This is exactly the model of free will I argue in favour for in my
book Theory of Nothing. Thanks 1Z - this is well put. Not that it will
convince the others who argue that free will is excluded  by being
neither deterministic nor random. That debate will rage for


On Fri, Nov 19, 2010 at 04:28:51AM -0800, 1Z wrote:
> I.1.v Libertarianism — A Prima Facie case for free will
> These arguments are not to be regarded as finalising the issue of free
> will, but only of showing that there is a case to be answered.
>    1. The existence of the introspective sense of free will.
> (Determinists will quickly tell you this is down to not understanding
> the causes of our actions — but why don't we intuitively see our
> actions as being random, or, for that matter determined by unknown
> causes? (Determinism by unknown causes is certainly thinkable, after
> all it is just what the determinist thinks. It is not as if we can't
> conceive of either of those).
>    2. The tendency to value freedom. (No-one, not even a determinist,
> would want a benevolent dictator making their decisions, even if the
> decisions in questions were better than the ones they would have
> made).
>    3. Our ability to detect greater and lesser amounts of 'robotic' or
> 'zombie' like behaviour in others.
>    4. Creativity and innovation. (Determinists often make a hand-
> waving argument (like this)listing all the external influences that go
> to act on an individual, and conclude that there is no room left for
> any individual contribution. But then why aren't we still in caves ?)
> It is often claimed that free will is an inherently contradictory
> idea, or that if free will is possible at all, it must be somehow
> magical or supernatural. We intend to argue against both these claims
> by building a consistent theoretical model of free will could work in
> an indeterminstic universe, that is entirely naturalistic.
> It is often objected that a random event cannot be rational or
> responsible. However, human decision-making is not an individual event
> occurring at the atomic level, it is a very complex process involving
> billions of neurons. It is often assumed that indeterminism can only
> come into play as part of a complex process of decision-making when
> the deterministic element has reached an impasse, and indeterminism
> has the "casting vote" (like an internalised version of tossing a coin
> when you cannot make up your mind). This model, which we call the
> Buridan model, has the advantage that you have some level of
> commitment to both courses of action; neither is exactly against your
> wishes. It is, however, not so good for rationality and self-control.
> The indetermistic coin-toss can reasonably be seen as "the" crucial
> cause of your decision, yet it is not under your control.
> In our model, by contrast, the indetermistic element is moved back in
> the descision-making process. A funtional unit we call the "Random
> Idea Generator" proposed multiple ideas and courses of action, which
> are then pruned back by a more-or-less deterministic process called
> the "Sensible Idea Selector". (This arrangement is structurally
> modelled on random mutation and natural selection in Darwinian
> theory). The output of the R.I.G is "controlled" in the sense that the
> rest of the system does not have to act on its proposals. It can
> filter out anything too wild or irrational. Nonetheless, in a
> "rewinding history" scenario, the individual could have acted
> differently, as requied by libertarian free will, because their R.I.G.
> could have come out with different proposals — and it would still be
> something they wanted to do, because it would not have been translated
> into action without the consent of the rest of the neural apparatus.
> (As naturalists, we take it that a "self" is the sum total of neural
> activity and not a ghost-in-the-machin).
> It could be argued that placing indeterminism at the source of
> decision-making in this way means that our decisions are ultimately
> unfounded. We respond that being able to give a rational account of
> your actions, the reasons behind them, the reasons behind those
> reasons and so on to infinity is setting the bar too high. In real
> life, nobody is that rational.
> We also comment on the definitions of free will and determinism, the
> alleged empirical evidence against free will and the existence and
> significance of genuine indeterminism.
> Of course, being able to build a model of it does not show that that
> free will actually exists, but the claim is made that it is
> impossible, that there is no way of conceiving it, and the appropriate
> response to such a claim is in fact to conceive of it. We are only
> arguing for its possibility, and how else do you argue for the
> possibility of something other than showing that it can be posited to
> exist without entailing any contradiction?
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Prof Russell Standish                  Phone 0425 253119 (mobile)
UNSW SYDNEY 2052               

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