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Invisibleshroomydan
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A Sound Argument for Free Will
    #3229897 - 10/07/04 09:35 PM (12 years, 1 month ago)

Hello all :smile:

I haven't posted here for a while, been hanging out in the hunting forum, but I thought I would share some of my recent work on the problem of freedom. It seems that many people here reject the classical objective metaphysical arguments but I think you all may find the subjective arguments in this little paper on the thought of William James convincing.
:heart: the Truth will make you Free :heart:






A Moral Argument for Freedom

In his essay ?The Dilemma of Determinism? William James examines the philosophy of determinism and its logical implications on the nature of human existence. While admitting that determinism is a valid hypothesis based on observed reality, he rejects it because it is in conflict with his position on more fundamental questions. Does man have free will? Is there an ontological difference between good and evil? Is there any point in living a moral life? In this paper I will examine these questions, and I hope to prove along with James, that indeterminism is the more rational choice between two valid hypotheses.
Both determinism and indeterminism are ways to describe the way things happen in the universe. They are two opposing schemes of reality. James describes them like this.

Determinism professes that those parts of the universe already  laid down absolute appoint and decree what the other parts shall be. The future has no ambiguous possibilities hidden in its womb: the part we call the present is compatible with only one totality. And any other future complement than the one fixed from eternity is impossible? Indeterminism says that the parts have a certain amount of loose play on one another, so that the laying down of one of them does not necessarily determine what the other shall be. It admits that possibilities may be in excess of actualities, and that things not yet revealed to our knowledge may really in themselves be ambiguous.?2

The dichotomy may also be formulated this way: Determinism denies that there are possibilities other than those that are actually realized, and indeterminism asserts that there are unrealized possibilities.3 The indeterminist accepts the reality of possibilities, while for the determinist, what appear to be possibilities are only illusions. However, he has no way of distinguishing the illusion from the future actuality until one of them actually occurs. When one ?possibility? is actualized all the others are proven to be illusions. The determinist believes that events will run their inevitable course, and that human action is simply part of the predetermined scheme.4

In order to have a debate, certain things must first be agreed upon. James frames his argument against determinism with two suppositions:
First, when we make theories about the world and discuss them with one another, we do so in order to attain a conception of things which shall give us subjective satisfaction; and, second, if there be two conceptions, and the one seems to us, on the whole, more rational than the other, we are entitled to suppose that the more rational one is the truer of the two.5

Its interesting that James doesn?t define what he means by ?rational?, but rather leaves it to the reader to understand it as he will. By linking rationality with ?subjective satisfaction? he moves the debate away from theoretical metaphysics and towards the realm of intuition and emotion. In this framework, for something to be rational it must meet practical as well as theoretical demands; moral rationality is then on par with mechanical rationality. This is important because his dilemma springs form from the problem of evil and the emotion of regret.

There are a couple of rational reasons why someone might subscribe to the theory of determinism. The first is the legitimacy of the principle of causality. This principle states that things don?t just happen on their own, but that every event is caused by some other event or events. This idea has been postulated from the beginning of scientific inquiry, and is verified in all systems of physics from Aristotle to Newton. If one looks at the principle of causality from a narrow point of view, seeing that all events can trace their origin, in a systematic way, back to some first event, it is then easy to imagine that this systematic progression should thus continue into the future in a determined, if yet unpredictable way.
Another reason for assuming determinism is antipathy to the idea of chance. This objection to chance can be as simple as fear of the unknown and unknowable, but more often it is a rejection of chaos. A universe governed by chaos is untenable for rationalist philosophers, and they will avoid it in formulating their theories. These people assume that indeterminism invites chaos, but James disagrees. He does not see chance as being equivalent to chaos, but only affirming more than one possible outcome for any given situation. James is concerned with installing man as a fundamental creative ingredient in the ultimate scheme of the universe6, and if there are no options for him to choose from his creativity is denied.

He acknowledges that our theories must meet our theoretic demands, but they also must meet our moral demands, and he sees the demand that man?s will be free is just as much a criteria for rationality as the laws of science. James openly links the possibility of freedom with morality,7 and a system that rejects freedom can not meet his moral demand. He makes no claim to be able to conclusively prove the freedom of the will and in fact sees such an endeavor to be illogical. A certain leap of faith is required to believe anything and he is attempting to induce those who are on the fence to make that leap. James describes his act of belief: ?Our first act of freedom, if we are free, ought in all inward propriety to be to affirm that we are free.?8 Because the intellectual evidence is not conclusive, he establishes his belief in freedom by fiat.9

James goes on to point out that all belief is subject to this leap of faith. Even the principle of causality, a basic premise of science, must be affirmed by this emotional decision to believe.
The principle of causality, what is it but a postulate, an empty name covering simply the demand that the sequence of events shall someday manifest a deeper kind of belonging of one thing with another than the mere arbitrary juxtaposition which now phenomenally appears? It is as much an altar to an unknown god as the one Saint Paul found in Athens.10

He observes that this postulate of science is as much a demand for subjective satisfaction as is the moral demand that our endeavors have lasting significance, or that our will be free.11 He sees the mind as operating under the impetus of the will in its desire to discover a rational order not given in immediate experience. Thus the basic assertions of science are a product of the will, as are all philosophical and religious hypotheses.12 By establishing this subjective emotional view of the rationality of first premises, James has cleared a level playing field for debating the determinists.

If our scientific demands and our moral demands must both be met, then it makes sense to first examine science to see if we can find an answer to the question of determinism. James, who was trained as a scientist, makes this observation.

Science professes to draw no conclusions but such as are based on matters of fact, things that have actually happened; but how can any amount of assurance that something actually happened give us the least grain of information as to whether another thing might not have happened in its place??13

I think this is an over simplified approach, but his point is clear. Science can in fact make predictions about the future based facts known about the past and the present, but these predictions are never rock solid; they fall into the category of relative probability.

We can predict, for instance, that if a scientist were to drop a rock from the top of a building, it would accelerate downward at a rate of 9.8 meters per second squared and hit the ground in an exact amount of time determined by the height of the building. This prediction achieves a probability of 100% in a closed system, but in reality there is no such thing as a closed system. Suppose as our rock is approaching the ground, an earthquake causes a fissure to open at the point of impact. Instead of hitting the ground in the predicted length of time and proving our prediction true, the rock would continue downward to be lost forever in the molten core of the earth. Or, suppose that as the rock is falling, a California Condor flies into its path, slowing the decent of the rock while at the same time fracturing its fragile endangered skull. Not only would our prediction fail, but we would also have to bail our scientist friend out of jail after he is arrested for negligent homicide of an endangered species.

The point is that since we can never account for all the variables in an open system, and since the universe is an open system, science can not infallibly predict the outcome of a given event. Science, for all its worth, can neither predict the future nor decide for or against determinism. Both may be valid; the vulture?s untimely end could have been the result of bad luck, or he could have been fated to meet his demise at the hands of a hapless scientist from the first moment of the Big Bang. Because we cannot answer the question using science we must proceed with a more pragmatic sense of rationality based on sentiment. 

James begins his appeal to sentimental rationality by relating a story about a gruesome murder that had recently appeared in the papers. A man who was bored with his wife lured her to a secluded spot and shot her. As she lay there bleeding she said to him, ?You didn?t do it on purpose, did you, dear?? He replied ?No I didn?t do it on purpose.? And then he smashed her head with a rock.14 A story like this causes a wide range of emotions to well up in us, and James chooses to focus on the emotion of regret. If we are determinist, we say that this incident was bound to happen and that all the events preceding it back to the beginning of time formed a pattern that made it inevitable. It would however, be a truly cold-hearted individual that would not experience some sense of regret that this murder occurred.

Experiencing and accepting this emotion of regret then puts us in conflict with our worldview. If our regret of this situation is rational, then its inevitability is irrational. If both are labeled rational, then what we truly regret is not the gruesome murder, but the whole system of the universe that lead up to and predestined it to happen. This leaves us with a dark and pessimistic worldview. Pessimism in and of it self is not irrational but it frustrates our practical demand that the universe be conceived in such a way that our primary desires be capable of realization.15 One of these primary desires is the triumph of good over evil. Nothing was clearer to James than the reality and repugnance of evil16, and in his estimation, optimism is not a viable alternative for the determinist if he admits to the existence of evil.17

One may sink into this pessimistic worldview for a while, but something inside him always seeks a way out. One possible escape that James sees is that the universe may actually be a better place with evil in it. If we could see the big picture, then we would see that a small amount of evil can bring about a greater good. Therefore, we can see the devil as good, even though he is the principle of evil, because the world may be a better place with this principle in it.18 If we abandon our feelings of regret and hope that everything will turn out for the better, despite the existence of evil, then we have escaped pessimism.

There may be something to this, but James sees a logical error in this line of reasoning for the determinist. By abandoning our feelings of regret we have escaped the pessimistic worldview on one level, but in doing so we are making a judgement about these feelings. We call feelings of regret wrong because they imply pessimism, but because they must exist before judgement calls can be made about them, we are in effect regretting that we had these feelings of regret.  And because there is no possibility of not having them, we are once again faced with the specter of pessimism. This could continue on to infinity with us regretting the regretting of the regret? James states this rather poetically.

We have got one foot out of the pessimistic bog, but the other sinks all the deeper. We have rescued our actions from the bonds of evil, but our judgements are held fast. When murders and treacheries cease to be sins, regrets are theoretic absurdities and errors. The theoretic and the active life thus play a kind of see-saw with each other on the ground of evil. The rise of either sends the other down. Murder and treachery can not be good without regret being bad: regret can not be good without murder and treachery being bad. Both, however, are supposed to have been foredoomed; so something must be fatally unreasonable, absurd, and wrong with the world.19

What is obviously ?fatally unreasonable, absurd, and wrong? is not the world but a deterministic view of it. James however, sees one more way out for the determinist.

By adopting a romantic world picture that fails to draw a distinct line between good and evil, it is possible to remain optimistic in spite feelings of regret.

The necessary acts we erroneously regret may be good, and yet our error in so regretting them may also be good, on one simple condition; and that condition is this: The world must not be regarded as a machine whose final purpose is the making real of any outward good, but rather as a contrivance for deepening the theoretic consciousness of what goodness and evil in their intrinsic natures are.20

In this system it is not the doing that is the important thing but the knowing and the feeling. James calls this point of view gnosticism or subjectivism. Our purpose is to learn some lesson, to be actors in the cosmic play that reveals some ultimate truth. The evil that we regret is good because it deepens our consciousness by allowing us to feel the emotion of regret. James continues; ?No one knows the worth of innocence till he knows it is gone forever, and that money can?t buy it back. Not the saint, but the sinner that repenteth, is he to whom the full length and breadth, and height and depth, of life?s meaning is revealed.?21 Good and evil loose all objective meaning and are seen as equally necessary and contrasting elements in the masterpiece that is the universe.

The comparison to art is inescapable for the subjective determinist when confronted with the problem of evil. In music the ?good? are the high notes and the ?evil? are the low notes. In a painting the ?good? are bright colors and ?evil? the necessary dark background for them to stand out against. James gives us an image of ?the shifting struggle of the sunbeam in the gloom?22. In the cosmic play the antagonist is essential to the development of the protagonist?s character; both work together for the sake of the beauty and the drama of the whole. The question of morality becomes nonsensical for the subjectivist. Some characters must be honorable and others vicious. Virtues and vices take on equal moral value provided that they enlighten us about something.

Subjective determinism can lead to some huge ethical problems. We can act in any manner we like and still call it good. James points out the fatal moral error in this system.

Everywhere it fosters the fatalistic mood of mind. It makes those who are already too inert more passive still; it renders wholly reckless those whose energy is already in excess. All through history we find how subjectivism, as soon as it has a free career, exhausts itself in every sort of spiritual, moral, and practical license. Its optimism turns to an ethical indifference which infallibly brings dissolution in its train.23

He gives an extreme example of the ethical indifference fostered by subjectivism . ?It makes the goose-flesh the murder excites in me a sufficient reason for the perpetration of the crime. It transforms life from a tragic reality into an insincere melodramatic exhibition, as foul or as tawdry as anyone?s diseased curiosity pleases to carry it out.?24

So we have come upon our dilemma. The dilemma of determinism is one whose left horn is pessimism and whose right horn is subjectivism.25 James admits that pessimism and subjectivism are logically consistent alternatives, but in his opinion they are unsatisfactory because they violate the moral demand.26 Pessimism acknowledges the existence of evil, but it lets evil win; subjectivism denies that evil truly exists. Freedom of the will is a prerequisite for moral activity26 and it makes no sense to speak of morality apart from a view of reality that is open-ended.27 In order to dodge both horns we must thoroughly reject the theory of determinism, accept that there are possibilities, and take responsibility for the choices we make both good and bad. Finally I would like to close with one last quote from James that can always be the last word when arguing against determinism. ?If it be so (determinism), may you and I have been foredoomed to the error of continuing to believe in liberty.?27

2 James 156
3 Beard 52
4 Burgt Religious Philosophy 14
5 James 154
6 Burgt Man?s Creativity 298
7 Ford 29
8 James 154
9 Kauber 157
10 James 155
11 Burgt Religious Philosophy 49
12 Burgt Religious Philosophy 53
13 James 156
14 James 159
15 Beard 54
16 Kauber 154
17 Ford 30
18 James 159
19 James 160
20 James 160
21 James 162
22 James 162
23 James 162
24 James 164
25 James 161
26 Ford 30
26 Kauber 157
27 James 166






Beard, Robert W. ?James and the Rationality of Determinism.? Journal-of-the-History-of-Philosophy 5 (1967): 149-156.

Browning, Don. ?William James?s Philosophy of the Person: The Concept of the Strenuous Life.? Zygon 10 (1975): 162-174.

Burgt, Robert Vanden. The Religious Philosophy of William James. Chicago: Nelson Hall, 1981.

Burgt, Robert Vanden. ?William James on Man?s Creativity in the Religious Universe.? Philosophy-Today 15 (1971): 292-301.

Ford, Marcus. William James?s Philosophy. Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1982.

James, William. ?The Dilemma of Determinism.? Classical American Philosophy. Ed. John Stuhr. New York: Oxford U P, 1987. 154-166.

Kauber, Peter. ?The Foundations of James?s Ethics of Belief.? Ethics 84 (1974): 151-166.



:smile: :heart: :mushroom2:


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InvisibletrendalM
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Re: A Sound Argument for Free Will [Re: shroomydan]
    #3230010 - 10/07/04 10:04 PM (12 years, 1 month ago)

Very nice read!

I have a few things to say on the subject of free-will, though. First, is that Determinism is a theory several hundred years old and has been more or less DISPROVEN with the advent of Quantum Mechanics. So no one should try to use the determinism argument to say free-will does not exist.

That being said, we cannot automatically assume that because determinism is false free-will does exist.

I have not decided yet if free-will exists or not, but I STRONGLY suspect that it DOES NOT EXIST, or at least not in the way we would like to think. Chaos theory, in general, is what pushes me in this direction. I'll get to that in a minute.

In determinism, prediction of future events is technically possible (given enough input data) and there are no events which are truly unpredictable. The polar opposite of determinism, then, would suggest that prediction is never possible. Obviously we do not live in such a world, or science would not exist at all (science is prediction). I think we live in between these two poles: some things in this universe are certainly predictable yet others do not seem to be.

Back to chaos. In a chaotic system, the elements do follow a set of rules and cannot deviate from those rules...yet at the same time prediction is not possible (for the most part, and this may only be a current limitation of our math but I won't get into that here). Let me say that again: a chaotic system follows a definite set of rules, but these rules do not allow for any real predictions to be made about the system. That is, the system's behavior is not random, yet still unpredictable. In most chaotic systems that I have looked at, the system's unpredictable behavior seem to arise from conditions external to the system itself (Godel, anyone?).

This seems, to me, quite close to what we think of as human "free-will". Unpredictable, yes...but not truly "random".

Now. Think of yourself as the system. Your behavior is fairly predictible on the short-term but this predictive power RAPIDLY deminishes with increasing time scales, just like a chaotic system in math. Your behavior is not governed by you alone...it is affected by conditions external to you, "the system". Sound familiar?

More and more the Universe looks to me like one giant fractal, so to speak. When we look at parts of the system we are able to predict the future with some degree of accuracy. Yet no part of the universe is truly a closed system...any part which we decide to look at will always be affected by some external conditions. Thus our predictive power is limited to "normal" behavior...and any time a system deviates from this normal behavior we find our predictions falling away from the actual outcome. I also don't think we humans exist, in any part, "separate" from the universe. This leads me to think that, like the universe as a whole, human behavior is a chaotic system.

Our "choices" may be unpredictable but they do follow a definite set of rules...and that is why I don't think "free-will" exists: because true freedom cannot be bound by rules.


--------------------
You're here because you know something.
What you know you can't explain,
But you feel it;
You've felt it your entire life.
That there's something wrong with the world.
You don't know what it is, but it's there....
Like a splinter in your mind...
Driving you mad.


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Invisibleshroomydan
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Re: A Sound Argument for Free Will [Re: trendal]
    #3230438 - 10/07/04 10:59 PM (12 years, 1 month ago)



"Our "choices" may be unpredictable but they do follow a definite set of rules...and that is why I don't think "free-will" exists: because true freedom cannot be bound by rules."

I would say that we are free within the limits of our nature. As a man I am not free to fly like a bird or breath water like a fish. Niether am I free to have babies like a woman. My freedom is also limited by exterior circumstances; I am not free to fly out to Seatle right now to get in on the Cyanescens harvest due to lack of money and time :frown: however I am free to head down to the pub for a beer. :smile:

Granting that our freedom is limited by who we are, where we are, and the resources at our disposal, if all our actions are not completely determined by exterternal influences, and the future contains open ended possibilities, then it appears that there is a subjective capacity for dermination in the individual which choses a course of action and initiates motion towards that action. This is what i mean by free will. Or if you will, :wink: Freedom within the laws of nature.


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OfflineFrog
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Re: A Sound Argument for Free Will [Re: shroomydan]
    #3231328 - 10/08/04 01:07 AM (12 years, 1 month ago)

I will say what I usually say in response to a "free will" thread.

The path is already there. It is just waiting for you to take it. However, you have the free will to NOT take it.

Finis.


--------------------
The day will come when, after harnessing the ether, the winds, the tides, gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.  -Teilard


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Invisiblepsyka
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Re: A Sound Argument for Free Will [Re: trendal]
    #3231368 - 10/08/04 01:14 AM (12 years, 1 month ago)

Imagination exists, and what can you not imagine? I say free will exists, however not our bodies, rather what our bodies contain within. The mind is a sparkling gem reflecting free will, its just too bad it isnt always applicable in our current usable reality. It, however, does exist.


--------------------
As the life of a candle,
my wick will burn out.
But, the fire of my mind
shall beam into infinite.



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Re: A Sound Argument for Free Will [Re: shroomydan]
    #3231426 - 10/08/04 01:27 AM (12 years, 1 month ago)

I'll match your essay with one of Emerson's:  ( :grin: )

Spiritual Laws
from Essays: First Series (1841)

The simplicity of the universe is very different from the simplicity of a machine. He who sees moral nature out and out, and thoroughly knows how knowledge is acquired and character formed, is a pedant. The simplicity of nature is not that which may easily be read, but is inexhaustible. The last analysis can no wise be made. We judge of a man's wisdom by his hope, knowing that the perception of the inexhaustibleness of nature is an immortal youth. The wild fertility of nature is felt in comparing our rigid names and reputations with our fluid consciousness. We pass in the world for sects and schools, for erudition and piety, and we are all the time jejune babes. One sees very well how Pyrrhonism grew up. Every man sees that he is that middle point, whereof every thing may be affirmed and denied with equal reason. He is old, he is young, he is very wise, he is altogether ignorant. He hears and feels what you say of the seraphim, and of the tin-pedler. There is no permanent wise man, except in the figment of the Stoics. We side with the hero, as we read or paint, against the coward and the robber; but we have been ourselves that coward and robber, and shall be again, not in the low circumstance, but in comparison with the grandeurs possible to the soul.

A little consideration of what takes place around us every day would show us, that a higher law than that of our will regulates events; that our painful labors are unnecessary, and fruitless; that only in our easy, simple, spontaneous action are we strong, and by contenting ourselves with obedience we become divine. Belief and love, ? a believing love will relieve us of a vast load of care. O my brothers, God exists. There is a soul at the centre of nature, and over the will of every man, so that none of us can wrong the universe. It has so infused its strong enchantment into nature, that we prosper when we accept its advice, and when we struggle to wound its creatures, our hands are glued to our sides, or they beat our own breasts. The whole course of things goes to teach us faith. We need only obey. There is guidance for each of us, and by lowly listening we shall hear the right word. Why need you choose so painfully your place, and occupation, and associates, and modes of action, and of entertainment? Certainly there is a possible right for you that precludes the need of balance and wilful election. For you there is a reality, a fit place and congenial duties. Place yourself in the middle of the stream of power and wisdom which animates all whom it floats, and you are without effort impelled to truth, to right, and a perfect contentment. Then you put all gainsayers in the wrong. Then you are the world, the measure of right, of truth, of beauty. If we will not be mar-plots with our miserable interferences, the work, the society, letters, arts, science, religion of men would go on far better than now, and the heaven predicted from the beginning of the world, and still predicted from the bottom of the heart, would organize itself, as do now the rose, and the air, and the sun.

I say, do not choose; but that is a figure of speech by which I would distinguish what is commonly called choice among men, and which is a partial act, the choice of the hands, of the eyes, of the appetites, and not a whole act of the man. But that which I call right or goodness is the choice of my constitution; and that which I call heaven, and inwardly aspire after, is the state or circumstance desirable to my constitution; and the action which I in all my years tend to do, is the work for my faculties. We must hold a man amenable to reason for the choice of his daily craft or profession. It is not an excuse any longer for his deeds, that they are the custom of his trade. What business has he with an evil trade? Has he not a calling in his character.

Each man has his own vocation. The talent is the call. There is one direction in which all space is open to him. He has faculties silently inviting him thither to endless exertion. He is like a ship in a river; he runs against obstructions on every side but one; on that side all obstruction is taken away, and he sweeps serenely over a deepening channel into an infinite sea. This talent and this call depend on his organization, or the mode in which the general soul incarnates itself in him. He inclines to do something which is easy to him, and good when it is done, but which no other man can do. He has no rival. For the more truly he consults his own powers, the more difference will his work exhibit from the work of any other. His ambition is exactly proportioned to his powers. The height of the pinnacle is determined by the breadth of the base. Every man has this call of the power to do somewhat unique, and no man has any other call. The pretence that he has another call, a summons by name and personal election and outward "signs that mark him extraordinary, and not in the roll of common men," is fanaticism, and betrays obtuseness to perceive that there is one mind in all the individuals, and no respect of persons therein.

By doing his work, he makes the need felt which he can supply, and creates the taste by which he is enjoyed. By doing his own work, he unfolds himself. It is the vice of our public speaking that it has not abandonment. Somewhere, not only every orator but every man should let out all the length of all the reins; should find or make a frank and hearty expression of what force and meaning is in him. The common experience is, that the man fits himself as well as he can to the customary details of that work or trade he falls into, and tends it as a dog turns a spit. Then is he a part of the machine he moves; the man is lost. Until he can manage to communicate himself to others in his full stature and proportion, he does not yet find his vocation. He must find in that an outlet for his character, so that he may justify his work to their eyes. If the labor is mean, let him by his thinking and character make it liberal. Whatever he knows and thinks, whatever in his apprehension is worth doing, that let him communicate, or men will never know and honor him aright. Foolish, whenever you take the meanness and formality of that thing you do, instead of converting it into the obedient spiracle of your character and aims.

We like only such actions as have already long had the praise of men, and do not perceive that any thing man can do may be divinely done. We think greatness entailed or organized in some places or duties, in certain offices or occasions, and do not see that Paganini can extract rapture from a catgut, and Eulenstein from a jews-harp, and a nimble-fingered lad out of shreds of paper with his scissors, and Landseer out of swine, and the hero out of the pitiful habitation and company in which he was hidden. What we call obscure condition or vulgar society is that condition and society whose poetry is not yet written, but which you shall presently make as enviable and renowned as any. In our estimates, let us take a lesson from kings. The parts of hospitality, the connection of families, the impressiveness of death, and a thousand other things, royalty makes its own estimate of, and a royal mind will. To make habitually a new estimate, ? that is elevation.

What a man does, that he has. What has he to do with hope or fear? In himself is his might. Let him regard no good as solid, but that which is in his nature, and which must grow out of him as long as he exists. The goods of fortune may come and go like summer leaves; let him scatter them on every wind as the momentary signs of his infinite productiveness.


--------------------
The day will come when, after harnessing the ether, the winds, the tides, gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.  -Teilard


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OfflineDivided_Sky
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Re: A Sound Argument for Free Will [Re: Frog]
    #3231475 - 10/08/04 01:38 AM (12 years, 1 month ago)

Fascinating essay. I think alot of what he said could tie in with quantum theory. If free will exists, it is probobly the inexpicable agent that chooses events from all the quantum possibilities. If we think that as the Buddhists say, the "outside" world is completely dependent originated, governed by causality and only solidified by conscious experience of it, then perhaps the "outside" world exists merely as possibilities. Something has to determine which of these unrealized possibilites become real, so perhaps it is a free will of some sort?


--------------------
1. "After an hour I wasn't feeling anything so I decided to take another..."
2. "We were feeling pretty good so we decided to smoke a few bowls..."
3. "I had to be real quiet because my parents were asleep upstairs..."


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OfflineFrog
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Re: A Sound Argument for Free Will [Re: Divided_Sky]
    #3231495 - 10/08/04 01:46 AM (12 years, 1 month ago)

That's what I think.  :smile: 

"Free will of some sort."  It's like, yes, there are options, and the choice of any of those options can take us down a predetermined path, but we have the free will to make the choice, or not make a choice at all.


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The day will come when, after harnessing the ether, the winds, the tides, gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.  -Teilard


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OfflineAlan Stone
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Re: A Sound Argument for Free Will [Re: Frog]
    #3237039 - 10/09/04 06:55 PM (12 years, 1 month ago)

I haven't had time to read all of the post yet, but I'll say this: comparing chemical or physical processes to the human mind is a a wrong comparison. The human mind is a Gestalt: it is greater than the sum of its parts. While chemical processes and the outside world in general might influence the mind, there is room for choice. The choice to assign values to sensory input and to the choice to selectively ignore impulses.

When you come to an intersection while hiking, you can choose whether to go left or right. Your first instinct might be to turn right, but you can choose whether to follow that instinct or not.


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It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

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OfflineFrog
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Re: A Sound Argument for Free Will [Re: Alan Stone]
    #3241059 - 10/11/04 01:12 AM (12 years, 1 month ago)

I would have to agree with you.  :grin:


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The day will come when, after harnessing the ether, the winds, the tides, gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.  -Teilard


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OfflineMeatbandit
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Re: A Sound Argument for Free Will [Re: shroomydan]
    #3241348 - 10/11/04 02:09 AM (12 years, 1 month ago)

wow, thats really long.


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Invisiblejux
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Re: A Sound Argument for Free Will [Re: shroomydan]
    #3243495 - 10/11/04 04:34 PM (12 years, 1 month ago)

You should change the title of the thread from "A Sound Argument for Free Will" to "An Argument for free will that is based solely on the naive need to fill one man's moral concept of the universe".

now, I shall begin my analysis....

Quote:

This objection to chance can be as simple as fear of the unknown and unknowable, but more often it is a rejection of chaos.



Could it not be said that indeterminism can be as simple as fear of not having free will, but more often it is a simple matter of putting man above the order of the universe?

Quote:

James is concerned with installing man as a fundamental creative ingredient in the ultimate scheme of the universe6, and if there are no options for him to choose from his creativity is denied.



Then, his reason for affirming free will is his naive need to make man a creative being instead of another part of the system that drives existance.

Quote:

he sees the demand that man?s will be free is just as much a criteria for rationality as the laws of science.




this is a HUGE fallacie. It is equivalent to saying "any theory about determinism and indeterminsism can only be rational if it supports determinism."  :eek:
but let's continue

Quote:

A certain leap of faith is required to believe anything and he is attempting to induce those who are on the fence to make that leap. James describes his act of belief: ?Our first act of freedom, if we are free, ought in all inward propriety to be to affirm that we are free.?



His leap of faith does not negate the possibility that he was not free to choose not to make that leap of faith. After all, what is faith but a supposition so core to a persons perspective of reality that it negates all reason? And is not faith subject to the same sculpting proccess that all our minds undergo? Is it not, therefore, bestowed upon us through the composition of interactions occuring throughout our life and the very composition of our mind that was determined through genetics and environment before birth?

Quote:

James goes on to point out that all belief is subject to this leap of faith. Even the principle of causality, a basic premise of science, must be affirmed by this emotional decision to believe.




belief is not a decision. I am not able to choose what I believe. My mind has been slowly sculpting its beliefs before I was ever able to make a decision.

Quote:

The principle of causality, what is it but a postulate, an empty name covering simply the demand that the sequence of events shall someday manifest a deeper kind of belonging of one thing with another than the mere arbitrary juxtaposition which now phenomenally appears?




Determinism and deeper belonging are independent concepts. Belief in a god is the "covering [of the] demand [for] a deeper kind of belonging...". Determinism is the acceptance that man cannot escape causality and that man is ultimately incapable of free will.

Quote:

He sees the mind as operating under the impetus of the will in its desire to discover a rational order not given in immediate experience. Thus the basic assertions of science are a product of the will, as are all philosophical and religious hypotheses.




Again, his reasoning fails to exclude the possibility that the assertions of science and all philosophical and religious hypotheses was inevitable from the dawn of existance. His reasoning, in effect, takes "will" and makes it into an agent autonomous from causality and the universe. But what is will if not the mind making a decision based on the composite of experiences and limited by the capabilities of your mind bestowed upon you from conception? If the will is of the mind, then is it not subject to the causality that so readily manifests itself in the universe?

Quote:

Science can in fact make predictions about the future based facts known about the past and the present, but these predictions are never rock solid; they fall into the category of relative probability.




our limited abilities in awareness does not prove in any way, shape, or form an indeterministic nature of the universe. Though it is impossible to predict the future, as this would require a system as infinite as the universe itself and accelerate beyond the universe in time, this does NOT negate causality and, ultimately, a theoretically predictable universe.

Quote:

The point is that since we can never account for all the variables in an open system, and since the universe is an open system, science can not infallibly predict the outcome of a given event. Science, for all its worth, can neither predict the future nor decide for or against determinism. Both may be valid; the vulture?s untimely end could have been the result of bad luck, or he could have been fated to meet his demise at the hands of a hapless scientist from the first moment of the Big Bang. Because we cannot answer the question using science we must proceed with a more pragmatic sense of rationality based on sentiment.




Agree completely up until the very last word. A sound argument is NOT an argument based on sentiment. Sentiment is often illogical. Sentiment excludes rational discourse by virtue of the definition.
The rest of this paper may yet be very painful a read.

Quote:

A story like this causes a wide range of emotions to well up in us, and James chooses to focus on the emotion of regret. If we are determinist, we say that this incident was bound to happen and that all the events preceding it back to the beginning of time formed a pattern that made it inevitable. It would however, be a truly cold-hearted individual that would not experience some sense of regret that this murder occurred.




Emotions are a result of us evolving as social creatures. Peaceful coexistance would be difficult without emotions of regret, love, fear, and the plethora of others. This argument is a fallacy. He tries to paint true determinists as emotionless and cruel creatures.
I was right in assuming this paper would get to be a painful read.

Quote:

Experiencing and accepting this emotion of regret then puts us in conflict with our worldview. If our regret of this situation is rational, then its inevitability is irrational. If both are labeled rational, then what we truly regret is not the gruesome murder, but the whole system of the universe that lead up to and predestined it to happen. This leaves us with a dark and pessimistic worldview. Pessimism in and of it self is not irrational but it frustrates our practical demand that the universe be conceived in such a way that our primary desires be capable of realization.15 One of these primary desires is the triumph of good over evil. Nothing was clearer to James than the reality and repugnance of evil16, and in his estimation, optimism is not a viable alternative for the determinist if he admits to the existence of evil.



Dear god, where to start...

Experiencing and accepting regret does NOT put us into conflict with a deterministic view of the universe. As stated before, emotions are an evolutionary tool. A consequence of being a social creature. Think of emotions as a primitive set of underlying controls that society can manipulate in order to allow peaceful coexistance to become a reality.

"If our regret of this situation is rational, then its inevitability is irrational." Another fallacy! He is drawing a connection that is simply not there. Just because we regret the past does not mean it wasn't inevitable.

"If both are labeled rational, then what we truly regret is not the gruesome murder, but the whole system of the universe that lead up to and predestined it to happen." Holy fucking hell, another fallacy!!! Since when is our primitive nature regretting a particular happening of the system of the universe a regret of the whole universe?

"Pessimism in and of it self is not irrational but it frustrates our practical demand that the universe be conceived in such a way that our primary desires be capable of realization." And here is the main problem with his entire arguement. He is naive enough to believe that the universe must bend to our ignorant belief that the universe must comply with our desires or it is irrational. In case he didn't realize it, we are part of the universe. One more system awash in a sea of systems.

"One of these primary desires is the triumph of good over evil." Good and evil is, by any rational measure, relative. Good an evil is a concept designed by pragmatism.

Quote:

Therefore, we can see the devil as good, even though he is the principle of evil, because the world may be a better place with this principle in it.



Odd to see a daoist principle with the word devil in it. I must, therefore, assume that this man is a christian man. And if there is one practice that evades rationality, it's christianity.

Quote:

We call feelings of regret wrong because they imply pessimism, but because they must exist before judgement calls can be made about them, we are in effect regretting that we had these feelings of regret.




No, HE called feelings of regret wrong. I called it a result of evolution. His desire for right and wrong again manifests itself. His desire for a moral authority again manifests itself. How can we have a logical discourse about the nature of the universe if one person comes in with the absolute assumption that there is a definite morality?

Quote:

Murder and treachery can not be good without regret being bad. regret can not be good without murder and treachery being bad. Both, however, are supposed to have been foredoomed. so something must be fatally unreasonable, absurd, and wrong with the world.[\quote]

Quote:

What is obviously ?fatally unreasonable, absurd, and wrong? is not the world but a deterministic view of it. James however, sees one more way out for the determinist.




I wonder if James can reach a conclusion about determinism without the concepts of good and bad, moral and evil. The entire conclusion is based on the faulty assumptions that he himself drew. No determinist that I know of has ever reached these conclusions.

Quote:

By adopting a romantic world picture that fails to draw a distinct line between good and evil, it is possible to remain optimistic in spite feelings of regret.




why this ridiculous need for optimism?

Ok, I've read the rest of the damn paper, but EVERY SINGLE argument he makes in the name of free will and against determinism is based on HIS need for morality. Is Jame's really so arrogant as to believe that the universe must bow to the whims of human morality???




....

One of the posters mentioned quantum theory as disproving determinism. Sorry, but that just isn't so for many reasons:

1. quantum theory has more holes than a sponge

2. it's a theory. it is NOT regarded as fact

3. quantum theory is a very new feild of study. remember, only 40 years ago, schools taught that the atom was a solid. now we believe it to be mostly vaccuum. What developments in quantum theory await us?

4. quantum mechanics only APPEARS to be based entirely on possiblity. Is it not equally likely that our methods of intrusive observation taint the actuality of quantum mechanics? Is it not entirely probable that we humans simply lack the ability to see the underlying structure of quantum mechanics? Furthermore, quantum mechanics, in its current state, does NOT eliminate the possiblity of determinism. Anyone who states otherwise is being foolish.


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Edited by jux (10/11/04 04:42 PM)


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Offlinedeff
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Re: A Sound Argument for Free Will [Re: jux]
    #3243571 - 10/11/04 04:51 PM (12 years, 1 month ago)

what jux said :smile:


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Invisiblegettinjiggywithit
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Re: A Sound Argument for Free Will [Re: deff]
    #3243686 - 10/11/04 05:15 PM (12 years, 1 month ago)

what jux said! :cool: :cool:


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OfflineUnderTheRose
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Re: A Sound Argument for Free Will [Re: trendal]
    #3244038 - 10/11/04 06:46 PM (12 years, 1 month ago)

Quote:

In determinism, prediction of future events is technically possible




wrong. this is not a necessary criterion of determinism.
only for a specific form of determinism , causal-chain-determinism this statement is true.


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Offlinedeff
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Re: A Sound Argument for Free Will [Re: UnderTheRose]
    #3244348 - 10/11/04 08:09 PM (12 years, 1 month ago)

Where's a situation of determinism that prediction would not be possible?

:confused:


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Invisiblejux
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Re: A Sound Argument for Free Will [Re: deff]
    #3244836 - 10/11/04 10:05 PM (12 years, 1 month ago)

I suppose if one believed that the universe lacked order (cause-effect) but all was still predestined/determined through some other mean (will of god?)...

However, for the most part people relate determinism with cause-effect order.




oh, and what jux said :wink:


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Offlinedeff
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Re: A Sound Argument for Free Will [Re: jux]
    #3244905 - 10/11/04 10:21 PM (12 years, 1 month ago)

Even still, the lack of cause/effect may mean it is not precitable by human standards, but the very fact that it is pre-determined by some standard means that it is possible to be predicted (by some omnipotent being if need be).


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