06-14-2010 , 05:47 PM
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Originally Posted by madnak
You think you can disprove the emergence of cognitive processes?
In the context of n-dimensional vectors with a finite domain that is a subset of a Cartesian product of the rational numbers?

Proof: An n-tuple is a finite list of numbers. A finite list of numbers does not express "selection" through a "cognitive" mechanism. QED

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Sorites is irrelevant here. You don't seem to understand the claim that you're making. If determinism and choice are incompatible, then across every deterministic universe there must not be a single instance of choice.
Yes. Across every completely undefined set of objects, there must not be single instance in which one can redefine the terms so that the concept of "choice" can be avoided.

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So it doesn't matter where we draw the line. All that matters is whether any heap, of any size, is "big enough."
It doesn't matter where we draw the line, because the line will keep right on moving.

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When you're claiming an inconsistency in my position, I get to define the terms. Deal with it.
06-14-2010 , 05:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Aaron W.
A finite list of numbers does not express "selection" through a "cognitive" mechanism.
So, restating the proposition to be proved counts as a "proof" now?

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It doesn't matter where we draw the line, because the line will keep right on moving.
The line hasn't moved an inch. Every definition I've provided has been a subset of a prior definition. Either that, or it hasn't changed at all (my definition of choice).
06-14-2010 , 05:59 PM
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So a "cognitive process" is determined by the same physical laws that durka's set of falling dominoes are governed by. And since it is physically possible in some world (which is how you are defining choice... as physically/logically possible in some world) for the input to the neurons involved in this cognitive process to be different, the agent can choose from a set of possible options. If the inputs were exactly the same and the initial conditions of the nervous system were exactly the same, the agent has only one possible choice (since if we assume determinism and physicalism, there is a one-to-one correspondence between the inputs/initial conditions and the output).
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Originally Posted by madnak
The agent has many possible choices. Even durka has acknowledged that now. Those possibilities don't exist in the actual future, only in possible futures. But they are still clearly possibilities.
OK, I'm going to need to see some kind of example here.

Say I'm trying to decide between eating a bagle and toast for breakfast. You are saying it possible I will eat a bagle and it is also possible I will eat toast, if we assume determinism and physicalism are both true.

Now, if we have a precise, well-defined set of initial conditions to this situation, and only ONE such set (as we do in an actual deterministic universe) these past and current conditions are interacting with my nervous system such that I output a choice.

What, exactly (and please be as precise as possible) is different in the situation that he chooses toast vs. the situation that he chooses a bagle? Something has to be different, now what is it? And don't just say "well in one situation he prefers a bagle and one he prefers toast" -- I mean what exactly is PHYSICALLY different in the two situations and what LEADS to that preference difference.

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That they are not the particular type of possibility you want them to be is irrelevant - no general definition of choice references a specific type of possibility, and all I'm concerned with is showing that deterministic choice fits those definitions.
I have no idea what you are even trying to say here, why do you think I "want" any particular type of possibility? What does this even mean?

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I've already defined "choice." You are now equivocating. If you want to use a different (accepted) definition, fine. But your special definition of choice, based on your special type of possibility, is not a definition I care about.
No, I'm not equivocating. I'm demonstrating that your definition of choice is completely arbitrary and thus meaningless with respect to discussions of free will because whether you substitute in "falling dominoes" or "cognitive process" the arguments are exactly the same.

I'm not making a special definition of "choice", you are, actually.

To see this, please explain to me why you included "cognitive process" in your definition of choice. Some definitions for choice, from various websites:

1. The act of choosing; selection.
2. The power, right, or liberty to choose; option.
3. One that is chosen.
4. A number or variety from which to choose: a wide choice of styles and colors.
5. The best or most preferable part.
6. Care in choosing.
7. An alternative.

1 : the act of choosing : selection <finding it hard to make a choice>
2 : power of choosing : option <you have no choice>
3 a : the best part : cream b : a person or thing chosen <she was their first choice>
4 : a number and variety to choose among <a plan with a wide choice of options>
5 : care in selecting
6 : a grade of meat between prime and good

Note that none of them mention anything with regards to a "cognitive process". Now, you are creating a SPECIAL definition of choice that includes this. I would like to know why, and why it is applicable to specifically this debate. Why didn't you just say "the blue domino in a stack of red dominoes"? Do you see how including either statement in the definition is completely arbitrary?

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Yes, both are dependent on initial conditions. If the significance of choice was based on independence from initial conditions, then my definition of choice would be arbitrary. But no accepted definition of choice I've been able to find makes any mention of initial conditions.
If we assume determinism and physicalism, are choices dependent fully and completely on initial conditions? Please at least answer "yes" or "no" to this question -- feel free to elaborate on it, but I'd at least like an affirmative/negative answer to figure out what you're saying. And if you answer "no", what exactly are these other things that choice depends on?

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Initial conditions have nothing to do with choice. The only definitions of choice that include independence from initial conditions are specifically libertarian definitions - so this is a case of obvious equivocation.
This makes no sense whatsoever. You are saying that initial conditions have NOTHING to do with choice, yet you are saying that the ONLY definitions of choice that include independence from initial conditions are libertarian definitions. In other words, every other definition of choice include DEPENDENCE ON INITIAL CONDITIONS. This directly contradicts your statement that "initial conditions have nothing to do with choice".

And then this statement, from you earlier:

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Yes, both are dependent on initial conditions.
It honestly seems like you are arguing both sides, assuming the arguments for either side support your side, and just trying to confuse us by jumbling it all together.

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Choice is significant because it's an expression of our desires and of who we are, because it's an indicator of our patterns of action, because it's a clue to our psychological and experiential natures, because it's intensely private and personal, and because it's what makes us sentient beings.
Why is any of this "more special" than a row of dominoes falling over in a deterministic universe. Again, please be as specific as possible. I also think it's hilarious that you accused durka of appealing to emotion when you say crap like "it's intensely private and personal". You are like the king of projection.

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Choice has all of these properties. Superglue does not. That's why choice is significant, and superglue isn't. Modalities and dependence on prior conditions have nothing to do with it.
W
T
F

And why on earth are these properties "special" in context of a debate on determinism and free will? Why did you include these properties in your definition of choice when like every single accepted definition of choice lacks these properties?

Here is exactly what you are doing: you want free will and determinism to be compatible. So you create a special definition of choice that basically leads to the argument "as long as cognitive processes exist and other possible worlds are logically possible then free will and determinism are compatible". Basically if we accept your arbitrary additions to your definition of choice, then determinism and free will must be compatible as long as there exists other possible worlds according to the laws of physics and nervous systems exist. And you are leaving out the aspect of choice that EVERYONE ELSE IS REFERRING TO when they use the word "choice".
06-14-2010 , 06:01 PM
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Originally Posted by madnak
So, restating the proposition to be proved counts as a "proof" now?
It follows right from the definitions.
06-14-2010 , 06:26 PM
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Originally Posted by madnak
Imagine two worlds.

World 1: It is temporally possible for David to take his degree in either Philosophy or in Accounting. He takes his degree in Philosophy.

World 2: There are no temporal possibilities, save one - David takes his degree in Philosophy.

Care to enlighten me on the difference between the worlds? As far as I can tell, even David has no way of knowing which world he is in. Because the two worlds are exactly the same. He sees the same things. He believes the same things. He expects the same things, cares about the same things, knows the same things. He experiences the same things. He lives the same life, regardless of which world he's in. The two Daves are the same. As are the two worlds.

It makes zero difference.
But now you're running together conceptual arguments with the pragmatist's objection to the debate altogether. You're making a tremendous error here by doing this. You've switched arguments entirely without noticing it.

The pragmatist argues that whether determinism or libertarianism is true is immaterial to our experience of the world; therefore, since there's no practical difference between them, the distinction is meaningless: the debate itself is meaningless (propositions can only have a truth value if their truth or falsity would have at least some practical difference). But notice how this is an entirely different line of argument from the one we've been pursuing for the last ~100 posts or so...ducy?

Seriously...do you see?

I don't need to demonstrate that it would make any practical difference to David. Instead, I think that it's meaningful to talk of the truth of the matter (whether the determinist thesis is true and whether the incompatibility thesis is true). The pragmatist doesn't; but so far this entire time you have been arguing as though you are NOT taking the pragmatist line. Don't bring it in now...to do so is to violate argumentative norms in a very serious way.

The difference between 1 + 2 in your examples is that in one the deterministic thesis is false, in the other it is true. Notice that 'temporal' possibility only exists in the libertarian world. Agree?

I sure hope that we can at least agree on that...I don't think that it's controversial.

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"Choice" is an English word. You don't get to redefine it based on your philosophical agenda. It is already defined, at least to an extent. And it's not defined based on philosophical technicalities. If you want to talk about philosophical choice, as a technical term, then fine. Depending on how you define the term, I will acknowledge that there is no philosophical choice under determinism.

But normal, everyday choice has nothing to do with temporal possibility. If you don't believe me, grab a dictionary.
I've been happy to work with YOUR definition...don't you see that? As selecting from a range of options. But, I've been pushing on what it is to select and what it is to have a 'range of options.' I have been arguing that you only have a 'range of options' from which to select if you could actually select either disjunct in the actual world - not in some possible world: the actual world.

You deny this...but THIS is where the argumentative rubber needs to hit the road between us.

06-14-2010 , 06:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Matt R.
OK, I'm going to need to see some kind of example here.

Say I'm trying to decide between eating a bagle and toast for breakfast. You are saying it possible I will eat a bagle and it is also possible I will eat toast, if we assume determinism and physicalism are both true.

Now, if we have a precise, well-defined set of initial conditions to this situation, and only ONE such set (as we do in an actual deterministic universe) these past and current conditions are interacting with my nervous system such that I output a choice.

What, exactly (and please be as precise as possible) is different in the situation that he chooses toast vs. the situation that he chooses a bagle? Something has to be different, now what is it? And don't just say "well in one situation he prefers a bagle and one he prefers toast" -- I mean what exactly is PHYSICALLY different in the two situations and what LEADS to that preference difference.
Probably a firing pattern in the neurons.

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I have no idea what you are even trying to say here, why do you think I "want" any particular type of possibility? What does this even mean?
You are basically saying that "given past conditions, he can only make one choice." The first clause in that sentence is a particular type of possibility, Wiki calls it "temporal possibility." It's one of many types. The fact that I can only choose a bagel given past conditions doesn't mean that it's impossible for me to choose toast. One example (counterfactual possibility) is that if past conditions had been different, then I would have chosen toast. Another is that I don't know which breakfast I pick, so (epistemic possibility) it is possible (from my perspective) that I'll pick toast.

I'm willing to discuss possibility, but I'm not willing to restrict that discussion to temporal possibility. I think temporal possibility is completely irrelevant.

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No, I'm not equivocating. I'm demonstrating that your definition of choice is completely arbitrary and thus meaningless with respect to discussions of free will because whether you substitute in "falling dominoes" or "cognitive process" the arguments are exactly the same.

I'm not making a special definition of "choice", you are, actually.

To see this, please explain to me why you included "cognitive process" in your definition of choice. Some definitions for choice, from various websites:

1. The act of choosing; selection.
2. The power, right, or liberty to choose; option.
3. One that is chosen.
4. A number or variety from which to choose: a wide choice of styles and colors.
5. The best or most preferable part.
6. Care in choosing.
7. An alternative.

1 : the act of choosing : selection <finding it hard to make a choice>
2 : power of choosing : option <you have no choice>
3 a : the best part : cream b : a person or thing chosen <she was their first choice>
4 : a number and variety to choose among <a plan with a wide choice of options>
5 : care in selecting
6 : a grade of meat between prime and good

Note that none of them mention anything with regards to a "cognitive process". Now, you are creating a SPECIAL definition of choice that includes this. I would like to know why, and why it is applicable to specifically this debate. Why didn't you just say "the blue domino in a stack of red dominoes"? Do you see how including either statement in the definition is completely arbitrary?
That's a fair point, and you're right. I'm doing exactly what I'm accusing my opponents of doing here. Probably the reason is that I prefer not to think of my computer choosing, and yet my computer clearly engages in processes of selection, so by the straight dictionary definition my computer makes choices. Now that you've pointed it out, I find it hard to argue that my computer doesn't make choices - I don't have any justification for saying that cognition is necessary for choice. So I guess I'll drop the cognitive part of the definition and just stick with the dictionary "selection" definition.

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If we assume determinism and physicalism, are choices dependent fully and completely on initial conditions? Please at least answer "yes" or "no" to this question -- feel free to elaborate on it, but I'd at least like an affirmative/negative answer to figure out what you're saying. And if you answer "no", what exactly are these other things that choice depends on?
Yes.

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This makes no sense whatsoever. You are saying that initial conditions have NOTHING to do with choice, yet you are saying that the ONLY definitions of choice that include independence from initial conditions are libertarian definitions. In other words, every other definition of choice include DEPENDENCE ON INITIAL CONDITIONS. This directly contradicts your statement that "initial conditions have nothing to do with choice".
Yeah, that's another mistake on my part. I mean that the definition of choice (ie, the question of whether something is a choice or not) has nothing to do with prior conditions. The choice itself, the action, has plenty to do with prior conditions.

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It honestly seems like you are arguing both sides, assuming the arguments for either side support your side, and just trying to confuse us by jumbling it all together.
That's understandable. I made some screwups.

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Why is any of this "more special" than a row of dominoes falling over in a deterministic universe. Again, please be as specific as possible. I also think it's hilarious that you accused durka of appealing to emotion when you say crap like "it's intensely private and personal". You are like the king of projection.
What's private and personal to me has significance to me. That's just a fact. And why are these things special? In the abstract, because they have significant to human beings, because they likely played a critical role in the evolution of humanity, and because they definitely played a (even the) central role in the formation of human social and psychological systems. In practice, these are all heavy impacts on our own individual behavior. Which are probably significant because our behavior defines our prospects in life and our likelihood of reproducing effectively. So we probably had a strong selective pressure to value these things, and I suspect that we now have an inborn tendency to do so.

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And why on earth are these properties "special" in context of a debate on determinism and free will? Why did you include these properties in your definition of choice when like every single accepted definition of choice lacks these properties?
Fair enough, as above. I didn't think it through well.

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Here is exactly what you are doing: you want free will and determinism to be compatible. So you create a special definition of choice that basically leads to the argument "as long as cognitive processes exist and other possible worlds are logically possible then free will and determinism are compatible". Basically if we accept your arbitrary additions to your definition of choice, then determinism and free will must be compatible as long as there exists other possible worlds according to the laws of physics and nervous systems exist. And you are leaving out the aspect of choice that EVERYONE ELSE IS REFERRING TO when they use the word "choice".
Funny, because that aspect isn't mentioned in any of the dictionary definitions you provided above. Sure, I made the same mistake talking about cognition - but that was hardly to further my agenda. If you haven't noticed, my position benefits from having the broadest possible definition of "choice." You, on the other hand, need a definition that includes temporal possibility as a requirement. Good luck finding a dictionary with that.
06-14-2010 , 06:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Aaron W.
It follows right from the definitions.
Not logically, it doesn't.
06-14-2010 , 06:42 PM
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Originally Posted by madnak
Not logically, it doesn't.
Sure it does. A single n-tuple cannot contain a process of any type. That n-tuple needs to be interpreted.

Edit: By the way, I think something like this was in "Pi: The movie"

Last edited by Aaron W.; 06-14-2010 at 06:51 PM.
06-14-2010 , 06:48 PM
Briefly, based on wikipedia's definition, it doesn't seem like "temporal possibility" has anything to do with what I've written:

Temporal possibility is possibility given the actual history of the world. David Lewis could have chosen to take his degree in Accounting rather than Philosophy; but there is an important sense in which he cannot now. The "could have" expresses the fact that there is no logical, metaphysical, or even nomological impossibility involved in Lewis's having a degree in Economics instead of Philosophy; the "cannot now" expresses the fact that that possibility is no longer open to becoming actual, given that the past is as it actually is.

For these to be temporal impossibility, I would have had to say "Given that I ate a bagle yesterday morning, I could have chosen to eat toast but I cannot now." i.e. since the choice is in the past it is no longer an open possibility. But I'm talking about a set of current initial conditions, leading to a choice in the proximate future.

If anything, it seems like we are discussing nomological impossibility.

I will probably get to the rest tonight or tomorrow.
06-14-2010 , 06:55 PM
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Originally Posted by durkadurka33
But now you're running together conceptual arguments with the pragmatist's objection to the debate altogether. You're making a tremendous error here by doing this. You've switched arguments entirely without noticing it.

The pragmatist argues that whether determinism or libertarianism is true is immaterial to our experience of the world; therefore, since there's no practical difference between them, the distinction is meaningless: the debate itself is meaningless (propositions can only have a truth value if their truth or falsity would have at least some practical difference). But notice how this is an entirely different line of argument from the one we've been pursuing for the last ~100 posts or so...ducy?

Seriously...do you see?
Two problems.

First, my position is that you are unjustified in claiming that compatibilists are incoherent and internally contradictory (and in trying to control the use of language around here).

Second, we're talking about the relevance of temporal possibility, the pragmatist line is relevant (unlike temporal possibility).

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I don't need to demonstrate that it would make any practical difference to David. Instead, I think that it's meaningful to talk of the truth of the matter (whether the determinist thesis is true and whether the incompatibility thesis is true). The pragmatist doesn't; but so far this entire time you have been arguing as though you are NOT taking the pragmatist line. Don't bring it in now...to do so is to violate argumentative norms in a very serious way.

The difference between 1 + 2 in your examples is that in one the deterministic thesis is false, in the other it is true. Notice that 'temporal' possibility only exists in the libertarian world. Agree?
Yes.

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I've been happy to work with YOUR definition...don't you see that? As selecting from a range of options. But, I've been pushing on what it is to select and what it is to have a 'range of options.' I have been arguing that you only have a 'range of options' from which to select if you could actually select either disjunct in the actual world - not in some possible world: the actual world.
And I have never heard of any such thing as possibilities in the actual world. Maybe you mean possible futures associated with the actual world.

Either way, it doesn't matter. The dictionary defines "select" as "to choose in preference to another or others; pick out." Again, nothing about metaphysics. Very everyday. To pick out one thing in preference to another. Are you now going to claim that the who deal about possibility is included in "pick" or "preference" now? Something tells me if I looked them up, I would still find no reference to it.

I'm thinking it's time for Inigo Montoya.
06-14-2010 , 07:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Aaron W.
Sure it does. A single n-tuple cannot contain a process of any type. That n-tuple needs to be interpreted.
How do you respond to the view that a process is just a particular arrangement of information?

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Edit: By the way, I think something like this was in "Pi: The movie"
If hope not, I don't want to go crazy and I like colors.
06-14-2010 , 07:01 PM
...sigh...

The dialectic cannot continue if you think that you can switch arguments like that and you're fairly incapable of reconstructing other people's arguments with any skill.
06-14-2010 , 07:11 PM

According to your view of choice and determinism, do you think a person can be fairly sent to heaven or hell based on the choices he/she makes? You should just come over to the pessimist's side because pessimists can argue that truth, knowledge, causal reasoning & possible worlds semantics are all perfectly compatible with determinism. But determinism is not compatible with any kind of genuine choice or responsibility; the kind of responsibility that would make it fair to dole out ultimate punishment to people.
06-14-2010 , 07:23 PM
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Originally Posted by madnak
How do you respond to the view that a process is just a particular arrangement of information?
Like this:

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process (noun)
1. a systematic series of actions directed to some end: to devise a process for homogenizing milk.
2. a continuous action, operation, or series of changes taking place in a definite manner: the process of decay.
3. Law .
a. the summons, mandate, or writ by which a defendant or thing is brought before court for litigation.
b. the whole course of the proceedings in an action at law.
4. Photography . photomechanical or photoengraving methods collectively.
5. Biology, Anatomy . a natural outgrowth, projection, or appendage: a process of a bone.
6. the action of going forward or on.
7. the condition of being carried on.
8. course or lapse, as of time.
9. conk4 ( defs. 1, 2 ) .

Last edited by Aaron W.; 06-14-2010 at 07:32 PM.
06-14-2010 , 09:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Aaron W.
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Originally Posted by BrianTheMick
I agree. In the instance of the Rube Goldberg machine, we are, in effect, Laplace's demon. On the grand scale of things, everything is arbitrary in the view of Laplace's demon. On the small scale of me making a decision, arbitrariness it is all I have. Despite my claim that everything is caused, I cannot know the causes well enough to know the future. In effect, I am forced, in a deterministic universe, to act as if it is not determined, since I cannot determine how it is determined. In other words, since I don't know the future, I can't just "go through the motions."
I want to stick with this paragraph, because it highlights a bunch of pieces in your picture that I find incoherent.

What do you mean by "making a decision" in a deterministic universe? What does it mean for a "decision" to be "made" by "you"?
It is the process you go through to pick from one or another alternatives. Having reasons for the pick does not subtract anything from the process, and makes the process more meaningful.

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Does the marble "decide" to fall? Does the rock "decide" to fall? Does the toothpaste "decide" to squirt?
Not related. None of these has any sort of internal processes that even approximate the internal processes of a person.

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You also put a strange premium on knowledge. Knowing or not knowing is irrelevant.
It is completely relevant. It is the reason why thought and consciousness would be an important survival trait.

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You "go through the motions" because you have no *choice* about it.
Given that you appear to be saying "no free will = no free will" I have to agree. You go through (whatever) process to make a decision. If you knew ahead of time what the decision would be, you could (and most likely would) skip the process. Since this would be a change in circumstance, it would definitely change the value of the process and the process itself.

You seem to be confusing choice and free choice. Clearly, we make choices. The only difference in our positions is that I am stating that characteristics about me and characteristics of the situation at hand cause me to take a certain decision instead of another one.

If you add in free will, the only thing you can truly add is randomness. If a choice is truly free of cause, there can be no cause of that choice (tautology). If you remove the reasons for an action, all you are left with is influences and randomness. You (believing in free will) can't give definitive reasons for a decision, since those would be definitive causes (again tautology).

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That you know or don't know makes no difference.
It makes all the difference internally. Not knowing is the reason for all of the brainy (consciousness, thought, decision making, etc.) processes. If the future were laid out in an understandable way to me, there would be no reason at all for the process. It is the process of living as me that leads to the decisions/choices/etc. Just because my thought processes were shaped perfectly from previous (ending in my current character) and current events does not make them any less real.

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This error is consistent with all that you said in your first paragraph:

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I think the main point of difference for us is that just because I can say I believe everything is caused by earlier events, doesn't actually give me a trail. I doubt that Laplace's demon could exist, and definitely don't believe that it does. Anyway, without the trail existing in a meaningful way (even for something as small as my particular life) in the past, and even moreso the future, my making decisions becomes something I must struggle with. In other words, the circle drawing is important because immediate causes are all I have. And even then, the immediate causes are way too complex for me to take into account.
It looks as if you're placing an emotional value into the phrase "going through the motions" as if it means "living as if it doesn't matter what you do." That's not the meaning I had intended to convey.
Then, going through the motions loses all meaning in the context of this discussion. It is a value statement. If you try to rephrase it using clear terms, you are only left with "if there is no free will, then you are going to do what you are going to do." Since, time will surely show this as true, I don't see any meaning in the statement. Perhaps you can rephrase it better.

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Going through the motions simply means that there's some prescribed path (defined before you were even born) that dictates what you're going to do. All this talk above about "making decisions" isn't really about decisions that *YOU* make. Because there are no "decisions" to make. Rather, it was "made" for you by that which preceded you. That you don't know the trail does not mean that the trail does not exist.
[Nitpick], but without Laplace's demon, the trail only technically exists up to now. It is innevitably unfolding though as time passes. I am not one of those people who think the future has already happened, so it will continue to unfold. I do happen to believe that it will continue to happen following whatever physical laws. [/nitpick]

In fact, the existence of the prescribed path is precisely what you are asserting if you take the determinist position. (This includes the act of making a decision.) Regardless of what you know about it, you're stuck with it.[/quote]

Completely in agreement.

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You still cannot escape that it's all an illusion.
It is only an illusion in the context of a belief in free will. I make decisions because of x, where x is a bunch of stuff. Those decisions are inevitable, but the process of the decision making exists.

(sorry for the delay. my god, you people must have way more free time than I do. I blame it on the big bang.)
06-15-2010 , 12:07 AM
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Originally Posted by BrianTheMick
It is the process you go through to pick from one or another alternatives. Having reasons for the pick does not subtract anything from the process, and makes the process more meaningful.
A couple follow-up questions about your concept of decision-making:

-- If I flip a coin to make a decision, would you say that *I* have "made the decision"?
-- When a bird takes off, is the bird "making a decision" as to which direction it will go? If so, how do you know that it went through a process of picking? If not, how do you know that it didn't?
-- Suppose I give a person a list of instructions. Do step A first, then step B, then step C. Now suppose that the person does step A, then step B, then step C. Did the person make any decisions in this process? If so, where and how can you tell? If not, how is this process of decision-making by a set of rigid instructions different from a mechanical brain process just following stimulus-response from beginning to end?

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Not related. None of these has any sort of internal processes that even approximate the internal processes of a person.
What do the "internal processes of a person" look like? What is it about "person" that is different in essence compared to a rock?

What changes as you go up in "complexity" from rock to tree to bug to bird to dog to dolphin to human? At what point do we reach "internal processes" which take on that new essence?

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It is completely relevant. It is the reason why thought and consciousness would be an important survival trait.
I think you're mixing up a couple ideas that probably shouldn't be mixed up. I'm going to set this aside, and maybe we'll come back to it after we clear up a few more things. This is all related back to whatever that "essence" is above that makes us different from rocks in a deterministic world.

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You "go through the motions" because you have no *choice* about it.
Given that you appear to be saying "no free will = no free will" I have to agree. You go through (whatever) process to make a decision. If you knew ahead of time what the decision would be, you could (and most likely would) skip the process. Since this would be a change in circumstance, it would definitely change the value of the process and the process itself.
Right. So in what sense are you making a decision if you could not have done anything different without violating determinism?

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You seem to be confusing choice and free choice. Clearly, we make choices. The only difference in our positions is that I am stating that characteristics about me and characteristics of the situation at hand cause me to take a certain decision instead of another one.
What is choice if it's not free? In other words, if you only have an illusion of choice, but in the end it turns out that you really only have one option, have you really made a choice?

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If you add in free will, the only thing you can truly add is randomness. If a choice is truly free of cause, there can be no cause of that choice (tautology).
Careful. This isn't what free will is saying. This is one of the things I talked about with madnak. When you do this, you're creating a P or not P situation which is not representative of what's going on.

A very basic form of determinism states that if the universe is in some sort of position P, then all future positions are fully determined by the information contained position P. The negation of that is that not all future positions are fully determined by the information contained in position P. This does not mean that the differences are caused by "randomness" (in some sort of coin-flipping, quantum, or whatever other sense). But rather, the things that are causing the differences are not included in the information in the universe P.

Where is it? What is it? Who knows? But whatever it is, it's not specified by the information about the state of the universe.

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If you remove the reasons for an action, all you are left with is influences and randomness. You (believing in free will) can't give definitive reasons for a decision, since those would be definitive causes (again tautology).
Again, be very careful here. All that is required to break determinism is that some event somewhere was not fully prescribed by the state of the universe. Talking about "influences and reasons" for a decision can only lead you to determinism if under identical conditions the "influences and reasons" necessarily cause the same outcome. In other words, if I'm choosing between beef and chicken, then in identical circumstances, I will always make the identical decision.

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It makes all the difference internally. Not knowing is the reason for all of the brainy (consciousness, thought, decision making, etc.) processes. If the future were laid out in an understandable way to me, there would be no reason at all for the process. It is the process of living as me that leads to the decisions/choices/etc. Just because my thought processes were shaped perfectly from previous (ending in my current character) and current events does not make them any less real.
I'm not negating the reality of the events. I'm negating all the things that you're saying regarding the "meaning" of it all. It's interesting that you claimed what you did in bold. Not knowing necessitates thought? I'm not really sure how to interpret that.

You're also closing in on a very fate-like concept here. There's an old story that I'm about to butcher because I don't actually remember it. A man is told that death is coming for him at midnight. Upon learning this, the man buys the fastest horse he can find, and rides away as fast as the horse can run. As midnight approaches, the man is still on the horse, looking over his shoulder to make sure death isn't following him. As he's glancing over his shoulder, he fails to see some loose rocks ahead and the horse tumbles and throws the man off. As the man is lying there on the ground, death stands up from the stool where he has been sitting, and walks over to the man. "Right on schedule."

Even though the story is wrong, the concept is right. Knowing in advance may cause the outcomes to play out precisely as they were formulated to have played out. So I don't believe that foreknowledge really impacts things the way you are claiming that they do.

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Then, going through the motions loses all meaning in the context of this discussion. It is a value statement. If you try to rephrase it using clear terms, you are only left with "if there is no free will, then you are going to do what you are going to do." Since, time will surely show this as true, I don't see any meaning in the statement. Perhaps you can rephrase it better.
I think the domino analogy is about as simple as it gets. The dominoes just fall over. And it doesn't matter how complex the dominoes are set up, they're still just dominoes. I don't care what sorts of pretty patterns they make, or what colors they are, or what sizes, or anything. It's all just one after the other. There's nothing special that makes one domino (rock falling) somehow different than another domino (neuron firing).

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[Nitpick], but without Laplace's demon, the trail only technically exists up to now. It is innevitably unfolding though as time passes. I am not one of those people who think the future has already happened, so it will continue to unfold. I do happen to believe that it will continue to happen following whatever physical laws. [/nitpick]
Time concepts are interesting, but I don't want to go there.

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It is only an illusion in the context of a belief in free will. I make decisions because of x, where x is a bunch of stuff. Those decisions are inevitable, but the process of the decision making exists.
Again, there are some questions about your decision-making processes that I've asked above.

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(sorry for the delay. my god, you people must have way more free time than I do. I blame it on the big bang.)
LOL. I'm an academic and it's summer. That affords me a bunch of "freer" time. I still have work to do, but I can set my own pace and schedule (so long as it's done when I need it to be done). If I waste an hour contemplating something, I just need to make up that hour somewhere else.

Take all the time you need to respond. This is an interesting conversation and there's no hurry to finish it.
06-15-2010 , 05:59 AM
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Originally Posted by smrk

According to your view of choice and determinism, do you think a person can be fairly sent to heaven or hell based on the choices he/she makes? You should just come over to the pessimist's side because pessimists can argue that truth, knowledge, causal reasoning & possible worlds semantics are all perfectly compatible with determinism. But determinism is not compatible with any kind of genuine choice or responsibility; the kind of responsibility that would make it fair to dole out ultimate punishment to people.
The problem with the pessimist side is that I'm not a determinist.

In terms of heaven or hell, well, I don't think those are fair for many reasons.

Being a pessimist is playing into the libertarian attempt to hijack language. Since when does "responsibility" mean "infinite punishment for finite crimes?" I guess since about the same time that "selection," which is actually defined as "picking the preferred course of action," somehow managed to include the notion that other courses of action are possible.

The fact is, words like "choice" and "responsibility" are useful and important, have been to humans for millennia, and have been for me personally since I was at least 5 years old. I'm not going to stop using those words because some lunatic fringe group wants to redefine them to suit an agenda.

As a pessimist, you ought to at least be able to grant the utility of the words - do you never use them yourself? Why give them up to a bunch of superstitious bullies?
06-15-2010 , 06:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Aaron W.
Like this:
None of which has any bearing on the question, logically.

But it's clear that you're incapable of considering logic independent of your own metaphysical assumptions. Even functioning within another context is impossible for you, probably even imagining any perspective other than your own.

Which really gets straight back to the OP.
06-15-2010 , 06:08 AM
Ummm...wow. That applies directly to you more than anyone else ITT. You routinely assume only a specific conception and are unwilling to consider alternative positions. You routinely switch arguments without notice. You're the one claiming that it's a 'hijack' of language to even speak in the libertarian's terms. Consistency fail.

You're like Glenn Beck. You make one assertion...and then the next day (post, in this case) you contradict yourself and don't hold yourself to your own purported standard.
06-15-2010 , 06:18 AM
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Originally Posted by durkadurka33
Ummm...wow. That applies directly to you more than anyone else ITT. You routinely assume only a specific conception and are unwilling to consider alternative positions. You routinely switch arguments without notice. You're the one claiming that it's a 'hijack' of language to even speak in the libertarian's terms. Consistency fail.

You're like Glenn Beck. You make one assertion...and then the next day (post, in this case) you contradict yourself and don't hold yourself to your own purported standard.
Your whole argument is that if determinism is true, then we have to stop using a broad section of the English language. Just to please your ego-stroking metaphysics.

This whole argument started when you (collectively, I don't remember which it was) chastised me for having the audacity to use the term "choice" to reference the world around me - because apparently only libertarians are allowed to use that term!

I only have to consider a specific conception - because you have claimed that my conception is incoherent and internally inconsistent! I didn't make the same claim about your conception, so your conception is irrelevant. Your position in particular probably is consistent, and may even be coherent. The fact that I'm willing to give you more credit than you are willing to give me (or any compatibilist from Hume through Dennett) justifies my conception being the conception we're discussing.
06-15-2010 , 09:59 AM
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Originally Posted by madnak
Your whole argument is that if determinism is true, then we have to stop using a broad section of the English language. Just to please your ego-stroking metaphysics.
Do you really believe that the compatiblism debate is about the use of language? I'm sure durka is not claiming that we can't revise our language. Rather he is claiming that certain concepts are inconsistent.

This is no different than when an atheist says that God doesn't exist. This metaphysical claim implies that broad sections of the English language fail to refer. However, if someone comes along and defines "God" as the Ground of All Being or some other vague idea, then even the atheist can admit that God defined in such a way exists. But this is not relevant to the atheist's original claim.
06-15-2010 , 11:42 AM
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Originally Posted by madnak
None of which has any bearing on the question, logically.
It denies your concept of "process" using the exact process you prescribed for me to use. Is the dictionary not good enough for you anymore?
06-15-2010 , 11:51 AM
I haven't read the whole exchange, but do Aaron W., durkadurka et al. claim that determinism and choice are mutually exclusive?

Let's say I write an algorithm that monitors a basket of stocks (for example) and buys shares of companies that fulfill certain criteria. You guys claim that this program didn't choose the stocks to buy?
06-15-2010 , 12:07 PM
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Originally Posted by madnak
Your whole argument is that if determinism is true, then we have to stop using a broad section of the English language. Just to please your ego-stroking metaphysics.
Stop this. Seriously. It has nothing to do with "pleasing...ego-stroking metaphysics." I have arguments in support of jettisoning those words as meaningless if determinism is the case. Where is the "ego-stroking"? And what's wrong with arguing for something based on supposing the truth of a given metaphysical position? This is good philosophy. You follow a given position's implications to their end: this is what I think determinism implies. I have arguments in support of that.

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This whole argument started when you (collectively, I don't remember which it was) chastised me for having the audacity to use the term "choice" to reference the world around me - because apparently only libertarians are allowed to use that term!
Let's say determinism is true. People will still use 'choice' and 'decide' and all of the words we've already been using. How could they not? They can't do otherwise. But, it doesn't follow that they therefore have the same 'meaning' as they do/would in a libertarian universe. That's a position for which I've provided arguments. I've used your own definition of choice and then argued how that it isn't possible to actually instantiate that type of choice in a deterministic universe. I've argued that you need a libertarian universe in order to satisfy your own definition. Now, whether we are actually in a libertarian or deterministic universe is NOT an argument for which I've provided support; in fact, I've specifically argued that no such argument can be made.

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I only have to consider a specific conception - because you have claimed that my conception is incoherent and internally inconsistent! I didn't make the same claim about your conception, so your conception is irrelevant. Your position in particular probably is consistent, and may even be coherent. The fact that I'm willing to give you more credit than you are willing to give me (or any compatibilist from Hume through Dennett) justifies my conception being the conception we're discussing.
I'm quite sure that I know the nuances of compatibilism far more than you do. I'm able to partition my actual beliefs from my philosophical analysis of a position. In fact, in a recent graduate class on free will my term project culminated in me - the class banner and sole libertarian - presenting an argument against that position. I tried to come up with some 'evidence' that I thought was a considerable problem for libertarianism: that's what good philosophers do. I don't think that you've been intellectually honest ITT at all. You routinely set up my position as a straw man and include emotional terms (ie appeals to emotion) when there are none to be found in my argument(s). Look, if you need to presuppose the truth of your position in order to criticize another position, then that's bad philosophy and that's largely what you've been doing so far ITT.
06-15-2010 , 12:08 PM
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Originally Posted by MrBlah
I haven't read the whole exchange, but do Aaron W., durkadurka et al. claim that determinism and choice are mutually exclusive?

Let's say I write an algorithm that monitors a basket of stocks (for example) and buys shares of companies that fulfill certain criteria. You guys claim that this program didn't choose the stocks to buy?
We're using 'choice' in a very technical sense. No, it probably shouldn't be described as 'choosing.' (Madnak would disagree but I'm not sure he has any actual counter to any of my arguments on this issue so far.)

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