On 6/12/2012 11:42 AM, R AM wrote:

On Tue, Jun 12, 2012 at 7:44 PM, meekerdb <meeke...@verizon.net <mailto:meeke...@verizon.net>> wrote:

    Well then it seems to come down to a question of timing.  If this 'same 
    state' is before the action, then I can certainly imagine changing my mind.

Yes, but why would you do that? You didn't change your mind in the first situation. Why would you change your mind if exactly the same conscious state is repeated?

    And this holds all the way up to the action, which is why you are even 
    by yourself.  You don't know (for sure) what you'll do until you do it.

I agree, but that's not exactly what I'm saying. I'm trying to make sense of the "I could have done otherwise". What does it mean?

I means that, in retrospect, I can't trace back to external (to me) causes, a deterministic sequence that inevitably led me to do that. Conceivably we could make an intelligent machine that could keep a record of all its internal states so that when did something it could then cite the sequence of internal states and say, "See I had to do it. It was just physics."

Or in other words, if the same situation is repeated "I would do otherwise". But it's difficult to explain (I might be wrong too). OK, let's suppose that exactly the same conscious state is repeated N times. If each time we do a different action, even opposite ones (such as killing or not killing someone), then our decision making is basically random. I don't think that is what is meant by free will.

I think that's wrong. You are equating unpredictable with random. Suppose the same conscious state is repeated and one second later you either shoot someone or you punch him. In that second different unconscious processes may determine what you do; so that which you do is unpredictable. But it is only 'random' within a range which is determined by who you are - and in this case you are very angry with the someone - so it is still an exercise of your will. And it's not constrained or coerced, so it's 'free will'.

Let's go to an extreme case. We have to make an important decision. We spend one year pondering our alternatives, and a decision is reached (we will kill someone). We are pretty certain about it. Do you think that if we repeat the same conscious state of just before making the decision, we would conclude not to kill?

Yes, it's possible. Of course there are feelings of resolve or hesitancy that make it more or less likely we will carry out a plan. But in that moment some different unconscious process could change our mind, or an external event, such as seeing child might remind us our intended victim was once an innocent child, might change our mind.


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