On Thu, Jun 9, 2011 at 2:34 PM, Jason Resch <jasonre...@gmail.com> wrote:
> On Thu, Jun 9, 2011 at 10:00 AM, Rex Allen <rexallen31...@gmail.com> wrote:
>> I'm also fine with block-multiverse.  And with a block-mindscape.
>> Neither of which allow for free will.  Since both of which are static,
>> unchanging, and unchangeable - making it impossible that anyone "could
>> have done otherwise" than they actually did.  No one can be free of
>> that fact - and therefore no one has free will.
> 'making it impossible that anyone "could have done otherwise" than they
> actually did.'

Right.  A necessary (but not sufficient) condition of freedom is that
they must have been able to have done otherwise.

This alone isn’t sufficient, because "quantum randomness"  (in a
non-block context) also makes it possible that they could have done
otherwise - but random decisions aren't free either.

> You say it is impossible that anyone could have done otherwise from what
> they did.  Well what determined what they did?  Their mind?  Their biology?
>  Their chemistry?  The physics of the subatomic motions of the particles in
> their brain?

I don’t think it matters in a “block” context, does it?

> To say the mind is not doing any decision making because its behavior can be
> explained at a level where the mind's operation cannot be understood, is
> like saying a computer is not computing or a car is not driving, because if
> you look at a computer or a car at a low enough level you see only particles
> moving in accordance with various forces applied to them.

The ability to make decisions is ubiquitous.  Ants, wasps, lizards,
turtles, mice, dogs - whatever.  They can all be said to make
decisions.  Do ants have free will?

Even computers can be said to make decisions...and saying that they do
seems just as valid as saying that humans do.  Do the computerized
monitoring and control systems at nuclear power plants have free will?
 If they automatically "decide" to close some valve in response to
sensor readings, are they exercising free will?

> You can render meaningless almost any subject by describing
> it at the wrong level.

Wrong?  What would make some level the “wrong” level and another the
“right” level?

If a subject *can* be described at some level (or should be
describable in theory), then that has to be of some significance,
doesn’t it?

If human behavior ought to be describable at the level of quarks and
electrons, just as computer behavior ought to be describable at the
level of quarks and electrons, and just as rock behavior ought to be
describable at the level of quarks and electons - then this shared
“describability” has to tell us something significant - doesn’t it?

The fact that all of these things are describable at the same level,
the level of quarks and electrons, surely this means something.

If humans could *not* be described at the level of quarks and
electrons, but computers could, *that* would definitely tell us
something significant, wouldn’t it?

> You might as well say there is no meaningful difference between a
> cat and a rock, since they are after all, just electrons and quarks.

There’s a meaningful difference between a cat and a rock - *to me*.
But maybe not in any other sense.

> If you describe the mind at the correct level, you find it is making
> decisions.

I can interpret it that way, yes.  Or I can interpret it as just
moving through a sequence of states.

I can interpret it either way I want, as the whim strikes me.  It’s
like looking at the picture of the candlestick and then seeing the two
faces.  I can go back and forth between the two interpretations.  I’m
flexible that way.

The interpretation that the mind is making decisions is not *forced* on me.

Can you interpret the mind as just moving through a sequence of
states?  Maybe if you concentrate?

> You say it is impossible that the decision it makes could have
> been otherwise.  This is good for the mind, it means it is guaranteed that
> its will is carried out.

It also means that the mind’s will is not free.

> That said, I don't mean to say there are not interesting implications for
> some of the concepts discussed on this list, such as the definition of
> personal identity or the view that we are all part of one mind/self/soul.

Part of the same mind/self/soul?  That doesn’t sound too plausible to
me.  If it were true in any meaningful way, I think I would have

Though, it may be true in the same way that we could be part of the
same zip code or something.

>  Regarding personal identity, does it make sense to punish the 50 year old
> man with a prison sentence if it was a different person who committed the
> act 20 years ago?  (If you regard the two as different persons).  Further,
> is there any role of punishment / retribution in the justice system when had
> we been born in another persons shoes we would have made the same decisions
> and ended up in the same place as that person?  If ultimately we are the
> same person, we should have much more compassion and understanding for
> others and their actions.

Generally, I think a more mechanistic view of human behavior would
(ironically?) result in a more humane society.

A more mechanistic view would reduce the impulse to take things
personally, and would encourage a more pragmatic, less emotional
approach to solving society’s problems - and to dealing with each

Of course, anything can be taken too far - and usually is - but still
it seems to me like the right direction to steer towards.

Compatibilism, however, totally short circuits that, and to no good end.

Brent said, in an earlier thread:

“That's like telling gays they should be happy with ‘civil unions’.
'Free will', meaning free of coercion and compulsion, as used in law,
is useful concept referred to in many, many decisions which set
precedents - just as 'marriage' appears in many laws and regulations.
So there are excellent reasons of understanding to keep it.  If you
are a determinist, then compatibilism is the theory that shows this
legal meaning is compatible with determinism; so you don't have to
give it up and reinterpret hundreds of years of law and social

I think that given the vast amount that has been learned in the last
100 years, there is a definite need to reinterpret the hundreds of
years of law and social discourse that permeates society, but which
isn’t informed by this recent knowledge.

One can say that what we have works, and if it ain’t broke don’t fix
it - but I think this is a much easier position to take when you’re on
top of the pile than when you’re on the bottom of it.

It’s ironic that in that same post he used gays in his example, given
how common it is for social conservatives (in the US) to condemn
homosexuality as a sinful “choice”, denying that it has any biological

Until the 2003 Supreme Court decision in Lawrence vs. Texas, many US
states still had sodomy laws on the books and were occasionally
prosecuting them.

That’s the kind of discrimination and irrationality that compatibilism
provides cover for.  That’s the “hundreds of years of law and social
discourse” that Brent doesn’t want to give up.

(I’m not actually accusing Brent of holding any particular position,
btw.  Just making a point!)


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