On 11/22/2010 8:40 AM, Bruno Marchal wrote:
On 21 Nov 2010, at 19:47, Rex Allen wrote:
On Fri, Nov 19, 2010 at 8:32 AM, Bruno Marchal <marc...@ulb.ac.be>
On 18 Nov 2010, at 07:31, Rex Allen wrote:
As for my definition of free will:
"The ability to make choices that are neither random nor caused."
Obviously there is no such ability, since "random" and "caused"
exhaust the possibilities.
But some people believe in the existence of such an ability anyway.
Why? Well...either there's a reason that they do, or there isn't...
I agree with you. With your definition of free will, it does not exist.
I think that if you question most people who believe in free will
closely, my definition is what their position boils down to.
But your reasoning does not apply to free will in the sense I gave: the
ability to choose among alternatives that *I* cannot predict in
that *from my personal perspective* it is not entirely due to reason
So that is a good description of the subjective feeling of free will.
I was not describing the subjective feeling of free will, which is
another matter, and which may accompany or not the experience of free
will. Free-will is the ability to choose among alternatives that *I*
cannot genuinely predict in advance so that reason fails, and yet it
is not random. This is independent of the subjective feeling of
free-will, where I am aware that I know that I don't know the reason
of my act. We can do that even in situation we believe (wrongly) that
we are following reason, and so in absence of any subjective feeling
of free will. Some self-ignorance plays a role, and we might be
ignorant of that self-ignorance.
Suppose you are in a situation in which you make a decision but don't
have the feeling of free will, e.g. some points a gun at you and says,
"You money or your life." You don't feel that you have free will; you
feel coerced. But that has nothing to do with whether the processes in
your brain are deterministic or have some stochastic component.
But if you question most people closely, this isn't what they mean by
You have interpret too much quickly what I was describing. Free-will
as I define it is not the subjective feeling of having free-will. It
is really due to the fact that the choice I will make is not based on
reason, nor on randomness from my (real) perspective (which exists).
Hmmm? The dichotomy Rex presents is "caused" (determined) vs random;
not reasoned vs random. Certainly decisions can be made which are not
reasoned, not consciously weighed, and yet are not random either, e.g
when I play tennis almost none of my actions are reasoned. But based on
our theories of the brain etc, they are caused.
It is indeed closer to the computational irreducibility. It is related
to some particular case of such an irreducibility, and its existence
can be justified from the logic of self-reference or from some other
use of the second recursion theorem of Kleene.
Subjective does not mean inexisting. Free-will is subjective or better
subject-related, but it exists and has observable consequences, like
purposeful murdering, existence of jails, etc. It is the root of moral
consciousness, or conscience.
They mean the ability to make choices that aren't random, but which
also aren't caused.
And this becomes, with the approach I gave: "the ability to make
choices that aren't random, but for which they have to ignore the
cause". And I insist: they might even ignore that they ignore the
cause. They will say "because I want do that" or things like that.
I disagree that many people would accept your definition, because it
would entail (even for religious rationalist believers) that free-will
does not exist, and the debate would be close since a long time.
They have the further belief that since the choices aren't random or
caused, the chooser bears ultimate responsibility for them.
They are right. That is what the materialist eliminativist will deny,
and eventually that is why they will deny any meaning to notion like
"person", free-will, responsibility or even "consciousness".
This further belief doesn't seem to follow from any particular chain
of reasoning. It's just another belief that this kind of person has.
Because as a person she is conscious and feel a reasonable amount of
sense of responsibility, which is genuine and legitimate from her
first person perspective (and from the perspective of machine having a
similar level of complexity).
Silly, I know.
It is not silly at all. That is why mechanism is not a reductionism,
and eventually "saves" the notion of person. That is why
consciousness, even if matter exists in some fundamental way, is not
When you say "random or not random", you are applying the third
middle which, although arguably true ontically, is provably wrong
personal points of view. We have p v ~p, but this does not entail
Bp v B~p,
for B used for almost any hypostasis (points of view).
I'd think that ontically is what matters in this particular case?
I don't see why. A murderer remains a murderer independently of the
ontic level, be it particles, waves, fields, or number relations. We
just don't live at the ontic level, we cannot even experience it, only
make third person theories, testable experimentally, not testable
exclusively from a first person perspective. That is why science per
se has no direct practical bearing on moral issues, even the
(theoretical) science of ethics. That is why, also, no one, nor any
group of people, can decide for *you* what is good or bad for *you*.
If they do, it means they have a personal agenda in which you are
considered as an object, not as a subject. Run away, if you can.
I'm reading Sam Harris' new book "The Moral Landscape" the thesis of
which is that morals and ethics (I like to distinguish them as private
and public values) can be objective in the way that health is objective
and that we should study them scientifically. One of the objections to
this idea is that it implies that someone else might be able to decide
what is "objectively" good and bad for you. Sort of like Smullyan's
fictional machine that could decide what you believed for you. That
sounds wrong on the surface, but on the other hand most of us have lived
long enough to know that we can be mistaken about what is good or bad
for us. So when you say "no one, nor any group of people, can decide
for *you* what is good or bad for *you*" I take it you are just denying
that someone can take your decision away and yet leave you with the
responsibility - not that some smart person who knows you well couldn't
sometimes make a better decision for you than you would.
Why would I care about whether or why I or anyone else *seem* to have
free will from their personal points of view?
They do *have* free-will. They genuinely makes decisions which cannot
be attributed to reason or randomness, from their point of view and
from the points of view of any machines having a similar complexity.
If you believe that the fact that the action was determinable in
principles by some very powerful computer prevent real free-will, then
you might say that consciousness is also an illusion and you will be
led to eliminativism. A machine will seem to have consciousness, but
will not have genuine consciousness, with such confusion. There is
genuine free-will, because the ignorance of the machine is real and
genuine, independently of the fact that the machine believes in
free-will or not, or seems to have free-will or not. Such an ignorance
cannot be eliminated by adding knowledge to the machine, without
transforming it into a new and different machine which will still be
ignorant about herself at another level.
If you want an analogy, free-will is like the decimal expansion of PI.
It is not random, yet the cause can be deeply hidden, and it looks
like it is random. When you take into account the distinction between
the points of view, it just become false to say that something is
either caused or random. An infinity of intermediate arise, a bit like
there is an infinity of different notion of randomness in computer
science. All the many different universal machines have a different
notion of randomness.
I was aware there a many different notions of randomness, but not that
the number was infinite. Can you briefly explain or point to a
reference. Is the number countable?
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