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 How Free Will And Indeed All Of Freedom Does Not Exist In A Causal Universe.

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PostSubject: How Free Will And Indeed All Of Freedom Does Not Exist In A Causal Universe.   Fri Jan 09, 2009 11:20 am

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The basic argument of hard determinism is as follows:

P1: No action is free if it must occur.

P2: For any event X there are antecedent causes that ensure the occurrence of X in accordance with impersonal, mechanical causal laws.

C: No action is free.

The hard determinist defends each premise as follows:

P1 simply expresses what is meant by “free”. Surely if an act must occur, it can't be free.

P2 is the Thesis of Determinism — the notion that every event is caused in accordance with causal laws, which account completely for its occurrence. Obviously (for the hard determinist), nothing is uncaused. We can't even imagine what it would mean for a thing to be “uncaused.” The hard determinist claims that P2 is thus indubitable. (If you doubt P2 anyway, try to produce a counterexample — an instance of an uncaused event.)

Thus, since causes guarantee that their effects occur — that is, if the cause is present, the effect must occur — and since everything that happens is the effect of some cause or set of causes, everything must occur. So nothing is free.

Now, people often argue that P2 is true for the vast majority of events but is false for some human actions. Humans are different from mere things, people say. The hard determinist anticipates this objection, and gives the following argument to establish determinism for human actions:

P1: No action is free if it must occur.

P2: Human actions result from wants, wishes, desires, motivations, feelings, etc.

P3: Human wants, wishes, desires, motivations, feelings, etc. are caused in turn by specific antecedent conditions that ensure their occurrence.

C: Human actions are not free.

Thus, for the hard determinist, humans are no different from other things. Your present actions are part of a causal chain that extends back far before your birth, and each link of the chain determines the next link on the chain. Hence, although it may appear to you that you have control over your present actions and mental states, you really have no control. And if you have no control, you certainly can't be held morally responsible for what you do. Thus hard determinism, if true, is important as an challenge to the very enterprise of normative ethics, which usually assumes people can be held responsible for at least some of their actions.

Hard determinists can present their argument in a couple of other ways also. Both these arguments are of the reductio ad absurdum form, i.e., their strategy is to demonstrate that absurd consequences follow from the supposition that people are free.

Suppose your will were free. This would mean that your actions were not determined by causal laws. If no causal laws governed your actions, then it would be impossible to predict what you are going to do. But in fact people who know you can predict what you will do, with a fair amount of accuracy. And if they couldn't — if your actions were completely unpredictable — they'd probably say NOT that you were free, but that you were crazy. So your actions must be controlled by causal law.


Again, suppose your will were free. This means your actions are freely chosen, and you're morally responsible for them. How then do you make your choices? Either it's an accident that you choose as you do or it's not. If it's an accident, i.e., if you choose randomly or by chance, then it's just a matter of chance that you didn't choose otherwise. So how can you be held morally responsible for choosing as you did? On the other hand, if you didn't choose by accident, then that means there's a causal explanation for your choice, and this confirms hard determinism.

If hard determinism is correct, then,


There can be no freedom in the sense required for morality.



There is no point in punishing or blaming or putting down those who do “wrong,” since they cannot help it. Indeed, there is no point in making value judgments of any kind about other people. People are not “better” or “worse”; they are only different. And if you differ from someone else, you differ, period. If you change, it's because you “have it in you” already to change; if you don't change, you simply “don't have it in you” and can't be blamed.



The notion of sin becomes incoherent. If sin is incoherent, then fundamental doctrines of Christianity (e.g., redemption from sin) are pointless.



Persons cannot be thought of as in any way “special” or “higher” than other animal species or physical objects. Thus, the interests of humans should not necessarily automatically be thought to override the interests of animals or plants.

However, the hard determinist does not think these consequences are necessarily bad. In fact, some hard determinists argue that the consequences might be very good. You can create a much better world, they argue, once you abandon the outdated notion of freedom. For example, B. F. Skinner argues that since people are the result of their conditioning, and will get conditioned by their upbringing and environments anyway, we ought to control people's upbringing and environments as much as possible to ensure that their conditioning is positive. The science of psychology, particularly Skinner's behaviorist principles of positive and negative reinforcement, can and should be applied to this task. Such a plan would be far better than the current situation, in which people's conditioning is more or less random; receiving positive conditioning is now just a matter of luck. But because people's actions and feelings are determined, you can create a perfect society simply by figuring out how to condition people so they don't do anything harmful, make a contribution to society, and have a happy consciousness.

Note that Skinner does not discount the importance of feeling free. Like all the interesting hard determinists, he acknowledges as an empirical fact of psychology that people prefer doing what they want to do, and prefer not to be coerced into doing what they don't want to do. Any happy society must take into account what people actually want. But since the hard determinist thinks that people's wants are determined by conditioning, s/he does not place any special emphasis on what people want right now, or what they have wanted at at various points in history. Social order depends on manipulating people's wants, so they voluntarily choose what they have actually been programmed to choose.

Freud and the ethologists (e.g., Konrad Lorenz) and sociobiologists (e.g., Richard Dawkins) are determinists of a different stripe, somewhat less optimistic and utopian than Skinner. Like Skinner, they discount the importance of people's actual desires. Actual conscious human wants are simply data, symptoms, residues of evolution or previous conditioning or manifestations of mental structures over which the individual has no control. Human subjectivity has no special status or meaning. Unlike Skinner, Freud and the ethologists posit strong unconscious forces determining desire. These forces are built into human nature by evolution; thus, unfortunately, although these forces might be quite unsavory, they are not going to go away quickly. And they are quite unsavory. Freud, for example, holds that during the so-called “Oedipal” period, everyone wants to have sex with the parent of the opposite sex and kill the parent of the same sex. Lorenz holds that aggression and territoriality and sexual competition are innate instinctive drives. Thus, we are destined to want (unconsciously) to dominate and subjugate others by violence, whether we consciously “want” to or not.

All these theories agree that free will is an illusion. According to the hard determinists, since hard determinism is the only scientifically defensible way to understand humanity, the concept of free will only hides the real issues and interferes with true self-knowledge.


http://instruct.westvalley.edu/lafave/FREE.HTM
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PostSubject: Re: How Free Will And Indeed All Of Freedom Does Not Exist In A Causal Universe.   Fri Jan 09, 2009 3:54 pm

The problem with a hard determinist stance is that a person in a determinist universe could not possibly evaluate their own arguments. Or, better put, they could never know if they were making any sense, since, of course, their belief in their arguments and these arguments' logic is determined like everything else. For all they know their argument does not make any sense but seems correct because, well, they are compelled to believe in it. So while believing in determinism is not problematic, engaging in debates, if one believes in it, it rather silly. Of course the determinist can say that they cannot help but participate, but few are willing to say this.
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PostSubject: Re: How Free Will And Indeed All Of Freedom Does Not Exist In A Causal Universe.   Sun Jan 11, 2009 11:37 am

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P1. The experience of free will is no more than an appearance.
P2. If the experience of free will is no more than an appearance, then people don't really have free will.
C1. So, people don't really have free will.


P1. If a choice is free, then it is not caused.
P2. If a choice is not caused, then it is a random occurrence.
P3. But, if a choice is free, then it is not a random occurrence.
C1. So, if a choice is free, then it is both a random occurrence and not a random occurrence, which is impossible.
C2. So, no choice can be free.

P1. Whatever future events will happen, it is now true that these future events will happen as they do. (E.g., if I will in fact sing tomorrow, then it is true, and it is true now, that I will sing tomorrow.)
P2. If it is now true that these future events will happen as they do, then it is now not possible for anyone to bring it about that any of these future events will not happen. (E.g., if it is now true that I will sing tomorrow, then it is now not possible for me to bring it about that I will not sing tomorrow.)
P3. If it is now not possible for anyone to bring it about that any of these future events will not happen, then people are not free with respect to any future events.
C1. So, people are not free with respect to any future events.

P1. Computers can perform every task that people can perform.
P2. Computers do not have free will.
C1. So, no task that people can perform requires that people have free will.
P3. If no human activity requires free will, then we have no reason to believe that people have free will.
P4. If we have no reason to believe that people have free will, then we should not believe that people have free will.
C2. So, we should not believe that people have free will.

P1. Things made only of matter can only have actions that are caused.
P2. Things that can only have actions that are caused do not have free will.
C1. So, things made only of matter do not have free will.
C2. So, if people are made only of matter, then people do not have free will.

P1. The entire human body (including the brain) is made up of cells each of which has no freedom of choice.
P2. If the entire human body (including the brain) is made up of cells each of which has no freedom of choice, then a human being cannot have freedom of choice.
C1. So, a human being cannot have freedom of choice.
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PostSubject: Re: How Free Will And Indeed All Of Freedom Does Not Exist In A Causal Universe.   Wed Jan 14, 2009 6:25 pm

Seems to make sense, right. But since it's you, The Fool, are completely determined to do and think what you do....

who knows?

It's just the 'that seems right' neurons that are being fired due to completely determined innner and outer causation.

Whether it applies to other people/creatures is something you will never be able to be sure of.


By the way, what computers can do what I do?
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PostSubject: Re: How Free Will And Indeed All Of Freedom Does Not Exist In A Causal Universe.   Fri Jan 16, 2009 10:16 pm

Creasy, a determinist in a determinist Universe can quite readily evaluate their position.

Rationality itself is inherently causal, if it were not then it would be meaningless. For us to evaluate something as correct requires that it fulfil certain conditions, and insofar as we are actually being rational there can only be one conclusion we can draw.

Ofcourse, different people do draw different conclusions, and that is because of their lesser or greater scope, and ability to fix the facts together, or because they have some desire that is stronger than their desire to be rational.

You are right that for all the determinist knows the argument is not correct, but simply seems so, but then this would be an even bigger problem if we believed in Free Will, as beliefs would be simply beaten around to fit whatever we 'freely willed'; were it even coherent to speak of 'free will'.

Engaging in debates is done purely because the determinist is determined to do so; because it is determined that they should enjoy it, because it is determined that they should find them fruitful. Evolution ensures that we have drives such as these, because people born without these drives fail and fall at the wayside.

I would also like to draw a distinction between hard determinism and materialist reductionism. While a hard determinist may be a material reductionist, they need not be, and may indeed even be an idealist. Suppose that all that exists is thought, how do we determine that everything is determined? By a simple expedient. Insofar as we understand an event to be explained we have described its cause, and so insofar as the Universe is explicable it is causal. We cannot say of any particular event 'it was uncaused' because quite simply it doesn't even make sense, we may as well speak of 3 sided squares.

Here is however where I backtrack some. It is possible that there are uncaused events. Why? Because of the beginning of the Universe. Either there is an infinite chain of causes or there was a first uncaused event; there is no other conceivable option and neither of these options is acceptable. They both make no sense, and so I have to concede that either is possible.

However, as I said before, insofar as the Universe is explicable it is causal, insofar as humans engage and exist within it is causal, and every part of human existence is causal. How do we know that? Well, for us to be aware of something requires that it be an effect with its own antecedent causes.

The Fool, you quote your passages, I would be interested to know where from?
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PostSubject: Re: How Free Will And Indeed All Of Freedom Does Not Exist In A Causal Universe.   Sun Jan 18, 2009 12:28 pm

Quote :
Seems to make sense, right. But since it's you, The Fool, are completely determined to do and think what you do....

who knows?

But if I am right that would make you determined too. It seems like you keep wanting to say I'm wrong.

( Or at the very least you are criticizing my hard determinism sentiments.)



Quote :
It's just the 'that seems right' neurons that are being fired due to completely determined innner and outer causation.

Maybe. Your talking to a subjectivist here. ( Solipsist too.)

If it seems right, it is right as far as I'm concerned. It's like that with everyone.

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Whether it applies to other people/creatures is something you will never be able to be sure of.

Yet you yourself will never be sure either. This is fun! Twisted Evil
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PostSubject: Re: How Free Will And Indeed All Of Freedom Does Not Exist In A Causal Universe.   Sun Jan 18, 2009 12:33 pm

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Psychonaut says:

The Fool, you quote your passages, I would be interested to know where from?

One of them should already have a link posted.

I'm not sure where the other quotation came from but I do remember it took me hours on the search engine to find it. ( Shrugs.)

Oh BTW I really enjoyed your post and couldn't find any fault with it. Smile
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