Monday, April 24, 2006

Free Will

I don't believe that humans have free will.

The following is a logical proof against free will paraphrased from Galen Strawson's book Freedom and Belief:

1. In discussing free will we are only interested in rational actions (actions performed for reasons) and those who agree that humans have free will will want to show that these rational actions are, or can be, free actions. Consequently, we are not interested in non-rational actions such as coughing or digesting.

2. The way a person acts when they act rationally is necessarily determined by the state of mind of the individual at the time of the action.

3. If a person is to be truly responsible for how one acts, one must be truly responsible for the state of their mind-- in certain respects, at least.

4. But to be truly responsible for the state of one's mind, one must have chosen that state of mind-- in certain respects. (It is not simply that one must have caused oneself to have that current state of mind; that is not sufficient for true responsibility. One must have consciously and explicitly chosen to have their current state of mind and they must have succeeded in bringing about that desired state of mind.)

5. But a person cannot really say that they have chosen, in any conscious or reasoned fashion, to have their mind be the way it is, in any respect at all, unless a person already exists (mentally speaking) equipped with some principles of choice 'P1'-- with preferences, values, pro-attitudes, ideals, whatever-- in light of which one chooses how to be.

6. But then to be truly responsible (on account of having chosen to have your state of mind) one must be truly responsible for these principles of choice.

7. For this to be possible, these principles of choice must have been chosen in a reasoned and conscious fashion.

8. For 7 to be true there must have existed some other principles of choice 'P2' upon which 'P1's are chosen.

9. And so on. Thus, true self-determination (Free Will) is logically impossible because it requires the actual completion of an infinite regress of choices of principles of choice.

Fairly common sense, eh?


Anonymous tommy t said...

I've been gone from your blog for a while. I'm glad to be back!

And I do believe that with your current belief system, that yes, you must conclude that there is no free will. That conclusion flows naturally from your arguements.

I also believe that such thoughts are incredibly depressing and end all dialogue such as the one we're engaging in here. The thought that there is no free will is a thought that ends thought. If there is no free will then are you even thinking? Or are you just acting out some predetermined part in a meaningless play, forever destined to never think and never choose?

I certainly hope that there is a point to all of this. It makes everything more bearable and comedic. Life is a lot funnier if the unusual choice is not the predetermined one.


12:53 PM  
Blogger spankidiots said...

I guess you could see it as depressing... but I certainly don't.

I look at it more like I have a front row seat to life. Sure I may not have control over my thoughts or my actions-- but I'm a conscious being and I feel extremely lucky that I am even aware of the world... especially things like beauty, happiness and humor.

I realize your point... that if I'm constantly thinking about how I'm not in control of my life... then no further thought can take place... so don't constantly think about it. The nature of our brains tend to lead you away from infinite loops like that... so I don't think that the realization of the lack of free-will will ruin anything about the human experience.

I disagree that the belief in free-will kills humor. In fact, since I've realized the lack of free-will, I have a much more humorous view of the world. I see humans as just silly animals that think themselves to be so much more grand than everything else in the world. That's hilarious. And when people pass moral judgments on other people... that's super funny... it's like labeling the actions of an insect as being "immoral".

We are animals and we should embrace the nature of our species while still understanding the commonality between all things. It's amazing the diversity of our species... and the different ways we can act and still survive... we aren't confined to warm, dark places like fungi and we aren't completely rational ants that lack emotion... but we're governed by the same laws. So why is there always the need to say humans are completely different from the ants and the fungi? Sure we are different... but I think denying our animal and biological nature is to do a great disservice to the human experience.

(Jeff did not write this... nature did. How sweet is that?)

2:10 PM  
Blogger spankidiots said...

Also, you said that it follows from my beliefs that there would be no free-will. But it was a logical proof... no need for beliefs.

So, which premise/s do you disagree with?

2:14 PM  
Anonymous natie_pie said...

the following argument, which is based on set theory, describes how we have a 'limited free will'. first, one must be familiar with the concept of a partially ordered set (or poset):

next, we note that existential states (if anyone can make a rigorous definition of an 'existential state', i will jump for joy -- the best way i know of describing one is the totality of one's instantaneous sensations) exist since an existential state is being occupied as one reads this passage. if you do not experience an existential state right now, you may be a zombie. please get help.

since there is at least one existential state, we may form the object denoted E='the space of all existential states' and we have that this set is not empty. we can then represent any fixed decision process as a poset on this space. it then follows that, given a finite linearly ordered subset of E (equipped with a particular decision/preference ordering) which is representative of the percieved states attainable due to a decision, there is a maximal element which is then the preferred choice. however, given a finite subset of E with elements incomparable with respect to the preference ordering we have imposed, there is no natural preferred choice, however a decision must be made. this is where limited free will arises.

in less mathematical terms, the option of door #1 and door #2, devoid of preferential bias, forces us to choose something and it is at this point we may assert our limited free will.

this line of reasoning relies upon zermelo-fraenkel set theory:

on the other hand, if a preference ordering on E is such that any finite subset contains a member of maximal preference, then one does not have even limited free will in the sense described above.

4:10 PM  
Blogger spankidiots said...

The theory you posted says (correct me if/when I'm wrong) that when the brain comes to a mental impasse where no preferential bias exists that a limited free will is exerted, thus, allowing for a decision to be made anyway.

I think there is a problem with this. By saying "if my mental processes come to an impasse then I use my limited free will to make a decision" a problem is created because this statement seems to imply that my mental processes (my states of mind) and my decision maker (the part of me that can exert limited free will according to the theory) are both different and the same. The theory implies they are different because it seems to state that when my mental processes can't come up with a preference I use limited free will (seeming to imply something different than normal mental processes)to make a decision. However, in order to be held responsible for our thoughts and actions it must be a conscious decision and conscious decisions are always products of mental processes (which would make the mental processes and the decision maker the same).

So, in order to argue that some kind of free will exists, you have to argue that not only is the decision maker a part of the mental processes but that it is a part of the conscious mental processes... but I simply can't see how a decision maker can fit into the mix at all. From personal experience, I think that when given the choice of door A or B (with no preferential bias) my mind would think something like the following:

"A or B? They're both the same. So what do I pick? It doesn't matter, A is just as good as B. Well I have to choose... ok B... no, A sounds better... but I thought of B first... ok I'll choose B"

I just don't see how any type of limited free will could fit into the equation... it seems like it would break up the causal chain (which we have no control of and, therefore, no responsibility for)by placing something uncaused into the equation.

So I guess it just seems more likely that our minds while milling over a situation where there is no preferential bias will find some bias one way or another (in my fictional mental processes the fact that my mind thought of B first led to the preferential bias).


2:16 AM  
Anonymous Bob said...

In response to Nate-I am a zombie. There is no such thing as a zombie help group. Anyone who tells you otherwise is merely some self righteous zombie hunter who's promise of togetherness, understanding, and donuts, is merely a lie shadowing the truth of a shotgun, two shells, and what's left of your zombie brain littering the shitty Anne Geddis painting you have in that low rent apartment.
Stop hatin'.

1:54 AM  
Anonymous natie_pie said...

assuming that all conscious states arise from brain activity, we would have to conclude that these objects arise from the same thing.

you are also correct in that we don't want to confuse free will with flipping a coin. there are determinisitic outcomes and there are psuedo deterministic outcomes (finite potential outcomes each with a particular probability of occurring). neither says anything about the existence of free will.

so, i guess my next question is 'in which universes does free will occur?' that makes my brain hurt a little. no, wait. that's bob gnawing on it. you don't want to eat my brain, zombie bob. it's mathed up.

i think we need a proper working definition of free will if we're going to get anywhere from here.

6:49 AM  
Blogger spankidiots said...

I was using a definition something like this:

Free will refers to the ability to consciously choose rational actions in such a way that the actor's conscious self is truly responsible for those actions. says: Free Will is the power of making free choices that are unconstrained by external circumstances

2:33 PM  
Anonymous tommy t said...

To answer the earlier question I disagree with point 5 and from there it all kinda goes malarky.

I do not contend that we are merely animals. In fact, if we really consider such a statement we realize how particularly untrue it is. If we are merely animals we surely must be the strangest of all animals. We alone clothe ourselves. We have art, culture, religion. We look to the other animals and see that they resemble us in many ways yet fall short. Dogs do dream but they do not compose sonnets about those dreams. Even in dog-speak. Ants have a queen but they do not create statues of the great queens of old. Apes have communities and use tools but they do not create any lasting monumnet to their own group. WE are the wild animals. All the other animals are tame. We are the ones who have broken out of the bonds. WHY? Why us? What has made man always look up in wonder? The other animals do not look up into the great abyss with fear and delight! If we are MERELY another animal, then we are the strangest of animals. So strange as to be set apart. Or, perhaps, we are not just another animal.

You believe in evolution (correct me if I'm wrong). And if we look at evolution as anything more than a simple explination of how things got here, then you must be correct in your reasoning. We are just part of a carpet forever uncurling.

I choose to believe in free will, in as much as you believe I am free to choose anything. I believe that this freedom makes me MORE liberal than most so called liberals today. I believe that if you destroy free will you destroy the spirit of man. You make your actions meaningless and create despair. In order to free yourself from the shackels of religion you have found yourself bound in determinism. And those fetters are hopeless and dreary. The precepts of religion are a wall to be sure. But they are the fence of a playground upon a bluff. Joy and happiness exist within this fence. A swift plummet without.

I have found that most prophets of the futility of man are not happy people. Stern and with long faces they preach about the determinist fate of man. In trying to take the mitre off the head of man they may have well taken off his entire head. Once we question the validity of free will, we question thought itself. Who is to say that our thoughts have any relation to anything, if indeed we think at all. "I think therefore I am." But you have negated and reversed it. "I am not therefore I cannot think."

To me, at least, this is not joyful. Even as viewing the comedic posturings of man, this is an amusing experience only if we are not posturing as well. Or if it is still funny it is a dark funniness which drags the spirit down and doesn't create that laughter that is so important to the human condition.

I am for free will.

And anti-zombie, Bob.

1:05 PM  
Blogger spankidiots said...

I don't think it really matters whether or not free will makes life more humorous... whether or not the belief in free will makes life easier to live has no bearing on the truth of the issue-- they're just our opinions.

You say you have a problem with #5... so you believe that we can say that we have consciously chosen to have our minds the way they are?

If that's the case... then what principles were those choices based on?... and then what principles were the choices of principles based on?... and so on...

Based on what we know about the human brain, it seems very unlikely that the processes of the brain are non-causal-- so I would think, based on everything we know about biology and psychology, that we could agree that the processes in the human brain are causal. If not... then I'd like to hear how you think our brain works.

If it is causal, then following from the argument set forth in the original thread it would be logically impossible for a person to be responsible for their current state of mind.

On the topic of human's being like animals-- yes we are particularly lucky to have brains capable of understanding language, mouths capable of speaking languages and thumbs to allow us to use tools. I'll grant you that humans are unique in these three areas... but that states nothing about our greatness. These three characteristics allowed humans to develop civilizations-- and, as far as the rest of the beings on this planet are concerned, our civilization has done nothing more than be horribly destructive.

"I think therefore I am" would still be just as meaningful in a deterministic world. Just because there is no free will doesn't mean there is no thought.

12:04 AM  
Anonymous tommy t said...

I agree that it doesn't truly matter if free will makes life humourous but I do find it an interesting point.

And I do think that we can choose to make our minds the way we are. We don't have to go beyond most common speech to find this true. "Make up your mind!" our mothers would yell at us. And this is not an impossibility. You claim that based on everything we know of the brain through biology and psychology, brain processes are casual. I almost agree. First, when it comes to the brain, what science knows, actually knows, is very little. Second, I would say that many brain processes are causal, but not all. Success rates of seriously ill patients are statistically better if the patient has an optimistic outlook. This is not a casual remedy. In fact, doctors routinely lie (which is disturbing enough) about the seriousness of an illness or injury due to the brain's better ability to heal when optimistic.

Further we are not unique in speech or opposible thumbs, so why are we the ones with language and complex tools. We are not the only creatures to create tools. We ARE however the only creatures who use tools to create other tools. WHY? To the contention that civilization has been distructive to the environment, you will get no argument from me, expecting of course the fact that the rest of the beings on this planet AREN'T concerned because they lack the cognitive ability for concern.

Perhaps I was overstating my case by saying that in a deterministic world there is no thought. In a deterministic world there is no meaningful thought, as all thought is just the product of the endless stream of causation.

I will say that as an explination of the world, materialism has a sort of insane simplicity. It has just the quality of the madman's argument; we have at once the sense of it covering everything and at once the sense of it leaving everything out. Everything can be understood by it and nothing seems worth understanding. The scheme seems unconscious of the alien energies and the large indifference of the earth; it does not consider the real things of the earth, of fighting peoples or proud mothers, or first love or fear upon the sea. If the cosmos of the materialist is the real cosmos, it is not much of a cosmos. The thing has shrunk. The cosmos has less wonder in it than we can find in many men and the whole of life is something much more grey, narrow, and trivial than many separate aspects of it. The parts seem greater than the whole.

The materialist philosophy is certainly much more limiting than any religion. In one sense, of course, all intellegent ideas are narrow. They cannot be broader than themselves. A Christian cannot think Christianity false and continue to be Christian, and the atheist cannot think atheism false and continue to be an atheist. But as it happens, there is a very special sense in which materialism has more restrictions than spiritualism. The Christian is not allowed to believe in materialism and the materialist not in Christianity. But, upon examination, we find that the materialist veto is much more of a veto than the Christian one. The Christian is quite free to believe that there is a considerable amoutnt of settled order and inevitable development in the universe. But the materialist is not allowed to admit into his spotless machine the slightest speck of spiritualism or miracle. The Christian admits that the universe is manifold and even miscellaneous, just as the sane man knows he is complex. The materialist's world is quite simple and solid, just as the madman is quite sure that he is sane.

When materialism leads men to complete fatalism (as it generally does), it is quite idle to pretend that is in any sense a liberating force. It is absurd to say that you are especially advancing freedom when you only use free thought to destroy free will. The materialist thought comes to bind, not loose. You may well call your law the "chain" of causation. It is the worst chain that ever bound a man. You may use the language of liberty, if you like, about materialistic teaching, but it is obvious that this is just as inapplicable to is as the whole same language is to a man locked up in a mad-house. You may say, if you like, that a man is free to think himself a poached egg. But it is surely a more massive and important fact that if he is a poached egg he is not free to eat, drink, sleep, walk, or smoke a cigarette. Similarly you may say, if you like, that the bold determinist speculator is free to disbelieve in the reality of the will. But it is a much more massive and important fact that he is not free to raise, to curse, to thank, to justify, to urge, to punish, to resist temptations, to incite mobs, to make New Year's resolutions, to pardon sinners, to rebuke tyrants, or even to say "Thanks" for passing the katchup.

I cannot prove to your satifaction the existance of free will. Nor will I attempt to do so. I can however prove (and have already done so to some extent) that determinism is not good for mental health. I am a mystic and as such I will always care for the Truth more than consistancy. If I see two truths that seem to contradict each other, I'll take the truths and the contradiciton as well. My spiritual sight, like my physical sight, is stereoscopic. I see two different pictures at once and my vision is all the better for it. I have always believed that there was such a thing called fate, but always believed in free will as well. It is exactly these apparent contradictions that have in it the whole health of man. The whole secret of mysticism is this: a man can understand everything with the help of that which he does not understand. The logician tries to make everything lucid and succeeds in making everything mysterious. The mystic allows one thing to be mysterious and everything else becomes clear. The determinist makes the theory of causation quite clear and then finds himself unable to say "if you please" to his friend. The Christian allows free will to remain a mystery and his relationships with his friends become of a sparkling and crystal clearness.

3:18 AM  
Blogger spankidiots said...

"I cannot prove to your satifaction the existance of free will. Nor will I attempt to do so."

I think this is all that is worth saying in your previous post.

My mind feels perfectly healthy. And considering I have found more humor and more happiness from understanding the consequences of there not being free will... that is proof enough for me that your unhealthy mind argument is bunk. There are miserable Christians and miserable materialists... so the only reason why this argument would matter is if people aren't interested in the truth-- and, since I'm not one of those people, I'm not going to continue arguing as to why my way of thinking is not going to lead me to depression/lack of laughter/a narrow mindset/being a mad man. We could argue as to the benefits of believing in God... but I'm interested in the truth... we could argue the benefits of believing that the world is made of sponge cake... but it's a meaningless conversation to have if the world is not made of sponge cake.

The important question: Is free will real?

You said: "I do think that we can choose to make our minds the way we are. We don't have to go beyond most common speech to find this true. 'Make up your mind!' our mothers would yell at us."

So if your Mom states "Make up your mind" and then you make up your mind... what caused you to make up your mind? and what caused that? and what caused that?... and at what point do you truly have control?

You said: "Success rates of seriously ill patients are statistically better if the patient has an optimistic outlook. This is not a casual remedy. In fact, doctors routinely lie (which is disturbing enough) about the seriousness of an illness or injury due to the brain's better ability to heal when optimistic."

So... you're saying that the Dr.'s lies have a causal effect on the patient's mental state... and this mental state leads to better healing. Seems entirely causal to me... and certainly doesn't say anything about free will.

I never argued in favor of materialism (I think it is a possibility that there was a primary uncaused mover)... but I do think that it is a little unfounded to claim that there is something uncaused that happens in our brains.

What would something uncaused look/act like?
Do apes have this uncaused part of their brains?
Do ants?
How does the uncaused part of the human brain give us free will?

I just can't see anywhere where free will can exist. Either things are causal and there is no free will... or everyone has a magical brain that allows us to choose our choice makers (and to choose the choice maker that chose the choice maker... etc.) in such a way that it completes an infinite chain.

It's very easy to say that we can choose due to free will... but it's very hard to explain in a meaningful way.

12:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have mixed feelings on free will. I do believe we are in control of our thoughts, decisions, and actions. However, I do not believe anything we think is original, and I believe Someone knew what we would think before we ever thought it.

Every thought of ours has to have already been thought of before, or we wouldn't have any way to think it. In other words, every idea has to come from somewhere, so it is impossible to have an original idea.

This is where the "mover" you speak of comes into play. I can't go any further in this reasoning without making the mover God. God knows every thought before we think it. But does he make us think these thoughts? I believe not. Just because our thoughts are predetermined doesn't make free will nonexistent. We do make our own decisions, our own decisions were just already known before we made them. We have enough power to make our own choices, have free thought, etc., but it would not make sense to presume that these choices and thoughts are "ours," meaning new and specific to us. We are indeed making our own decisions in any particular scenario, but really, the thought and action taking place in this scenario is the only thought and action that could possibly take place, even if we think otherwise at the time.

4:31 PM  
Blogger spankidiots said...

Why do you think these things are true?

How do you know God knows your thoughts before you have them? How do you know God exists? How can you have free will when you couldn't have chosen otherwise?

1:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This always happens with philosophy. Two people cannot really debate important matters without first deciding whether or not God exists. All truths must start there, being that it is a forced choice. Believing in God is apparently a closed decision for you, and not believing in Him is a closed decision for me. If we were to discuss the existence of God, I don't believe we would ever really get anywhere. Good thing we are talking about free will.

I "know" that God knows my thoughts before I have them because of the Western idea/definiton of God, being that He is all good, all knowing, all present, and all powerful--the basic traits that make God who we consider God. If God were not these things then He would not be God. Because God is all good and all knowing, all present, all powerful, and all perfect, then he must exist because perfection is part of existence. And of course, if he is all knowing then he knows our thoughts before we do. Yes, I understand that this is a circular argument (arguing God's existence with existence being in the definition of God). And I think that is because God is the originator, or "mover," so it all has to come back to Him to make sense.

I believe we still have free will because even though we can't really choose otherwise, we are still making the decision. Just because Someone knows what is going to happen beforehand, and because it was really all planned out doesn't take away from the fact that we are making the decisions. I think the fact that we don't completely belong to ourselves that this works. God is part of us, He made us, and He knows what we are going to do. And yet we are still distinct entities. God knows what we are going to do before we do it, but we are still making the decisions. It would be impossible for things not to go according to God's will, even though we are in control of our thoughts, actions, etc. So we are in control of them, it just can't go any other way.

It's like if there was a game that can only be mastered if certain moves take place. Imagine that two people play this game, each thinking and deciding on his/her next move, and by the end they have mastered the game. This would mean that there was only one way for the game to be mastered and even though they each had the ability to decide on the next move, it could (and did) only work one way. They were still in control of their actions, but the game could only be played one way to work.

If God is all knowing, all present, all powerful, and all good, the game will work out perfectly for His will to be complete. We are still making our own decisions, but God knows what these decisions are, and somehow the game will be mastered.

Of course, this reasoning only works if one believes in God.

2:22 AM  
Anonymous tommy t said...

I cannot prove to your satisfaction the existence of free will because ultimately it isn't you I need to convince, according to your contention, but rather Nature which is having these thoughts rather than JP Dollar. And as Nature is only acting according to Fate, which was etched across the cosmos at the beginning of time, it is rather Fate that must be changed. But to assume that we can change Fate would be to deny the basic premise that you hold. Fate cannot be denied and, indeed, if one thought they cheated Fate, they did not in fact cheat Fate, but rather they were Fated to seem as if they had. Circular reasoning, yes? And the nice thing about it is that it is complete and whole and that it explains everything, but your circle isn't very large and leaves a lot of the poetry of life out.

Free will IS hard to explain. That's why there are still discussions like these about it. It is also a testament to the inadequacy of the philosophies created to deny this fact that discussions like this still exist.

I understand your position as being that if you end up doing whatever it is you do, seeing whatever it is you see, or think whatever it is you think, it is not actually your decision. But Fate. So, then, why discuss these things. YOU, per se, cannot change the mind of anyone, because a mind cannot be changed according to your reasoning. I, however, am free of this odious burden. I can change the minds of others as well as my mind. I am liberated from this task which gives this conversation. Or another way. My goal: to change your mind about Free Will. Your goal: To show the fallacy of Free Will for what it is. But your goal will only accomplished by Fate. You start off by saying that you are impotent to change my mind. I would even say that you are capable of changing my mind; that such changes to and can in fact occur. However, you undermine your goal with your very arguments.

To Mr. Anon Nemous.
I hesitate to say that all that is done is God's Will. Especially if this is the same God that is "all knowing, all present, all powerful, and all good." This can CLEARLY be refuted. Which I will now do :)

Man is a sinful creature. You have to but go to any street corner in any city in any country to notice the callousness, disregard, and wickedness of man. Is this God's Will? Is evil the will of an all good God? Rather I contend that man is a dirty creature. I could point to the lives of any of the billions of man alive to prove my point.

The problem that is discussed here isn't a debate of the pre-eminent existence of God. The problem is that not even how best to wash the dirt off of a sinful man. The issue at hand is not the denial of the highly disputable water to cleanse dirty man, but the deniable of the indisputable dirt. The position before us is that man is inherently the way he is, to be the very obvious dirty state, and has no say or choice in the matter. Further, the dirt upon his soul is natural and the way things should be.

I must disagree. Not only do I think that dirt is an inherent character of man, as JP would have me believe, but I also do not think that that the dirt that soils our lives is part of God's Plan. Men fail the call in God's Plan which leads to the indisputable existence of Sin.

JP's stance is logically arguable from his, to me alien and very interesting, foundation of thought. Assuming you believe in one God who is God "is all knowing, all present, all powerful, and all good", your position is either false or misstated.

We both must be careful of our words. It would be a shame to misrepresent the Truth we have to share.

"Truth is sacred; and if you tell the truth too often nobody will believe it." G.K.C.

3:21 PM  
Blogger spankidiots said...

Mr. Thomas T-
You think that the belief that free will doesn't exist takes the poetry out of life. BUT, I have living proof going on in my brain right now that shows me that you're wrong... so I'm sorry if I seem unimpressed by your arguments... but, as I said, I'm living proof to myself... and, thus, I'm more interested in arguments about truth.

You said: "Free will IS hard to explain. That's why there are still discussions like these about it. It is also a testament to the inadequacy of the philosophies created to deny this fact that discussions like this still exist."

I think it is more likely that free will is hard to explain because it's an illogical theory made for simple minds.

"So, then, why discuss these things?"

Because, apparently, I enjoy the mental games we play... and at the moment I have figured out the flaw in free will and I'm interested in seeing how people react and defend their beliefs... learning and debating makes me happy... and my mind tends to lead me to places that increase pleasure and decrease pain... so that's why.

You said:
"YOU, per se, cannot change the mind of anyone, because a mind cannot be changed according to your reasoning"
"Your goal: To show the fallacy of Free Will for what it is. But your goal will only accomplished by Fate. You start off by saying that you are impotent to change my mind."

You are acting as if myself and "fate" are different. If, by "fate", you mean the motion and direction of everything in the universe... then I am a part of fate and, furthermore, everything is a part of fate. So, it would be innaccurate to say I can't change minds only fate can (because "fate" would include me). So I can change minds... I just can't choose to change them.

You also said:
"The position before us is that man is inherently the way he is, to be the very obvious dirty state, and has no say or choice in the matter. Further, the dirt upon his soul is natural and the way things should be."

Is this my position? Certainly not... I would not let man off the hook so easily. Rather, I think humans at the current point in time are way too concerned with their immediate needs than with the long term survival of the planet and species. Right now we are living as viruses--having used up millions of years of natural resources in about 100 years. Right now we are in the good time--the time of acting like there are no consequences to living like this... but a point will come when everyone realizes the mistakes of the past (if humanity survives)... and hopefully this will lead everyone to a new way of thinking--which I believe will have to be a much more holistic way of thinking.

I don't think that dirt is an inherent character of man. I'm watching the movie of life... and right now humans are the irritable, wreckless, passionate, over-worked, SUV driving thug and I really want them to learn their lesson during this movie and move on to better understanding the world around them so that they will become the nice, thoughtful, passionate, happy, environmentally happy person.

5:15 PM  
Blogger spankidiots said...


How could evil exist with an all powerful, all good, all knowing God? It seems that he would need to lack one of those traits.

Also, you said:
"Because God is all good and all knowing, all present, all powerful, and all perfect, then he must exist because perfection is part of existence. And of course, if he is all knowing then he knows our thoughts before we do. Yes, I understand that this is a circular argument (arguing God's existence with existence being in the definition of God). And I think that is because God is the originator, or "mover," so it all has to come back to Him to make sense."

Not to be rude... but that's a muddled mess.

God doesn't have to exist by any logical necessity-- "perfection is part of existence" is absurd... I've never seen anything in existence that is perfect.

Along with being unable to prove God, you cannot prove that God is the original mover... it is just as possible that the universe has existed forever.

If you want more debating on the existence of God-- I have previous posts devoted to that.

Also you said that God knows what you're going to do before you do it... so he knows how you're going to react given a certain situation. But, the question must be asked: How does he know this? Does he know this based on the way you are? Based on the physical makeup of your body? Based on how your brain works? It seems to me that if you could not have chosen otherwise... then there is no choice.

5:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not wish to argue the existence of God, or the existence of evil, but merely the existence of free will. So, I will simply clear up my muddled mess and move on.

I was trying to say that something has to exist to be perfect. If it does not exist it is nothing- it cannot be perfect or imperfect. So, since God is perfect, he must exist. Similarly, if God were not perfect He could not exist. The reason you have not seen anything in existence that is perfect is because the only perfect thing in existence is God, whom you cannot see.

God knows what I am going to do because he created me. And that includes the physical make-up of my body and how my brain works.

I still choose everything I do, it just so happens that everything I choose to do was already planned/known about, even if it is the "wrong" decision. So, humans are not off the hook. It is still my fault when I do something wrong.

Tommy T-- this is where your argument comes into play. If God is all knowing and all powerful, don't you think his Will will indeed be done? And if His will is going to be done we would all have to be part of it and moving towards it every day, despite our knowledge and obedience of it. If His will is to indeed work out, everything must be done according to it, and He already knows what these things are. We might not do what we were called to do by Him. However, because He knows when we are going to fail Him, His plan already takes care of it.

I do not believe I am missrepresenting the Truth, but if I am, please forgive me and correct me. Perhaps none of us have it all figured out, but it can't hurt to question these things.

9:17 PM  
Anonymous natie_pie said...

anon - 2nd paragraph: your conclusion is contingent upon the existence of perfect objects. either claim some principles and then extrapolate the existence of a particularly defined god, or merely posit that god exists. things are quite easy to discuss if one lays the ground work of the given assumptions and the defined objects.

okay, here is a mathematical argument in support of a certain form of free will that patches up some of the problems i encountered earlier. here i assume ZFC (as usual) and that the space of all existential states is countably infinite (i can validate this if it isn't clear why). if one has infinitely many possible choices at a particular junction, each of which has the same preferential status, then we may not apply a probabalistic interpretation to the decision since this would imply that the probability of choosing any particular event would have to be zero (in the finite case, N decisions of equal weight yields 1/N probability of choice... let N go to infinity). nevertheless, a choice must be made -- the choice cannot be made in a determinisitic or even a psuedodeterministic manner.

in the locally observable universe, it appears that we have only finitely many choices available at a particular point in time. free will is then locally unobtainable. but globally? who knows.

3:17 AM  
Blogger Paul said...


Hey, it's great to be back. I'll tend to our previous discussion later, but I'm choosing to throw this out there (wink):

You said in premise 2, "The way a person acts when they act rationally is necessarily determined by the state of mind of the individual at the time of the action." By assuming this in your 2nd premise (first real premise, i.e. one that is not merely parameters), you are begging the question. If we are necessarily determined by our state of mind, then we have no free will. No further premises are necessary. Unfortunately, however, this means that your proof boils down to being either invalid or a mere belief, and not a valid logical proof.

The other point to consider is as follows: Why do we have a justice system if there is no free will? Especially if our free will is constrained by our state of mind? It sounds to me like everyone ought to get off on the insanity plea if this is truly the case. I mean, if I'm just in the state of mind of anger, and I kill someone in that state, then how can I be put in jail for that?

Those are my two cents. Let me know what you think.


12:09 AM  
Blogger spankidiots said...

Premise 2 doesn't beg the question. One could accept Premise 2 and still argue that, while our actions are determined by our state of mind, we have control over that state of mind... and thus, we can still be held responsible for our actions.

While it doesn't beg the question, you could still reject Premise 2. However, if you reject that premise, you are saying that the way a person acts when they act rationally is not determined by their mind. Which leads to the question: If the mind doesn't determine their actions... what does?

The logical proof is nice... but it's not the reason I don't believe in free will.
The real reason I don't believe in free will is because of my experiences... when I really pay attention to my inner monologue I realize that my thoughts just ramble on and on. I've noticed that every thought I have is either triggered by the thought before it or triggered by my senses. I have tried to take over by saying to myself... No I am going to control what my mind does! But I soon realize that the reason I'm having that thought is because it was triggered by the thoughts I was having before.


The consequences of there not being free will have no bearing on the truth of the issue... but I'll touch briefly on your comment about our system of justice anyway:

I think it's simplistic to say the reason we have our justice system is because people should be punished for their actions. Rather, I think a better reason for having the justice system is to have punishments in place that keep as many people as possible from breaking the law and hurting other people.

If we go by the latter reason for having the justice system, then the justice system can still function, without contradiction, in a world without free will.

3:22 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

What we need, before we can even begin to carry this discussion further, is a definition for "state of mind." There is so much wrapped up in that statement that one cannot debate that premise without understanding what you mean by that phrase.

Furthermore, to say that rational actions are determined by the state of mind and that they occur in the mind are two different things. As I understand the definition, one's state of mind is a passive state in which one is not actively exercising control over their thoughts but is merely responding to stimuli, either internal or external(in this sense, I believe you could be somewhat right about a limited free will, but not no free will). That is how I understand/define it; (furthermore, once someone becomes aware of it, they can change that action, a fact that is not disproven by the fact that it occurs in the mind.) You may define it as the stream of thoughts occuring in one's mind, period; it is in this stream of thoughts that one thinks and therefore has limited/no free will. Even if this is your definition you are still begging the question.

Again, if you say that they are "determined," you are already limiting free will--there's no way around that. To say that something is determined is to limit it...unless you are understanding it differently, in which case you should also define this word. Anyways, you would have to say something to the effect of an If-then statement as follows:

- If X --> rational actions are determined by the state of mind...etc.
- X
- Therefore, rational actions are determined by the state of mind.

You are starting the argument off with a HUGE assumption that requires at least two explicit definitions before you can even begin to state that you are not begging the question.


The real issue with any free will is to ask could it have been done otherwise, all things being equal. In those cases where it could not, one could make a claim for limited free will. But if I become aware of my state of mind of anger (for example), I could decide to remain in that state, or I could work to calm myself down; the awareness does not determine my course of action after that point. There are alternative courses of action. Now if you say that one choice is made over another because of past responses in similar situations, then you could say that this is limited free will, but I will say that this is based on the accumulation of past choices.

I am not trying to say that we have unlimited free will. I think that we can be conditioned to respond to certain situations...either for good or bad.

Just thinking outloud here: I do not think that because a thought occurs in the mind, we are necessarily determined to act that way. It is precisely because it occurs in the mind that we have the option to choose. We would not need awareness or the higher capacities of the mind if there were no need for choice. What you are preposing is a pseudo-free will that we are not aware of because we have the illusion of free will. If it's an illusion, it's a potent one indeed. But I doubt it's an illusion...though I understand that certain circumstances can make us apt to respond in certain ways.

I think that's enough to both think and write about for now. I'd like to hear what you think. It's a very interesting topic to be sure. I've been thinking about this a lot myself as of late. Peace!

10:14 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

One more thought:

As for the justice system: we cannot go simply by your latter system, because the justice system does in fact exist (at least in part) to punish those who have committed bad actions. What we observe to be the case is different from your hypothesis. If we have something that is in fact the case, we cannot deny it merely to bolster your claims. The justice system does prevent bad actions, which I agree would not contradict a world without free will, if that were all it were there for; however, it does exist to punish, and that punishment would be excruciatingly unfair in a world where we were determined to act the way we do.

10:23 PM  
Blogger spankidiots said...

By "state of mind" I literally mean the state of our mind... in other words the way our mind is at any given point in time. The state of our mind would include memories, emotions, sensations, ideas (etc.)occuring/existing in our mind at any given point in time-- the way we are mentally.

To make you happy, I'll take out the word "determined"... Premise 2: "The way a person acts when they act rationally is CAUSED by THE WAY THE MIND of the individual IS at the time of the action." If it's not the mind... then what is doing the rationalizing for the rational action?

We are our minds... so you should be happy with this premise. It's stating that our minds, our selves, cause our rational actions-- and isn't begging the question...

<>I'll touch on the rest later<>

2:41 AM  
Blogger spankidiots said...


When asked the question "Could things have been otherwise?" it seems to me that the answer would always have to be "no".

I took a shower earlier today, could I have chosen not to take that shower?

To answer this question, I have to look at the circumstances that lead me to take a shower. Such things as: I hadn't showered in a day, I felt gross, I like showering, I had nothing else to do, I usually take showers at this time of day, I knew I was going to be around a girl, etc. So, given those exact circumstances (in my mind and in the world) I will always choose to take a shower. As long as all the circumstances are the same (exactly the same)... my mind would always come to that same conclusion. It seems that in order for me to be in an identical situation and choose differently would require that the world be different in order for there to be circumstances that lead me to choose differently (which would mean that it's not an identical situation).

12:05 PM  
Blogger spankidiots said...

On Justice:
Once it's understood that we do not have free will-- this will be a very interesting political discussion. I say this because we want to keep as many people as possible from being hurt by other people and we also want to be fair. How do we protect people unless we have some system in place to give people a reason not to hurt others? How can we be fair if we're locking up innocent people (victims of circumstance)? I tend to think that the system we have is sufficient. Our system is a mental survival of the fittest-- those minds that aren't fit to live in our society won't live in our society. It's not their fault... but it's not our fault that their minds are in such a way that they caused harm to others. Since it's not their fault, I do think this is good reason for improving the conditions of our prisons to give these people the best life they can without hurting others.

Saying our system is about punishing people for their actions seems a little sadistic. What good comes from causing harm to somebody that caused harm? I don't see anything good-- other than giving incentive for others to not break the law. If it didn't give incentive for others to act in accordance to the law, then the only good that would come from punishment would be a sadistic joy that people get from causing harm to harm causers (which seems more than a little hypocritical).

12:31 PM  
Blogger Paul said...


A few things:

Changing the word "determined" to "caused" is like changing the word "sleeping" to "asleep." It's the exact same thing. So you are still begging the question. Unless you can demonstrate that I am only reacting, then I am not determined by my state of mind.

This is the distinction: simply because things occur in the mind does not mean they are determined by it. There is a range of choices still available, and I would say, you could always choose otherwise (within limits, because I do recognize that when we are not aware of what we are doing, we tend to respond to circumstances). But as per your shower circumstance, you could have decided to do otherwise. You could have said, "Screw all those things, I'm not going to take a shower." Now we are limited to a range of choices, that I do not deny, by what we know and what all of our past experience has lead us to. So if I do not know Christ, I could not very well choose Him. But if I do know about Him, I can decide whether I believe in Him or not, I can decide if I even want to look into it.

- What is the mind? Or perhaps better: what is a mind? And how am I my mind? You just made a huge leap there, getting into ontological questions. I'm not stating my exact position here just yet, but I'm curious to see what you are trying to say.

- I think the thing is, I have to know anything, before I can choose to do anything. For example, I have to know how to solve Calculus problems before I can choose to solve them correctly or not. There is no choice before I have this knowledge. I cannot accomplish great things if I do not know that I can accomplish great things, but I could still decide not to accomplish them after I know that I could. And thus the truth shall set you free. It is rather when we know less that we have no free will. Did I choose to learn all of these things? Not exactly, at least, not early on. Does this prevent me from having free will later? No. A man may be affected by what he knows, learns, etc. but he is not determined by them. He may be more likely to insult someone when angry, but awareness of this allows him to choose to calm himself later. And I do not think that awareness is merely a state of the mind, that is to say, it does not simply occur within the mind. That is because it is intentional: it is always of or about something and as such it goes out to that thing. To use a common expression concerning this, "If one wishes to determine where the cat's awareness is, do not look in the mind of the cat, for the cat's awareness is with the rat." In a very real way, our awareness can transcend our physical bodies to think about things beyond ourselves. I'm a little new to this area, as I have just recently studied this in my Metaphysics class, but I think it's worth pondering. Our awareness does not merely reside within our physical makeup; it goes beyond ourselves. Just something to put on the philosophical table. Feel free not to respond to this part just yet, but I wanted to put it out there. I think awareness might be the key to all of this.

My more pressing issue, is that I want to know what you think a mind is. And how we are that mind.

Thanks, and keep pursuing the Truth!

In Christ,

10:05 PM  
Blogger spankidiots said...

Yes, I realize that "determined" and "caused" are the same. Nothing about Premise 2 needs to be changed. I've shown multiple times that it doesn't beg the question... I'll attempt to do this one more time:

The purpose of Premise 2 is just to show that what causes rational actions is our rational thought... which occurs in our mind. So our rational thought... occuring in the mind... causes our actions in a very deliberate way. This is fact. You think "I desire to raise my hand" and your hand raises. What caused your action? Your mind.

What is the mind?
The mind is the function of the brain. It controls our bodily functions. It stores memories. It thinks rationally. It controls our emotions. So when I say that we are our minds, I mean that the thinking part of us that allows us to understand and label our identity is our mind (obviously the mind isn't the totality of our self... for we also have a physical self; our bodies).

So if you desire to say that rational actions aren't caused by the mind... what do you think caused them?

In response to the shower example you said:
"you could have decided to do otherwise. You could have said, 'Screw all those things, I'm not going to take a shower.'"

Yes it's true I am capable of saying "screw all those things, I'm not going to take a shower," but I didn't.... Why didn't I just say "screw it" and not shower? What caused me to make the decision that I made? In order for me to have chosen to say "screw it," the world (the physical makeup of the world and/or my mind) would have had to be different. Why? Because the way the world was when I made the decision lead me to decide to take a shower. If you deny that the world would have to be different in order for me to make a different decison, then you are denying causation. Is that what you wish to do?

Denying causation is fine... at least we'll know exactly where our views differ...

As you should see now, Premise 2 doesn't beg the question... for, as I said before, the conclusion isn't contained in the premise-- the conclusion is that we aren't responsible for our actions. Simply because our mind causes our actions doesn't mean that we aren't responsible for our minds (although the proof rejects that we are responsible for our minds in other premises, so feel free to reject those if you find reason to.)

6:02 PM  
Blogger Paul said...


I think my essential problem with this whole argument is as follows:

Let us assume that our minds determine/cause our rational actions (which I would say makes sense to a degree, although your arguments above have a number of other ramifications, like the nature of the mind, which I will not go into now). This being the case, then, the only reason we cannot choose our state of mind is because we are determined by our "preferences, values, pro-attitudes, ideals, [et cetera]." So then the essential structure of the argument is circular: we are determined because we are determined. Our actions are determined by our mind which is determined by the aforementioned qualities. So the only thing we've "proven" is that the creator of this "proof" believes we are determined.

Really, the most one could say this proof demonstrates is that we cannot have radical freedom, namely, that we can be free of any level of determination at all. This is not possible, and I do not think that any advocate of free will is saying that we are free of all determination. To some extent I am determined by my genetics (I most likely will never be a world class athlete). To some extent I am determined by my culture (I did not choose to speak English first). To some extent I am determined by what I have done in the past (I know I can succeed when I work because I did it in the past). At each of these levels though, there is a freedom in how to operate with the relatively determined qualities that I have. So no, I do not always fully determine the state of my mind, and perhaps the field of possibilities of states of mind is quite narrow for me, being limited to certain states that others do not experience as regularly, and vice versa. But I can choose with a certain amount of freedom what to think and what to do within those options based on what levels of determination I have experienced. Even still, however, I am continually rising above these levels of determination, for as I become aware of how I react in some circumstances, I can examine them, and begin to decide to change them.

This is just me "thinking out loud" so to speak, so I understand that I may need to reword some things here. But I think my argument essentially makes sense.

4:16 PM  
Blogger spankidiots said...

First, it's not circular. "Our actions are determined by our mind which is determined by the aforementioned qualities" is a completely logical sequence. Though there should be an if statement-- more complete: "If our actions are determined by our mind which is determined by the aformentioned qualities then we cannot be truly responsible for our actions"... so, as I have said numerous times, you can disagree with a premise and we'll go from there... but throwing around untrue fallacy labels isn't going to work.

I'll touch on the second part, where it appears you have chosen a premise to disagree with, a little later.

5:34 PM  
Blogger spankidiots said...


"I can choose with a certain amount of freedom what to think and what to do within those options based on what levels of determination I have experienced"

You just stated that if you are faced with a decision you will decide what to do based on the "levels of determination" you have experienced. So when you choose A instead of B it is based on certain "levels of determination" that you experienced. Thence, in order for you to have made a different decision, like choosing B instead of A, these "levels of determination" that you have experienced would have to be different than the ones that lead you to choose A--The world would have to be different in order to yeild a different decision.

12:40 AM  
Blogger spankidiots said...

A hypothetical that I hope will illustrate my point:

Jack is on his lunch break and is deciding what to get out of the vending machine-- after much deliberation Jack decides to buy a Twinkie. Now you get into a time machine and travel, magically without changing the makeup of the universe, to the moment right before Jack starts deliberating on what he wants out of the vending machine-- what do you think Jack will choose?... I would bet that Jack will choose the Twinkie... right? I mean if the circumstances are precisely identical then how could he come to a different conclusion? But that's the thing... you free-willians are forced to say that he could choose otherwise. Given identical universal circumstances, including Jack's identical brain-state, you must hold that he could make a different decision than the decision he initially made... and that just doesn't seem to gel with common sense.

1:15 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

I think this is the issue: The argument assumes that free will means one has to be able to determine every aspect of oneself, which is wrong. Like I said before, the argument only "proves" that there is no radical freedom, namely that I am entirely free of my own accord to determine everything about myself, as though I could have fashioned who I am myself before I was born. This is just not possible. As Martin Heidegger's theory of Dasein asserts, we find ourselves already "thrown" into a world and culture that we did not ask to be a part of. As such, "inhabitance precedes theory [or action, etc.]" but does not determine it (A Path Into Metaphysics, Robert E. Wood, 297). So in one sense we are limited. (I cannot choose which language is my first. But this does not mean I cannot choose how to use the English I learned to speak.) I am thankful, however, that this is not what free will requires. Free will requires that I use what I am given to make decisions. Basically, my "preferences, values, pro-attitudes, ideals" are there, and I did not always choose to do these, but "in light of [these I choose] how to be." That's the one place where the "proof" gets it right.

Basically, to say that one has to choose everything about how one is to be free is false. That's not to say that there are not many times when we do not act freely and are merely bound to do things a certain way. But we can compare those times to the times when we do actually reason between two choices and choose what to do, and we note that they are not the same. I can say, "Man, I just blew up on her because I was letting her get the better of me." We recognize that we were determined in a certain circumstance. At other times, I applaud myself because my anger was rising, my day had been horrible, and I hadn't eaten earlier that day, and the same girl was trying to get the better of me, and I was able to control myself and ignore her petty taunts. Even in light of all deterministic qualities, I "rose above them," as we hear said, and chose the better way, refusing to be determined by my circumstances. Comparing these two we see when we are more free than other times.

As for your back to the future situation, as a "free-willian" I am not "forced to say" anything. I choose to say what he might have done or not done, and that's just by definition of being a "free-willian" (in addition to being a fan of the movie about the whale). But just because he chooses a certain way does not mean he did not choose it. Just because he would do it again, does not mean he does not choose it.

Here is some more info on where I am coming from:


Free will does not mean capability of willing in the absence of all motive, or of arbitrarily choosing anything whatever. The rational being is always attracted by what is apprehended as good. Pure evil, misery as such, man could not desire. However, the good presents itself in many forms and under many aspects--the pleasant, the prudent, the right, the noble, the beautiful--and in reflective or deliberate action we can choose among these. The clear vision of God would necessarily preclude all volition at variance with this object, but in this world we never apprehend Infinite Good. Nor does the doctrine of free will imply that man is constantly exerting this power at every waking moment, any more than the statement that he is a "rational" animal implies that he is always reasoning. Much the larger part of man's ordinary life is administered by the machinery of reflex action, the automatic working of the organism, and acquired habits. In the series of customary acts which fill up our day, such as rising, meals, study, work, etc., probably the large majority are merely "spontaneous" and are proximately determined by their antecedents, according to the combined force of character and motive. There is nothing to arouse special volition, or call for interference with the natural current, so the stream of consciousness flows smoothly along the channel of least resistance. For such series of acts we are responsible, as was before indicated, not because we exert deliberate volition at each step, but because they are free in causa, because we have either freely initiated them, or approved them from time to time when we adverted to their ethical quality, or because we freely acquired the habits which now accomplish these acts. It is especially when some act of a specially moral complexion is recognized as good or evil that the exertion of our freedom is brought into play. With reflective advertence to the moral quality comes the apprehension that we are called on to decide between right and wrong; then the consciousness that we are choosing freely, which carries with it the subsequent conviction that the act was in the strictest sense our own, and that we are responsible for it."

This is taken from:

There's more where that came from.

God bless!

5:25 PM  
Blogger spankidiots said...

The argument does not assume that one has to be able to determine every aspect of oneself. In fact if you read the proof carefully it actually only calls for us to be in control "in certain respects, at least." "Control" meaning that true responsibility can be attributed to the actor.

Choice does not insure free will. I'm not stupid-- I know choices are made... but we're talking about responsibility for our choices. In order to say that WE, and not fate, are in control of our actions. We must deny causation.

I see a rock rolling down a hill... what caused that? Well, in theory, we could trace back every cause that lead to that rock rolling down the hill... and I can guarantee you that the causes will go back to before that particular rock was even a rock.

I see humanity as a more complex rock... and every action has a cause... every choice has a cause... every thought has a cause... every emotion has a cause... and if we trace back this [potentially] infinite regress of causes we'll see that we are who we are because of something before us.

In your paragraph about my time travel hypo (recall the use of "free-willian") you state "Just because he would do it again, does not mean he does not choose it." As I said earlier, I am not stating he did not make a choice... I'm just saying the choice he was made was determined by the influential circumstances he finds himself in. If you agree that every time he will choose the Twinkie-- then you are admitting that there were causes that lead him to choose the twinkie. Thus, if there is no possible way... given the exact circumstances... that he would choose otherwise how can you say he has free-will?

In the hypothetical I gave, do you think it is possible that he could choose otherwise?
If Yes, Then please explain how he would go about choosing otherwise.
If No, please explain how, given that he can only act one way, he has free will.

It sounds like your saying, "this is the only way he could have acted... but he did so freely." However, this statement is what "soft-determinists" believe not "free-willians". Acting freely (without constraint) is not the same as having free will (true responsibility for actions).

As for your nature and range-- it doesn't delve deep enough... as I said, choice, rationality, self-realization, etc are not enough to satisfy responsibility for our actions... because they are still caused events! If they are caused.. then the cause had causes... and that cause had causes... ad infinitum.

This is my last try.

8:57 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Okay...we are talking past each other with nothing being accomplished. I will try to approach this from the perspective of a question.

You said, "choice, rationality, self-realization, etc are not enough to satisfy responsibility for our actions... because they are still caused events!"

How are they caused events?

(and after this, if you have time, did you read my excerpt from New Advent? Or would you address that?)

5:24 PM  
Blogger Help People said...

You asked "how is choice/rationality/self-realization a causal event":

When I make a choice there are causal mental processes that happen in my brain that eventually lead up to me making a choice. If I am told to choose either the Blue pill or the Red pill-- immediately a causal series starts to happen in my mind. My mind will sort through what the consequences are of each choice, I will relate this choice to past choices, I will weigh immediate gain versus long term gain, I will look at which one looks more edible... my brain will narrow down the choices until it makes the best guess as to the course of action it can at that moment and then I act. So essentially the question caused the mental processes that caused me to choose. Same goes for self realization-- your mind either leads itself to self realize or it doesn't-- it's luck of the draw.


I did read your excerpt from New Advent entitled "Nature and Range of Moral Liberty"-- I responded to it in my previous comment as such:

"As for your nature and range-- it doesn't delve deep enough... as I said, choice, rationality, self-realization, etc are not enough to satisfy responsibility for our actions... because they are still caused events! If they are caused.. then the cause had causes... and that cause had causes... ad infinitum."

To take this further-- I'm going to comment on the following piece from the excerpt you provided:

"In the series of customary acts which fill up our day, such as rising, meals, study, work, etc., probably the large majority are merely "spontaneous" and are proximately determined by their antecedents, according to the combined force of character and motive. There is nothing to arouse special volition, or call for interference with the natural current, so the stream of consciousness flows smoothly along the channel of least resistance. For such series of acts we are responsible, as was before indicated, not because we exert deliberate volition at each step, but because they are free in causa, because we have either freely initiated them, or approved them from time to time when we adverted to their ethical quality, or because we freely acquired the habits which now accomplish these acts."

So what the author is saying is that much of what we do is spontaneous-- but we're still responsible for these actions because they were in someway under our control either from "freely initiating them", looking at their "ethical quality", or because we "freely acquired the habits" which lead to our actions.

As I have argued over and over again-- we cannot freely initiate any thoughts because our thoughts are a continuous causal stream. As for looking at ethical qualities: if we look at the ethical quality of our actions we're doing so because something caused our minds to look at the ethical qualities-- not to mention that our personal ethics are caused by our upbringing, the way our mind naturally rationalizes, as well as other internal and external influences outside of our control. To hit this home one more time: Free-actions (unrestrained actions) are different than Free-will (having responsibility for actions).

Could you now respond to my question:

"In the hypothetical I gave, do you think it is possible that he could choose otherwise?
If Yes, Then please explain how he would go about choosing otherwise.
If No, please explain how, given that he can only act one way, he has free will."

7:24 PM  
Blogger Paul said...


I'll answer your questions, if you will first answer this one:

Where do these "preferences, values, pro-attitudes, ideals, whatever" come from?

9:56 PM  
Blogger Help People said...

We get these preferences, values, pro-attitudes, and ideals either by being born with them or developing them from our experiences-- probably a mixture of both.

2:15 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

So then they are determined?

8:28 PM  
Blogger Help People said...

... I'd say they are, at least, out of our control. Possibly deterministic.

12:06 AM  

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