Thursday, March 3, 2022

Free Will is Called a Dice Throw

I have posted on free will many times. Here are some hard-core empiricists who deny free will.

From Coel's blog:

I get the compatibilist argument. You are essentially saying that if a cause is unknown, then it cannot be free will. In particular, if quantum mechanics is unable to determine something, then there is no free will involved. I am just noting that this opinion is not found in any quantum mechanics textbook or scientific paper. It is not based on any empirical data.
So your suggestion is that a “will” is responsible for the outcome of a “quantum indeterminacy” event and hence a brain’s decision? In that case we have one of:

1) The “will” is non-material, non-physical. This is dualism, a “soul” that is telling matter what to do and producing the brain’s decisions.

2) The “will” is physical, and is a manifestation of the state of the physical stuff. If so, this is straight back to determinism, such that the brain’s decisions are a product of the “will” and thus of the prior physical state. Essentially, this is just a “hidden variables” version of QM, where the indeterminacy is replaced by deterministic causation by the (physical) “will”. This then gives a compatibilist account of “will”.

3) The outcome is still indeterministic, that is, it is still a chance, dice-throwing process. Thus, the outcome is not caused by the “will” (regardless of whether that will is material or non-material), it is still a dice throw. But if so, I really don’t see how the brain’s decisions can be regarded as “willed”.

So I don’t see how this helps at all. Either the brain’s choices are determined by the prior state (call that a “will” if you wish), or they are chance dice throws. The latter doesn’t give a free “will”. The former gives compatibilism.

Here is a similar view:
“But plain old determinism is bad enough because it says that we human beings are all a pack of fools who think WE are doing things, like trying to defend a country from Putin’s aggression, when actually everything, including our own selves and what we do, is nothing but the outcome of deterministic laws of nature.”
As opposed to what? Like, what could your “thoughts”, “decisions” and “actions” be based on besides prior state of the world? Which is the definition of determinism… there’s only either causality or randomness, there’s nothing else out there to make you feel better about your own decisions/actions. One could maybe imagine a world where future outcomes influence retro-actively past decisions, with closed timelike loops (basically counterfactuals become a possibility), but even in that model a state is determined from a prior state (just that time is not strictly linear, and things evolve until some equilibrium is reached).

And if you posit you have a magical soul that’s somehow living outside a reality that’s covered by the law of physics, or your decisions are maybe influenced by an omnipotent god or some universal sense of good and evil, there’s still only two ways for dynamical systems to evolve: direct causality or randomness.

I don't know whether free will is material or physical. I do not know how to answer that question for an election, a wave function, or a Higgs field.

It is bizarre to me that he can imagine a world with closed timelike curves, but not one with free will.  

I do know that I experience free will. It is probably the one thing that conscious beings are most sure about. The compatibilists and other determinists say that I am being fooled. Okay, maybe, but I would like to see some explanation as to how I could be fooled so badly.

The above explanations are commonly given. I would rephrase them as:

Events are either predictable or not. Free will is very strange in that a human making a choice might be able to predict his own choice, while others cannot.
My reaction is: Okay, you think it is strange. But if you are taking a scientific stance, then you should either accept it as possible, or show me some empirical evidence against it.

There is no empirical evidence against it. Some claim that the Libet experiments disprove free will, but that has been debunked.

The above argument is that free will can be disproved by pure philosophizing about causality and randomness. The whole approach is foolish. People claim to be empiricists, but refuse to look at any empirical evidence.

Update: The March 7 NY Times Mini Crossword puzzle has this clue:

1. With 5-Across, philosophical concept opposed by determinism
The answer, of course, is Free will.

1 comment:

  1. Just one rapid note...

    Whenever you mention experimentation in order to validate free will, the materialist will take it as an opportunity to change the terms. He will set up a purely physical system, and ask (or try to persuade) you to discuss free will in reference to it --- which cannot be done, of course. (A purely physical system is one which is exclusively made of either inanimate objects or the inanimate aspects of living beings. By definition, only the laws governing the inanimate aspects are to be admitted in, for the latter.)

    Funny, but ditto for the "spiritualist"/ the mystic of the mind. He too will change the terms. But let me cover it some other day.

    The point is: They both change the terms. Which is a logical fallacy.