what "you" is physically, made the decision. "You" are not a collection of particles, "you" is a single entity, a concept formed by "your" and "my" mind to describe what that collection of particles does, etc. Dropping the quotation marks, you make decisions about what to do based on possible futures. No one can know with certainty (great probability sure, certainty, almost certainly not, no matter how advanced the technology, for the reason above) what your decision will be prior to you making it, you can't even! When we drop a physical stance on things, i.e. particles and bodies, and move to the "intentional" stance (i.e. of entities with intentions, minds, etc.) then we drop determinism and move into the realm of free choice. You make decisions based on your understanding of the possible futures, you think, you use reason, you integrate your knowledge or disintegrate your knowledge, etc. You did all of those things because of what you thought. No one, in this stance, "made" you do anything, in the sense that (barring force) they deterministically caused your decision.

Another way to think about it is this: what caused your decision? Well you made it, so you "caused" it. What made you make it? Well who you are, your nature as a person, what you think and feel, believe and perceive. So the outside world influenced your decision, obviously, but who you are has an enormous role to play in what decision you reached. Well how did you get that way? By making other decisions in the past. And so on until eventually you are an infant and there is no "you" to speak of making decisions. "You" arise as a result of vast number of decisions that "you" made in the past. Eventually, your decisions are enormously caused by all those other decisions, and not just the environment. If you wanted to say "what made him choose that over something else?", the answer in this case cannot be tracked down to any manageable number of factors, it is the result of a vast process with enormous complexity (in terms of the physical process). The only manageable answer is "he decided it." And discussing the "determined" nature of someone's actions gives no further insight, and is basically meaningless in such a context.

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I think there is determinism. Those forces aren't blind - evolution, for instance, rewarded life-preserving traits.

Reward and punishments are the actions of sentient beings. Evolution is a physical chemical process. There is not an iota of consciousness or purpose to it. Nature out side the workings of a few sentient beings is a dumb as a sack full of anchors and has just about as much purpose. As to evolution itself, it is kind of a filter. It is the result of matching the characteristics of living things to the conditions in which they live. If their characteristics are such that the successfully reproduce, then these characteristics are carried on to the next generation. If the characteristics are such as to produce lack of reproductive success, then the characteristics are lost. There is as much reward in evolution as a small potato (in potato sorter) going through a large hole and a large potato not going through a small hole. In short, no purpose, no end, to teleology. It is insentient physical and chemical process at work.

Bob Kolker

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I will concede that we are all determined, choice is an illusion, and arguments for compatibilism (in respect to choice) are often made from of fear that someone's morality will be challenged.

...

That's my 2 cents.

2 cents doesn't buy much these days.

To be able to identify an illusion, one has to be able first to identify reality -- one is contending, with the concept of "illusion," that something only appears to be real, but that it is not real, that instead it is an illusion, seeming to be real, distinct from the real, in contrast to the real. First one has to grasp the real, then one can grasp the illusory.

In this case, with respect to choice, to hold that choices are illusions assumes that there are choices that are not illusions, real choices, that one is distinguishing them from, yet you deny that there are. So what then would real choices be? Since you are "certain" that there are no real choices, what would real choices be like were there any? (It's rhetorical; I accept you at your word, that whatever you have to say, you had to say. You cannot help it.)

You'll never escape the fact that you do indeed make actual, real, choices, unless you are, as you profess to be, an automaton that had to come here and state that you, your "thoughts" and actions, are determined, that you can't help what you "think" or do, that whatever you "think" or do, you simply had to.

Psychological determinism suffers from an inescapable self-contradiction; it is false. Simple logic give you that much even if you do not understand anything else about volition or choice. If your "views" are determined, if they are what they are, not volitionally, but simply because you had to hold them regardless of fact and truth, then that applies to your professed "view" that you have no choices, that you are psychologically determined. You're simply blurting it out as an arbitrary article of faith. You could not help it.

That which a man does, declare the advocates of determinism, he had to do--that which he believes, he had to believe--if he focuses his mind, he had to--if he evades the effort of focusing, he had to--if he is guided solely by reason, he had to be--he couldn't help it.

But if this were true, no knowledge would be possible to man. No theory could claim greater plausibility than any other--including the theory of psychological determinism.

Man is neither ominscient nor infallible. This means: (a) that he must work to achieve his knowledge, and (b ) that the mere presence of an idea inside his mind, does not prove that the idea is true; many ideas may enter a man's mind which are false. But if man believes what he has to believe, if he is not free to test his beliefs against reality and to validate or reject them--if the actions and content of his mind are determined by factors that may or may not have anything to do with reason, logic and reality--then he can never know if his conclusions are true or false.

To think is an act of choice. The key to what you so recklessly call “human nature,” the open secret you live with, yet dread to name, is the fact that man is a being of volitional consciousness. Reason does not work automatically; thinking is not a mechanical process; the connections of logic are not made by instinct. The function of your stomach, lungs or heart is automatic; the function of your mind is not. In any hour and issue of your life, you are free to think or to evade that effort. But you are not free to escape from your nature, from the fact that reason is your means of survival—so that for you, who are a human being, the question “to be or not to be” is the question “to think or not to think.”

Fear that someone's morality will be challenged?

Dictatorship and determinism are reciprocally reinforcing corollaries: if one seeks to enslave men, one has to destroy their reliance on the validity of their own judgments and choices—if one believes that reason and volition are impotent, one has to accept the rule of force.

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Reward and punishments are the actions of sentient beings. Evolution is a physical chemical process. There is not an iota of consciousness or purpose to it. Nature out side the workings of a few sentient beings is a dumb as a sack full of anchors and has just about as much purpose. As to evolution itself, it is kind of a filter. It is the result of matching the characteristics of living things to the conditions in which they live. If their characteristics are such that the successfully reproduce, then these characteristics are carried on to the next generation. If the characteristics are such as to produce lack of reproductive success, then the characteristics are lost. There is as much reward in evolution as a small potato (in potato sorter) going through a large hole and a large potato not going through a small hole. In short, no purpose, no end, to teleology. It is insentient physical and chemical process at work.

Bob Kolker

You assume that there is some transcendent purpose to human life. The same general process of evolution is the same one that guides learning and adaptation in a sentient being. Sentience gives its possessor the benefit of foresight, so that only bad ideas die, not actual units in reality. Variation, trial and error, adaptation. Just because you have the ability to deal abstractly with ideas before their appearance in the world (ie, knowing 2 and 2 will make 4 before seeing the 4), and that you can experience the process of volition, doesn't make it any different than your potato sorter. It's much more sophisticated, but is born out of evolution and reflective of it.

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Psychological determinism suffers from an inescapable self-contradiction; it is false. Simple logic give you that much even if you do not understand anything else about volition or choice. If your "views" are determined, if they are what they are, not volitionally, but simply because you had to hold them regardless of fact and truth, then that applies to your professed "view" that you have no choices, that you are psychologically determined. You're simply blurting it out as an arbitrary article of faith. You could not help it.

There needs to be more attention to definition here. The arguments concerning determinism are nearly all in an ethical context. Determinism is in fact taken to mean, and is used to justify views, based on the idea that men cannot change their views. The rational faculty of the mind can change views, but ultimately does depend on what it is able to learn and gain from the outside world. A tremendous amount can be learned from mere observation of spatial relationships, time, cause and effect. From these observed concepts, a lot can be extrapolated. But knowledge is still determined by the available observational data. Greater minds can go further with this data. "Those who stand on the shoulder of giants" that benefit from centuries of civilization can go farther. And individual man can make new discoveries.

But a man's views are still products of, although complex, determined factors. Suggesting otherwise says that man makes his reality, that the mind has the ability to create what is real, and no the other way around.

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There needs to be more attention to definition here. The arguments concerning determinism are nearly all in an ethical context. Determinism is in fact taken to mean, and is used to justify views, based on the idea that men cannot change their views. The rational faculty of the mind can change views, but ultimately does depend on what it is able to learn and gain from the outside world. A tremendous amount can be learned from mere observation of spatial relationships, time, cause and effect. From these observed concepts, a lot can be extrapolated. But knowledge is still determined by the available observational data. Greater minds can go further with this data. "Those who stand on the shoulder of giants" that benefit from centuries of civilization can go farther. And individual man can make new discoveries.

But a man's views are still products of, although complex, determined factors. Suggesting otherwise says that man makes his reality, that the mind has the ability to create what is real, and no the other way around.

The process is inextricably complex, and a man's views are the result of countless decisions made by him going back to when he was a small child. You cannot possibly explain a person's present decision by referencing all the factors that created it (i.e. "at age 4...", "on October 19th...", etc.) because it is far too complex, and for virtually every decision there would be hundreds or thousands of past events required in order to create the structure that would justify saying that his behavior was "determined" (that it could not possibly have been otherwise given the past). The task is far more complex a task than anything a human could ever do, the processes are far too complex, far too sensitive to tiny changes in conditions. It would require some god-like superbeing to begin such a task, and it is quite possible that it simply cannot be done (thanks to quantum mechanics and the uncertainty it creates).

That is why we have a concept of "self": it is the originator of "our" actions, it is the ghost in the machine, the unified entity that is required for meaningful communication, planning, etc. The nature of human consciousness requires that we experience ourselves as a unified thing, a homonculus pulling levers inside our skulls, because that is what allows us to be a person, with goals and desires and beliefs and values, lets us plan, lets us build, everything we do that isn't simply whatever a chimp would do. Volitional choice by a unified entity called "I" is the only way to understand ourselves and others, the only way to communicate, think, or act. Not just because it is comforting. But to try to dispense with it and say "oh well he had to do it because of..." would be an impossible task. Without an "I" which chooses freely (i.e. volitionally), you cannot explain a man's actions, you cannot ascribe a cause beyond saying "well that's what he would do," which is a tautology and requires an explanation in terms of a detailed examination of what made him that way (which is impossible to complete). Volitional choice is the only explanation for the behavior of human beings, it is axiomatic just as Objectivism holds, but even is required to describe the cause of human behavior (above and beyond the problems in epistemology determinism causes).

While the universe may be deterministic (though this is not certain), human beings still have free will in any meaningful sense of the word.

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The process is inextricably complex, and a man's views are the result of countless decisions made by him going back to when he was a small child. You cannot possibly explain a person's present decision by referencing all the factors that created it (i.e. "at age 4...", "on October 19th...", etc.) because it is far too complex, and for virtually every decision there would be hundreds or thousands of past events required in order to create the structure that would justify saying that his behavior was "determined" (that it could not possibly have been otherwise given the past). The task is far more complex a task than anything a human could ever do, the processes are far too complex, far too sensitive to tiny changes in conditions. It would require some god-like superbeing to begin such a task, and it is quite possible that it simply cannot be done (thanks to quantum mechanics and the uncertainty it creates).

That is why we have a concept of "self": it is the originator of "our" actions, it is the ghost in the machine, the unified entity that is required for meaningful communication, planning, etc. The nature of human consciousness requires that we experience ourselves as a unified thing, a homonculus pulling levers inside our skulls, because that is what allows us to be a person, with goals and desires and beliefs and values, lets us plan, lets us build, everything we do that isn't simply whatever a chimp would do. Volitional choice by a unified entity called "I" is the only way to understand ourselves and others, the only way to communicate, think, or act. Not just because it is comforting. But to try to dispense with it and say "oh well he had to do it because of..." would be an impossible task. Without an "I" which chooses freely (i.e. volitionally), you cannot explain a man's actions, you cannot ascribe a cause beyond saying "well that's what he would do," which is a tautology and requires an explanation in terms of a detailed examination of what made him that way (which is impossible to complete). Volitional choice is the only explanation for the behavior of human beings, it is axiomatic just as Objectivism holds, but even is required to describe the cause of human behavior (above and beyond the problems in epistemology determinism causes).

While the universe may be deterministic (though this is not certain), human beings still have free will in any meaningful sense of the word.

You are correct. Yet, there are still people who argue ethically that because 'the universe' and not 'your soul' is what contributes to your choices, you should not be held morally accountable - or at the very least argue for a relativistic morality. To counter this argument, many appeal to the the concept of free will. Trying to explain that there is some unknowable boundary between volition and deterministic forces, and therefore moral absolutism is possible, is the wrong way of making the argument. That is my point. You have explained a 'correct' way of arguing for objective ethics, explaining volition from the proper context.

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Some of you still don't get it. Free will is not a convenient term to assess that it is all too complex to ever figure out, it is a fact of reality that you have control of your consciousness and control over your life by your free will. If you are going to start at the level of knowing about molecular and atomic and particle interactions, then you are starting at the wrong place. The place to start is what you observe about yourself, and what you observe about yourself is that you have free will. This is not an illusion and it is not a way of throwing up your hands in futility and saying it can't be explained so we might as well accept it. You all chose to reply the way you did, with your mistaken metaphysical views of claiming that everything is deterministic. An introspective observation will show you in short order that you do indeed make decisions -- and that you make decisions in context is not a refutation of free will, but rather an application of free will. For to hold the context requires and act of will, it is not automatic to keep in mind everything you know about the facts and what a decision will do to your life in the long-run. You have to do that of your own free will. And your knowledge of molecules and particles and the past and decisions you made were all realized by your free will of keeping the context and learning as you go. None of that knowledge of science and history came to you automatically -- you had to learn to control your own mind before you could have gained all of that knowledge. And you are going to have to use your free will -- of checking your premises -- to overcome the intellectual quagmire you have embroiled yourself into. Go by the facts, not some rationalistic conclusion not based upon the facts. Man has free will, and that is a fact. And since it is a fact, you have to adjust your metaphysics to include that fact -- and you have to do it of your own free will. No amount of reading these posts will do it for you, which is obvious to any observe of this discussion, since this discussion has been going on for so long and you still haven't gotten it.

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Some of you still don't get it. Free will is not a convenient term to assess that it is all too complex to ever figure out, it is a fact of reality that you have control of your consciousness and control over your life by your free will. If you are going to start at the level of knowing about molecular and atomic and particle interactions, then you are starting at the wrong place. The place to start is what you observe about yourself, and what you observe about yourself is that you have free will. This is not an illusion and it is not a way of throwing up your hands in futility and saying it can't be explained so we might as well accept it. You all chose to reply the way you did, with your mistaken metaphysical views of claiming that everything is deterministic. An introspective observation will show you in short order that you do indeed make decisions -- and that you make decisions in context is not a refutation of free will, but rather an application of free will. For to hold the context requires and act of will, it is not automatic to keep in mind everything you know about the facts and what a decision will do to your life in the long-run. You have to do that of your own free will. And your knowledge of molecules and particles and the past and decisions you made were all realized by your free will of keeping the context and learning as you go. None of that knowledge of science and history came to you automatically -- you had to learn to control your own mind before you could have gained all of that knowledge. And you are going to have to use your free will -- of checking your premises -- to overcome the intellectual quagmire you have embroiled yourself into. Go by the facts, not some rationalistic conclusion not based upon the facts. Man has free will, and that is a fact. And since it is a fact, you have to adjust your metaphysics to include that fact -- and you have to do it of your own free will. No amount of reading these posts will do it for you, which is obvious to any observe of this discussion, since this discussion has been going on for so long and you still haven't gotten it.

I do get it. Volition is axiomatic. But people will always want to know "But if the laws of physics are deterministic (and we don't know if they are or not, btw), then where's the free will?" That is a legitimate question. Saying "volition exists" does not explain how it comes to be, or how exactly it is compatible with deterministic physics. The point I am trying to make is that volition arises from the fact that it is impossible to describe the huge number of things which affected that decision, all the things in that person's past which affected how they decided, what was going on in their head, all the conditions which may have affected them, etc. You simply cannot do it, no small set of things could ever get you there (or even a large set of things). It is quite possible that the limits of information allowed ANY being by the laws of physics would still make it impossible to know with certainty what someone will do prior to their doing it. And so even if physics is deterministic, it is meaningless to say that that is what made them do it. There were a vast number of possible futures given the conditions (that is, our knowledge, or possible knowledge of the conditions), and so physics is not an explanation. The only meaningful explanation is the very one we give ourselves, the concept of ourselves which we have, which provides us with reasons for our actions, which has intent, etc.

My point is that while volition is axiomatic in the sense that Objectivism holds (knowledge is impossible without it), it is also axiomatic even disregarding that. It is impossible to understand anything anyone has ever done, without adopting what Daniel Dennett calls the "intentional stance," i.e. the view of things in terms of people rather than particle-systems, in terms of motivations and desires instead of neural pathways and firings. You can't plan without adopting this volitional "I" in your thinking, you couldn't even function. Our experience of ourselves as volitional entities is not an option, it is a requirement of consciousness, a requirement of life, it is the base upon which our lives are built, upon which we can have this conversation, upon everything anyone has ever done. Volition is compatible with a deterministic physics, precisely because physics does not include people, no list of forces can actually describe "why" someone does something. The only explanation that is possible is that "he chose to." This answer is not optional, it is the only way we can function, it is the basic root upon which our understanding of ourselves is built. We are physical, our minds are physical, their workings are physical. But even given all that, and a deterministic physics, we still have free will, we still have choice, we still "could have done otherwise" in any meaningful sense, and as such are still capable of knowledge and responsibility. Saying that free will isn't magical doesn't reduce it, it doesn't make it meaningless, and trying to figure out what it is and how it functions does not destroy it. I fully understand that volition is axiomatic, just as sense-perception is axiomatic. But that doesn't stop us from trying to figure out how our senses work. Nor should it stop us from trying to figure out how volition works in a universe governed by physical laws (that do not reference choice or consciousness).

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I do get it. Volition is axiomatic. But people will always want to know "But if the laws of physics are deterministic (and we don't know if they are or not, btw), then where's the free will?" That is a legitimate question. Saying "volition exists" does not explain how it comes to be, or how exactly it is compatible with deterministic physics.

By the nature of an axiom, you cannot get beneath it. All knowledge about it comes after the fact of recognizing it and is therefore a higher-level knowledge than the axiom. In other words, let's say we discover some day that a particular cell arrangement in the cerebral cortex is what makes volition possible -- the physical means of volition has been discovered. Beings with this cellular arrangement have volition, and without it they don't. Even if that is discovered some day, you have not answered the question you raise because the fact that you have volition is a primary. You had to have volition in order to organize your own mind to comprehend what a cell is and what a brain is and how it works required volitionally adhering to the facts of reality.

Similarly, you claim to acknowledge that the senses are axiomatic. What this means is that you can never get beneath the fact that when you look at a rose you see it as red. No amount of knowledge regarding how the eyes work or the optic nerves nor the physics of light gets you beneath the fact that when you see a rose you experience it as red.

The nature of an axiom is that it comes first -- not after a long investigation. The axioms are first-level knowledge and are verified via observation as understood by a conceptual consciousness. No amount of knowledge about physics will get you beneath the fact that existence exists, things are what they are, they act according to their nature, that man has volition, or that you experience red while looking at certain things.

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By the nature of an axiom, you cannot get beneath it. All knowledge about it comes after the fact of recognizing it and is therefore a higher-level knowledge than the axiom. In other words, let's say we discover some day that a particular cell arrangement in the cerebral cortex is what makes volition possible -- the physical means of volition has been discovered. Beings with this cellular arrangement have volition, and without it they don't. Even if that is discovered some day, you have not answered the question you raise because the fact that you have volition is a primary. You had to have volition in order to organize your own mind to comprehend what a cell is and what a brain is and how it works required volitionally adhering to the facts of reality.

Similarly, you claim to acknowledge that the senses are axiomatic. What this means is that you can never get beneath the fact that when you look at a rose you see it as red. No amount of knowledge regarding how the eyes work or the optic nerves nor the physics of light gets you beneath the fact that when you see a rose you experience it as red.

The nature of an axiom is that it comes first -- not after a long investigation. The axioms are first-level knowledge and are verified via observation as understood by a conceptual consciousness. No amount of knowledge about physics will get you beneath the fact that existence exists, things are what they are, they act according to their nature, that man has volition, or that you experience red while looking at certain things.

Sure, but a determinist will not accept "volition is axiomatic." Someone's obviously tried that. And to have a backup argument, one based on how it would arise, and how exactly it can be fully compatible with a deterministic physics, is valuable. That is how you can convince someone that they are wrong, if they proclaim themselves to be rational. Most determinists I've encountered are scientists, and so while they may not accept an axiomatic argument, if you can also provide them with a naturalistic one, then they are likely to accept it. Once they've gotten that, then you may go back to that other argument. Having an explanation for how volition may arise, why it is axiomatic (all the reasons it is inescapable, of which I raised at least one that I have not heard before in Objectivist circles), and how it is compatible with a deterministic physics are valuable tools to have in your arsenal. I'm not saying that is the best way to go about it, but if someone will not accept an axiomatic explanation, then a naturalistic one can't hurt (and it may just convince them).

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