On 26 Nov 2010, at 22:55, Brent Meeker wrote:

On 11/26/2010 12:33 PM, Bruno Marchal wrote:

On 25 Nov 2010, at 22:38, Rex Allen wrote:

How does ignorance of what choice you will make lead to ultimate
responsibility for that choice?

Because I can have a pretty good pictures of the alternatives. Usually the conflict will be in instantaneous reward against long term rewards. I can speed my car and look at TV, or respect the speed limits and miss the TV. I can stop smoking tobacco and live older, or I can enjoy tobacco here and now, and die sooner, etc. I do have an amount of choice and information, but I am ignorant of the details (notably of my brain functioning, my 'unconscious', etc.), and can act accordingly as a responsible person.

I deny the possibility of ultimate responsibility and I’m not a
eliminative materialist.

I follow you that "ultimate responsibility" is asking too much. Even a sadist murderer is usually not responsible for the existence of its pulsion, but this does not preclude him to be responsible for its action, in some spectrum. Reasons can be multiple. A sadist could commit an act in a society where sadism is repressed, and not commit an act if sadism is sublimated through art and movies, so the society or system can share responsibility with some act without preventing such act to be done. Free will is not ultimate: i can choose between tea and coffee, but I have not chose to be a drinking entity.

But I also deny that mechanism can account for consciousness (except
by fiat declaration that it does).

That is a subtle point. Many mechanist are wrong on this. The expression "mechanism can account for consciousness" is highly ambiguous. That is why I present mechanism in the operational form of saying "yes to a doctor who proposes you a digital brain copying your brain or body or universe at some level of description". No theory can account for truth, which is independent on any theory or observers, yet truth is what will eventually select a theory or an observer. Likewise, if my consciousness is preserved by a mechanist substitution of my brain, this might be due to a relationship between consciousness and truth which typically will not been accounted by mechanism per se, like a theory cannot account for its own consistency already. That is why mechanism per se is unbelievable by sound machine, and asks for a type of act of faith. You are free, and necessarily free, to say "no" to the doctor. The theory "mechanism" explains why it has to be a religion, in a sense. It is akin to a belief in reincarnation, if you think about it.

Calling on my favorite intuition pump, the artificially intelligent Mars Rover, I can imagine it faced with a decision about which way to go to complete its mission. It tries to make predictions of success for different paths, calling on it's experience with past maneuvers. Thus it develops alternatives, but they are not decisive - no probability is 1.0 and some are equivalent within its estimates of uncertainty. This I think corresponds to the narrative of consciousness. Having estimated probabilities and finding no clear winner, the Rover selects one of the better alternatives at random. This is an exercise of will - whether you want to call it "free" or not, it must *seem* free because otherwise it would be part of the narrative.

I think so. That is why we cannot do an act of free will, or by free will, with the purpose to illustrate free will. The purpose would be part of the narrative. This illustrates that free will, like consciousness, belongs to the incommunicable or the non justifiable, non provable, except by paradoxical assertions, or by arts.

Responsibility only seems to be important in social terms - whom shall we punish or reward? That only requires that the punishment/ reward has the desired effect on the person and others.

I think so too, and a society has the duty, if it can, to protect the majority of people. To judge if someone deserves jail or asylum (abstracting from the possibility of escaping) is strictly speaking an infinite difficult task; no one (on earth) can really know for sure and the answer will be jury, experts, and judge dependent: the main thing is the protection of the others, essentially the probability/ plausibility of second offense. Rewards, in that setting, will be much more based on subjectivity, fashion, taste, current myth, ideas of progress, etc. The following sentences come back (again?) to my mind:
- You kill one person: you are a murderer,
- You kill one hundred persons, you are a heroic soldier,
- You kill all persons, you are God.



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