[2017-06-07] compatibilism

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[2017-06-07] compatibilism

Postby rzellertownson » Wed Jun 07, 2017 10:10 pm

So, uh, while Dr. Dennett might have the predictive power to know what Zach was thinks when people say that free will is compatible with a deterministic universe, I apparently don't.

Anyone here fall into orange stick figure camp here or otherwise feel equipped to give a more specific voice to said camp? Or what said camp means when they say that free will is incompatible with determinism?

I'm assuming that this camp views legal responsibility for one's actions as being totally unrelated to free will.
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Re: [2017-06-07] compatibilism

Postby Jules.LT » Wed Jun 07, 2017 11:14 pm

I'm assuming that this camp views legal responsibility for one's actions as being totally unrelated to free will.


I'd say that those who cling to a purer definition of Free Will do so in large part *because* it is related to Responsibility.
And from that to *legal* responsibility is a small step to take.
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Re: [2017-06-07] compatibilism

Postby JohnQ » Thu Jun 08, 2017 2:43 am

The problem is that when most people discuss free will, they are discussing the libertarian sort of "free will" that says things like "I could have done otherwise if I wished to".
That sort of free will is not compatible with a deterministic universe.

Dennett (awesome stick-figure rendering of him BTW, knew who it was instantly) is working from a different definition that is compatible with a deterministic universe... and is probably "good enough" for most people... but it is not what most people think when they hear "free will".
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Re: [2017-06-07] compatibilism

Postby King of Ferrets » Thu Jun 08, 2017 4:35 am

Roughly, free will is usually considered to mean "I have a legitimate choice to make between possible outcomes", and determinism is usually considered to mean "there is only one possible outcome, based on the operation of the laws of physics". The argument goes that saying the universe is deterministic is akin to saying that we don't have free will, because there wasn't another way it could go that we could've chosen.

Compatabilist positions are those that attempt to have both free will and determinism, and there are a couple variants. What I subscribe to, though, more or less boils down to this: Humans who know each other well can often predict what they'll do in response to certain circumstances. Determinism of human action more or less boils down to, if you know everything about a person, you can accurately predict which choice they'll pick when they make decisions, and even the deliberations they might go through when considering their choice. This isn't so much a fallout of "lack of free will" - that is, ability to make other choices - as it is a consequence of the fact that people have personalities and inclinations. So I don't see an issue with saying that a deterministic universe has free will, because determinism isn't there because we aren't making choices, but because people have personalities and will make their choices based on particular conditions at the time, and so there will be a decision they're eventually bound to come to.

I, personally, call this free will - I have a choice to make, but because I'm me, I always make it a certain way. Some others don't, because there's not technically a possibility of a different choice.
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Re: [2017-06-07] compatibilism

Postby Kit. » Thu Jun 08, 2017 7:10 am

1. "Closest living descendants of dinosaurs" is bullshit. There is no such thing as "non-closest living descendants" of a clade. Birds are dinosaurs, not "closest living descendants" of dinosaurs.

2. "Free will" is a binary predicate: F(subject or object, influence). Using it as a unary predicate F(subject) is a stolen concept fallacy.
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Re: [2017-06-07] compatibilism

Postby CUP » Thu Jun 08, 2017 8:27 am

The best sketch I've heard goes like this.

We want to define free will on the basis of "YOU ---> FUTURE" where YOU is the amount you effect the future. We say you have some free will if YOU can be greater than zero. But, as we assume, "YOU + PHYSICS ---> THE FUTURE". Then, given that a materialistic determinist says that physical processes 100% determine the future, that leaves 0% influence left over for YOU to have on the future. So philosophy fan claims that materialistic determinism and free will are a contradiction.

This is nonsense.

1) "PHYSICS ---> THE FUTURE" where PHYSICS is 100% of the causes with no "room" for anything else. This is a fine way to represent determinism.

2) "YOU ---> THE FUTURE" where you must be greater than 0%. This is a fine way to represent free will! No problems so far. But...

3) "YOU + PHYSICS ---> THE FUTURE" this diagram of the "base situation" is inherently dualistic twaddle pulled out of his ass.

The "contradiction" is between dualism assumed as an axiom in point 3) and materialism assumed in point 1). Free will never even entered into it.

The materialist simply thinks YOU is a part of PHYSICS, and has zero problem identifying a subsection of the physical universe that effects the future which is labeled as YOU. You willing things, you having a will, you having thoughts, you existing at all. These are all physical processes. Moreover, THE FUTURE is also part of physics. So the actual materialistic version of 3) is this

3a) "PHYSICS ( YOU ---> THE FUTURE )"

And what do you know, the statement of free will we were looking for is right there inside the parentheses. How about that pigeonsaurus rex.
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Re: [2017-06-07] compatibilism

Postby Jules.LT » Thu Jun 08, 2017 11:47 am

JohnQ wrote:things like "I could have done otherwise if I wished to".
That sort of free will is not compatible with a deterministic universe.

"If I wished to" -> "I would have done otherwise"
= "Given different starting conditions" -> "the system would have resulted otherwise"

That's totally compatible with a deterministic universe.
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Re: [2017-06-07] compatibilism

Postby Guest » Thu Jun 08, 2017 2:50 pm

Yeah, JohnQ actually cited a compatibilist definition of free will. The incompatibilist (libertarian/hard determinist) idea of free will is "could have done otherwise". Compatibilism requires the "... if I had wanted (or wished)". It's also very odd that people seem to assume (as in the comic) that libertarians and hard determinists have a more traditional or popular view of free will, such that compatibilists have to be "redefining" it. If you dig into a prosaic question about whether a particular person is free, just an ordinary view of autonomy requires "... if I had wanted". To be able to do otherwise even if you don't want to do otherwise just makes your actions random and outside your control. To incompatibilists, there can be no distinction between slaves and masters: neither are anything other than a product of physical circumstances and physical laws. Incompatibilist definitions of free will might be more naively stated, but I don't think they are truly more popular are traditional: just less exact or more missing the point.
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Re: [2017-06-07] compatibilism

Postby cellocgw » Thu Jun 08, 2017 5:54 pm

When it comes to questions about free will and choice, I think Rush covered that just fine.
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Re: [2017-06-07] compatibilism

Postby MeisterKleister » Sun Jun 11, 2017 8:32 pm

I think Reddit's /r/AskPhilosophy is pretty good at explaining compatibilism:
What makes "free will" free to the compatibilist?

Paul used to be a slave. However, he was granted his freedom and is no longer a slave. That makes Paul a free man.
Imagine, following this, that someone would say: "Well, of course not! Paul isn't free. After all, he can't just jump up and fly like a bird. He can't defy gravity. He can't make logical contradictions true. Paul is not free at all!"
How would we react to that? I think we'd tell that person that they're just being silly: clearly that's not what was entailed by the suggestion that Paul is free. Rather, we meant that Paul has some sort of political freedom. He is free from slavery, and enjoys a certain freedom from coercion, external determination, etc. In other words, he is free to the extent necessary to enjoy his personal autonomy.
The compatibilist is saying a bit the same thing. When we say "free will", we're talking about free to the extent necessary to be morally responsible for our actions. Now, of course, it may be that nothing short of acausal, indeterministic choices allow us to be morally responsible. In that case, the incompatibilist would be right. However, it's a question we need to ask, and we can certainly not presume that incompabilism is right; we have to argue for it.
Presuming incompatibilism is true while believing in determinism would be rather circular, since what is a stake here is moral responsibility: by presuming both true, we're basically positing that it is true that we don't have that thing which we need for moral responsibility, and from that we infer that there is no such thing as moral responsibility.
There is a strong sense in which compatibilists are very likely right about what the word free means in free will. They're likely right (I say "likely" to make room for positions like Fischer's semi-compatibilism) that we're talking about specific kind of freedom which is necessary for moral responsibility. That said, this position doesn't mean compatibilists are right about free will being compatible with determinism. Incompatibilists may still be right, because it may be that the proper extent of freedom of the will required for moral responsibility is something that isn't compatible with determinism. However, it's very much not just a question of semantics: it's a substantial argument about which level of freedom is required for moral responsibility, and incompatibilists that engage academically in the debate understand that. Those "good" incompatibilists understand the problem like the compatibilists: as an issue of framing exactly what is this freedom we need.


See also:
https://www.reddit.com/r/askphilosophy/ ... ouve_ever/
http://www.reddit.com/r/askphilosophy/c ... _could_we/
http://www.reddit.com/r/askphilosophy/c ... free_will/
http://www.reddit.com/r/askphilosophy/c ... terminism/
http://www.reddit.com/r/askphilosophy/c ... terminism/
http://www.reddit.com/r/askphilosophy/c ... terminism/
http://www.reddit.com/r/askphilosophy/c ... nism_with/
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Re: [2017-06-07] compatibilism

Postby Jules.LT » Mon Jun 12, 2017 9:23 am

Nice :)
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Re: [2017-06-07] compatibilism

Postby Daniel Maidment » Mon Jun 12, 2017 6:23 pm

Dennet also bothered me in this, I've read some of his books to figure out just how exactly he manages to reconcile hard determinism and free will, and he doesn't end up managing. Only skirts around the definitions, which I think can be summarised succinctly as this:
Game Theory -->
1 player in the system --> simple system
2 players in the system --> attempt to out compete the other --> guess the others intent --> recursive guessing --> complexity --> effective free will because system is too complex
Reality -->
many players --> system is stupidly complex --> predicting outcomes is absurd --> might as well call it free will.

So yeah, Dennet's approach comes down to condescendingly saying that even if reality is perfectly causal, which would imply determinism, it doesn't matter because it's so complicated anyway. Which is a bit of a cop out. Don't get me wrong, I love Dennet and his work, and to a large degree I agree with him.
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Re: [2017-06-07] compatibilism

Postby Jules.LT » Tue Jun 13, 2017 12:01 pm

My understanding was that determinism doesn't matter because we are *part* of the causal process rather than objects of it.
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Re: [2017-06-07] compatibilism

Postby MeisterKleister » Tue Jun 13, 2017 6:57 pm

Daniel Maidment wrote:Dennet also bothered me in this, I've read some of his books to figure out just how exactly he manages to reconcile hard determinism and free will, and he doesn't end up managing. Only skirts around the definitions, which I think can be summarised succinctly as this:
Game Theory -->
1 player in the system --> simple system
2 players in the system --> attempt to out compete the other --> guess the others intent --> recursive guessing --> complexity --> effective free will because system is too complex
Reality -->
many players --> system is stupidly complex --> predicting outcomes is absurd --> might as well call it free will.

So yeah, Dennet's approach comes down to condescendingly saying that even if reality is perfectly causal, which would imply determinism, it doesn't matter because it's so complicated anyway. Which is a bit of a cop out. Don't get me wrong, I love Dennet and his work, and to a large degree I agree with him.


Chess sub-program A almost always beats chess sub-program B. When trying to explain this fact, you'd want to avoid saying: "Because A is determined to win." It's true in a sense, but completely uninformative.
A far more interesting explanation would be on the level of computer science or chess strategy, not physics.
Even if you replace the (determined) pseudo-random number generator in any or both machines with a genuine quantum-RNG, this wouldn't really change the regularity with which A almost always beats B. If you yourself were to play against a good chess AI, it would make no practical difference if it had a genuine RNG or just a good pseudo-RNG.
Determinism is not the enemy of the interesting sort of free will and indeterminism doesn't grant you any practical extra freedom or powers either. The universe could be deterministic on even days and indeterministic on uneven days and no one would ever know.

Dennett is a soft determinist (i.e. compatibilist) and argues that we have a variety of free will that is worth wanting: the power to be active agents that respond to our environment with rational, desirable courses of action, capable of appreciating and considering reasons for doing so.

Again, I think Reddit put it better than I could:
What's the best argument for free will you've ever heard?

Think about how the concept is employed in our everyday life. I am writing this of my own free-will. What is the purpose of saying that? Well, no one made me write this out, and I'm intentionally writing this out. The first mistake is to think the question 'what makes an act free' is a causal question, because it leads back to the Empiricist picture of 'the will', whereby 'acts of will' are posited as the causes of human action, these 'acts of will' are mental causes we bring about, which bring about acts which are free because their cause is free, however as Ryle noted, this leads to an infinite regress, since we must then explain whether that 'act of will' was itself free, and either its cause was free or not, if it was free, then we can again ask whether that cause was free, and so on.
The problem of 'free-will' is always couched in conversations about causality, but that, as far as I can tell, is very very far from its conception and use. If you go into the court system, you'll realize it's used there, extensively, to assign blame or to exculpate individuals for certain acts, or failures to act, because they were either coerced (someone put a gun to their family and told them they had to do such and such or their family would be killed or some such) or they were ignorant of some fact they couldn't reasonably be expected to conceive of (someone puts a bug in your salad and you ate the bug, but you were ignorant of doing so, you didn't freely eat that bug, and cannot be held responsible, instead, whoever put it their will be).
So to my eyes, free-will is an ethical concept, not a metaphysical concept about causality and agents who cause their behaviour. It's one of many concepts we use to characterize human life, others are psychological (where the concepts of aim, desire, intention all play a role), another is agency generally (where we have agents and patients, and we need to decide what the difference is between, say, you picking up your coffee cup and the beating of your heart), and then the concepts of reason (such as knowledge, ignorance, belief). All of these play a role in accounting for human life, but each is distinct. If free will is anything, it is a capacity to both act and undergo things free from ignorance and coercion. We say that someone was kissed, and that they accepted the kiss freely, so note that free-will is not used simply for actions done by agents, but also for actions received by patients, something passive can be received freely, as when someone offers to give me a back massage, and I freely accept it.


Lastly I will note that the majority of current professional philosophers (59.1%) are compatibilists of one sort or another.
Last edited by MeisterKleister on Wed Jun 14, 2017 11:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: [2017-06-07] compatibilism

Postby Guest » Wed Jun 14, 2017 11:24 pm

Is there any way to get registered? I'm receiving neither approval nor disapproval messages from SMBC. Forum broken, or plain passive-aggressivity?
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