Compatibilist views on free will: some apparent inconsistencies in approach

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ruby sparks
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Post by ruby sparks » Tue Jun 06, 2017 11:00 pm

And the interesting thing is that it's been happening, already, gradually, in the courts for example. Admittedly it's partial, and the courts are reluctant to budge (I can see why, and I'm not suggesting we force the issue at any pace other than the pace it goes at, if and as more evidence comes in) but notions of free will and moral responsibility are not as strong as they were, even 50 years ago (a very, very short time in terms of human cognitive development). And a case could be made that it's a 'good' thing.

That's why I say it's more a matter of extent, emphasis and pace than basic principle.

Though that said, I wouldn't opt for anything radical, because at the end of the day, there's no conclusive case, yet. But the current direction is not towards free will.

Personally, I don't think compatibilism is necessarily going to be able to cut the mustard, going forward, as an explanation, mainly because the idea that free will is actually compatible with determinism does not appear to stack up.

We have capacities, they're very interesting and sophisticated and seem to be unique (on earth) and worth having. But they fall short of free will. It's probably all happening 'automatically'. We are part of the natural ebb and flow of the universe, nowhere near as important or fab as we think we are. And I personally don't think we'll lose much by admitting that. We might even gain.
Last edited by ruby sparks on Tue Jun 06, 2017 11:16 pm, edited 11 times in total.

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Post by ruby sparks » Tue Jun 06, 2017 11:18 pm

[quote=""plebian""]They saw religion as a social phenomenon and as a personal experiential issue with a high curiosity factor. Different times I guess.[/quote]

Indeed. I hesitate to call it 'progress' since that has teleological baggage, but I think I can call it change. Death, taxes and change. We can't stop any of them. Though death may be challenged at some stage......

Zeitgeists. That's the word I'm looking for.

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Post by ruby sparks » Wed Jun 07, 2017 8:02 am

Apologies for kidding around about that article. I did enjoy it and I thought it was well-explained and plausible. It made a good outline case for connectionism and I can see why it was an influential article for cogintive science, neuroscience and philosophy of mind. Thanks for posting, sub.

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Post by ruby sparks » Wed Jun 07, 2017 8:28 am

[quote=""plebian""]How is eliminativism not related to the op? If freewill is incompatible with determinism, then eliminativism is your skyhook.[/quote]

I'm not exactly sure why you think of it as a skyhook, but...sure, eliminativism is related to the OP. Perhaps mostly when it comes to whether we should reduce or eliminate the concept of free will. I'm not dead set against the former. Like the authors I think the question of when to eliminate is easier to ask than to answer.

In any case, reduction involves elimination, just not complete and total elimination. There's even, it seems to me, a subtle difference between things which are, it might be asserted, thoroughly eliminated. Phlogiston and witches were both cited. The former is gone (except as a historical reference to a prior belief) but that may only be because it was only ever a technical, scientific word in the first place. Witches, demons and so on, on the other hand, still arguably 'feature in our thinking', even for those who don't explicitly believe in them, when we think of ourselves as having a 'good side' and a 'bad side' to our nature, in a way not entirely unlike the idea that brain functions are modular rather than connectionist.

The example given, of conceiving of brain functions, specifically those leading to propositional attitudes, as functionally (and perhaps to some extent geographically) discrete being awry, and in need of revision (to a connectionist model) chimes for me, because it delves into 'what the actual state of affairs seems to be as opposed to folk psychological explanations'. So, we are not going to easily find discrete functional structures or regions in the brain in the way that we perhaps thought and we aren't going to properly understand the way the brain works if we don't let go of the folk psychology explanation (or indeed earlier scientific explanations).

Ditto for hommunculi. There aren't any. There's no cartesian theatre either and no self. Everything, to use a certain word applied to consciousness, is 'smeared' and the components are subsymbolic.

And yet, such things (hommunculi, theatres, selves, functionally discrete memories and beliefs, etc) are still involved in the way 'the game' (the human system) normally works at the level of personal experience. And language, obviously. Stuff persists. That does not mean, imo, that it's all fixed in amber, like the body of an ant in fossilised tree resin.

I guess I don't see why we don't treat free will in a similar way. Why is it some sort of holy cow?* Nobody, as far as we can tell, is ever going to go into a brain and find a free will process, because apparently not one part of the machinery or the process is actually free. It's all happening fully and completely constrained. Fully and completely is a rather high bar to cross, even when we want to talk about difficulties of moving between levels of explanation. Those, it seems to me, are just difficulties in understanding and conception (ie modelling), not differences in mechanics. Limits on 'descriptions of processes' perhaps. Whatever's happening is happening anyway.

That may raise issues regarding varieties of monism, but as I said before, I don't think any particular type of monism can be demonstrated to be right and another wrong. They're each just models. Which is better than the other is probably a slightly separate argument. I don't have a big bet on the issue. I'm not even sure I can refute any dualisms. That said, the question of whether conscious thoughts (beliefs, symbols) can be, in principle, causal, for example (temporarily parking any firm conclusions from trying to answer the detailed question of their actual ontology) and if so in what ways, is still fascinating, but I think attempted answers can be fitted into either a freewill or an afreewill explanation in very similar ways.


* Please don't say 'because it's useful' because at the end of the day, we don't know which would be more useful.
Last edited by ruby sparks on Wed Jun 07, 2017 9:45 am, edited 37 times in total.

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Post by subsymbolic » Wed Jun 07, 2017 9:42 pm

But there is a self sat there at the intersection of the biological and the intentional. Partly logically private partially fictional language, it emerges, half logic half physics and it is this that allows self consciousness. The lights are on as a matter of biology and the stories are told.

Brains produce future by completing patterns, selves produce future by telling stories and it's only when the two are working together that we become fully conscious. We have two wills, two natures, a biological one and a narrative one, one follows physics the other follows logic and other language games. When I am, even partially, the author of my story, I am free.

I decide on the basis of reason and physics working together. The centre of narrative gravity is a logical system that puts choosing, based on beliefs and desires, both conceptual and non conceptual, what I rationally want to do.
It's just like the two balls except it puts rational decision making, the heart of free will, in precisely the right place, picking options from biology and from intentions and rationally choosing.

Everything comes together in the self. Sure, it's a user illusion, sure it's scientifically false, but the, as I've always said, even for materialists, science isn't the measure of all things. This is what homo Narratans is. Yet another satisficing kluge. And we need to rethink the word real...

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Post by plebian » Wed Jun 07, 2017 9:46 pm

[quote=""subsymbolic""]But there is a self sat there at the intersection of the biological and the intentional. Partly logically private partially fictional language, it emerges, half logic half physics and it is this that allows self consciousness. The lights are on as a matter of biology and the stories are told.

Brains produce future by completing patterns, selves produce future by telling stories and it's only when the two are working together that we become fully conscious. We have two wills, two natures, a biological one and a narrative one, one follows physics the other follows logic and other language games. When I am, even partially, the author of my story, I am free.

I decide on the basis of reason and physics working together. The centre of narrative gravity is a logical system that puts choosing, based on beliefs and desires, both conceptual and non conceptual, what I rationally want to do.
It's just like the two balls except it puts rational decision making, the heart of free will, in precisely the right place, picking options from biology and from intentions and rationally choosing.

Everything comes together in the self. Sure, it's a user illusion, sure it's scientifically false, but the, as I've always said, even for materialists, science isn't the measure of all things. This is what homo Narratans is. Yet another satisficing kluge. And we need to rethink the word real...[/quote]

I believe you mean homo narrans. And yeah.

eta: http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/13339.html

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ruby sparks
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Post by ruby sparks » Wed Jun 07, 2017 10:13 pm

[quote=""subsymbolic""]But there is a self sat there at the intersection of the biological and the intentional. Partly logically private partially fictional language, it emerges, half logic half physics and it is this that allows self consciousness. The lights are on as a matter of biology and the stories are told.

Brains produce future by completing patterns, selves produce future by telling stories and it's only when the two are working together that we become fully conscious. We have two wills, two natures, a biological one and a narrative one, one follows physics the other follows logic and other language games. When I am, even partially, the author of my story, I am free.

I decide on the basis of reason and physics working together. The centre of narrative gravity is a logical system that puts choosing, based on beliefs and desires, both conceptual and non conceptual, what I rationally want to do.
It's just like the two balls except it puts rational decision making, the heart of free will, in precisely the right place, picking options from biology and from intentions and rationally choosing.

Everything comes together in the self. Sure, it's a user illusion, sure it's scientifically false, but the, as I've always said, even for materialists, science isn't the measure of all things. This is what homo Narratans is. Yet another satisficing kluge. And we need to rethink the word real...[/quote]

I wouldn't disagree with much if any of that.

I think I've pretty much said all I can say, in my copious posting in this thread. We seem to differ, slightly, when it comes to nuances and details, but not significantly. Ditto for Dennett, who I consider to be a closet afreewillist. :D

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