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Madame Blavatsky... the Universe as an acting being

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hashem replied on Tue, Aug 7 2012 9:42 PM

Then my point was that conscious action, following unconscious instruction, is not to blame for the instructions. You wouldn't blame the virus because it had a malevolent developer. This doesn't mean the developer can't instruct the virus to influence him, say, by presenting with a message "don't do mean things from now on".

But really, you can't blaim the unconscious either, since its automatic development preceded the ability of the consciousness to influence it. To me that's just amazingly obvious... If a person is raised in a cave, you can't blame him for not knowing English, or how to shake hands. And if you teach him how to shake hands, you can't blame his consciousness if his unconscious has already developed a predisposition against hand-shaking.

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when you say *blame*, what do you mean? is it just a thought?

and whether its more or less than a mere thought, how could you  *blame* me for *blaming* the caveboy? are you assuming that my *blaming* the caveboy is entirely a conscious and willfull act, free of determined unconcious influence, and is therefore different to the caveboys lack of handshaking etiquette?

 

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hashem replied on Tue, Aug 7 2012 10:16 PM

are you assuming that my *blaming* the caveboy is entirely a conscious and willfull act, free of determined unconcious influence, and is therefore different to the caveboys lack of handshaking etiquette?
Precisely. We all act based on thoughts subject to an unconscious algorithm which began development automatically, without conscious influence. It was responding to input, storing it, and developing its algorithm before there was an even consciousness to instruct. So why blame the consciousness, or even the uncontrollable unconscious? And if nobody can blame their own, they can't blame anyone else'.

We need to stop blaming each other, and recognize that unhealthy behavior stems from an unhealthy subconscious, which in turn develops from unhealthy patterns during early childhood. Instead of beating each other over the heads (treating the symptom), we can focus on developing healthy subconsciouses (treating the cause).

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but you have no grounds to say that my *blaming* the caveboy is entirely a conscious and willfull act, free of determined unconcious influence, and is therefore different to the caveboys lack of handshaking etiquette, because in your model there is no such thing.and you state *why blame the concious*. So you admit that you can't *blame* a *blamer*, and your stance becomes somewhat incoherent to me.

But I think there is a way forward. You set up an example of caveboy, and you were pretty explicit, you pretty much laid out that poor caveboy was a victim of circumstance, and it would be unreasonable to expect better from anyone( a variety of possible variations of possible human's) with a roughly similar history ( a variety of similar histories that are basically about being secluded in a cave more or less). You are convincing me, that there is no effacious reason to point to the agent, and lay *blame* on him, i.e. castigate, punish. because, he didn't do it maliciously, or through a lack of trying to conform his actions towards the social. And indeed you are right. It would seem to be irrational to take such a reactive attitute to the boy, and almost certainly better to understand what his history means, and that if he is to become an agent in the future that can meaningfully be said to choose or not choose to shake someones hand, has had the benefit that others have had, of being exposed to knowledge of and positive inducements to conform his behaviours in the social sphere. (The only modification might be if you thought, others might be best socialised by viewing your reproaching the caveboy, but this would seem unlikely if such an observer had the same knowledge of the scenario as we are allowing his first contact to know)

So where are we with moral responsibility theory. Moral responsibility is all about, identifying possible agents, and then categorising whether it would or would not be effacious to adopt certain behaviours (some of which might be *blaming*), which can promote in said agents (and possible other agents in the social matrix) an increased probability of socialisation (in the sense of NAP/peace rather that communism , lolz).

Whilst agents would do well to heed your call, to consider the constraints in which a transgressing moral agent operated, they would also do well to not take it too far, throwing the baby out with the bathwater and, excusing outrageous transgressions as being , 'oh, just actions that were determined by particular history that led to the unfolding of this determined universe'. Can you see how such a 'permissive' culture, could seriously undermine peacefull association and society? 

I have to go to bed, cause I stayed up wayyyyyyyyy to late to chat with all y'all tonight. Here's a good article I found about the compatability of moral responsibility with determinism, its called Moral Responsibility in a Deterministic Universe by Ray Bradford    http://www.westminstercollege.edu/myriad/index.cfm?parent=2514&detail=7134&content=7584

Where there is no property there is no justice; a proposition as certain as any demonstration in Euclid

Fools! not to see that what they madly desire would be a calamity to them as no hands but their own could bring

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hashem replied on Tue, Aug 7 2012 11:01 PM

Ok goodnight and I respect you were able to discuss this reasonably. It seems we agree entirely, although I would say that the problem isn't carrying the logic and reasoning too far, but rather not carrying it far enough. If the logic is consistent, there is no "too far". So if a person shoots 50 people in a movie theater when he's 18 and it can be traced to patterns experienced at 3 or 4, then we should not stop at age 6 based on the reasoning "well, 5 is too far". Ya?

but you have no grounds to say that my *blaming* the caveboy is entirely a conscious and willfull act, free of determined unconcious influence, and is therefore different to the caveboys lack of handshaking etiquette
Yes, that is my point. There is no grounds, because the act was precisely not free of determined unsconscious instruction. To me this translates to "there is no free will". The will is determined, by definition. Again, this does not mean the unconscious may not isntruct the consciousness to influence it.

I look forward to reading that link. Thank you.

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Clayton replied on Wed, Aug 8 2012 12:16 AM

hashem, you are tiresome.

Here is Mises, he states it as completely and eloquently as I think it can be stated:

The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science, 3.4, "Free Will"

 

Man is not, like the animals, an obsequious puppet of instincts and sensual impulses. Man has the power to suppress instinctive desires, he has a will of his own, he chooses between incompatible ends. In this sense he is a moral person; in this sense he is free.

However, it is not permissible to interpret this freedom as independence of the universe and its laws. Man too is an element of the universe, descended from the original X out of which everything developed. He has inherited from the infinite line of his progenitors the physiological equipment of his self; in his postnatal life he was exposed to a variety of physical and mental experiences. He is at any instant of his life—his earthly pilgrimage—a product of the whole history of the universe. All his actions are the inevitable result of his individuality as shaped by all that preceded. An omniscient being may have correctly anticipated each of his choices. (However, we do not have to deal with the intricate theological problems that the concept of omniscience raises.)

Freedom of the will does not mean that the decisions that guide a man's action fall, as it were, from outside into the fabric of the universe and add to it something that had no relation to and was independent of the elements which had formed the universe before. Actions are directed by ideas, and ideas are products of the human mind, which is definitely a part of the universe and of which the power is strictly determined by the whole structure of the universe.

What the term "freedom of the will" refers to is the fact that the ideas that induce a man to make a decision (a choice) are, like all other ideas, not "produced" by external "facts," do not "mirror" the conditions of reality, and are not "uniquely determined" by any ascertainable external factor to which we could impute them in the way in which we impute in all other occurrences an effect to a definite cause. There is nothing else that could be said about a definite instance of a man's acting and choosing than to ascribe it to this man's individuality.

We do not know how out of the encounter of a human individuality, i.e., a man as he has been formed by all he has inherited and by all he has experienced, and a new experience definite ideas result and determine the individual's conduct. We do not even have any surmise how such knowledge could be acquired. More than that, we realize that if such knowledge were attainable for men, and if, consequently, the formation of ideas and thereby the will could be manipulated in the way machines are operated by the engineer, human conditions would be essentially altered. There would yawn a wide gulf between those who manipulate other people's ideas and will and those whose ideas and will are manipulated by others.

It is precisely the lack of such knowledge that generates the fundamental difference between the natural sciences and the sciences of human action.

In referring to the free will we are pointing out that in the production of events something can be instrumental about which the natural sciences cannot convey any information, something that the natural sciences cannot even notice. Yet our impotence to ascertain an absolute beginning out of nothing forces us to assume that also this invisible and intangible something—the human mind—is an inherent part of the universe, a product of its whole history.[4]

The traditional treatment of the problem of free will refers to the actor's vacillation before the final resolution. At this stage the actor wavers between different courses of action each of which seems to have some merits and demerits that the others lack. In comparing their pros and cons he is intent upon finding the decision that conforms to his personality and to the specific conditions of the instant as he sees them and thus upon satisfying best all his concerns. This means that his individuality—the product of all that he has inherited at birth from his ancestors and of all that he himself has experienced up to the critical moment—determines the final resolution. If later he reviews his past, he is aware of the fact that his comportment in any situation was fully determined by the kind of man he was at the instant of the action. It is immaterial whether in retrospect he himself or an unaffected observer can clearly describe all the factors that were instrumental in forming the past decision.

Nobody is in a position to predict with the same assurance with which the natural sciences make predictions how he himself and other people will act in the future. There is no method that would enable us to learn about a human personality all that would be needed to make such prognostications with the degree of certainty technology attains in its predictions.

The way in which historians and biographers proceed in analyzing and explaining the actions of the men with whom they are dealing reflects a more correct view of the problems involved than voluminous sophisticated treatises of moral philosophy. The historian refers to the spiritual milieu and the past experiences of the actor, to his knowledge or ignorance of all the data that could influence his decision, to his state of health, and to many other factors that could have played a role. But then, even after full attention has been paid to all these matters, something remains that defies any attempts at further interpretation, viz., the personality or individuality of the actor. When all is said about the case, there is finally no other answer to the question why Caesar crossed the Rubicon than: because he was Caesar. We cannot eliminate in dealing with human action reference to the actor's personality.

Men are unequal; individuals differ from one another. They differ because their prenatal as well as their postnatal history is never identical.

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hashem replied on Wed, Aug 8 2012 9:35 AM

Man has the power to suppress instinctive desires, he has a will of his own, he chooses between incompatible ends.
This is the root problem of free willys. What does he mean by "man"? The conscious acting portion of the brain? Or the unconscious, automatic, uncontrollable portion, responsible for the vast majority of brain activity, and which necessarily precedes action?

The conscious doesn't have a will of its own. It is subject to the instructions of the subconscious. The subconscious may instruct the consciousness to influence the subconscious toward better behavior, but that is not up to the consciousness to determine. It merely follows instructions. Mises is confused if he thinks the conscious acting portion of the brain can function without instruction from the rest of the brain.

There is no free will. Will is, by definition, determined by factors beyond the control of the tiny portion of the brain which is capable of conscious action.

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hashem:
Man has the power to suppress instinctive desires, he has a will of his own, he chooses between incompatible ends.

This is the root problem of free willys. What does he mean by "man"?

He means what you or I mean by man, objects in the universe that resemble, Myself, You, and Clayton.

hashem:
The conscious acting portion of the brain? Or the unconscious, automatic, uncontrollable portion, responsible for the vast majority of brain activity, and which necessarily precedes action?

Whats with all this unwarranted reductionism, that if Mises is talking about 'Man' then he must be talking about some sub part of Man, and what about its sub-parts etc.... He is talking about Man, with a single whole brain, with consciousness and unconcioussness. He is not talking about either or, it is a unitary system, this is what an agent must be. It must be atomic, or else you are seeking homunculae, the *real* agents embedded in *pseudo-agents*, and might not there be realler agents in them?

The conscious doesn't have a will of its own. It is subject to the instructions of the subconscious. The subconscious may instruct the consciousness to influence the subconscious toward better behavior, but that is not up to the consciousness to determine. It merely follows instructions. Mises is confused if he thinks the conscious acting portion of the brain can function without instruction from the rest of the brain.

Perhaps you will admit that Mises is not confused, as he wrote in what Clayton excerpted :

 

He is at any instant of his life—his earthly pilgrimage—a product of the whole history of the universe. All his actions are the inevitable result of his individuality as shaped by all that preceded.
 
Freedom of the will does not mean that the decisions that guide a man's action fall, as it were, from outside into the fabric of the universe and add to it something that had no relation to and was independent of the elements which had formed the universe before. Actions are directed by ideas, and ideas are products of the human mind, which is definitely a part of the universe and of which the power is strictly determined by the whole structure of the universe.

hashem:
There is no free will. Will is, by definition, determined by factors beyond the control of the tiny portion of the brain which is capable of conscious action.
Will exists because you exist, and you make choices, even in a determined universe, there is still a you choosing. Do you want to throw out your own personhood? Just because some impossibly omnipotent creature might know about all the particular facts that lead you to demonstrate this or that behaviour, might be entertainable as a thought experiment, is not a warrant to say that there is no you, and that you do not make choices. I urge you to consider it a continuum problem, we don't like to say that a simple system of rocks and water 'makes choices' because it doesn't help to model the scenario like that, on the other hand, we do say that a complex system of a you within an environment including a society of similar people you might interact with, is better modelled teleologically, by giving credence to the notion that we are gifted with through introspection that we 'make choices'. Somewhere in the middle of the continuum is a computer/ designed mechanism, that we would not want to describe as choosing, because it is so simple it is like rocks, and a little way over this is a complicated compter that is so complicated we are best of modelling it as a chooser, it 'chose' to play Pawn to D4.  The problem is with the transition through the continuum and not with either pole of it.

Do you not introspect and find yourself choosing all the time? and why shouldn't my model of trying to understand you, use that as a basis?

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Clayton replied on Wed, Aug 8 2012 10:30 AM

First of all, we need to get some terminology straight. Will "exists" in the same way that time "exists" or energy "exists." It describes the change over time of the self. It is not a thing and should be reified into a thing.

Second, you keep imposing a dichotomy onto the Universe, seeking to locate the part of the Universe that is exempt from causality. This is Mises's point - nothing is exempt from causality, especially not your mind; if it were, we would have no basis on which to talk about praxeology. Nevertheless, the fact remains that we choose, whether this be an "illusion" when considered from the vantage-point of an all-knowing being or not.

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baxter replied on Wed, Aug 8 2012 12:44 PM

you have no idea what you mean when you say, "a person has free will".

I've seen "free will" used in this thread as simply a synonym for "autonomous". So someone who is drugged or zapped by cosmic rays might not be acting out of their own free will. I guess this use of the term is unobjectionable.

But the other use, the philosophical one, is more troubling.

The philosophical term "free will", to me, is simply a statement that you are ignorant of a person's operation. But if you had the Blue Brain project and could simulate someone's brain and make precise predictions then you'd probably say there's no free will.

It's similar to how the result of tossed dice is "random" - provided you don't know enough about the mechanical variables involved to predict the outcome.

 

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Clayton replied on Wed, Aug 8 2012 1:01 PM

if you had the Blue Brain project and could simulate someone's brain and make precise predictions then you'd probably say there's no free will.

*sigh - there are so many assumptions being made here that aren't even acknowledged, let alone addressed.

Would you say that the only thing stopping you from understanding the operation of Microsoft Windows is a live trace of the machine code? Do you think the same thing happens in the machine every time you move the mouse? If you do, you don't know much about computers. In other words, there is no simple micro-macro correlation in the brain (or even a computer CPU which is vastly simpler) as in the case of a gas. You guys seriously see no difference between a brain and a gas as regards scientific explanation??

Have you studied biology at all? Have you looked at the bizarre and twisted way that, say, blod clots work? This kind of back-asswards way of doing things is the rule in biological systems. And the brain is biological, remember. You guys seem to think the observation/data-collection part is the hard part and the easy part is correlating input and output. You ahve it backwards. As difficult and challenging as it is, the observation/data-collection part is the easy part. Reverse-engineering the damn thing into some kind of diagrammatic form where we can understand the causal relations between different brain functions... that's the hard part. But even all of that is easy in Chalmer's sense... after all the functional analysis is done, there's the hard problem.

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I may be repeating some things already said, but here are some of my thoughts on free will:

Humans don't just behave instinctively, humans also make rational choices. We can weigh the costs and benefits of actions. When we make a choice, some of it is informed by our insticts, and some of it from our conscious self. Let's look at Fear Factor. The purpose of the show is to offer people a choice. They can do something they either fear or find gross (i.e. something they normally wouldn't want to do) and be rewarded, or they can not do the challenge and not be rewarded.

So, they are faced with a choice. The challenge is something they find gross or fearful. This is from the unconscious/subconscious/whatever-you-want-to-call-it self. Why are you afraid of spiders? Why are you grossed out by worms? Not everyone is, and to an extent, it's not really something you can control. So what happens when someone decides to do the challenge? Their conscious self has weighed the costs and benefits and decided that the benefits outweigh the costs. What happens when someone decides against the challenge? Do we say their conscious self has weighed the consts and benefits and decided that the costs are too great? Or do we say that the person was so fearful or grossed out that they could not even weigh the choices?

Well, regarding free will, it's a moot point. The person either chooses to do the challenge or chooses not to do the challenge. It doesn't matter if he was bitten by a spider when he was 5 or collected spiders when he was 5. The point is, the person made a choice. You can call it free will or determinism. It doesn't change the fact that people still make choices.

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hashem replied on Wed, Aug 8 2012 2:36 PM

It seems people in this thread are opposed to acknowledging that there are (at least) two categories of brain activity, conscious and unconscious. When you say "a person made the choice to not eat a spider", what you mean is that the brain has, since before it had a conscious aspect, been processing input and producing a cost benefit algorithm, and it sent instruction to the consciousness to act accordingly. The unconscious brain is responsible for producing perception, anyone who has studied anatomy and phisiology knows this. The consciousness merely experiences itself following instruction, instruction which is beyond its control.

When you say "he made a choice", what you mean is his subconscious processed input through its algorithm and output the necessary cost-benefit result, and the consciousness experienced it.

My point is when someone says "a person", they tend to ascribe unconscious, uncontrollable, automatic activity to the consciousness, which isn't how it works. The consciousness doesn't make choices, it just experiences as thoughts and actions the choices the unconscious calculated based on an algorithm that was developing before the consciousness ever existed.

When someone says "he changed his mind", what is actually happening is the automatic, uncontrollable, unconscious calculations resulted in outputting instructions to the action center, the consciousness, to influence it.

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My main point is that it's a moot issue. Pyschology is not my area of expertise, so I cannot say whether you are correct or incorrect regarding what part of the brain is actually making the choices. The point is that the person is making a choice. You can call it free will, determinism, or whatever, but people make choices. People weigh the costs and benefits of the options, and they pick one, and only one.

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hashem replied on Wed, Aug 8 2012 2:56 PM

The problem is that people who hold your view are saying the portion of the brain which experiences conscious thought and action was responsible for determining the thought and action. It doesn't work like that. The part of the brain which does the deciding is beyond conscious control. The most the conscious can do is follow instruction from the subconscious to influence the unconscious over time.

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Hashem, you describe consciousness as an epiphenoma, 

are you aware of that? Have you considered alternatives and settled on this , or is it rather your default understanding?

 

Second question, do you believe that a brain is an assembly of 'neurons for unconscious thoughts' and other distint ones that are the "neurons for concious thoughts? Such that the former bundle pass on their orders to the second?

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baxter replied on Wed, Aug 8 2012 5:57 PM

Hashem, you describe consciousness as an [epiphenomenon]

That seems reasonable. But then surely dogs have a kind of conciousness. And bacteria. And electrons.

Can a brain have two sets of ephiphenomena, i.e. two conciousnesses? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Split_personality

 

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hashem replied on Wed, Aug 8 2012 8:48 PM

I'm not so sure epiphenomenalism describes my understanding of the physiology of the brain. Surely, processes in the brain cause mental phenomena. But the brain uses mental phenomena to drive its own mechanics. It is an automatic cycle. But the chicken came before the egg, as it were. I don't think anyone denies unconscious, automatic brain activity preceded conscious action.

The vast majority of brain activity is unconscious, automatic, and unctrollable. That is, it happens without the need for input from the consciousness, and the consciousness has no route for directly controlling it. I don't think anybody denies this, either.

So the unconscious brain can't be blaimed for the cost-benefit algorithm it developed automatically and uncontrollably, and the consciousness can't be blamed for experiencing output which was calculated without its control. It's automatic. All "we" (our consciousness) do is experience the output. If a person is raised in a cave, you don't blame him acting like a caveman. If a person is raised to be a murderer, you don't blame him for murdering. You just acknowledge the reality and do the best you can to help him or, if his unconscious algorithm is too rigid (in other words, he is unable to "change his mind") then you ostracize him.

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baxter replied on Thu, Aug 9 2012 4:51 PM

 I don't think anyone denies unconscious, automatic brain activity preceded conscious action.

And I don't understand the science behind these kinds of claims.

The only way to know if someone is concious of something is for them to report that they were concious of it. But since their reporting takes time, isn't it quite possible that they were concious before or while  the "unconcious, automatic" processing took place, but their reporting of the fact was simply delayed?

This "science" is much more contentious than I think you are admitting. I'm curious what these have to say... from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bereitschaftspotential#cite_note-L.26dC10-15

  1. ^ Lavazza, A.; De Caro, M. (2010). Not so fast. On some bold neuroscientific claims concerning human angency. Neuroethics 3: 23-41. [DOI 10.1007/s12152-009-9053-9]
  2. ^ Klemm, W. R. 2010 Free will debates: simple experiments are not so simple. "Advances in Cognitive Psychology,6: 47-65.

Edit: here's one of these papers: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2942748/

This "neuroethics" stuff seems to be an ungainly amalgam of hard science and literary discourse. I have to agree with Clayton that at this point there's not much hope of bridging the gap between stuff like praxeology and the physical processes of the brain. There's not much hope of transcending human epistemology. I'm still looking forward to a cyborg brain upgrade though.

 

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hashem replied on Thu, Aug 9 2012 8:07 PM

hashem:
automatic brain activity preceded conscious action.

Does anyone deny this? Who thinks we were consciously acting before activity ever took place in the unconscious brain.

I'm curious what these have to say...
I'm not sure what you want me to say...? The article you linked me to ends regarding free will:

In a series of experiments in the 1980s, Benjamin Libet studied the relationship between conscious experience of volition and the BP and found that the BP started about 0.35 sec earlier than the subject's reported conscious awareness that 'now he or she feels the desire to make a movement.' Libet concludes that we have no free will in the initiation of our movements

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Clayton replied on Thu, Aug 9 2012 11:54 PM

Study is a category of action; knowledge is a category of action and awareness. Awareness is primary. Action is primary. These other speculations regarding the "real" substructure of awareness and action are secondary and derivative. You can spin it until you puke from dizziness but the fact remains that choice is choice. That's why we call it choosing. Everyone knows what it is. If you can't seem to figure out the difference between clockwork and your own sense of volition, that's your problem.

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Here's a couple of interesting video's. The first one I think is wrong, but wrong in an illuminating way. Or rather we could interpret him as right but with a modification... urgh, its complicated ok !?$%!!

The second one I think is right, in so much as it is another way of saying what myself and Clayton and others have been saying (approximately)

ok here we go !

Michio Kaku: Why Physics Ends the Free Will Debate

First he describes the pre-quantum (i.e. newtonian) deterministic framework, which in his interpretation would lead to the assesment that free will is illusary, and that murderers where predestined to eventually murder based on the initial conditions of the universe. Then he attempts to rescue 'free will' by the introduction of quantum indeterminancy, which is to say that there is no fully specified destiny for our little electron friends. Thus he seems to be allowing 'free will' as a real phenomenon on the basis of the real physical quantum indeterminancy. However, I would argue that the problem here is why would we want to assosciate as such my will, moral agency, choices etc, with what this or that quantum element randomly chooses to do. Another way of thinking about this is that determinancy and indeterminancy kind of miss the point on free will, determinancy would seem to shed 'free will' because everything is preordained, and indeterminancy seems to shed 'free will' because there is a dice-thrower beyond the veil that effects your brain so you behave differently... . On the other hand, Kaku makes the interesting and important point, that it is our inability to predict outcomes for vastly complicated aggregate such as a brain, (he says no one can determine your future events based on your past history), that means we can be said to have free will. 

Ok, so now listen to Pinker, 

He dismisses dualism, he sees mind as emergent of physical processes of the brain. He recognises the vast complexity of the brain, and hence how hard it is to predict. Then he recognises a continuum between more reflexive and more deliberative/volitional behaviours. The volitional behaviours use a lot of brain, the mind will have self awareness and will think about choices, it will have the *feeling* that it can choose. Here we find where to locate 'free will'. It may not mean what it meant 100years ago and before that, when people knew less about the world, and less about philosophising about the world... but we have 'free will' that it makes sense and is usefull to talk about. We recognise complexity, we recognise the phenomenon of the 'illusion of will', i.e. feelings of self awareness and seeming volitional possibilites, and we consider the external challenges to predicting the brain... and why can't that all add up to 'free will'. I think that is the 'free will' we have got now and have always had. 

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baxter replied on Fri, Aug 10 2012 1:02 AM

I think Kaku's position is unreasonable. The use of QM or other statistical mechanics can never establish whether the universe is fundamentally deterministic or not. In fact, there is the perfectly valid Bohmian interpretation of QM where particles have precise positions ("beables", not observables); for example, an electron in a ground state hydrogen atom is stationary instead of being smeared out.

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However, I would argue that the problem here is why would we want to assosciate as such my will, moral agency, choices etc, with what this or that quantum element randomly chooses to do.

The quantum element only seems to us to be random at this point.  We may discover later that they are in fact going where they need to go.  Just as we can see that plants breed.  They (plants, jellyfish, cells) don't have consciousness as we think of it, but they somehow manage to do what they need to do in order to propagate their own existence.  All things multiply.

To say that a certain ancient gas cloud releasing in space in a specfic way somehow managed to cause a person to murder simply because the conditions over which the ages chose to form the circumstances did so as it did is a little too far of a leap of logic.  Correlation isn't causation.  Circumstance is what creates morality, but it doesn't necessarily cause action.  Morality creates choice and choice creates the dilemma of action (moral choice; free will).

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Clayton replied on Fri, Aug 10 2012 1:06 AM

@nir: Thanks for the vids.

I whole-heartedly agree with everything Pinker said. I think that speculation about quantum randomness only muddies the waters. Besides, Kaku is a tool.

I would augment what Pinker said by eliminating the word "physical" (which I think is actually a puzzlingly meaningless word, especially for how common it is to throw it about these days) and, instead, use the word "causal" - the mind is the result of causal processes, nearly all of which reside within the confines of the skull. And I especially agree with Pinker's note that we can't even make sense of the dualist position, that is, it is an inherently acausal position. You can't reconcile causality and acausality.

However, I think that Pinker would agree that much of human language is inherently dualistic. We speak of our own internal states as if there is some kind of genie pulling levers within us (I always think of the tiny alien inside the head of that old dude in the original MIB in the morgue scene). And for the purposes of praxeological analysis or any other kind of scientific analysis that is not directly concerned with the investigation of the causal theory of consciousness itself, the only way to avoid muddying the waters with extraneous bits & pieces of the current theories of consciousness is to adopt the mantle of methodological dualism.

It should be understood that - if taken in the woodenly literal sense - MD is unintelligible for the reasons already mentioned. But methodological dualism is not intended to be a substitute for a theory of consciousness, it is just a methodology for utilizing the already-existing intuitive theory of consciousness (dualism) within language that is "good enough" for any discipline that is not specifically concerned with the analysis of consciousness itself. However our consciousness works, however awareness arises, whatever the causal mechanisms of action and purposeful behavior... thus-and-so. That is methodological dualism.

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What, I take away from Kaku, is he finds 'free will' in the one persons inability to predict anothers behaviour (in full perfect detail on a scientific basis). So whilst we might argue that the universe is 'deterministic', as you suggest is credible, yet in a deterministic universe, can we precisely predict scientifically the behaviour of others ? I think we have enough complexity organised in brains to make that a reach. I think Clayton had lots of good points on that topic. Complexity, and predictability seems to bind together where Pinker and Kaku agree (they do both agree that there is room for 'free will' as a concept in our language)  even though Kaku talks about quanum mechanics, and Pinker doesn't mention quantum mechanics.....

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hashem replied on Fri, Aug 10 2012 8:01 AM

You can spin it until you puke from dizziness but the fact remains that choice is choice. That's why we call it choosing.
I completely agree. Just like fairies are fairies, and the spaghetti monster is the spaghetti monster. That's why we call them fairies, and the spaghetti monster.

Everyone knows what it is.
I keep pointing out that this is your root problem. Nobody knows what "it" is. Nobody knows what you're talking about, in fact you've gone out of your way to say you won't explain it. When you say a person has free will, what do you mean by "a person", and "free will"? Is there a kind of will that is separate from the "free" kind? Is the will completely under the control of the consciousness?

If you can't seem to figure out the difference between clockwork and your own sense of volition, that's your problem.
It's funny to watch you project, and sad at the same time, like watching a toddler run into a window. Your statement here is more appropriately applied to you. You can't seem to state what you mean by free will, so nobody has any reason to think we know what you're talking about, and especially no reason to think you know what you're talking about.

Anyway, regarding determinism, I'm not arguing whether our actions are determined by physics from millions of years ago. I'm saying the unconscioius is responsible for decision making, and the consicous is responsible for experiencing the output of those calculations. Thus, since the unconscious was processing input and developing its decision making algorithm before the consciousness ever had any influence, we can't blame the consciousness for experiencing the output of the unconscious. And we can't blame the unconscious, since its development began without influence from our consciousness.

I'm not saying Einstein was determined to be a genius because someone stepped on a butterfly a million years ago, which may or may not be true.

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Not to derail anything here, but are you guys open to the possibility that consciousness is not created by the brain? I have been following this thread off and on for a while now and most of you guys seem to be set on the notion that the brain creates consciousness, may I ask your opinions as to why you believe that?

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Not to derail anything here, but are you guys open to the possibility that consciousness is not created by the brain? I have been following this thread off and on for a while now and most of you guys seem to be set on the notion that the brain creates consciousness, may I ask your opinions as to why you believe that?

I refrained from posting something like, "unconscious may be a collective almost aetheral entity."  Not to trivialize the discussion, but there are a few examples that tend towards this interpretation.  Conscious thought is yours, but unconscious thought might be a collective thing.

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hashem replied on Fri, Aug 10 2012 9:54 PM

may I ask your opinions as to why you believe that?
As long as you don't ask Clayton. He will take offense to that. Where are your manners, asking someone to explain their perspective on something everyone is expected to believe.

As for me the world itself is irrelevant. What I mean when I talk about the consciousness is the brain activity responsible for experiencing the output calculated by the unconscious brain.

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Clayton replied on Sat, Aug 11 2012 12:39 AM

@hashem: You are obfuscating the issue. "Should we get the blue curtains or the brown? What's your choice?" <-- What is this sentence asking?? Grab anyone off the street and ask them whether this sentence is intelligible, that is, whether they understand what it is querying? Choice is nothing but preference acted upon. The microscopic physical states which combine to form purposeful behavior are not relevant to the gross fact of choice. It is what it is.

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hashem replied on Sat, Aug 11 2012 9:39 AM

How clever, that the person refusing to clarify should accuse the person seeking clarification of "obfuscating the issue". Everyone agrees on what a curtain is, and nobody is saying the human brain is incapable of caluclating input and outputting choice. But scarcely anyone agrees on what the bible means, or what is meant by "a person has free will", and so many people are involved in getting to the bottom of these complicated issues.

The microscopic physical states which combine to form purposeful behavior are not relevant to the gross fact of choice.
What in the world are you talking about? Of course they are. By your logic the microscopic parts of computer chips are irrelevant to the gross fact of stuff being output to your monitor. And yet there is a massive industry devoted to objectively studying and enhancing the productivity of those chips.

It is what it is.
What is important is what is meant by "it". Until people agree on what is meant by "a person has free will", a conversation about people having free will is silly. We might as well be talking about the color of the invisible spider on our heads, because "it is what it is".

On a more serious note, this could give rise to a great meme: "It is what it is, your argument is invalid."

EDIT: How could I have missed this comparison...People's general understanding of free will is that the monitor (consciousness) is responsible for the calculations of the computer (unconscious). They see the effect coming from the monitor, and assume it caused the output. So when the monitor displays a graphically violent scene, they want to punish the monitor, without ever looking deeper to see that the monitor is only DISPLAYING the output which was already calculated without its control by the computer.

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Clayton replied on Sat, Aug 11 2012 11:12 AM

nobody is saying the human brain is incapable of ... outputting choice.

What the hell is "outputting"?

But scarcely anyone agrees on ... what is meant by "a person has free will",

Nothing more than that people choose. As I pointed out before, human choice cannot be acausal because we live in a causal Universe. All human action arises within this Universe and presupposes causality (Mises HA, Ultimate Foundation, see quote above). I don't think that those who advocate for an "absolute free will" can even give an intelligible account of what it is they are asserting to be the case.

But humans choose. We call this exercising the will. And we do so freely (as in, not like an eyeblink or perspiration).

The other kind of free will (action outside of causality) - which you seem to be occupying yourself with strawmaning me on and then refuting - isn't even intelligible.

and so many people are involved in getting to the bottom of these complicated issues.

And most of them are blowing smoke to obfuscate and muddle the issue, just like you. There really isn't anything complicated or difficult here. People choose. Choosing is different than sneezing or simple automatic/involuntary actions within the brain that would be described as "reflexive" or "unconscious" by comparison to choice. Hence, humans have free will. </discussion>

The microscopic physical states which combine to form purposeful behavior are not relevant to the gross fact of choice.
What in the world are you talking about? Of course they are. By your logic the microscopic parts of computer chips are irrelevant to the gross fact of stuff being output to your monitor. And yet there is a massive industry devoted to objectively studying and enhancing the productivity of those chips.

But human brains are not designed by human beings. They simply are. You are simply born with a brain. You don't have to understand it (and as I've argued above, you can never completely understand it) in order to experience it. So, to follow your analogy, it's like being born with a computer monitor with some mad-scientist, rube-goldberg electronical device attached that makes it work. You don't need to reverse engineer the circuitry in order to meaningfully talk to your fellow human+monitor beings about what you see on the display. The gross facts of the display are what they are irrespective of how the underlying electronics work.

It is what it is.
What is important is what is meant by "it".

No. See above. We can have a meaningful discussion about the gross facts of a built-in monitor display without specifying in detail the underlying mechanism. And it's a good thing, too, otherwise, human communication could never have got off the ground. Choosing and purposeful behavior will be among the very last things that brain scientists will be able to throw light on from a neurological point-of-view. The aspects of the mind concerned with, for example, face-recognition and shape discrimination are fantastically complex and will require immense amounts of research before we actually understand how they work. But those aspects are solitary examples out of a trillion others ... the combined effects of which bring about the highest aspects of human behavior, such as choice.

You do realize the magnitudes we're talking about here? The human brain has roughly 100 billion neurons connected by roughly 100 trillion synapses! By comparison, there are only 200-400 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy.

So, if we had to specify which circuits are firing and how they all combine, causally, when a person exercises "the will" before we could actually communicate with one another about the will, well, we'd be screwed. Your view of communication forms a vicious circle... you can't talk until you have the circuitry to talk but once you have the circuitry to talk, you're too complex to talk.

EDIT: How could I have missed this comparison...People's general understanding of free will is that the monitor (consciousness) is responsible for the calculations of the computer (unconscious). They see the effect coming from the monitor, and assume it caused the output. So when the monitor displays a graphically violent scene, they want to punish the monitor, without ever looking deeper to see that the monitor is only DISPLAYING the output which was already calculated without its control by the computer.

All of that is really irrelevant to any question of social order. Humans are capable of violence and also of non-violence. Human choice is affected by social facts (in other words, the expectation of retaliation or reward from peers). The very warp and weave of the social order is the constant push-and-pull between individuals in an inexplicably complex network of retaliation and reward, cooperation and defection, trust and betrayal, etc. Oh I forgot, those words are all as meaningless as the Invisible Pink Unicorn because I can't give you an electrical diagram showing how their causal relationships operate in terms of quarks and protons.

What nonsense.

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hashem replied on Sat, Aug 11 2012 7:49 PM

Clayton:
We can have a meaningful discussion about the gross facts of a built-in monitor display without specifying in detail the underlying mechanism.

Again I'll point out, this is your root problem. We're not talking about the consciouness (the monitor) when we talk about will. We're talking about the unconscious, the computer, which calculates the output—a mere fraction of which is known to the monitor.

Clayton:
people choose...humans choose...we do so...People choose...

Speaking analogously, you are conflating the monitor and the computer. You see activity on the monitor of an iMac and say, "It could have displayed X, Y, or Z, and it displayed Z, therefore it chose to display Z", misattributing the calculations of the computer(s) to the monitor. But the monitor isn't the cause of that output.

A person identifies with his consciousness, so when we talk about "he did X", we mean "his consciousness experienced X". That doesn't mean his consciouness caused the output it experienced. The solution to this misattribution error is to acknowledge that there are at least two categories of brain activity, conscious and unconscious.

Clayton:
hashem:
nobody is saying the human brain is incapable of ... outputting choice.
What the hell is "outputting"?

This could be considered one of those situations where I should be offended by your ignorance. I could tell you to google it, or I could explain that outputting is the process of producing and transfering.

Clayton:
hashem:
But scarcely anyone agrees on ... what is meant by "a person has free will",
Nothing more than that people choose.

"People" don't choose. Neither their entire person, nor their consciousness, chooses. It is the unconscious brain which does the calculating you call "choosing". This is by no means contradicts causality, which position you're misattributing to me.

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I find this notion of consciousness as 'pure monitor' troublesome.

1). If 'consciousness' does nothing but supply the epiphenomenal effect of 'feeling' what is going on in relation to you, given a context of choices always being made by an unconscious, you are therefore describing a system wherein choices are made without recourse to reflective and embedded knowledge (i consciouse awareness)! and then that conscious awareness is just an empty 'report'. Does it seem credible to anyone that if the mind has the capacity to refer to itself in it surrounds (i.e. to be conscious) that it would not use this facility to play a MAJOR role in determining the choices it makes?

2) you say dogmatically that people don't choose, just a part of the brain of people choose (talk about splitting hairs). but somehow because the part that chooses doesn't have the feature of employing self-awareness i.e. consciousness ... well, I don't see any evidence for any of that. 

As has been posted in the neuroscience literature, those early experiments showing odd potentials, and issues with self reported timing of choice making, don't hold up under scrutiny to bear out your kind of model of the mind. The conscious mind, realising it will be having to do a task could feasibly (perhaps even could be expected to?) set up an unconscious potential to act as a preparede state, which is queing up the necessary mental/physical responses that would be necessary to deliver the decision at the moment the consciousness will make the decision ... to me at least this kind of analysis, if no better than the prior, is certainly no worse ! (and I think it better)

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hashem replied on Sat, Aug 11 2012 9:03 PM

Google: blindsight. It will help you reconcile some of your misunderstandings about conscious awareness. Basically, some people have the conscious awareness of vision disabled in the brain, but the unconscious brain is still able to process information transmitted from the eyes (e.g. they can avoid obstacles in a path, even though they are consciously unaware that their eyes are seeing the obstacles).

given a context of choices always being made by an unconscious, you are therefore describing a system wherein choices are made without recourse to reflective and embedded knowledge (i consciouse awareness)!
This is quite confusing... Please rephrase or something...?

you say dogmatically that people don't choose, just a part of the brain of people choose (talk about splitting hairs).
This is immensely important! The physical body, or consciousness—the things people are probably referring to when they say "a person" or "I"—don't choose, it is the unconscious brain which processes input and calculates output (aka "chooses").

Regarding the BP experiments, I didn't invoke them as evidence. I was just responding to baxter's citation of them.

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All blindsight seems to show is that quite complex behaviours can be produced by the unconcious, but this says nothing about the decisions and choices that the conscious mind can make, (and it doesnt say that the conscious mind does not make choices). It seems like with blindsight, you would be right to say that the particular movements of going around the obstacles which in normal people happens under a context of conscious choice, in this person do not, and so in this person, only the larger-meta choices like 'i will do as the experiments say and walk this corridor) are properly 'chosen' in a context of 'free will' whereas the submovements are not. This would be nothing different in kind (only degree) when compared to the notion that praxeologists are surely comfortable with, that commonly something like makin an appointment to see the doctor is a conscious choice and a praxeological act, whilst the reflexive raising of the knee when the doctor strikes, is an unconscious reflex and is not to be considered a praxeological act under 'choice' and 'free will'. 

I'm curious though, lets say I haven't convinced you, have your opinions on the dominance of the unconscious as 'choice making' influenced your attitudes towards praxeology, economics and libertarianism as it is commonly understood ?

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hashem replied on Sat, Aug 11 2012 9:54 PM

I'm curious though, lets say I haven't convinced you
Are you asking whether your influence has been made known to my consciousness? To be quite honest, I'm not sure to what extent my unconscious brain is processing and reacting to your input.

have your opinions...influenced your attitudes
I trust this is the same question as "have your opinions influenced your actions"
My conscious awareness of the opinions output by my unconscious have not determined my actions, though they may have influenced them via influencing the unconscious. To be sure, the opinions are not "mine" in the sense that my consciousness causes them, although it experiences them.

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Lol, yes, I guess I'm asking you about whether the opinions that are not yours...(but that it makes more sense to ask you about than to ask anyone else about them), changed?

Do you think praxeology is useful true? Is Austrian Economics well founded? 

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Clayton replied on Sat, Aug 11 2012 10:15 PM

We're not talking about the consciouness (the monitor) when we talk about will. We're talking about the unconscious,

Petitio principii - this is the very point in contention. When someone says, "I chose to go with the blue curtains instead of the brown", he is not making a statement about the hidden machinery in his brain that is the causal precondition to the act of choice. Rather, he is speaking of choice as we all experience it, an unanalyzed whole in the flow of time and conscious awareness.

And to return to the issue of determinism/causality, you keep strawmanning me as if I'm trying to deny that there are causal preconditions to conscious choice. Of course there are causal preconditions and I will even go so far as to say that the causal preconditions are exhaustive, else causality itself breaks down. Most people would understand this as "determinism" but I think that determinism is metaphysical masturbation... the fact that every event in the Universe is fully causally related with every other event in the Universe has nothing to do with Fate. The human condition is one of uncertainty and indeterminism irrespective of how things would appear from the point-of-view of an Omniscient being.

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