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SL: You're correct; volition and choice do SEEM to contradict determinism [in the sense of a newtonian universe] but it's not necessarily the case; it depends on whether you could have chosen otherwise in any given instance or not.

Objectivism says (to the best of my knowledge) that human beings, with volition, are never required to act a certain way while everything else is. This means that people have many possible courses of action while all plants, animals and inanimate objects have only one; this doesn't sit well with me, either.

But notice something about the entire question. Even if people COULD have chosen any action whatsoever, at any given time, they HAVE only chosen one.

The entire issue revolves around unobservable, necessarily unverifiable possibilities- on the basis that several alternatives seem possible UNTIL one is made actual.

So what if free will has less to do with choices than with imagined possibilities; hypothesis?

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 If reality is real and our acceptance of reality is conditional, then free will has more to do with an awareness of possibilities than anything else.

That's what I'm wondering.  Is volition the freedom to choose one of x possible actions- or the very concept of "possible actions"?

 

I DO have a feeling, a hope, and a suspicion that freewill is free in a very fundamental way... I merely have reserved judgment at this point, and point out inconsistencies which must be resolved.

And you're right; beings with open-ended futures, living in a deterministic universe, would be a contradiction which could be solved in one of two ways:

 

1-  Check the premise that the possible scenarios we imagine as the future are all equally possible, or somehow change FROM possible to actual

2-  Dispense with causality, via true randomness

 

Fundamental yes, but not absolute; one is free to choose heads or tails, but not to will the result.

I don't follow.

 

A few questions to ponder:

 

1.  Are human beings (specifically human mind/brains) natural entities of reality?

2.  Do all natural entities of reality have at any one time a particular identity, i.e do they obey the law of identity? 

3.  Does the law of identity as applied to action logically entail that an entity act in only one way at a given time, given its particular nature and the particular context?

4.  How does the answer to 3 apply to quantum mechanics (e.g. electrons or photons)?

5.  How does the answer to 3 apply to human beings, specifically minds/brains?

6. Given answers to 4 and 5 Is 3 really a law of all existents or only some existents?

7. If the answer to 6 is it is applicable to only some, then what in reality are the differences in the entities such that the application of identity to action is different?

1 through 3, of course.  It's very nearly self-evident.

4:  Hidden variables.

5:  Lots of variables, not so well hidden but more complex.

6:  Debatable; I see where you're going with this but I don't buy the Quantum Laws of Arbitrary.  They aren't compatible with the universe I can see and feel.  Anyway.  I would say it applies to everything.

 

7:  If the answer were only some then it would imply some Quantum explanation of the human mind; some reason causality failed all the way up to the macroscopic level.

But I think not.

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How about an alternate experiment (or not!)?

 

Instead of attempting to arbitrarily choose between two pseudo-random symbols (chosen by dice or eenie-meenie-miney-moe?), choose between 1 or 0; yes or no- and then examine why you chose it.  OR:

 

Play a game of Chess while contemplating volition, and notice the way you must plan out multiple possible strategies- specifically because you don't know what your opponent will do!

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That's what I'm wondering.  Is volition the freedom to choose one of x possible actions- or the very concept of "possible actions"?

Probably the latter...

 

I don't follow.

I'm comparing the exercise of free will to a coin toss;  one can choose heads or tails while the coin falls, but one cannot will the coin to land according to ones choice.  In terms of cause and effect, s**t happens in spite of ones determination and abilities.  So if volitional actions aren't sufficient to cause a desired outcome, what is the relevance of free will?

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That's what I'm wondering.  Is volition the freedom to choose one of x possible actions- or the very concept of "possible actions"?

 

And you're right; beings with open-ended futures, living in a deterministic universe, would be a contradiction which could be solved in one of two ways:

 

1-  Check the premise that the possible scenarios we imagine as the future are all equally possible, or somehow change FROM possible to actual

2-  Dispense with causality, via true randomness

 

I don't follow.

 

1 through 3, of course.  It's very nearly self-evident.

4:  Hidden variables.

5:  Lots of variables, not so well hidden but more complex.

6:  Debatable; I see where you're going with this but I don't buy the Quantum Laws of Arbitrary.  They aren't compatible with the universe I can see and feel.  Anyway.  I would say it applies to everything.

 

7:  If the answer were only some then it would imply some Quantum explanation of the human mind; some reason causality failed all the way up to the macroscopic level.

But I think not.

 

Your comment on 7 is informed by the accepted distinction in QM between the microscopic and the macroscopic, but that is something you do not actually accept.  Thus this cannot be your answer to the problem.  If it is "only some", the question remains as to which and why?

 

6. I'm not going anywhere.  I am showing the logical possibilities given the premises.  Impliedly I am asking for an "explanation".  What conclusion do you draw?  Is there a problem with the premise of identity applied to action being single valued or human beings consisting of natural "stuff" or human beings having free will or just what is going on? If you think I think QM is the answer, you would be incorrect.  Acceptance of QM, i.e. causality being multivalued WOULD solve the inconsistency of Objectivism with humans having a nature and yet free will, BUT as for the question of free will itself,  QM + macroscopic physics gives at most a complicated system being part deterministic and part random but does not necessarily lead to anything like what we conceive of as free will.

 

 

That said,this is how I see your position: you WILL not accept a single electron, something not of your ordinary perception, obeying a multivalued causation, i.e. acting in multiple ways given its same nature and same context, but you WILL accept that a complicated system, such as a human being (remember it is natural and made OF nothing but those things you impose determinism upon) which is on the level of your understanding, by some magical reason of the particular configuration, arrangement, and form OF those deterministic constituents, somehow becomes free of that determinism.

 

 

My position: currently I see no combination, no algorithm, no mechanism, no function, which can be arranged from any combination of deterministic and/or random systems or constituents which without being free of its own nature, can make decisions as a "first cause", which decisions are "free" BUT which ALSO as against all other choices are not random or capricious or acausal.

 

The above has contradictions... I conclude therefore that my concept of freewill itself must be incoherent.

 

 

My choices are free but are not free from the nature of me.  The only choices open to me are those in accordance with my nature and of those choices, the result of one being chosen as against any other, only here would any acausal or randomness be permitted and only in accordance with a probability profile amoungst those choices dictated by my nature.  In the end whether my choice IS determined by my nature in a single valued way (self-determinism from single valued causality) or randomly and probabilistically chosen from possible ones (multiple valued causality) according to my nature, does not matter. 

 

Essentially there is no me other than me to make the choice, so looking for "free" will outside of me and outside of my nature to make the choice FOR me is nonsensical and in fact removed the choice entirely from me.

 

 

This is why a real proof would deserve the Nobel prize.

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SL: If the answer to 6 were only some (which I find highly dubious, but if so) then the difference must be like the difference between, say, electricity and magnetism; superficial.

That is the ONLY possible solution to the problem posed by six. Anything else would be an attempt to attribute a contradiction to reality (and we know what that is).

Now, if you can think of a way that single and multi-valued causalities can not only coexist, but actually be two parts of the same thing, then please let me know; I would be very interested in such and might even reevaluate my opinions of QM.

Until then I'm operating under the assumption that only one outcome, in any situation, is ever possible.

---

My position is that nothing can act in multiple ways simultaneously, neither actually nor possibly; electrons nor human beings.

I think that the concept of possible actions, which we call "volition", IS a deterministic mechanism for the specific purpose of making inferences on sketchy data.

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I think that the concept of possible actions, which we call "volition", IS a deterministic mechanism for the specific purpose of making inferences on sketchy data.

... or perhaps an emergency release?

 

If we begin with the presumption that for mortal beings it's all about survival, then the perception of free will would primarily serve the purpose of avoiding self destruction.  The question that comes to mind is, "Can a rational man avoid stepping off the curb in front of a bus?"  If not, then the Determinists are correct and free will is substantially undermined.

 

I believe that momentary choice, i.e., free will, is genuine; that we can exert our will as a causal agent to effect an outcome that is different than one that might have occured had we done nothing, or exerted our will to some other end.  But this still has the feel of adding some spin to a coin in mid air...

 

... tails, the bus...

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SL: If the answer to 6 were only some (which I find highly dubious, but if so) then the difference must be like the difference between, say, electricity and magnetism; superficial.

That is the ONLY possible solution to the problem posed by six. Anything else would be an attempt to attribute a contradiction to reality (and we know what that is).

Now, if you can think of a way that single and multi-valued causalities can not only coexist, but actually be two parts of the same thing, then please let me know; I would be very interested in such and might even reevaluate my opinions of QM.

Until then I'm operating under the assumption that only one outcome, in any situation, is ever possible.

---

My position is that nothing can act in multiple ways simultaneously, neither actually nor possibly; electrons nor human beings.

I think that the concept of possible actions, which we call "volition", IS a deterministic mechanism for the specific purpose of making inferences on sketchy data.

 

I agree that 6 should likely, at least fundamentally, be applicable the same to all existents the same way.  i.e. either single valued to all fundamental particles, forces, fields etc. which I believe logically would entail single valued for all things and the entire universe, OR multi-valued to all fundamental particles, forces fields (multi valued does not exclude single valued given particular circumstances... just means in any circumstances 1 or more possible outcomes).

 

Perhaps thinking of identity and causality we should think of the entire system, the universe itself.

 

To me there are only 2 possibilities as regard to causality and the universe.

 

1. determinism: the universe, its state, i.e. absolutely everything about it, at 1 million years from now (and equally at every other moment in the future) is logically entailed by the universe "now", this is identity of the universe as applied to action or time evolution with SINGLE VALUED CAUSATION

2. non-determinism (probability, possibility etc.): a minimum of one littlest thing or aspect of the universe can at some time in the future be one of at least two different states i.e. can turn out to be one of at least two different possibilities, i.e. the universe "now" does not logically restrict the future to single valued certainty, there is some possibility for different outcomes.  This is identity of the universe as applied to action BUT with multivalued causation or time evolution  

 

To me 1. CANNOT allow free will, not because WILL is not free, but because there ARE no alternatives whatever.  Here there is no conundrum re the mechanism of choice and how free it is, there simply ARE NO choices.

 

If 2 is true, then the question as to how causality applies to give rise to different possibilities becomes relevant.  Does it apply the same way fundamentally to individual particles as it does to complex systems made up of those fundamental particles? Does causality so formulated admit of irreducible phenomena which emerge differently at different levels of complexity?  

 

Can a complex system made of single valued causative elements somehow behave according to multivalued causation?  How could such a thing be possible? 

 

The conundrum thereafter is then is whether and how choices of a human mind/brain are "free".  What are they free from and in what manner?

 

 

I personally would love to see a science of consciousness progress to a point where we can identify in physical systems things which give rise to consciousness and free will, not only would we understand our own brains (and those of our closely related animal friends and pets) but enable us to "make" sentient functioning systems very much like us.

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A few questions to ponder:

 

1.  Are human beings (specifically human mind/brains) natural entities of reality?

2.  Do all natural entities of reality have at any one time a particular identity, i.e do they obey the law of identity? 

3.  Does the law of identity as applied to action logically entail that an entity act in only one way at a given time, given its particular nature and the particular context?

4.  How does the answer to 3 apply to quantum mechanics (e.g. electrons or photons)?

5.  How does the answer to 3 apply to human beings, specifically minds/brains?

6. Given answers to 4 and 5 Is 3 really a law of all existents or only some existents?

7. If the answer to 6 is it is applicable to only some, then what in reality are the differences in the entities such that the application of identity to action is different?

 

1. Yes.  Existence is primary.  If your mind was not it would just be a floating consciousness...  Somewhere? 

2. Yes.  Existence is Identity.

3. The Law if Identity this way is cause and effect.  You do x to an object and y will happen.  You heat water to 212 degrees it will boil.

4. I'm not an expert on QM, but basic physics states the above.  The water boils at 212 degrees.  Since is the process of identifying an objects attributes. 

5.  Humans can choose to pause after x and decide if they want y to happen, or something else.  Between stimulus and response you can choose your action.  Mind you not everyone does this (thus a habit) but it is there, not every situation warrants a list of options, nor does the universe give you automatic knowledge of consequences (i.e. the effect).  You can choose to boil the water or not.  The water itself does not have a choice and will either boil or not based on the input it receives. 

6.  Both are the Law of Identity.  Objects act according to their nature. Humans act according to their nature.  Humans can choose to focus or go on autopilot.  . 

7.  The Law of Identity applies to everything.  The rub is that you have to understand the Identity of each thing and how it acts according to its nature.  Water will boil if heated.  Animals do not have free will and will instinctively react to it by not putting their paws into.  Humans can choose to react that way or consciously choose to put their hand in.  Odds are they won't since their hand will burn - They cannot escape the Laws of Identity – But they can do that if they choose to do so.   

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SL: You're correct; a single valued causality dictates that you are destined to do whatever you will do. The question is whether that is actually free will.

Thought experiment:

Suppose we, living in universe 1, had the capacity to calculate the state of everything in the universe throughout any period of time. We could, then, chart out the course of anyone's life; correct?

Now suppose we used this capacity to watch someone's lifespan; the chemicals in their brains, the context behind and mechanism of every single decision.

Now, if he is considering several possible careers, and we already know what he'll choose and why, does that mean he never really decided it? (if so then what if we hadn't looked?)

Is it about the possibility of doing otherwise- or doing what you do BECAUSE you've decided so?

Now consider that this scenario would require literal omniscience, which is physically impossible (not because of uncertainty; because knowledge required a physical structure which cannot be infinite).

Consider further that the second universe excludes the Newtonian laws of physics which are perceptually self-evident.

Physics demands that an object subjected to a force will accelerate a certain specific way, and this describes the world we all wake up to every morning. A multivalued causality demands at least two ways for the object to react, which (if true) would reduce all science to glamorized gambling (since nobody could ever describe the universe accurately; only random bits of it which couldn't be predicted by the scientist).

As I've pointed out before, any truly arbitrary entity could only inhabit an unknowable and incomprehensible universe; if so then this post, this forum and so much of our civilization is a waste of time and energy.

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If the Copenhagen interpretation of QM is correct and the laws of physics are violated once in every billion (or whatever) macroscopic interactions, then it's pointless to argue with Christians because one in a billion is right!

:-P

If so then Darwin was wrong that many times about the same theory, with the same referents.

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SL: You're correct; a single valued causality dictates that you are destined to do whatever you will do. The question is whether that is actually free will.

Thought experiment:

Suppose we, living in universe 1, had the capacity to calculate the state of everything in the universe throughout any period of time. We could, then, chart out the course of anyone's life; correct?

Now suppose we used this capacity to watch someone's lifespan; the chemicals in their brains, the context behind and mechanism of every single decision.

Now, if he is considering several possible careers, and we already know what he'll choose and why, does that mean he never really decided it? (if so then what if we hadn't looked?)

Is it about the possibility of doing otherwise- or doing what you do BECAUSE you've decided so?

Now consider that this scenario would require literal omniscience, which is physically impossible (not because of uncertainty; because knowledge required a physical structure which cannot be infinite).

Consider further that the second universe excludes the Newtonian laws of physics which are perceptually self-evident.

Physics demands that an object subjected to a force will accelerate a certain specific way, and this describes the world we all wake up to every morning. A multivalued causality demands at least two ways for the object to react, which (if true) would reduce all science to glamorized gambling (since nobody could ever describe the universe accurately; only random bits of it which couldn't be predicted by the scientist).

As I've pointed out before, any truly arbitrary entity could only inhabit an unknowable and incomprehensible universe; if so then this post, this forum and so much of our civilization is a waste of time and energy.

 

Careful of the logical leaps. Rationalists and Skeptics come to their sweeping statements by the same method.  Saying that in certain circumstances a polarized photon will pass through a polarization filter probabilistically does not logically entail an unknowable or incomprehensible universe, only that the particular outcome (as between 2 possibilities) of the photon is unknowable before hand.

 

It feels good to make them, and they sound cool, but sweeping statements need to be made with care.

 

 

 

Back to free will:  if you advocate determinism, the "free"ness of free will is essentially one of privacy or closedness of the process of a particular decision of the deciding system.   In that sense although NOT free from its nature, and not free from causality, the deciding system is free from external dictation of that decision.

 

If you had defined "free" of free will on the premise of being able to ACTUALLY choose otherwise, then determinism would logically exclude free will. 

 

 

What of volition?  What of moral judgement?  Why choose to live... well I suppose you can't... well you do but automatically...

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I do not consider intent to exclude inevitability; only the automatic (accidental).

If I will choose to do X in ten years, this does not remove the differennce between X and the genes I happen to have inherited. One is by my own design; the other is not.

I think the issue may stem from the bird's eye view of time which, while necessary to discuss the subject, necessarily omits the active process involved in volition.

---

Think of a great story; one you enjoy reading or watching repeatedly.

Does the plot's inevitable course make the characters seem any less real, human or free?

Do the ultimate fates of all those train passengers, in Atlas Shrugged, remove their intentions when deliberately climbing aboard?

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"Those who advocate determinism run into something of a contradiction, however, when they try to argue their point with those who argue for free will. If it is true that nothing is freely chosen, then those who believe in the existence of free will do not do so by choice - so what is the point of trying to convince them otherwise?" ~ from free will vs. determinism, http://atheism.about.com/library/glossary/general/bldef_freewill.htm

 

Determinism is God's will in a lab coat.

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HD:

 

You must admit, we experience possibility and choice from a first person perspective (lets say special insight), whereas we only observe external physical entities behaving in a deterministic (classical) or utterly probabilistic (QM) manner.

 

Note we have the same situation when we think of consciousness or experience, we can ONLY ever experience/observe our own consciousness, our own experiences, we could never know the actual experiences of another person, or a bat or "what it is like to be" a thermostat.

 

My point is we could never understand experience or consciousness as it actually "IS" to be those things from the point of view of something else... say an atom or a rock which has neither.  So in some fundamental sense, third person science of inanimate matter can NEVER tell us about a phenomenon we ACTUALLY experience.  A non-conscious, non-experiencing machine would be utterly incredulous at hearing that we "experience" what it is like to taste onions, "what it is like" to see red, to feel sad, to think or to blank out.  If our machine were also conceptually deficient it might be tempted to say that "The subsystem of the universe which happens to be you must be having the illusion of an experience"... (deficient indeed because an illusion IS an experience...).  Does not mechanism of the universe imply mechanism without experience.. or IS there "something it is like to be" a clock, a car or a thermostat?

 

Although I cannot think of why... I leave open the possibility that the same is true in a sense for free will... that no matter how long we stare at classical or QM systems, no matter how much we think about it, we perhaps will never see how "free" can "arise" out of determined + random.  Perhaps it is irreducible, the way consciousness experience is.  In other words perhaps we cannot simply throw out the concept of "free will" just because we can see no way of constructing it from our constituents.  Currently the same holds of consciousness.

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HD:

...

Although I cannot think of why... I leave open the possibility that the same is true in a sense for free will... that no matter how long we stare at classical or QM systems, no matter how much we think about it, we perhaps will never see how "free" can "arise" out of determined + random.  Perhaps it is irreducible, the way consciousness experience is.  In other words perhaps we cannot simply throw out the concept of "free will" just because we can see no way of constructing it from our constituents.  Currently the same holds of consciousness.

Free cannot arise out of determined; the two are antithetical, as are determined and randomFree will is antithetical to predestination as well.  But one with free will can act as a causal agent (one of many), e.g., I choose to tip the 1st domino, or I choose not to tip the 1st domino.  The wind may tip the 1st domino before I touch it, or a pebble may prevent it from toppling into the next domino.  If one argues that my choice to tip dominoes was caused like wind and pebbles, then proof lies in the identification and reproduction of every event back to a 1st cause, and lacking that, one must express faith that something other than oneself was responsible for the 1st domino falling, or not.

 

If a proper view of causality doesn't require (or can't deliver) the identification of a 1st cause, then free will combined with random action* fairly well accounts for the reality we experience, and Determinists are simply attempting to avoid personal responsibility for their actions.

--

* My use of the term random is meant to express actions that can't be accounted for.  One may presume that causality is reactive, i.e. that some action caused a following action to occur, but without identifying every prior action, every variable, in short, lacking omniscience, even causality lacks the kind of empirical proof that free will does.  Free will is apparently as true as consciousness and reality, by self evidence.

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Free cannot arise out of determined; the two are antithetical, as are determined and randomFree will is antithetical to predestination as well.  But one with free will can act as a causal agent (one of many), e.g., I choose to tip the 1st domino, or I choose not to tip the 1st domino.  The wind may tip the 1st domino before I touch it, or a pebble may prevent it from toppling into the next domino.  If one argues that my choice to tip dominoes was caused like wind and pebbles, then proof lies in the identification and reproduction of every event back to a 1st cause, and lacking that, one must express faith that something other than oneself was responsible for the 1st domino falling, or not.

 

If a proper view of causality doesn't require (or can't deliver) the identification of a 1st cause, then free will combined with random action* fairly well accounts for the reality we experience, and Determinists are simply attempting to avoid personal responsibility for their actions.

--

* My use of the term random is meant to express actions that can't be accounted for.  One may presume that causality is reactive, i.e. that some action caused a following action to occur, but without identifying every prior action, every variable, in short, lacking omniscience, even causality lacks the kind of empirical proof that free will does.  Free will is apparently as true as consciousness and reality, by self evidence.

 

Interesting thoughts to ponder...

 

For clarity what I meant by "determined + random" is a sort of combination, algorithmically or functionally of these two types of processes into a larger system.  Imagine a first black box whose inputs determine with certainty its output, then connect the output of that black box to a second black box which takes multiple inputs, it however produces a "probabilistic" output (has a  statistical correlation with the inputs .. i.e. it is somewhat limited by the inputs.. but any one output of this second box is within its limits "random"), this probabilistic output perhaps is input to a third black box with multiple inputs from multiple other black boxes, some of which are deterministic and some of which are not.... on and on.  The resulting system or algorithm or functioning is what I call "determined + random" .i.e. a combination of the two.

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...

For clarity what I meant by "determined + random" is a sort of combination, algorithmically or functionally of these two types of processes into a larger system.  Imagine a first black box whose inputs determine with certainty its output, then connect the output of that black box to a second black box which takes multiple inputs, it however produces a "probabilistic" output (has a  statistical correlation with the inputs .. i.e. it is somewhat limited by the inputs.. but any one output of this second box is within its limits "random"), this probabilistic output perhaps is input to a third black box with multiple inputs from multiple other black boxes, some of which are deterministic and some of which are not.... on and on.  The resulting system or algorithm or functioning is what I call "determined + random" .i.e. a combination of the two.

The problem I find with this approach is that determinism is inherent to mechanical models via the programming, i.e., a programmer worked out how to react in advance according to known variables, excluding unknowns for obvious reasons.  What you call, "determined + random" is essentially determined by programming, and your programmer becomes the "primary mover".  The result is a conclusion that is as vulnerable to argument as the programmer's free will;  what caused him to create the program he did, and could he have programmed it differently, or not at all??

 

What we are left with is the appearance of freely willed actions, i.e., intent, interacting with physically determined attributes, e.g., round shapes roll, square shapes stack, etc.,  that produce mixed outcomes; sometimes fulfilling, sometimes frustrating ones original intent.  If we discard free will based on discrepancies between ones intent and outcome, we might as well discard physical attributes based on discrepancies when round shapes fail to roll due to variables we can't account for, but exist nonetheless.

 

I keep coming back to Harrison's statement that free will is self awareness, because if free will doesn't exist, what is it that we are actually aware of?

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Could the Pope embrace Oism and institute accordant laws?

If you find the possibility of such rather *um* improbable, why? Doesn't the Pope have free will?

"You say that so often; I do not think it means what you think it means."

The Pope would not institute oist laws unless he understood and accepted Oism. He couldn't do such unless he invesigated it rationally which he cannot do if he is a self-consistent catholic.

Ergo the Pope cannot, by definition, do that.

The freedom to choose arbitrarily can be empirically refuted; the freedom to decide with logical consistency is another form of causality.

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DA: The very concept of a first cause implicitly assumes that causality has a cause.

What caused the first cause and what is the final effect, which causes nothing else?

Since everything is finite all things must begin and end, except (and necessarily so) existence itself.

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To clarify, briefly:

What caused the big bang? If God then who made God?

If a singularity (black hole) from another universe, what caused that?

Since all things are finite, the sum total of everything (cosmos, multiverse, whatever) must be infinite.

Causality itself cannot have a cause.

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