On 28 Nov 2010, at 23:49, Rex Allen wrote:

On Fri, Nov 26, 2010 at 3:33 PM, Bruno Marchal <marc...@ulb.ac.be> wrote:

With your definition of free will, it does not exist. I think we agree.

Very good.  So what we are really arguing about here is whether your
definition or my definition is closer to what is generally meant when
people use the term “free will”.

I think your definition is not very close to what is generally meant,
and so you should come up with a different term for it.

I assume that you resist doing this because you are trying to convince
the general populace that they don’t *NEED* what is generally meant by
“free will” in order to continue with their lives pretty much as

However, you (and the other compatibilists) don’t just come out and
say “free will doesn’t exist, but you don’t need it anyway”.

Instead you say:  “I have found a way to make free will compatible
with determinism!”

And then you proceed with explicating your theory as to why they don’t
need free will after all - hoping that they won’t notice the subtle
switch from “free will is compatible with determinism” to “you don’t
need free will”.

Ultimately, you have found a way to make free will compatible with
determinism:  change the definition of free will.

And maybe this is the best way to get the general populace on-board
with a more reasonable view of things.  But it’s still a rhetorical
tactic, and not a valid argument.

There would be no lengthy discussion on free will if we had a definition on which everyone agrees. See Jason and Russell's answer on this.

Nor would you find many people in
agreement amongst the general populace.

That is not an argument. Yet many compatibilists reason along similar lines,
but this is not an argument either.

But we’re arguing over whose definition is closer to the general usage
of “free will”.

The general usage by the general populace.

Free will has originally be (re)introduce by christians for justifying the notion of hell. No doubt the people can be a bit confused. I recall you that since 523 after JC (closure of Plato Academy) scientific theology is still a taboo subject.

Few people agree that mechanism entails that physics is a branch of
theology, and that matter is an emerging pattern. Few people understand that QM = Many worlds. At each epoch few people swallow the new ideas / theories. Science is not working like politics. it is not democratic. Usually the majority is wrong as science history illustrates well. Many people today find hard the idea that "they are machine" (except perhaps in the DM large
sense for people with a bit of education).

I’m not necessarily saying that there’s something wrong or
inconsistent or impossible with your proposal.  All I’m saying is that
it’s not free will.

The vast majority of the populace certainly does not equate free will
with ignorance of causes.

Again that is not an argument. It would even be doubtful that humans would be naturally correct on such hard technical question, especially with the mechanist assumption which justified *why* most truth are just unbelievable.

“What do you mean by ‘free will’” is not a technically hard question.


I just said it was a technical hard question. Except with your definition, in which case it follows from elementary logic that it does not exist.

Also, “do you believe in ultimate responsibility” is not a technically
hard question.

It is an hard question, even one which cannot provably (with the definition I gave) be solved algorithmically, and so will be based on discussion between many people and eventually the judge intimate conviction.

G* minus G is the precise logic of what is true but unbelievable.
It shows that machine have genuine free-will. But humans already dislike the
idea that their neighbors have free-will.

They *love* the idea that their neighbors have free-will.

Bertrand Russell:

“Whatever may be thought about it as a matter of ultimate metaphysics,
it is quite clear that nobody believes it in practice. Everyone has
always believed that it is possible to train character; everyone has
always known that alcohol or opium will have a certain effect on
behaviour. The apostle of free will maintains that a man can by will
power avoid getting drunk, but he does not maintain that when drunk a
man can say "British Constitution" as clearly as if he were sober. And
everybody who has ever had to do with children knows that a suitable
diet does more to make them virtuous than the most eloquent preaching
in the world. The one effect that the free- will doctrine has in
practice is to prevent people from following out such common-sense
knowledge to its rational conclusion. When a man acts in ways that
annoy us we wish to think him wicked, and we refuse to face the fact
that his annoying behaviour is a result of antecedent causes which, if
you follow them long enough, will take you beyond the moment of his
birth and therefore to events for which he cannot be held responsible
by any stretch of imagination.”

This shows that human like their own free will. Not the neighbors 'one.

People will not like that, but in
the long run, they will prefer that to the idea that *they* have no free will themselves. It is still genuine partial free will. You can manage some
of your classes of futures, you have a partial control.

What causes you to manage them one way as opposed to another way?

Well, if DM is true, the ultimate cause is the unhappy marriage between addition and multiplication. less ultimate and more close to us is the big bang, the apparition of life and many years of evolution. Still much closer: my will. Existence of cause and reason does not make my will less free (that is the point).

If you ask “most people”, they will not agree that the human choice is random, and they will not agree that human choice can be explained by
causal forces.

Such question are known to be hot, and most people disagree with each other. Many among those who criticizes determinism often relies on sacred texts,
and show an unwillingness to even reason.

This is true.  And it could be that your sneaky approach is the best
way to get them to reason.


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.

Acting as a responsible person doesn’t require free will.  It just
requires suitable initial conditions and causal laws.

I am afraid that this is trivially true.

“Ability to act as a responsible person” isn’t the definition of free will.

No, but it is a possibility which is explained from free will (always with the definition I gave, and which is really just a slight redefinition of your definition in the DM frame)

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

I follow you that "ultimate responsibility" is asking too much.

Free will is also asking too much.

That is the motivation for taking a more reasonable definition. A definition of free will which asks for a little less.

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.

If something caused you to choose tea over coffee, then the choice wasn’t free.

It is free at the level where I am living. It is not free at the level of arithmetical relations.

If the choice was the result of a random event, the choice wasn’t free.

We agree on that.

There are no square circles.  There is no free will.

As far as I can see, at least.

We agree. This follows from your definition of free will. But there are more subtle approach to free will which justifies most of what we ant to put in that notion.

As to “person”, I take a deflationary view of the term. There’s less
to it than meets the eye.

I guess we differ a lot on this.

I wonder why?  What causes us to differ?

The notion of persons and person's point of view is the most key notion of the mechanist approach, once you understand the reversal between physics and bio-psych-theology.

This comes back to my earlier point.  She “feels” a sense of
responsibility and therefore believes that she is genuinely and
legitimately responsible.

But the fact that she feels responsibility in no way means that she
actually is responsible.

That is true. But she is not just feeling being free, she is, genuinely so,
with the definition I gave of "free-will".

Right, we’re really arguing about definitions.  Whose definition is
closer to the general usage of the term “free will”.

I don't care on the general usage which is based on contingent histories. I am interested in the concept themselves.

I think all of your arguments are actually arguments about why we
don’t *need* free will as generally defined.  They aren’t arguments
that free will actually exists.

It is an argument tha free will exist and machine will develop it, and if we don't care about that and have some respect for them, they will decide to search for more interesting users. It exists and it has tremendous consequences for them and us.

You’re trying to convince people to abandon the original definition
and switch to your definition without ever making it explicit that
this is what you’re doing.

That is implicit in all discussion on complex matter. You take a definition which explain easily away free will, and then you throw the baby with the bath water.

Though, admittedly, the world would probably be a better place if you
succeeded in your attempt.


Aren’t you making consciousness an epiphenomenon of the digital machine?

Reread my work. It explains why consciousness is the creator of all
realities consistent with arithmetical truth.

Our reality seems to produce all manner  of schizophrenic,
hallucinogenic, and delusional conscious experiences.

So what conscious experiences aren’t consistent with arithmetical truth?

Jason suggests "seeing a squared circle". Another is doubting your consciousness. But consistency and consciousness is cheap: arithmetic does not exclude the experience of believing in square circle, or believing that 0 = 1.

If no conscious experiences are ruled out by arithmetical truth...then
what good does it do to posit it as a factor in producing conscious

To develop a theory capable of explaining it, and capable of being refuted by some test. As it is the case for DM.

Consciousness is the most
effective things ever. It is the mother of all forces, or of all
acceleration. A theory of everything is a theory of consciousness. And assuming mechanism, as I have explained, consciousness and differentiating consciousness fluxes are "easly" derivable from the numbers relations (and
the classical theory of knowledge by Theaetetus).

Perhaps it would be better to say that consciousness and consciousness
fluxes are easily representable using numbers relations.

Certainly not. You are confusing level. IF Mechanism is true, consciousness is not representable, like arithmetical truth is not representable in arithmetic. The first person herself is not representable. That is why the modal logic S4Grz1 is a "tour de force" (if you indulge), because it meta-represents something no machine can and will ever represent. It is like God in the tradition which insists it has no name, no image.

That would
be my opinion at least.

The hard part is the
derivation of the physical laws, and my logical point is that we have to do that derivation, if we assume mechanism, to solve the mind-body problem.
(and then in AUDA I explain how to do it, and I did a little bit).
Consciousness is not an epiphenomemon. If it was, then indeed free- will
would not exist.

Free will doesn’t exist.

I was thinking (of course) about free will with the definitions which makes it not disappear at once.

Murder is just a category you’ve made up for your own convenience. It
has no ontological status separate from you.

I wish I did. But I doubt this. To be murdered is universally embarrassing for any sufficiently sound machine. "thou shall not kill" belongs to G* minus G type of mechanist proposition, and that could explain notably why
people *saying* (normatively) "thou shall not kill" kill the most.

Murder is only bad if you think that death is bad, right?

Not all death are bad. To die old, in good shape, without suffering and with caring people around is natural and good.
To die alone, young, and with suffering is bad.

Assuming that death leads to non-existence and oblivion, I have no
problem with it.

Er ... yeah, perhaps. But both QM and DM put serious doubt that death leads to non existence and oblivion. That is the wishful thinking of the decadent: "après moi le déluge" we say in french. Things are far more complex.

What I have a problem with is suffering.


I’m perfectly fine with euthanasia, as death seems by far the lesser
of two evils.

The torturer is far worse than the murderer, in my view.

Usually murderer hurts, before making someone dead. And he does not know what kind of experience the dying person will endure.

Life...once you’ve seen a bit of it, it’s pretty much the same thing
repeated from there on out.  Highly overrated.

I disagree. It is a window, an opportunity to see the spectacle through a new angle. The life of others is sacred (imo).

Either there’s a reason for the killing act, or there isn’t.  If
there’s a reason, then it was an unavoidable consequence of reality’s
causal structure.

At which level? Usually I mock this kind of statement by mentioning a lawyer who says "yes, my client did murder those children but I let you know that my client was just obeying to the Schroedinger wave equation, so he has no

A belief in free will generally leads to a focus on the criminal.

A rejection of free will promotes a focus on addressing the conditions
that lead to crime.

After all, if you believe the criminal freely chooses his actions,
what good would it do to improve conditions?

To learn better choices. To understand its errors. To improve. To ask "what good would it be to improve" is almost like asking "what good is good?".

In this view, poor
conditions don’t cause crime, criminals do.

Poor conditions can be attenuating circumstances, although I don't believe this. A good guy is someone ding the good when living the bad. We should judge from how we react to o-what is done to us, and not from what we do in easy situation. That could be why we may lives so many lives.

 The high recidivism rate
shows that some people are innately bad, so best to keep them locked
up for as long as possible and then it doesn’t matter what they choose
to do.  Three strikes and you’re out!

I tend to think that your promotion of “free will” just feeds into and
strengthens that view, and thus is harmful.

To be able to punish someone is a mark of love and respect. Today we dilute all responsibilities and build a nanny state which is a responsibility killer, and the result is less and less freedom. It is a natural tendency. We can choose to preserve our personal universality and individuality or become some "cells" of a higher organism.

Even probabilistic laws are a form of causation.  In this case the
course of events are genuinely unpredictable (within limits), this
unpredictablity also doesn't amount to free will.

I am glad we totally agree on that. You can use the infinite iteration of the self-duplication (Washington/Moscow for example) to illustrate that random oracle does not introduce free-will. It will change the measure on the domains livable from our first person indeterminacy, and as such will play a role in stabilizing the physical laws, and this plays a role in the emergence of "matter" and sharable histories (it defines the right tensor product), but free-will remains a determinate matter. The many worlds of the conditional tense does not, unlike the many worlds of DM and QM, need to "really exist". You could jump out of the window, does not entail that you will jump out of the window in some real parallel reality: the imaginary one are enough. (Independently of the fact that both DM and QM entails that there is a real world where you jump out of the window, but they are not needed for the meaning of "could" (and they are rare, Harry Potter like).

I forget, what is it that makes them rare?

Their relative probability amplitude (with QM), or equivalent (with DM).
Quantum computers exploits this.

If you believe that the fact that the action was determinable in
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

Consciousness stands or falls independently of free will.

Do you agree that consciousness is needed for free-will? Usually people
agree with this.

Well given that I think free will is similar to “square circle” in not
referring to anything, *and* given that I think that nothing exists
outside of conscious experience - I’m not sure what to say in answer
to this question.

Could Chalmers-style philosophical-zombies have free-will? I don’t think so.


Could conscious entities have free will?  I don’t think so.

Not in you sense, but you could switch the definition perhaps, geiven that we agree that the first one is as intersting than a squared circle.

The presence or absence of consciousness doesn’t make any difference
to my answer.

But I think the converse is true too, although I have to say (it is a bit embarrassing) that the salvia divinorum experience has put a doubt in my
mind on the argument which follows.

It looks like we can imagine being conscious without having free- will. When trying to do that, we imagine being conscious, but without any degree of freedom, like in the ultimate jail (the big nightmare). But this, I think, is a confusion between free-will, and freedom. If you feel to be a prisoner in that prison, it means that you have free-will, because the "wanting of freedom" is somehow a product of free-will. So you have to imagine that actually, in that state of consciousness without free-will, you are not aware of being in a prison. But you are in the ultimate prison, so what is it that you are aware of, and I thought that to be conscious you have to be aware of at least some alternate possibilities ("Dt?", "~Bf?"). But OK, the plant did contradict me on this point. Obviously that was an hallucination, but mechanism still seem to me to imply that such an hallucination is just
impossible, or (I guess so) that a correction should be made to the
classical theory of knowledge.

My plants are OK with you that consciousness could exist in absence of free
will, but I still find that very weird !   :)

I don’t see anything at all weird with the idea.

It is weird because consciousness is related to a knowledge of possibilities, an instinctive guess on the unknown.

And even after
reading your scenario above several times, I don’t see why you should
find it weird...?

Your initial intuition was that if we don’t have free will then we
shouldn’t “feel” as though we do?

Hmmmm.  I don’t know what to say about that.  Except to refer you back
to my previous point that it is this “I feel as though I have free
will, therefore I must actually have free will?” intuition that keeps
the debate alive, even though the conclusion doesn’t follow from the

The feeling of true free will is explained to be correct with the definition I provided.

I see no reason at all to say that consciousness requires free will.

Consciousness is related to some gradient in a landscape of possible
histories/worlds (by UDA). Each state of consciousness defines some "next" alternate states, or neighborhoods . I thought consciousness was related to
time (subjective time à-la Brouwer).  Time is what gives your closest
observable alternative. I will not insist so much because I could have to change my mind on this, so I am open to the idea that "we" can be conscious yet without free-will and out of space and time. But that would be a very special form, rather peculiar, form of state of consciousness, and I have to
experiment more.

I will go with Kant on space and time being aspects of our experience,
not aspects of the noumenal world.

I am OK with this. provably so with "our" = us the universal (lobian) machines.

Can we be aware of anything that isn't represented indirectly by the
internal structure of our minds?

In other words, are we aware of anything *except* what is represented
indirectly by the internal structure of our minds?

If we are aware of space and time and free-will, it can only be our
subjective conception of these things that we know, not the
things-in-themselves.  Right?

Not correct. You should have written: "If we are aware of space and time and free will, it can only be our subjective conception of these things that we BELIEVE, not the things-in-themselves." And then it can happen that some beliefs are true (and that is what we can never known, except for consciousness itself). Now DM can explain why for space, time and free will such beliefs are indeed relatively true. Those things are not fundamental, but are really emerging and stabilize in our most numerous computational histories (presumably, for some).

The feeling of free will is an aspect of conscious experience.

Feeling of free will => conscious. OK.

conscious experience has no dependency on free will.

NOT(Conscious experience => free will or feeling of free will)?

I really doubt that. But my plant agrees with you, apparently, and this is something I have to think hard about. What remains possible is that peculiar form of consciousness without free-will is very unstable and seems to be
bounded to large infinities of possibilities.

Unstable in what sense?

Not every conscious experience I have is an experience of making a
choice, or even involves a feeling being able to make a choice.

I don't know. I have to think about this. Both with DM and without. Both theoretically and experimentally.

Further, I have occasionally done or (especially) said things that I
was fully aware of - without ever having been made a conscious
decision to do or say those things.  Mini-Tourette syndrome episodes

That happens all the time. I respirate like that. I can concentrate and be aware I do it consciously without deciding it. You might be right on this.

And Plotinus is a bit unclear on this, should reread it. It is almost the question if the origin (of consciousness) is conscious, or not, or if God is
a person or a thing. Hard question.


A machine will seem to have consciousness, but will not have genuine consciousness, with such confusion. There is genuine free-will, because
ignorance of the machine is real and genuine, independently of the fact
the machine believes in free-will or not, or seems to have free- will or
Such an ignorance cannot be eliminated by adding knowledge to the
without transforming it into a new and different machine which will still
ignorant about herself at another level.

I still don’t see any connection between ignorance and free will.

It is the root of the hesitation between the possible acts. If you
determinate yourself by the determination laws at each instant, you would
not have hesitation.

I can be caused to hesitate in the same way I can be caused to act.

That is the sempiternal confusion of levels done by those who oppose free will and determinism.

Because that’s not free will, and by claiming that it is you’re just
muddying the water.

“Ignorant Will”.  That’s catchy.  Use that.

I could say that your definition of free will is too much trivial so as to
be immediately self-contradictory. In some conversation with
non-compatibilists sometimes I argue that "free-will" is a bad choice of term, and that I believe we should just say "will". I don't believe in the "naive notion of free-will". The "free" does not add a lot, except a vague idea of *ultimate* responsibility and of *pure* choice, a bit like if we could knew what is good and bad for another (we know this only for oneself and even just partially). Such ultimate universal notion are just ideal for any terrestrial or relatively embodied entity, which is truly ignorant of who she is, and who the others are, or which machine or number she is (here
and now) relatively to a plenty full arithmetical reality.
So I agree: the mechanist notion of free will proposed here is a form of
Ignorant will. OK. I can live with that. Nice expression.


Well, if you are open that free will exists in that compatibilist sense, then we are OK on this. But your wanting to change the vocabulary is not a good idea, I think. People could have define earth by a flat surface, and then you could argue that earth does not exist. Or we could define theology by christian theology and then theology will appears authoritative and (partially) irrational. It is preferable to stick on the words used, and to recast them in theories that we understand. In that way we never take the risk of throwing out a baby with the bath water. This is only a strategy to save as many as possible humans discoveries by throwing out only the contingent superstitions, the epochal fashions, and the local misunderstandings.



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