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Determinism v Free Will


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I'm becoming increasingly convinced of a determinist view of the universe, and everything within it, including all human behaviour.

 

i.e. no-one is in 'control' of any of their actions: everything is determined by prior states.

 

It's not a very comfortable position to come to morally, but I find the arguments very persuasive.

 

This is probably the wrong thread for this discussion though.

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All sound a bit religous to me. Allows people to absolve themselves of responsibility, blame it on a higher force.

 

 

Not necessarily, doesn't have to prevent suffering the consequences of actions, just about the ultimate reasons things may happen right?

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All sound a bit religous to me. Allows people to absolve themselves of responsibility, blame it on a higher force.

 

Nothing religious about it.

 

I'm saying we're ultimately no different to any other part of the universe. There's no higher force at work (God, or our own 'spirit' or anything). Just things happening, that are caused by other things, all the way back to the start of the universe.

 

In fact, you sort of need to inject God (or something similar) into the argument if you want to argue against determinism. If we so have free will, where does it come from?

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Im driving over the limit, hit and kill someone.

 

Talk me through it..........

 

What made you decide to have a drink? What made you decide to drive?

Let's say you wanted a drink because you just felt like having fun that night. And you decided to drive because it was the easiest way to get home, you couldn't be arsed with public transport and you were too tight to pay for a taxi.

What is it about you that made you that way? It's a combination of loads of factors - your genes, your upbringing, your experiences as an adult, what was happening at that precise moment ... All of that leads to 'personality', but you're not realy in control of it.

 

You might 'choose' to become a better person, but all those factors are in place when you make that 'choice'.

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I'm becoming increasingly convinced of a determinist view of the universe, and everything within it, including all human behaviour.

 

i.e. no-one is in 'control' of any of their actions: everything is determined by prior states.

 

It's not a very comfortable position to come to morally, but I find the arguments very persuasive.

 

This is probably the wrong thread for this discussion though.

 

There's a definite discussion to be had.

 

I am however more persuaded by compatibilist accounts of the universe. There's a really good paper by Roskies

 

http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic889975.files/May%202nd/May%202nd%20papers%20to%20be%20presented/Roskies%202010.pdf

 

which suggests that there are accounts free will, not the contra causal libertarian notion that seems largely discredited, compatible with a deterministic universe. It allows for a notion of moral responsibility but where that means responsible for a (im)moral act. It moves the discussion away from retributive punishment though and has the potential to make better moral decisions.

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What made you decide to have a drink? What made you decide to drive?

Let's say you wanted a drink because you just felt like having fun that night. And you decided to drive because it was the easiest way to get home, you couldn't be arsed with public transport and you were too tight to pay for a taxi.

What is it about you that made you that way? It's a combination of loads of factors - your genes, your upbringing, your experiences as an adult, what was happening at that precise moment ... All of that leads to 'personality', but you're not realy in control of it.

 

You might 'choose' to become a better person, but all those factors are in place when you make that 'choice'.

 

Nature vs nurture?

 

Nature + nurture?

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I think. even if there is no free will, that's not necessarily an argument for forgoing punishment.

 

Punishing wrongdoers might affect their future behaviour, might stop others from doing wrong, and might just make victims feel better - all of which are valid arguments in favour of punishment, even if we can't really help doing wrong things.

 

Likewise, we can't help doing good things but I wouldn't do away with reward.

 

Nature + nurture?

 

Yes. And everything else too.

 

Basically we're just a collection of atoms, or subatomic particles, that are affected by something that a nearby particle did, and so on back to the Big Bang.

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I think. even if there is no free will, that's not necessarily an argument for forgoing punishment.

 

Punishing wrongdoers might affect their future behaviour, might stop others from doing wrong, and might just make victims feel better - all of which are valid arguments in favour of punishment, even if we can't really help doing wrong things.

 

Likewise, we can't help doing good things but I wouldn't do away with reward.

 

Yes. And everything else too.

 

Basically we're just a collection of atoms, or subatomic particles, that are affected by something that a nearby particle did, and so on back to the Big Bang.

 

So there's already challenges to determinism given there are things that absolutely can't be determined. we also need to guard against fatalism which a too stringent reading of determinism may lead to,

 

The latter. In fact, not even that. Nurture is a product of nature, as is everything else.

 

so we have evidence that this isn't the case.

 

There's an example with Rats where rats were taken from a mother that wasn't being supportive to one that was, despite the very real differences due in part to the rats not being cleaned by the mother the rats transplanted to the new mother started to display the characteristics of the family they had been adopted by. This change manifested physiologically.

 

I'll find the references when I get home later

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So there's already challenges to determinism given there are things that absolutely can't be determined.

 

What can't be determined?

 

There is some randomness at a subatomic level, I hear. But if that's the best we can do, then it certainly doesn't rescue free will as a concept.

 

There's an example with Rats where rats were taken from a mother that wasn't being supportive to one that was, despite the very real differences due in part to the rats not being cleaned by the mother the rats transplanted to the new mother started to display the characteristics of the family they had been adopted by. This change manifested physiologically.

 

It's still nature though. It was nature that determined that physiological changes would occur under certain circumstances. And that one mother rat would behave one way and the other another. And that scientists would decide to perform that experiment.

 

Surely you would agree that, at one point, there was nothing but nature? (Unless you invoke God I suppose.) At what point did something beyond or outside of nature begin to exist?

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so we have evidence that this isn't the case.

 

There's an example with Rats where rats were taken from a mother that wasn't being supportive to one that was, despite the very real differences due in part to the rats not being cleaned by the mother the rats transplanted to the new mother started to display the characteristics of the family they had been adopted by. This change manifested physiologically.

 

I'll find the references when I get home later

 

I'm a nurture man all the way. The nature argument again builds in some abilty to deny responsibilty for behaviour.

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What rescues free will is whether or not we can define it appropriately. Randomness is a pretty poor defence of free will as the compatibilists would argue that things being random is a greater assault on free will than determinism.

 

The things that can't be determined are the sub atomic decay but it's enough to suggest there's enough stuff we don't know

 

What can't be determined?

 

There is some randomness at a subatomic level, I hear. But if that's the best we can do, then it certainly doesn't rescue free will as a concept.

 

 

 

It's still nature though. It was nature that determined that physiological changes would occur under certain circumstances. And that one mother rat would behave one way and the other another. And that scientists would decide to perform that experiment.

 

Surely you would agree that, at one point, there was nothing but nature? (Unless you invoke God I suppose.) At what point did something beyond or outside of nature begin to exist?

 

I believe that there's a natural explanation for everything so I'm not saying that it's not nature what I'm saying is that the nature we start with doesn't have to hold and can be countered.

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it's enough to suggest there's enough stuff we don't know

 

indeed there is.

but if we accept there are immutable laws underpinning the universe, then we don't have to understand those laws to come to the conclusion that everything that has happened since the Big Bang has been inevitable.

 

if the laws of the universe aren't immutable, well, we as human beings still aren't in control of them, so what's happened may not have been inevitable but there was nothing we could have done to make things turn out differently.

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I believe that there's a natural explanation for everything so I'm not saying that it's not nature what I'm saying is that the nature we start with doesn't have to hold and can be countered.

 

Yes, absolutely.

But what gets us past "the nature we start with" is experience, which is no more in our control than the nature we start with is.

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indeed there is.

but if we accept there are immutable laws underpinning the universe, then we don't have to understand those laws to come to the conclusion that everything that has happened since the Big Bang has been inevitable.

 

if the laws of the universe aren't immutable, well, we as human beings still aren't in control of them, so what's happened may not have been inevitable but there was nothing we could have done to make things turn out differently.

 

I think you're in danger of fatalism here.

 

We have some skills like, we have a sense of self, we can think cogito ergo sum, we can foresee consequences.

 

On a larger scale you're probably right but the discussion around free will in particular seems to be focused on an account of free will that doesn't hold. That Roskies paper above though quite technical in parts seems to allow for volition based on intent executive control etc, we aren't there yet but it seems enough to hold some sense of free will on the table and hold off from purely fatalist positions just yet

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Yes, absolutely.

But what gets us past "the nature we start with" is experience, which is no more in our control than the nature we start with is.

 

not just though consider our ability to consider consequences? It's part of the reason I think consequentialism in some form is the best guide towards moral responsibility, responsibility if you prefer to drop the moral. We can consider what the likely outcomes are we have scope for some executive control

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I think you're in danger of fatalism here.

 

We have some skills like, we have a sense of self, we can think cogito ergo sum, we can foresee consequences.

 

On a larger scale you're probably right but the discussion around free will in particular seems to be focused on an account of free will that doesn't hold. That Roskies paper above though quite technical in parts seems to allow for volition based on intent executive control etc, we aren't there yet but it seems enough to hold some sense of free will on the table and hold off from purely fatalist positions just yet

 

I don't think it's fatalism but its effect is probably much the same.

But just because we don't want it to be true doesn't mean it's false.

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no it doesn't but fatalism essentially holds that we are bound to certain conditions almost irrespective of antecedent events which can't be right.

 

There's a lot of neuroscience to do and I think hard determinist explanations are weakened by our lack of knowledge in these areas

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not just though consider our ability to consider consequences? It's part of the reason I think consequentialism in some form is the best guide towards moral responsibility, responsibility if you prefer to drop the moral. We can consider what the likely outcomes are we have scope for some executive control

 

yes, we can consider consequences, but the way we assess consequences is a direct result of everything that has happened to us up to that point. including loads of things like chemical imbalances in the brain, as well as genetics and experience.

 

no it doesn't but fatalism essentially holds that we are bound to certain conditions almost irrespective of antecedent events which can't be right.

 

which is why I don't think it's fatalism.

antecedent events are everything in this theory.

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2nd law of thermodynamics mate we're all headed towards nothingness ;)

 

Yeah I get that and I'm essentially a determinist I don't find the libertarian or religious accounts of free will compelling but I think some notion of free will best explains our role, we have a sense of agency, we feel responsible we accept resonsibility.

 

There's another less technical paper also referenced by Roskies

 

http://www.dartmouth.edu/~adinar/Adinas_homepage/CV_files/down%20to%20earth%20proofs.pdf

 

This suggests that when asked about responsibility in a determined universe the majority of people thought that they were incompatible, until the definition of the actual universe as deterministic then we believe largely that it is because we accept a degree of responsibility. I won't argue in favour of contra causal free will but I will advocate that there's a sense of free will that makes sense

 

That said Kant called compatibilism a wretched subterfuge so what the f*** do I know ;)

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