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Compatible? Not Really.

One of our commenters says he has solved the determinism problem by becoming a “compatibilist.”  Briefly, a compatibilist is someone who tries to avoid the logic of his premises by resorting to semantic dodges about the meaning of free will.  The compatibilist says that free will is compatible with determinism (thus the name).  Isn’t that kinda like saying my existence is compatible with my nonexistence?  Yes, it is.  But the compatibilist avoids this problem by re-defining “free will.”  The compatibilist says that “free will” does not mean “the liberty to choose;” instead, says he, it means “the absence of coercion.”  In other words, he says that so long as a choice is not coerced it is completely free even if it is utterly determined. 

 

The problem with this approach is easy to see – just as we don’t get to win a game by changing the rules to suit us in the middle of the game, we don’t get to impose meaning on words to suit the conclusion we want to reach.  The entire issue in the determinism/free will debate is whether we have liberty to choose.  Suppose I ask my friend Joe the following question:  “Do I have free will, if by “free will” I mean ‘the liberty to choose?’”  It is obviously no answer to that question to say, “Yes, you have free will if by free will you mean, “the absence of coercion.”  I really do want to explore the question about whether I have the liberty to choose, and Joe’s answer is not helpful.  You might even say Joe dodged the question.  Thus, in the end, the compatibilist answers a question no one has asked. 

 

“Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.”  Ludwig Wittgenstein, 1953, aphorism 109

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199 Responses to Compatible? Not Really.

  1. This thread is an offshoot of a discussion on compatibilism that started on another thread, so readers may want to peruse those comments before taking up the discussion here.

  2. On the other thread, Clive asks:

    Do you think you can stem the tide of anyone else’s predetermined viewpoints? By strict determinism, Christians, ID advocates, evolutionists, etc., couldn’t have been otherwise.

    Sotto Voce’s comments on this were admirably clear, but it never hurts to reiterate.

    If determinism is true, it does not follow that effort is hopeless, that minds cannot be changed, that tragedy cannot be averted, etc. Those things are part of the causal net and they continue to depend in part on what we do and don’t do.

    The fact that an argument’s outcome is fixed deterministically does not mean that it doesn’t still depend on the points raised or the skill of the debaters. It does, and it may be won or lost depending on them. It’s just that those things are predetermined also.

    Here is the book Orthodoxy for you rib.

    Thank you. I’ll read it. Will you read Freedom Evolves? Even if you find yourself disagreeing with much of it, it’s good to know how the “other side” thinks.

    And by the way rib, I have read Bukowski, he doesn’t impress me like Chesterton or Lewis…

    I recommended Bukowski not to impress you, but simply to neutralize some of the excess Chesterton and Lewis. You have to admit, Bukowski and Burroughs are the anti-Lewis and the anti-Chesterton.

    …and I don’t appreciate being called “smarmy”.

    Clive, are we not “men with chests”, to borrow C.S. Lewis’ phrase? We can withstand a little disapproval from our opponents.

  3. Barry, I stumping for a new wave of open-mindedness. If we probe a bit more deeply, the truth will manifest itself. Here is the way it works:

    You can choose, but you can’t; your actions are determined except that they are not; you are coerced by nature, but you are not coerced by humans, who as it turns out are coerced by nature, which means that they have no choice about whether they coerce you or not; so, everyone is coerced; however, no one is really coerced provided that a thing can be true and false at the same time and under the same formal circumstances. Sounds good to me.

  4. rib,

    Not only is the outcome of the argument determined, so are the sides, the premises, the argument, the conclusion, everything. I really suspect that you’re not appreciating the full weight of determinism.

    “If determinism is true, it does not follow that effort is hopeless, that minds cannot be changed, that tragedy cannot be averted, etc. Those things are part of the causal net and they continue to depend in part on what we do and don’t do.”

    What we do and don’t do depend on it, not vice versa, otherwise it’s not determinism. If there remains any “us” outside of the nexus of events, then “we” are not determined.

    It’s blatantly clear.

    And what Lewis said was that there are “Men Without Chests”–not “men with chests”–which has, by the way, nothing at all to do with taking your insults. He was talking about men who debunk traditional morality as being all intellect and animal appetite. Here is the relevant portion from The Abolition of Man:

    “We were told it all long ago by Plato. As the king governs by his executive, so Reason in man must rule the mere appetites by means of the ‘spirited element’. The head rules the belly through the chest—the seat, as Alanus tells us, of Magnanimity, of emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiments. The Chest-Magnanimity-Sentiment—these are the indispensable liaison officers between cerebral man and visceral man. It may even be said that it is by this middle element that man is man: for by his intellect he is mere spirit and by his appetite mere animal.”

    And I don’t see Bukowski as the anti-Lewis or anti-Chesterton. He’s not even in their league.

    For anyone who wants to know, here is what ribczynski really thinks of me, his name is keiths on this thread:

    http://www.antievolution.org/c.....ntry130780

    he said “Clive belongs to that smarmy subclass of believers who go around quoting Chesterton and C.S. Lewis like Holy Writ.

    Extreme illness calls for extreme treatment. I prescribe solitary confinement with a forced diet of Burroughs and Bukowski. Once that has had the desired effect, we can begin to introduce him gradually to the reality-based world.”

    I live in the reality-based world partner. I am a patient moderator with you rib, I expect some decency in return. When I first started moderating you complained that there was a double standard of moderation, so I apologized on behalf of all who gave you any undue disrespect, I expect an apology in return for your undue disrespect to me.

  5. Rib (and Clive):

    I followed up Clive’s link. In the very next post there, I could not help but see this:

    KF’s claims for his pet concept of “FSCI” . . .

    So, it seems I, too, as one directly misrepresented and attacked behind my back need to say a few things about . . .

    1] the subtext of uncivil contempt

    Such language as I just cited, Rib, is plainly condescendigly and dismissively uncivil, strawmannish and laced with contemptuous ad hominems.

    It also builds on a serious misrepresentation of the facts of what the term Functionally Specific Complex Information refers to and its degree of warrant as a sign of intelligence. For, when an idea can be cartoonishly portrayed as the words of a mere blog thread commenter, that is a very different thing than when it is squarely faced as the result of the work orf men like Orgel, Yockey and Wickens as they pursued serious studies on the origin of life. (A fact that I have pointed out to you peviously and which is also easily accessible in Appendix 3 my always linked. You have no excuse.)

    Moreover, it begins to confirm to me that you, Rib, plainly have a habitual pattern of misrepresentation and contempt in your dealings with us at UD, and with ID in general.

    [Onlookers, for a current case in point -- one that is also not without relevance to the theme of this thread, as it addresses Rib's new "pet" example, split brain patients and their reported inescapable clashing double-personality disorders -- observe my comment here, especially the cite from a Nature article that gives a counterexample.]

    2] Clarifying FSCI, yet once again

    FYI, Rib, the specific context of FSCI is from chapter 8 of Thaxton et al’s The Mystery of Life’s origin, where the writers of the first technical level ID book, cite key OOL researchers from the 1970′s – 80′s. In particular, here is where we see the FSCI concept emerging:

    Yockey [7] and Wickens [5] develop the same distinction [as Orgel, who in 1973 introduced the concept of complex, specified information], explaining that “order” is a statistical concept referring to regularity such as might characterize a series of digits in a number, or the ions of an inorganic crystal. On the other hand, “organization” refers to physical systems and the specific set of spatio-temporal and functional relationships among their parts. Yockey and Wickens note that informational macromolecules have a low degree of order but a high degree of specified complexity. In short, the redundant order of crystals cannot give rise to specified complexity of the kind or magnitude found in biological organization; attempts to relate the two have little future. [TMLO, (Dallas, TX: Lewis and Stanley reprint), 1992, erratum insert, p. 130.]

    In short, FSCI is not my “pet” concept, but a descriptive summary of a categorisation that emerged as OOL researchers struggled to understand the difference between crystals, random polymers and informational macromolecules.

    In so doing, they identified a very familiar concept — at least to those of us with hardware or software engineering design and development or troubleshooting experience and knowledge. Namely, complex, functionally specific organisation of components in systems that depend on properly interacting parts to fulfill objective functions. For that matter, this is exactly the same concept that we see in textual information as expressed in words, sentences and paragraphs in a real-world language.

    Furthermore, on massive experience, such FSCI reliably points to intelligent design when we see it in cases where we independently know the origin story.

    Thus, we are entitled to confidently infer to design when we see FSCI; on the same provisional basis, quite literally, as sustains the second law of thermodynamics in its statistical form. And, to date neither you nor your friends from Antievolution.org have been able to instantiate a good counterexample — something that would be all over the Internet, if it were real.

    So, your dismissive contempt behind my back is utterly without justification, and is quite revealing, sir.

    Now, tying back into the theme for this thread . . .

    3] back to Welcome to Wales

    Let us again reflect on the same Welcome to Wales gedankenexperiment that you have yet to answer solidly on the merits; and which underscores the force of what Barry, Stephen and Clive are saying in this thread. For those who came in late, I excerpt Appendix 7, the always linked:

    . . . suppose you were in a train and saw [outside the window] rocks you believe were pushed there by chance + necessity only, spelling out: WELCOME TO WALES. Would you believe the apparent message, why?

    [ . . . . ]

    1 –> We know, immediately, that chance + necessity, acting on a pile of rocks on a hillside, can make them roll down the hillside and take up an arbitrary conformation. There thus is no in-principle reason to reject them taking up the shape: “WELCOME TO WALES” any more than any other configuration. Especially if, say, by extremely good luck we have seen the rocks fall and take up this shape for ourselves. [If that ever happens to you, though, change your travel plans and head straight for Las Vegas before your "hot streak" runs out!]

    2 –> Now, while you are packing for Vegas, let’s think a bit: [a] the result of the for- the- sake- of- argument stroke of good luck is an apparent message, which was [b] formed by chance + necessity only acting on matter and energy across space and time. That is, [c] it would be lucky noise at work. Let us observe, also: [d] the shape taken on by the cluster of rocks as they fall and settle is arbitrary, but [e] the meaning assigned to the apparent message is as a result of the imposition of symbolic meaning on certain glyphs that take up particular alphanumerical shapes under certain conventions. That is, it is a mental (and even social) act. One pregnant with the points that [f] language at its best refers accurately to reality, so that [g] we often trust its deliverances once we hold the source credible . . . .

    3 –> But, this brings up the key issue of credibility: should we believe the substantial contents of such an apparent message sourced in lucky noise rather than a purposeful arrangement? That is, would it be well-warranted to accept it as — here, echoing Aristotle in Metaphysics, 1011b — “saying of what is, that it is, and of what is not, that it is not”? (That is, is such an apparent message credibly a true message?)

    4 –> The answer is obvious: no. For, the adjusted example aptly illustrates how cause-effect chains tracing to mechanical necessity and chance circumstances acting on matter and energy are utterly unconnected to the issue of making logically and empirically well-warranted assertions about states of affairs in the world. For a crude but illuminating further instance, neuronal impulses are in volts and are in specific locations in the body; but meaningfulness, codes, algorithms, truth and falsehood, propositions and their entailments simply are not like that. That is, mental concepts and constructs are radically different from physical entities, interactions and signals. So, it is highly questionable (thus needs to be shown not merely assumed or asserted) that such radical differences could or do credibly arise from mere interaction of physical components under only the forces of chance and blind mechanical necessity. For this demonstration, however, we seek in vain: the matter is routinely assumed or asserted away, often by claiming (contrary to the relevant history and philosophical considerations) that science can only properly explain by reference in the end to such ultimately physical-material forces.

    Thus, we can see the clear contrast between cause-effect trains tracing to mechanical necessity based on the forces and materials of nature, and chance circumstances, and the acts of mind.

    Further to this, to reiterate yet once more — for the benefit of the onlooker, especially — lawlike necessity does not lead to high contingency; but instead to reliably repeated patterns under sufficiently similar initial conditions. Highly contingent outcomes (such as the uppermost face on a tossed die) are the products of chance and/or intelligent direction. Indeed, this gives us a convenient definition of chance [as credibly undirected contingency] and design [as purposefully directed contingency].

    There is no known “fourth causal factor.” And that has been so since Plato’s day. So, if we see an entity that has in it in excess of 500 – 1,000 bits of information storage capacity, and is functionaly specific, we have two choices: incredibly lucky chance [i.e the "lucky noise" that you so contemptuously dismiss when I am not there to speak for myself], or intelligence. (All but needless to say, routinely FSCI is produced by intelligence. Production by lucky noise is an abstract physical possibility, not an observation.)

    So, consider the stones as extra-large pixels, spelling out by lucky noise Welcome to Wales in the equivalent of 300 dpi inkjet Times Roman or Lucida or whatever. This would instantiate well over 1 kbit. By such happenstance, per thought exercise, we see glyphs spelling out an apparent message.

    But, this is the product of chance plus blind forces acting on equally blind material entities. Thus, we have no reason to have confidence in the outcome being a real message.

    For, that which is determined without residue by chance conditions and blind force, only by incredible accident would hit on informational coding, much less truth. and that brings us back to . . .

    4] real minds vs the delusion of choice.

    Now,t eh root word for LOGIC is LEG, a word that denotes “choice.” tha tis, the Greek thinkers intheir wisdom stressed the centrality odf real choice in reasoning. We mus tbe free to think and choose for ourselves, to make sense and reason with reference to reality. Otherwise, all is noise and blind force, however mediated genetically, environmentally and culturally. Stephen captures the implicatins aptly:

    You can choose, but you can’t; your actions are determined except that they are not; you are coerced by nature, but you are not coerced by humans, who as it turns out are coerced by nature, which means that they have no choice about whether they coerce you or not; so, everyone is coerced; however, no one is really coerced provided that a thing can be true and false at the same time and under the same formal circumstances.

    In short, we are yet again at reductio ad absurdum via self-referential incoherence of evolutionary materialism and its consequence, the determinism of blind force and chance circumstances.

    GEM of TKI

  6. PS: Barry, pardon my extensive excerpt of the “Wales” exsmple, but in the last thread where it came up, side reference or shorter citation led to strawmannish distortions on the part of evo mat advocates.

  7. PPS: i forgot, the last time, chaos was trotted out as an instnce of law giving rise rto complexity. Actually no. The butterfly effect is about amplification of small differences in initial conditions to yield large divergence on outcomes across time, as happened with Lorentz when he re-ran a weather simulation and could not get the same result twice. That is, it is chance circumstances that yield the divergence, not the deterministic mechanical laws at work. high contingency reliably traces to chance and/or intelligence.

  8. “The problem with this approach is easy to see”

    Compatabilism is a mainstream philosophical view, the subject of thousands of in-depth articles in philosophical journals. If it was a semantic dodge and the problem was so easy to see then I think it would have died some time ago.

    One way of beginning to understand compatabilism (for anyone who is seriously interested) is to recognise that it is meaningless to talk of freedom without reference to some kind of context of constraint – freedom from what? In one sense I am free to rob the shop next door in a way that I am not free to fly unaided over the roof. In another sense I am free to fly unaided over the roof but not free to rob the shop next door. So the compatabilist asks – when we talk of free will – what constraint is this freedom opposed to?

    One reason that people find compatabilism hard to take is that they equate “constrained” with “predictable”. I give my dog the freedom to eat or reject his dinner (in the sense of not physically constraining him or punishing him) but I can predict nearly 100% that he will eat it. This doesn’t seem a problem when we consider a dog but it feels odd applied to people, especially ourselves. We feel uneasy when we think someone might be able to predict our own choices – but that prediction is not in itself a constraint. To be able to predict how someone will choose is not prevent them choosing. It is just to understand the process of choosing.

    This is long, subtle and fascinating debate – much too long to be resolved on this website.

    Ironically it is this detailed linguistic approach that Wittgenstein was recommending in the famous quote from PI.

  9. Mark, Rib and others:

    Indeed, I think that the subject of compatibilism came out on this other thread, in a comments by Mark. So, I invite those interested to check that too:

    “Mark:

    There is a new thread open on compatibilism. I would appreciate your comments (or a link to them) there. The subject certainly deserves a detailed discussion, even beyond the problem of hypocrisy.

    Moreover, my point was not so much to affirm that materialism iswrong, but that, is materialism is right, compatibilism is wrong. In other words, my reasoning was: “responsibility, reason, the reaction of consciousness, and many other things” are all things which, in a materialist context, arise from necessity, chance, or a mix of the two. Brain states arise form those causal factors (in a materialistic context). Context too arises from thsoe causal factors. Therefore, none of those concepts is relevant to affirm any free will, alwys in a materialistic context.

    In other words, Dennett cannot affirm that “intentionality, rational action, agency, and personhood” are in some way a manifestation, or a tool, of free will, if those same things are the result of necessity and chance. However you put it, if necessity and chance are the only rules, there is no room for true free will: one can only, as Dennett does, redefine the appearance of free will as true free will, but that is only playing with words.”

    Mark, I had just posted an answer to you on that thread, inviting you here, but I see you have anticipated me. I paste that response here, because I think it could be a good response to Rib too.

  10. Well, it seems the link does not work. I am not sure what is the problem. I try again:

    link

  11. I find the whole discussion amusing. The whole idea of determinism would make sense if there was evidence of determinism in our universe. In nearly all of nature, we find determinism operating except for one key minor area and that is life.

    If the determinist could show that life arose from deterministic processes or that new FCSI arose from deterministic processes we would not be here because their logic would not allow this thread to exist.

    The whole rationale for the arguments we are having is that determinism has failed miserably in this one small corner of the universe called life. Also it fails in the overall operation of the universe itself through the forces discovered in the Standard Model plus gravity plus some other parameters. Indeed all our discussion are contingent on the failure of determinism to explain key things.

    As I said I find the discussion amusing as people dance around the obvious, namely that determinism is a failure.

  12. For anyone who wants to know, here is what ribczynski really thinks of me, his name is keiths on this thread

    I recognize that username… Dave probably remembers him as well for his interesting debate style, which I’m sure others may remember.

    Now here’s what I think of rib/KeithS/woctor/whatever, and I’m not going to hide this comment on some other forum. He’s intractable to reason, will not concede on any minor point unless forced to, but he’s useful as a foil for debate since he’s willing to give up the farm in order to continue a line of debate.

  13. Mark– but I can predict nearly 100% that he will eat it.
    Mark, nearly 100 percent is not determinism.
    To be able to predict how someone will choose is not prevent them choosing. It is just to understand the process of choosing.
    Or in poker, that from your hand you know that the odds are you will win the pot, doesn’t mean you will win the pot.

  14. My brother once commented that since it can’t be predicted with consistent accuracy which choices we will make, we have the functional equivalent of free will, and that’s all that matters. I was once a militant, Dawkins-style atheist, and am now a devout Christian theist. No one who knew me would have ever predicted that choice.

  15. The interesting thing about ribczynski is that he knows so little about the evolution debate and yet has been a participant at Panda’s Thumb for over a couple years. You would think that they could develop a farm team over there that could give us a run for the money instead of just hurling insults and providing irrelevant sniping.

    I hope ribczynski or his compatriots keep on posting here just as an example of how ill informed they are. They are great exemplars for those trying to make up their minds.

    Where is their A team or do they have one? I hope they do have one because the ones that have come here have inane arguments and good arguments are always necessary to hone in on the best position.

  16. —–Mark Frank: “Compatabilism is a mainstream philosophical view, the subject of thousands of in-depth articles in philosophical journals. If it was a semantic dodge and the problem was so easy to see then I think it would have died some time ago.”

    There is only one rational way to reconcile “predestination” with “free will” and that is to acknowledge that God’s ultimtate plans for his creatures, to whom he has given a “measure” of free will, will paradoxically become manifest over time. In that sense, an apparent contradiction can be resolved as a paradox on the grounds that God’s foreknowledge does not interfere with man’s free will.

    Religious compatibilism cannot accept this paradox and tries to reduce God as one who needs to experience change in time. Under the circumstances, they sacrifice God’s omnipotence and undercut their own doctrine.

    Materialist compatibilism, however, is a radically different proposition. It seeks to reconcile deterministic mechanism with human free will. Clearly, this can’t be made to work without revising terms, which is another way of saying that it cannot work. Some appeal to the principle of “indeterminancy,” but that doesn’t work either. Among those “thousands” of articles that you allude to, I suspect that most of them are of the mildly irrational variety that comes from religious journals rather than the blatantly irrational variety that you propose. The first order of business in any discussion is to define terms. No one can have a rational discussion with you until you define and win agreement on the definition of “determinism.” Once that happens, your errors will be obvious.

  17. Re #16

    “The first order of business in any discussion is to define terms.”

    Good idea. Would you care to start with “free will”.

    Thanks


  18. “The first order of business in any discussion is to define terms.” Good idea. Would you care to start with “free will”.

    How about Barry’s definition: ‘the liberty to choose?’

  19. No, I would like for you to start with “determinism.”

    Thanks

  20. #19

    No problem. I am happy with the one in Wikipedia.

    “Determinism is the philosophical proposition that every event, including human cognition and behavior, decision and action, is causally determined by an unbroken chain of prior occurrences”

    I might add that quantum theory suggests that in some cases there may be a random element. It makes little difference to the argument.

    Your turn …

  21. Stephen,

    excuse me if I anticipate you, but I want to give it a try:

    “Free will”:

    A property of conscious intelligent beings which denies any rigid connection between input and output of information into and from the consciousness, and which is characterized by some form of “causal intervention” of the subject (the I) on the output of consciousness, both objectively observable and subjectively perceived by the intervening I.

    Free will does not mean absolute freedom: the influences present in the input, in the context, and in the existing mind with all its inertial factors and structures, are certainly real. But they are not sufficient to explain the output. In other words, the actions of the I are vastly influenced by outer and inner factors, but never completely determined.

    Moreover, free will is in no way strictly linked to the objective results of action: once the action is outputted by consciousness, it can be modified by any external factor independent on the agent. That does not change the fact that free will has been exercised in outputting the action.

    In other words, the agent is never completely free, neither in his response to input not in his outer implementation of action: the agent is always heavily influenced and limited by external reality. Still, free will is a constant inner space of freedom which can always express itself, in greater or smaller ways, in the “black box” between cognition and action.

    Free will is inwardly and intuitively connected to the concept of responsibility. Indeed, no concept of responsibility could even exist without our intuitive certainty of free will in ourselves and (inferentially) in others. But there is no easy way to define responsibility in an universal way. As free will is essentially a very intimate property of consciousness, so also responsibility is very intimate and mysterious, although for social necessities it is often, and rightfully, transformed in a set of outer rules.

    To sum up, free will is an intimate property of consciousness: the intuition of a perceiving I and of an acting I within ourselves are the double real basis of any representation we have of ourselves and of the external world. But free will is also objectively observable, and is the source of all creativity and choice in human behavior.

  22. Mark:

    Your definition of determinism is pretty good for me.

  23. gpuccio: Your definition of free will is good for me. So, Mark, that is the one I will assume.

  24. Re #18

    Liberty is freedom from constraint of various kinds. Which constraints did you have in mind?

  25. “The compatibilist says that “free will” does not mean “the liberty to choose;” instead, says he, it means “the absence of coercion.” In other words, he says that so long as a choice is not coerced it is completely free even if it is utterly determined.”

    But that really means is that the choice is driven from within, not without. Mario Beauregard and I dealt with that in The Spiritual Brain, discussing a materialist proposal for social reform that eliminates the concept of free will: ” … in a materialist account of the human, there is no self that controls and no self to control. As a result, … proposed “science-based, effective and progressive policies” are not offered by a self to other selves, but driven by an object at other objects. (p. 117)

    That is the part that some people miss. Today’s arguments against free will are usually arguments against the mind or the self.

    Millennia ago, some argued for determinism on a very different basis: Sophocles, the Greek playwright and author of Oedipus Rex and Oedipus at Colonus thought that Oedipus was fated to kill his father and marry his mother and suffer the consequences – not because he had no self but because the essence of human wisdom is learning to endure the fate we cannot change.

    A modern determinist would not, of course, concede that there is any human wisdom – there is merely a series of tricks that our selfish genes play on us in order to perpetuate themselves. Or, if that is not the Flavour of the Decade, the next one will be just as unlikely.

  26. Re #21

    gpuccio – I asked for a definition not an essay! Your comments used to be comprehensible and concise. What happened?

    It may be my age but could you possibly precis that to one sentence?

  27. Oooo… tempted to join the debate… but will resist.. or maybe I won’t :P

    Very interesting though. A great book on this is Jonathan Edward’s “Freedom of the Will” and I have a summary of his main points here: http://thepredestinedblog.blog.....-will.html

    I just want to agree with all the folks that say that are questioning what we mean by “freedom” and “will”

    Two relevant points Mr. Edwards takes is that

    1) God can only do good, yet He has unconstrained free will. Also, Christians in heaven are unable sin, do they not have free will? These are 2 examples where the will is “constrained” to good yet perfectly free.

    2) Basically, we need to look at our words “impossible” and “possible” in the context of the will. He is basically saying that we use the aforementioned terms usually in the context of the physical reality of the 4 dimensions (ie matter, space, and time). So it may be impossible for water to roll up hill according to physical laws, but can we even say it is impossible for humans to have free agency and have a God foreordain the results? We in fact do not know if our free agency that is outside of the 4 dimensions (which some have shown here is restricted anyway) is truly “impossible” with God’s foreordination that is outside the 4 dimensions. Btw, this corrrelates very well with a non-materialist view of the mind (*nod* to Mrs. O’Leary

    Other interesting things to look at Anthony Flew’s treatment of free will back in the day, though he said has changed his position in “There is No God” :( . Nonetheless it is still excellent for this discussion

  28. —-Mark Frank: “gpuccio – I asked for a definition not an essay! Your comments used to be comprehensible and concise. What happened?”

    Is there anything substantive in that definition that you object to other than its length?

  29. edit: I meant in Flew’s “There is A God” oops

  30. 30

    gpuccio, post [21] is very good. If only there were a place on this site we could put it for ease of future reference ;-)

  31. Mark:

    Maybe I just wanted to anticipate all possible objections! :-)

    Anyway, I will try a summary for your convenience:

    “Free will”:

    A property of the conscious intelligent I which intervenes between the input and the output of information into and from the consciousness, producing an objectively observable result (the output is not strictly and deterministically determined by the input) and a subjective perception that the I is “acting” and “choosing”.

    Even if always influenced by inner and outer restrictions, free will is an intimate property of consciousness, a constant inner space of freedom which can always express itself, in greater or smaller ways, in the “black box” between cognition and action. It is the source of all creativity and choice in human behavior.

  32. Mark:

    With your permission (I hope) I will take one phrase from your last post in the other thread to advance in the discussion, now that we have our definitions.

    You say:

    “I think the key to understanding (if not agreeing) with compatabilism is probably really realising that being able to predict a choice does not stop it being a choice.”

    Well, I think here we have a good occasion to try the definition of free will I have proposed.

    First of all, let’s take a specific model. I am tempted to use Dennett’s thermostat, but OK, let’s be less trivial let’s transform it into a computer operating a software. The essence of the discussion remains the same, and we have the additional bonus of being in full AI context (while maybe a thermostat would leave somebody unsatisfied).

    Well. according to your above affirmation, I think we could agree that the computer operates out of necessity (we do not even have the uncomfortable quantum randomness here, after all this is not a quantum computer). And I can agree with you that, even in common language, the algorithm the computer is operating can be said to make “choices” (through conditional statements, for instance). We are after all in the situation of the thermostat “deciding” to control the temperature.

    Again, it should be clear that I have no objections that you call those things “choices”. As I have told you, I am not attached to words in themselves. But I want to be sure that nobody fools me by a wrong use of words (see compatibilists).

    So, let’s stay friends, and call those events “deterministic choices”.

    So the question is: are those kind of choices an expression of free will, and therefore a proof of compatibilism (free will occurring together with absolute determinism)?

    Well, the answer is simple enough: if we take our previous definition of free will, certainly not. Indeed, the definition of free will gives us implicitly (but we will make it explicit now) a rule to assess if an event is possibly an expression of free will. According to the definition, in fact, we need two things to determine that free will is there:

    1) The output must not be strictly and deterministically determined by the input.

    2) There has to be a subjective perception that the I is “acting” and “choosing”.

    Well, it seems obvious enough to me that neither of those conditions is satisfied in you “deterministic choices”.

    Indeed, 1) is certainly not satisfied because we have assumed that the computer works deterministically.

    And 2) is not satisfied because there is no subjective perception that an I is “acting” and “choosing” (indeed, unless you have data which I am not aware of, there is not even an I).

    So, as you can see, if and when we use words for what they really mean, truth is self-evident: if you have rigid determinism there can be no free will, and there is no escape to it.

    Substituting “deterministic choices” to the real concept of free will is only word play. IMO, that is all compatibilism is: an intellectual game, without any substance, based on a purposeful denial of the essence of empirical subjective experience, and on clever (but not “too” clever) word manipulation.

    Maybe I am wrong, but please try to show me why.

  33. Mark –Liberty is freedom from constraint of various kinds. Which constraints did you have in mind?

    OK, so reject the definition that liberty is the freedom to choose. Point to ponder: if you accepted that definition is compatibilist position possible?

    With regard to constraints if you are constrained by law do you have liberty?

  34. The definition of compatabilism as defined by your friend, “the absence of coercion” depends upon the ambiguous use of the word “coercion.”

    “coerce” implies action by another agent to compel your action, but in materialism there are no agents, only forces that compel, constrain, and coerce your actions, whether those forces have the appearance of ‘persons’ or not.

  35. —-dgosse: “coerce” implies action by another agent to compel your action, but in materialism there are no agents, only forces that compel, constrain, and coerce your actions, whether those forces have the appearance of ‘persons’ or not.”

    Right. You have made a critical observation–a point that hearkens back to my earlier parody and which, when exploited, immediately sends the whole compatibilist house of cards tumbling down. But, my early refutation, if pressed, would seem to have taken all the fun out of the discussion that followed and made it anti-climactic. So I let it slide. Early knock outs are no fun.

  36. Hi StephenB

    I must have missed that when I skimmed the comments earlier. I thought it was a little obvious to be overlooked for long. It does appear to have put a damper on the conversation though…

  37. I have always considered the term free will to be sort of nonsensical.

    A much better term is free choice IMO.

    As for whether or not the will is determined: is anyone seriously suggesting that it is not determined? Every effect has a cause.

    Vivid

  38. —–dgosse: “I thought it was a little obvious to be overlooked for long. It does appear to have put a damper on the conversation though…”

    Pinpoint diagnoses are always in court. In any case, our points were not identical, so you definitely offered something fresh and useful. Things will probably crank up again soon.

  39. A few meta comments.

    I apologise for the delay in answering all the many comments above. It was past my bed time.

    I seem to be the lone voice of compatabilism at the moment so I hope you will all understand that I cannot respond to every comment.

    As I said early on – free will and compatabilism has spawned literally thousands of learned papers and hundreds of books. There is no way I can offer a complete account here. All I can try to do is demonstrate that the view is not trivially and obviously wrong.

    As I continue remember what compatibilism means. It means that free will is compatible with determinism. To make the case it is only necessary to show that there is nothing about free will (once we have agreed what it is!) that is incompatible with determinism.

    I hate overlong comments. So I had better get on with it.

    In #32 gpuccio you wrote:

    1) The output must not be strictly and deterministically determined by the input.

    2) There has to be a subjective perception that the I is “acting” and “choosing”.

    First. My guess is that you would be happy to modify (1) to something like:

    “1a) The output must not be strictly and deterministically determined by the input except for random fluctuations.”

    Even the best computer is not completely determined by its input. There are hardware errors and when we move to quantum computers I guess they may include genuinely random number generators in the software.

    1) or 1a) both make compatibilism false by definition. If you define free will as something that cannot be determined then of course it cannot be determined. Using that definition I would say that free will does not exist.

    I would then ask what evidence do you have that there is such a property in animals including humans? Indeed what would such evidence look like? If you concede that motives such as hunger are the result of external inputs (lack of food in this case). Then you are asking for choices to be made without motive. How would that be different from random fluctuations?

    (2) is interesting and deserves a long essay of its own. William Golding once wrote “free will cannot be debated but only experience like a colour or the taste of potatoes”. But remember for us materialists a colour or the taste of potatoes are the owner’s way of experiencing a particular brain state. So for us having this perception is compatible with determinism. I don’t deny that humans (and some other animals) make decisions in a different way from computers and that drastically effects the experience of the decision maker.

  40. Compatibilism is not so simple as to say my existence is compatible with my nonexistence. After all, we cannot possibly have total freedom. But from the important angle, that is, the spiritual one, if our decisions are not coerced, that is freedom. Even if, in the end, only one choice is possible as there really is only one reality and God is that one reality.

    Now, if it be true that we have even a limited free will then we cannot have any coercion whatsoever, while threat of eternal damnation is coercion indeed, and incompatible with free will, even of the limited variety.

  41. I will add a few more short comments so as not to create indigestible chunks.

    Barry’s original post and then Tribune7 in #18 and #33 define free will as “liberty to choose”. You seem reluctant to define liberty as freedom from constraint. So I will try a different approach. Is this “liberty to choose” different from “ability to choose”? A stone in my garden has the freedom to choose. It just doesn’t have the ability. There is no mechanism for doing it. Does this capture it?

    If so, this now comes down to a discussion of what we mean by “choose”. We talk of people, dogs, snails, plants and even computers choosing – although obviously there are big differences in the mechanisms for making the choice. Which, if any, of these varieties of choosing are incompatible with determinism? How do you know? (Other than defining free will as the method of choosing which is incompatible with determinism!)

  42. “Now, if it be true that we have even a limited free will then we cannot have any coercion whatsoever, while threat of eternal damnation is coercion indeed, and incompatible with free will, even of the limited variety.”

    Nonsense. The threat of capital punishment is coercion and people commit urder all the time.

    Vivid

  43. #37

    Vividbleau

    I only just read this. Spot on.

  44. #34 dgosse

    “coerce” implies action by another agent to compel your action,

    Fair enough. I would prefer to use the word “constraint” rather than coercion. Clearly having a crippling disease reduces my freedom but it is not coercion.

    but in materialism there are no agents, only forces that compel, constrain, and coerce your actions, whether those forces have the appearance of ‘persons’ or not.

    Obviously I don’t agree. That is exactly what we are debating.

  45. 45

    #37: “As for whether or not the will is determined: is anyone seriously suggesting that it is not determined? Every effect has a cause.”

    I think that’s the essence of this debate. Without an “uncaused cause” free will, then there is no such thing as meaningful free will, personal responsibility, etc.

    I think something posters here are really burying under semantics and discussions about constraint and coercion is this: true free will is able to make a decision or intend a choice in defiance of whatever constraint, coercion, or cause-and-effect scenarios it finds its apparatus-of-application mired within.

    In other words, whatever the physical and mental conditions, context and programming of the body/brain/mind might be, the “thing” we call free will must be a spark of uncaused intent outside of all of that, or it is essentially meaningless, bound to intend as a result of cause.

  46. Thomas’s answer is that the unregenerate mind cannot be free, but the regenerate mind has the freedom to choose that which is contrary to enlightened reason. In Christianity, the choice is between “the way” and the world. It is the way itself that provides freedom, not the choice, since the world is regarded as slavery.

    Incidentally, the question of free will carves up between the Platonists and the Aristotelians. People who are by nature followers of Plato—the “unhappy consciousness” that is uncomfortable with mixed values and longs for purity—tend to want to negate the construct of sense and intellect to obtain one, shining ideal.

    For Plato, this meant negating sense for the sake of pure intellect. For the modern idealists, it means negating intellect for the sake of pure sense, as reflected in the determinism of Provine and Dawkins.

  47. Mark –Is this “liberty to choose” different from “ability to choose”? A stone in my garden has the freedom to choose. It just doesn’t have the ability. There is no mechanism for doing it. Does this capture it?

    Your analogy shows the difficulty in defending compatibilism. You ask if “liberty” is “different” from ability then answer yes by saying your stone has “freedom” but no “ability”, although I think you mean the answer to be no.

    And we really don’t want to devolve into a semantic argument about any shades of differences in the meaning of “freedom” and “liberty”, do we?

    I’ll grant that ability is a prerequisite for liberty, although they are not exactly the same.

    Your stone is bound by laws with which it cannot interact. Man is also bound by laws but has the liberty/freedom to interact with them.

    If you fall out of an airplane, you cannot choose to go up. You can, however, choose to get on the airplane.

  48. Clive Hayden wrote:

    I live in the reality-based world partner. I am a patient moderator with you rib, I expect some decency in return. When I first started moderating you complained that there was a double standard of moderation, so I apologized on behalf of all who gave you any undue disrespect, I expect an apology in return for your undue disrespect to me.

    Clive,

    I didn’t ask for an apology. I asked for a single standard to be applied to ID supporters and critics alike at UD.

    Here are some suggestions:

    1. Polite, on-topic comments from ID supporters don’t languish in the moderation queue for hours, and they certainly aren’t deleted. Stop doing this to polite, on-topic comments from ID critics.

    2. ID supporters regularly insult critics with impunity at UD, so don’t object when a critic calls you ‘smarmy’, particularly when…

    3. …it happens outside of UD. You don’t police the off-blog activities of ID supporters, so don’t do it to ID critics.

    4. Apologies aren’t demanded from ID supporters, so don’t demand them from critics.

    One standard for all commenters. Is that so hard to understand?

  49. 49

    “If you fall out of an airplane, you cannot choose to go up.”

    I hope it isn’t regarded as sophistry, but yes, you can choose to fall up (or survive the fall relatively unharmed); the fact that probably cannot succeed in “falling up” or surviving unharmed doesn’t change the fact that you can choose to, or intend to. Failure to accomplish isn’t the same as not choosing that intent in the first place.

    It is IMO this very ability to intend, or choose (even if it is followed by a lack of success) that which is physically constrained or opposingly coerced that is the earmark of true free will. I can choose to try things that all information, fact, and evidence describe as impossible; that I can do so is in itself evidence that uncaused, true free will exists.

    Without such choices to attempt the apparent impossible, where would the human race be now?

  50. Re #48

    If I am falling out of an aeroplane how do I choose to go up?

    Re #47

    These aren’t shades of meaning. You and Barry define free will as “liberty to choose”. I am trying to discover what you mean by liberty in this case. I cannot find a meaning for either “liberty” or “freedom” without a context which implies what the subject is free from. You seem to able to do so. That’s why I asked if you meant the same as “ability”. You say not. So now I am flummoxed. I just don’t know what you mean by liberty to choose. It is like the conversation has come to a complete halt.

  51. Mark Frank:

    I sympathize with your perplexity. If you want a good account of freedom from a libertarian perspective, my suggestion is this: go and get a copy of Thomas Pink’s “Free Will: A Very Short Introduction” (Oxford University Press, 2004, ISBN 0-19-285358-9) which can be ordered at http://www.amazon.com/Free-Wil.....0192853589 . In my experience, reading what other people think of a book is no substitute for reading it yourself, so I hope you won’t allow yourself to be influenced by the fact that some reviewers liked Pink’s book and some didn’t.

  52. vjorley

    Thanks for the reference – but my first degree was in philosophy so I am fairly familiar with most of the arguments. Unless there is some outstanding new idea in this book I am not sure if it will add value.

  53. Rib @48.

    Your response shows that you have absolutely no interest in advancing the discussion of ID vs. materialism. Clive has shown much patience to you, but you do not reciprocate. Your comments on the “Uncommonly Dense” thread had shades of 1984 or Animal Farm. Perhaps your unique history has resulted in deterministic factors, which allowed you to respond in no other way. Or perhaps you are materialist fundamentalist. My vote is for the latter.

    If you had only called him “smarmy,” that would be one thing, but you said:

    “Extreme illness calls for extreme treatment. I prescribe solitary confinement with a forced diet of Burroughs and Bukowski. Once that has had the desired effect, we can begin to introduce him gradually to the reality-based world.”

    So, Rib…are you interested in advancing the discussion, treating Clive like a fellow human being, and are open to alternative arguments, or are your responses completely determined by your previous experiences?

  54. rib said,

    “I didn’t ask for an apology. I asked for a single standard to be applied to ID supporters and critics alike at UD.”

    I am applying that standard, and we may need to get something straight first, the standard is not whether one asks for an apology, it is whether someone is decent enough to give it. You aren’t. I am. That’s a double standard, even by your estimation, and I won’t allow it. Either you realize that you don’t have autonomy to treat UD folks however vile and disrespectfully you want on that other site and expect for us to grant you privileges on this site–That’s a double standard too–or you will no longer post here. I don’t need any suggestions from you. Either you apologize for your insults, or you will be gone. Understand?

  55. Mark:

    I appreciate your balanced answer at #39. I think that in the end we agree. You say:

    “1) or 1a) both make compatibilism false by definition. If you define free will as something that cannot be determined then of course it cannot be determined. Using that definition I would say that free will does not exist.”

    First of all I agree with 1a). And I agree that, by my definition, compattbilism is false. That is trivial, but it was exactly my point. And I agree that, in your view, free will does not exist.

    Because, you see, all the other things that you, or compatibilists, suggest as “free will”, for us, tbose who believe in true free will, are not free will at all. In other words, compatibilism, for us who do believe in true free will, is only a game played by those who don’t believe in true free will and want to substitue other concepts for it.

    Nothing bad in that, but you will understand that we, who believe in true free will, are not so interested.

    I agree also about your position about 2), in the sense that it is the only position that a materialist can have. I will just remind that, IMO, that position is an unwarranted denial of the empirical value of subjective experience, but I will not repeat here all my arguments against strong AI.

    Finally, a clarification. You say:

    “Then you are asking for choices to be made without motive. How would that be different from random fluctuations?”

    And vividbleau says:

    “As for whether or not the will is determined: is anyone seriously suggesting that it is not determined? Every effect has a cause.”

    I an sorry, but I have to contradict both of you. In my model, free will is a property of the transcendental I. So, it generates choices without “exterior” motives (including in “exterior” also the deterministic components of body and mind). So, those choices are effects without a cause. That’s why free will is transcendental.

    The lack of exterior motives does not mean that the outputs of free will are similar to random fluctuations. Indeed, they are the opposite. They derive from the transcendental nature of the I, and therefore are cognitive and moral in nature. Let’s say that the I responds to deterministic inputs according to transcendental cognitive and moral intuitions, which apply to the deterministic scenario, but are independent from it. Choices are a moral result of those intuitions. CSI generation is a cognitive result of them.

  56. Determinism should be defined as the theory that all events, including human actions and choices, are, without exception, totally determined. One should pay close attention to the words “totally determined,” because that connotation is critical. I think it should be obvious that once determinism is understood for what it is, then free will, that is, that ability to be the cause of an action, is, by definition, impossible. Any other definition constitutes a calculated opening for a manipulation of the language in an attempt to have it both ways. The word was designed, after all, to mean something. All classic determinists insisted that we simply had no choices at all. Behaviorist psychologists, as we know, use it to explain away bad choices, which are not really choices at all. That is, after all, what the materialist world must logically imply.

    In order to humanize this inhuman conception, materialist philosophers borrow from theistic formulations to blunt the point of their materialism. So, they come up with “epiphenomenalism,” or the inexplicable emergence of something like a mind which, as it turns out, is not really a mind at all. Then they change the meaning of free will to be the “absence of coercion,” which, as it turns out, is not really free will at all. Then, to blunt the meaning of “determinism,” which does not allow for man’s free will, they borrow from theism’s concept of “Predestination,” which does.

    So, they cheat at both ends by tweaking the definition of determinism on the front and by compromising the meaning of free will on the back end. Surely, it must be evident that the whole of the moral life and all of moral responsibility depends on this capacity to help, harm, or neutralize the actions of others, to change one’s own character, and even to change history. It should be equally obvious that only a mind can reject the brains impulses and redirect them in order to make that happen. A brain is a very complicated and intricate physical organ, to be sure, but it is a physical organ nonetheless. Without the mind’s guidance, it is a mere slave to the physical world of which it is a part. That too, is a necessary conclusion for materialism and determinism.

    The only real paradoxes that must be explained are of a theological nature. Christianity reconciles the apparent contradiction between God’s foreknowledge and our free will by pointing out that the former need not exclude the other. Just because God knows the stock market is going to crash, for example, doesn’t mean the God caused it. Materialists, however, cannot have that luxury. That means that, for them, there is no paradox, only a hard reality. Their hard determinism leaves no room for God any more than their hard Darwinism leaves any room for design. They can’t let the designers “foot in the door,” but they can quietly smuggle in design like attributes into their conception of Godless matter and hope that no one will notice. Quite simply, they want to use free-will rhetoric to put a human face on an inhuman doctrine.

  57. 57

    “If I am falling out of an aeroplane how do I choose to go up?”

    Is there no difference between intent and capacity to succeed in your world view? In other words, if I choose kiss a date, but she turns her face and slaps me, does my failure to accomplish the act somehow negate the fact that I chose to kiss her?

    If I jumped out of a plane and my chute failed to open, you can bet that I’d be choosing like mad to float or fly all the way down, even if my choice failed to culminate in equal consequence.

    The point is, there is a great difference between the intent of a choice and the apparent capacity to succeed. True free will – the intent that precedes the attempted act – isn’t necessarily limited by any physical restriction like physics or potential success.

  58. “rib” is no longer with us. we should refer to him in the future as “r.i.p.” instead :)

  59. William J. Murray:

    I appreciated all your points in the previous posts. I agree with you completely.

    Clive:

    for once, I think I am happy of the decision. And believe me, it does not happen often that I approve that kind of decisions…

  60. re #55

    “I an sorry, but I have to contradict both of you. In my model, free will is a property of the transcendental I. So, it generates choices without “exterior” motives (including in “exterior” also the deterministic components of body and mind). So, those choices are effects without a cause. That’s why free will is transcendental.

    The lack of exterior motives does not mean that the outputs of free will are similar to random fluctuations. Indeed, they are the opposite. They derive from the transcendental nature of the I…”

    Hi gp. Long time lurker and occasional participant. Lost my password months ago and just recently wordpress sent me a new one after months of requests.

    Contradict me all you like but I am confused about your basis of contradiction. It seems to me you made my point. The transcendental “I” you speak of is also you is it not? If so then you determined to write this post or was it someone or something else?

    Vivid

  61. Mark (50)

    These aren’t shades of meaning. You and Barry define free will as “liberty to choose”.

    Freedom and liberty are synonyms. The stone in your garden does not have freedom to choose.

    That’s why I asked if you meant the same as “ability”. You say not.

    Ability and liberty are not synonyms. Ability implies having the power to achieve an objective. Liberty simply implies having the power to try. I have the liberty to fly to the moon. I do not have the ability to do so.

    Now, if you want to say free will means having the ability to choose, that’s not such a bad definition. I think I even like it better than Barry’s.

  62. Mark Frank:

    I’m glad to meet another philosopher on this post. Pink’s book has two chief merits: it’s unusually perspicuous in setting out the historical background to the current debate on freedom – for that reason alone it’s worth buying – and it makes some essential conceptual distinctions that other authors on the subject have mostly failed to do.

    It’s pretty hard to summarize a tightly argued philosophy book in a single post, but I’ll try, as you’re evidently not sure about the merits of buying and reading Pink’s book. Here are some of the key points made by Pink:

    1. Freedom depends on our capacity for rationality. However, it is a profound mistake to identify freedom with reason with reason – or even with practical reason. For instance, many of my beliefs about the external world are imposed upon me by my reason: they are beyond my control and it would make no sense to speak of them as being free.

    2. In many situations, reason may leave us with only one sensible option; to be free is always to have a capacity to act otherwise. Someone (e.g. God) who is incapable of being silly is, TO THAT EXTENT, not free.

    3. Actions are voluntary; decisions are not. I can just decide to act; I cannot just decide to decide. Decisions, unlike actions, are not subject to my will or command. Nevertheless, our decisions are still up to us: they are still free. (Selfish decisions illustrate this point very well.)

    4. Hobbes claimed that freedom is nothing more than doing what you want to do (acting voluntarily). He then argued that because decisions are not voluntary, they are not free. Hobbes’ error arose from his conception of the will as nothing more than a cause and motivator of actions. Pink contends that the will is a capacity for action and not just a cause; which is why we hold people responsible for what they decide on and intend.

    5. As Pink sees it, the two big objections to the coherence of a libertarian account of freedom are (i) the randomness problem – how are free actions to be distinguished from uncaused random events? – and (ii) the exercise problem: if we grant Hobbes’ premise that being an effect of prior causes is what defines an action, then a libertarian account of freedom would paradoxically entail that action’s very identity comes from a kind of causal influence which has to be limited in order for the action to qualify as free.

    6. Pink solves the exercise problem by offering an alternative account of action to Hobbes’. On Hobbes’ account, what characterizes an intentional action is having a special kind of CAUSE (our desires), which is directed at an EXTERNAL goal. According to Pink, what distinguishes an intentional action is not a special kind of cause, but a special kind of rationality: practical reason. A decision to act need not have a CAUSE at all. In the case of a decision to act, the goal-direction is INTERNAL: it comes not from an outside cause (prior desires) but from its very own object: the action decided upon. Decisions, unlike mere desires, are formed with the purpose of ensuring that what we desire comes true. I can DESIRE that my country wins the World Cup, but I cannot rationally be said to DECIDE that my country will win, as my decisions have no bearing on this fact. Contrast this with my deciding to go for a walk. This decision of mine is rational, not just because walking is good for me, but for a further practical reason: my deciding to go for a walk is actually likely to result in my doing so. (With desires, by contrast, the sole yardstick of their rationality is whether the object sought is actually good or desirable.) Having distinguished the rationality of practical decisions from that of desires, Pink formulates his response to the exercise problem. An agent has a vast array of possible goals, and an agent’s freedom consists in his/her control over which of these goals to aim at or intend.

    7. Actions, as we have seen, can be uncaused without being any the less genuine and deliberate. But then, what distinguishes them from random events? To answer this objection, Pink urges us to stop thinking of freedom as a kind of CAUSAL power, as agent-centered accounts of freedom claim. Freedom is a power, but unlike causal powers, it can be exercised in more than one way – which way we exercise it being under our control. When I decide to do something, my decision is not an EFFECT of mine, or of any power I possess; rather, it is simply the way in which I exercise my freedom. My freedom consists in the taking of the decision itself. Absence of causal determination is a NECESSARY but NOT SUFFICIENT condition for freedom. Not all undetermined events are free; only those which we are in control of can be described in this way. This disposes of the randomness problem.

    8. Freedom is exercised when we are in control of our actions. However, although freedom is manifest in practical reason, freedom cannot be reduced to practical reason. Reason per se is not free – many of our beliefs are rational but not free. Freedom is not just a capacity to act undeterminedly; nor is it a capacity to act rationally; nor is it a causal power. Rather, freedom is a power which is exercised when we are in control of our actions. “As a power, freedom is simply what it is – and not some other thing,” writes Pink.

    9. Finally, Pink turns the tables on the skeptics. Anyone who still objects that the libertarian account is incoherent is engaging in philosophical question-begging: they are assuming that actions are simply an effect of desires, which excludes the very possibility of self-determination.

    I hope that helps.

  63. “If I am falling out of an aeroplane how do I choose to go up?”

    Is there no difference between intent and capacity to succeed in your world view?

    William, if you fall out of an airplane you are going to go down.

  64. Stephen:

    “Quite simply, they want to use free-will rhetoric to put a human face on an inhuman doctrine.”

    I agree. The simple fact is that the true consequences of a consistent deterministic view of reality are utterly unacceptable to the human mind. I think it is unavoidable that determinists try to play intellectual games to make it more human and to avoid the most unpleasant consequences of what they believe. It’s a form of self-defence, I believe.

    The discussions on this blog are good evidence of how the two great materialistic lies of contemporary “science”, darwinism (denial of design in nature) and AI (denial of the empirical status of consciousness and of its properties, including free will) are inevitably connected, and support each other in the more general view of materialistic reductionism.

    About God’s ability to know without denying free will, I would suggest that we can assume that God is out of time, and it is therefore perfectly logical that He may know things from His transcendency. For Him, past and future are probably equally known. But only previous knowledge from inside time would pose a real challenge to free will.

  65. “So, those choices are effects without a cause.”

    When one must resort to deny causality of effects I would say one needs to reexamine their position.

    To be fair gp I have read enough of your posts here to know you are a very good thinker and BTW I always make it a point to read what you write. I cannot believe that you really mean that effects have no causes. Tell me it isnt so!! :)

    Vivid

  66. vividbleau:

    Again, we must probably just agree on the use of words. That should not be a problem.

    You had written:

    “As for whether or not the will is determined: is anyone seriously suggesting that it is not determined? Every effect has a cause.”

    I felt I had to contradict you only in the sense that I do not consider free will an “effect”, but a property, or a function if you want, of the transcendental I. But I would agree with you if what you mean is that acts of free will are “caused” by the transcendental I “through” free will. Is that good for you? My point was that, anyway, acts of free will are events which have, at least in part, a transcendental cause, to which we cannot apply all usual categories.

    And you are right, there is no doubt that the “transcendental I” of which I speak is also “me” (if we are speaking of “my” transcendental I, of course). And I take full responsibility for my posts, transcendental or not. :-)

  67. Vivid:

    I wrote #66 before reading your #65. Please let me know if it answers your point.

  68. “I felt I had to contradict you only in the sense that I do not consider free will an “effect”, but a property, or a function if you want, of the transcendental I.”

    gp I think you object to the term “effect” in reaction to materialistic determinism. However the posts you write are most certainly effects determined by you.

    “But I would agree with you if what you mean is that acts of free will are “caused” by the transcendental I “through” free will. Is that good for you?”

    You betcha.I determine my choices, my will is determined by me, my will is never free from me, the transcendental “I”.

    This is why I hate the term “free will” The will is not free, can never be free. As this thread aptly demonstrates alot of the time is taken up discusiing what the will is not free from LOL.

    However to deny free will is not the same as denying free choice. Although my will is not free ( ie from me) as long as I am the determiner of my choices my choices are free because they are “self determined”

    My definition of free will is any choice that is self determined.

    Vivid

  69. 69

    (14) GilDodgen

    I was once a militant, Dawkins-style atheist, and am now a devout Christian theist. No one who knew me (then) would have ever predicted that choice.

    And yet, when you look back on your “choices,” isn’t it obvious to you that you could not have chosen differently?

  70. “rib” is no longer with us.

    Congratulations on your first banning, Clive. You are going to fit in nicely around here. I guess you are not a pollywog anymore.

  71. Learning How to Fly
    “Flying is easy, all you need to do is throw yourself at the ground and miss.” (paraphrase from on of the “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxie” books)
    —————————

    “Free will” is the capacity to guide your own thoughts and actions independent of the usual cause and effect relation observed in material nature.

    “Freedom” is the ability to determine your thoughts and behaviour outside of the usual constraints observed in physical sciences.

    “Liberty” &c

    “Determinism” is the claim that your thoughts and behaviour are conditioned/constrained/determined/ by the usual constraints we observe in the physical sciences.

    “Determinisim” is the claim that, while I think I reflectively chose these words and ordered them on the page, the I that chose these words and the reflective process by which I chose them is illusory. Being who and what I am I could have done nothing else.

    “Compatabilism” is the attempt to reconcile the hard determinism of materialsm with the implicit dualism of free will without admitting to anything other than materialism. To accomplish this (willful) feat of of reasoning they postulate either a compromised definition of “free will” or “freedom” or “liberty” or they postulate some “emergent property of matter” that bestows supernatural abilities (if we accept nature as the observed universe of cause and effect phenomena) that has miraculously “appeared” in living creatures, most conspicuously in human creatures.

    Each condition leads to absurdities. The first one, that all our actions are the result of an unbroken, if extrememly complex, chain of mindless causes and effects then the words I have just written are, and can be, nothing more the random fluctuations in the universal motion of matter. (maybe they are!) The other claim of “emergent property” hypothesized the “emergence” of something, without apparent cause, that is unknown in the world of the physical sciences, a conscious, acting, “I” with the capacity to affect the otherwise purely physical independent of observed causes.

    It never ceases to amaze me that so many otherwise intelligent people would gladly surrender their existence to defend the irrational materialistic hyposthesis. My excuse, for my earlier materialism, is ignorance – I had never heard the arguments pro or con, since they were not discussed in the circles within which I moved. However, when I did learn the arguments, the pro-materialist arguments regularly struck me as obviously absurd. I could not and would not accept that the thinking, acting, choosing “I” is a figment of “my” imagination. That, my friends, is an act of “will”!

  72. It will be ignored here, but I can’t resist pointing out again that this is a lot of incredibly sophisticated, abstruse academic theorizing, albeit fascinating, that appears much too interesting to look at empirical evidence that might bear on the issue. After all, it is certain that somehow a priori (that is, academic common wisdom) that there can be no such empirical evidence.

    That said, I subscribe to GP’s “transcendental I” as the best concept.

  73. Vivid,

    “Nonsense. The threat of capital punishment is coercion and people commit urder all the time.”

    I didn’t mean that the coercion absolutely prevents the action, rather that it renders the choice nonfree. Indeed, most people are afraid to commit murder and those who do hope to get away with it.

    My interest is in the Christian concept of free will, in which the focus is not so much upon the actual ability to choose, but whether a coerced choice can be considered free.

    Believing in universal salvation, I am also interested in how this noncoerced, free choice takes place when it will ultimately be (in the long run) the only choice that exists.

    Stephen B,

    Very fine post a@ 56. I wish I had something to add. There is good evidence for determinism, and good evidence for nondeterminism, as well as the visceral human belief in it, plus the sense of pointlessness of a fully determined reality. In my opinion we lack enough knowledge of how reality actually works to be sure.

  74. —–William J. Murray: “I think something posters here are really burying under semantics and discussions about constraint and coercion is this: true free will is able to make a decision or intend a choice in defiance of whatever constraint, coercion, or cause-and-effect scenarios it finds its apparatus-of-application mired within.

    In other words, whatever the physical and mental conditions, context and programming of the body/brain/mind might be, the “thing” we call free will must be a spark of uncaused intent outside of all of that, or it is essentially meaningless, bound to intend as a result of cause.”

    That is a splendid way of putting things. Thanks.

  75. dgosse @69, very nice!

  76. StephenB

    Thanks, I think about it a lot. 8^>

    There is some truth in determinism, (i.e. we cannot stop breathing, eating, etc. without dying) because we are material creatures(think “Shylock”) but we are more than that. We do (emphasize “do”) act independent of material reality, which places us foursquare into some immaterial reality, but I prefer to avoid Cartesian dualism and all its entanglements and view it as the “image” placed within us.

    “People hardly ever make use of the freedom they do have, for example, freedom of thought; instead they demand freedom of speech as compensation.” Friedrich Nietzsche

  77. “I didn’t mean that the coercion absolutely prevents the action, rather that it renders the choice nonfree.”

    Avo see my post #68?

    If the choice was self determined it is a free choice. Of course choices are often constrained by options that is I may have restricted options from which to choose from. That does not make my choices any less free.

    Vivid

  78. GilDodgen, you said,

    I was once a militant, Dawkins-style atheist, and am now a devout Christian theist. No one who knew me would have ever predicted that choice.

    That’s really cool! What changed your mind? It’d be awesome if Dawkins would turned away from his militant atheism and became a Christian.

  79. I just read Clive Hayden’s point about “Rib” getting the boot. Does anybody here think we’re being a little strict by banning so many people? I mean, maybe we aren’t, but I’d like to keep the discussions fair. I just don’t want this sweet blog to come across as a place that is intolerant of other’s views.

  80. 80

    #63:

    Regardless of what actually happens, I can intend whatever I wish. That’s the difference between free will and a conditioned, constrained, or coerced choice. You seem to think that I cannot make a choice beyond what is apparently available. I most certainly can. That act is called faith.

    There are other reasonings here that “free will” is an effect of the transcendent “I”; I disagree. I think free will is in fact the transcendent “I”, the same as the uncaused cause that creates the universe like the drop to the ocean, the source of all creativity, freedom, and innovation.

  81. On the idea of free will I think something to consider is this: every person on the planet, aside from a few rare cases (when they have a body disfunction) feels longings or wants. Yet, I do not believe anybody is a slave to their wants. If I run across ice cream at my kitchen table I may want it, but I do not have to eat it.

    We also should realize that at any given moment every person on the planet must make a choice, such as, “Should I sit here at my computer? Should I sit down in the other room? Should I take a nap?” I think having free will is having the ability to choose between such options as these. To not have free will then, in my opinion, would be to not have the ability to choose. Such that when I saw the ice cream on my kitchen table I was completely forced to eat it (that is, I am not at least, in some sense, in control of my actions).

    Free will to me, seems, more or less, to be my ability to choose between possible actions. Determinism, at least hard determinism, would seem to be the lack of the ability to choose between options. Of course all humans lack the ability to do certain things, such as we cannot fly naturally, so maybe we’re not completely free in that sense.

    I think I could swap my term “free will” with “free action” and be relatively close to what I’m hitting at. I don’t honestly know where I stand on the whole division of believes on free will, but I’m definitely not a hard determinist, and I don’t think I’d go with a libertarian either. I’m close to a soft determinist, but I’m not even sure if that’s what I’d be.

    I think are “wants” are caused, but I think what causes us to choose is ourselves. Again, I may want ice cream (that “want” was caused), but I can choose (my response to that “want”) not to eat it.

    Anyway, this might be talking off topic… but if anybody read this, I hope you found it at least interesting. lol

  82. “Yet, I do not believe anybody is a slave to their wants. If I run across ice cream at my kitchen table I may want it, but I do not have to eat it.”

    If you dont eat it even though you want to eat it you must want something else more, such as good health, etc, etc.

    I am convinced that we always choose that which is our strongest want at the moment. I dont call that being a slave to our wants however if it is not our wants that determine our choices then we must be choosing that which we do not want. That would negate free choice.

    Vivid

  83. One of the more interesting aspects of determinism (and also quite ironic, considering the “rational and scientific” self-image of those who hold it) is that it really amounts to a modern version of Astrology. Our characters, luck, prosperity, and lives are determined by the Particles, and by the whole cosmic chain of events since the Big Bang, which necessarily includes the influence of various stars and heavenly bodies (for “we are made of star-stuff”), that either did exist or still do exist.

    What goes around comes around.

    So, what’s *your* sign?

  84. Vividbleau,

    lol Interesting point. I remember thinking about this stuff in my philosophy class and it can get so confusing. In fact, I think talking on free will was the most confusing subject in my entire class. I’m honestly not sure how to reply to your post, and I’m not sure I necessarily need to. After all, I haven’t figured out the mystery of free will, which is exactly what we’re discussing. Thanks for your feed back!

  85. magnan:

    In response to your call for contributors to “look at empirical evidence that might bear on the issue,” here is a good site on the physics underlying free will which you might want to check out:

    http://www.informationphilosopher.com/freedom/

    For two recent articles in “New Scientist” on the physics underlying free will, see “Free will – you only think you have it” at http://www.newscientist.com/ar.....ve-it.html and “Free will – is our understanding wrong?” at http://www.newscientist.com/ar.....wrong.html .

    I would also like to point out that for free will to be genuine, top-down causality must be a genuine possibility. Top-down causality is a necessary but not sufficient condition for freedom: if everything is determined from the bottom up, there really is no place for free will. Here is a link to Richard Cameron’s Ph.D. dissertation, “Teleology in Aristotle and Contemporary Philosophy of Biology: An Account of the Nature of Life” at http://web.archive.org/web/200.....s/diss.pdf . Cameron defends the notion of top-down causality and argues vigorously that it is fully compatible with modern biology.

    Here is an link to an online article by Glenn Miller, entitled “Does the reality of unconscious processes undermine Christianity?” at http://www.christian-thinktank.com/priming.html .

    Finally, here is a link to a book “The Oxford Handbook of Free Will” by Thomas Kane, http://www.amazon.com/Oxford-H.....195178548/ . (I haven’t read it, but it sounds pretty good from the reviews.)

    Finally, I’d like to question the widely held assumption that Newtonian physics is in fact deterministic, by focusing on billiard ball collisions – supposedly the quintessential example of Newton’s determinism. In fact, collisions are only deterministic if the objects colliding are perfectly elastic, so that kinetic energy is preserved as well as momentum. However, in real life, that’s just an approximation. Thus it seems to me that even in a Newtonian universe, the thesis that everything is predictable is empirically false.

    Of course, a dyed-in-the-wool determinist is perfectly free (!) to maintain that events are fully determined, even if they are not predictable; but I think that’s just begging the question.

    I hope these references help.

  86. “Thanks for your feed back!”

    Ditto

    “I think talking on free will was the most confusing subject in my entire class”

    As I stated earlier I think we would avoid much confusion if the term “free will” was replaced by free choice. After all thats seems to be what one means when discussing free will.

    Vivid

    Vivid

  87. magnan (#72)

    Re the physics of free will: try “The Oxford Handbook of Free Will” by Robert Kane at http://www.amazon.com/Oxford-H.....43-7676267 .

  88. Very interesting discussion indeed on a very difficult point. A few quick comments:

    Domoman (#79):

    “I just don’t want this sweet blog to come across as a place that is intolerant of other’s views.”

    Maybe it happened sometimes in the past. At present, I would say that it is only, very rarely and with extreme reluctance, intolerant of some people’s “behaviour” (like any good blog should be).

    William J. Murray:

    “There are other reasonings here that “free will” is an effect of the transcendent “I”; I disagree. I think free will is in fact the transcendent “I”, the same as the uncaused cause that creates the universe like the drop to the ocean, the source of all creativity, freedom, and innovation.”

    Well, again let’s not stick too much to words. Vivid wants to call free will an effect, you want to identify it with the “I” itself. What about “a manifestation”, or “a power” or “a property” of the transcendental I? BTW, thank you for the beautiful words about that “I” which is in everyone of us. As an antidote against the many who see it as just a loop of software, it’s beautiful to be remembered here of its sacred nature.

    vivid (#82):

    “I am convinced that we always choose that which is our strongest want at the moment. I dont call that being a slave to our wants however if it is not our wants that determine our choices then we must be choosing that which we do not want. That would negate free choice.”

    I agree with a comment: there are in us, at any moment, many different and conflicting wants. One of the wonders of free will is that we can choose not only according to some kind of objective “strength” of them (which would be determinism), but in relation to their kind and quality too (which allows the concepts of freedom and morality). Again, it is important to remember that free choices are such not only because they are not deterministic, but also because they are not random: in other words, they are related to fundamental cognitive and moral intuitions of the I, and therefore they are “choices with meaning”.

    vivid (#85):

    “I think we would avoid much confusion if the term “free will” was replaced by free choice.”

    I have no problem, but probably we should stick to the more popular term. Moreover, I think that for clarity we should distinguish between “the power of free choice” and “free choices”. The second can be said to be the “result” or “effect” of the operating of the first.

  89. If we don’t have free will this whole argument is moot. Therefore…

    The convincing argument ( note I did not say proof ) that I have free will does not come from an outside analysis of my brain, or a look at my genetic blueprint. It comes from my self… I know that I decided to post this. I know I could delete it now…. if I chose to. To claim that these are not my choices, but the result of some complex set of information, is only something I would buy into if I was facing overwhelming evidence. ( I believe some would put that as incredible claims require incredible evidence ). But when I look at the materialists philosophies, I do not find overwhelming evidence. At best I find redefinition of terms and obfuscation.

    This leads me to turn the question the other way. If free will is such a logical conclusion of the evidence from self, then why do the materialists deny it. In my opinion, the reason is that it true free will is incompatible with materialism. So they must put forth strange arguments that strain at the meanings of terms, in order to deny the obvious.

    There do exist causal agents in this world. The real question is, how many are there, and is there one that was the first and eternal causal agent.

  90. Here is a little thought experiment for all you non-compatabilists which comes up from time to time in philosophy classes.

    You accept an invitation to participate in a research project at a laboratory in brain research. All you have to do is enter a room and choose a card from a pack of cards. It is emphasised that you can choose any card and please concentrate on making sure it is your choice. You spend some time luxuriating in your free will and your ability to choose just whichever card you like. Then after a minute you choose the 7 diamonds.

    A researcher comes out from behind the screen wreathed in smiles. It works! As you came into the room our new super MRI device took an imprint of the state of all the relevant neurons and we predicted that you would spend a minute luxuriating in your choice and choose the 7 of diamonds. We can even show you the electrochemical pathways that led to your decision.

    Two questions:

    1) Is there anything about your current experience of choosing that tells you this can never happen?

    2) If it did happen, would your choice of the seven of diamonds have been proven to have been no choice at all but an illusion?

  91. “As you came into the room our new super MRI device took an imprint of the state of all the relevant neurons and we predicted that you would spend a minute luxuriating in your choice and choose the 7 of diamonds.”

    Denyse O’Leary
    “The Spiritual Brain”

    Also check out some of Michael Egnor’s arguments at DI

    Someone has already claimed that they can do something similar, there is a slight delay between the time the MRI shows activity (apparently this is “the decision point”) and materialists claim this is proof that physical activity controls thought. The problem is that thought may be controlling physical activity, there is no way to tell the difference.

    Is my thinking causing activity in the matter of my brain or is the activity in my brain-matter giving me the illusion of thought?

    If the latter is true (brain activity causes thought) then thinking is not a reliable way of knowing and any truth-claims I make based upon that belief are rationally incoherent.

  92. Humans possess two distinct, complementary functions called intellect and will. In terms of moral judgments, the intellect provides the conceptual target and the will shoots the arrow. In other words, the intellect understands the proposition and the will decides whether or not it likes the proposition and whether or not it will go along with it. The intellect can provide a “target” proposition to the will, and the will can decide on its own behalf whether or not it would prefer to shoot the arrow. Thus, an individual can know that he/she should stop smoking, but may refuse to act on that knowledge. A reasonable proposition presented by the intellect is thus rejected on behalf of a perceived emotional need. In other words, the will can overrule the wisdom of the intellect, assuming of course that the intellect has provided the needed wisdom.

    Each faculty has a job to do. The job of the intellect is to find truth, while the job of the will is to prefer and love the right things. If the intellect doesn’t bother to rise above mediocrity, then it can hardly present to the will a noble proposition. Or, the will can simply decide that it will reject all reasonable propositions, especially if those reasonable propositions put a strain on the appetites. That the intellect and will can be at war with one another is obvious on inspecting everyday human behavior. For human beings to grow, they must do two things: [A] Illuminate the mind and [B] train the will. Obviously, once one rejects the existence of either or both of these faculties, moral growth becomes problematic. The real issue is not whether humans have free will, but rather whether they will use it for good or for evil.

    In fact, the world is full of highly intelligent people whose minds are not so much illuminated as steeped in a kind of pseudo-sophistication that often passes for wisdom. Since they don’t recognize their two faculties of soul, their will becomes perverted and starts telling the mind to follow the appetites. So, instead of reason leading the passions, the passions lead the reason. If a man does not conform his way of life to a philosophy, he will, in the end, find a philosophy that conforms to his way of life.

  93. Gentlemen

    I believe that the split brain story as repeatedly presented to us by evo mat advocates is apparently missing a key “rest of the story part.”

    Pardon a re-presentation of some of that, here, as I believe it is relevant to this thread’s topic.

    First, the usual side, from Wiki:

    A patient with a split brain, when shown an image in his or her left visual field (that is, the left half of what both eyes see), will be unable to name what he or she has seen. This is because the speech-control center is in the left side of the brain in most people, and the image from the left visual field is sent only to the right side of the brain. (Those with the speech control center in the right side will experience similar symptoms when an image is presented in the right visual field.) Since communication between the two sides of the brain is inhibited, the patient cannot name what the right side of the brain is seeing. The person can, however, pick up and show recognition of an object (one within the left overall visual field) with their right hand, since that hand is controlled by the left side of the brain.

    Now, an interesting Nature article, from 1983:

    Unified response to bilateral hemispheric stimulation by a split-brain patient

    Justine Sergent

    Department of Psychology, McGill University, Montreal, Canada H3A 1B1

    Surgical sectioning of the corpus callosum in epileptic patients has provided a unique opportunity to study separately the competence and processing capacities of the two cerebral hemispheres, each of which is able to perceive, think, memorize and learn independently and essentially outside the realm of awareness of the other1?4. While research has focused on this ‘disconnection syndrome’, split-brain patients nonetheless behave as unified individuals in their normal environment, and the present study investigated this aspect of their behaviour in an experimental setting. The two hemispheres of a callosotomized patient were simultaneously presented with information associated with conflicting responses, and the subject was requested to produce a single response. In all combinations of hemisphere stimulation and hand responding, the subject was capable of perfect accuracy, suggesting that he could integrate and resolve the conflicting information before the production of his response, and that his two disconnected hemispheres were simultaneously aiming at the same goal.

    Now, that has some interesting implications, as an empirical “existence proof”:

    1 –> First, if something exists, it is possible, indeed it has been actualised.

    2 –> Here we see that Sergent says that the type of behaviour he presents is actually more typical of the behaviour of such patients in normal circumstances (i.e. the oddities we saw reported were under unusual circumstances designed to highlight the appearance of challenges).

    3 –> Now, with inter-hemispheric communications severed, we see that typical behaviour is that: “split-brain patients nonetheless behave as unified individuals in their normal environment . . .”

    4 –> Indeed, of the subject under study it was observed: “In all combinations of hemisphere stimulation and hand responding, the subject was capable of perfect accuracy, suggesting that he could integrate and resolve the conflicting information before the production of his response, and that his two disconnected hemispheres were simultaneously aiming at the same goal . . . “

    5 –> Now, the scenario we had been presented with previously, was one in which such patients exhibited more or less bizzare divided behaviour, sometimes in open violent conflict. And, that divided behaviour was held up as evidence of the materially determined conduct of the body; i.e. the two halves were in effect a creation of split persons sharing one body. (I recall a Sci Fi thriller that played on that, with the surviving brother from an accident being saved by having the salvable half of his twin brother’s brain put in place of his own excessively damaged brain hemisphere (right as recall); leading to split behaviour.)

    6 –> Now, we learn that such behaviour seems to often be under unusual circumstances. That needs exploration in itself, as it suggests that what is going on is that a viable scenario is that the front-end i/o processor for the mind-brain cybernetic system (with vital store), is facing massive perturbation, leading to disrupted behaviour and perceptions. But that is not the decisive point.

    7 –> For, we now see that such patients, under normal circumstances, do exhibit unified behaviour, indeed, an integrated and evidently recognisable self; even in the face of massive trauma tot he brain. [NB: usually to stop something like epileptic grand mal seizures and their deleterious effects. having had a dear friend die from that and complications, I can full well understand the resort to desperate measures. I still miss you Peaches!]

    8 –> That brings up the $ 64,000 question: If [a] the “mind” is the product of the brain secreting thoughts as the liver secretes bile as my Marxist friends were fond of saying, and [b] splitting the brain produces two separate functioning organs with no direct communication, [c] what is it that restores and/or sustains that integrated whole?

    9 –> In short, it seems to me that another side of the split brain evidence is pointing in a very interesting direction. [Perhaps Ms O'Leary's co-author or Mr Egnor would care to help us out on this?]

    I also note that we are really dealing with inference to best explanation in the face of comparative difficulties here; so it should not be surprising that some evidence will be headlined as supportive to the evo mat view, and that other evidence will be similarly held up as supportive to the “more than meat” view. the issue is, which view better addresses the material facts, is more coherent and has greater explanatory power and elegance [being neither ad hoc nor simplistic].

    On that, the decisive issue for me is a basic fact: my experience of myself ansd others as having minds of our own.

    Without real freedom to think based not on materialistic cause-effect chains tracing to genetics and environmental conditioning as well as particular life circumstances, rationality itself collapses. So, the evo mat view, in my considered opinion, at once reduces to incoherence. And, I have yet to see a cogent set of facts that overturns that view forcing me to accept that my independence of mind is a delusion.

    And if mind is real, propositions are real, numbers are real, mathematical relations are real, logical inference is real, morality and conscience are real etc etc, then the world is far more interesting and complex than the evo mat view would have us believe.

    In short, on what we can see so far, mind (and yea even soul) win the day on inference to best explanation.

    GEM of TKI

  94. PS: A note on the sad case of Rib:

    I see that, regrettably, Rib refused [48] to apologise for denigrative remarks first pointed out in 4 above and has failed to correct or acknowledge correction of his misrepresentations, as pointed out in 5. (Cf 53, 54, 58.)

    I further see that in the end he has [again it seems; per Patrick at 12] been banned for cause.

    While that is sad, and will doubtless be pounced upon by Antievolution.org habitués and framed by them as evidence of “censorship,” it seems to me that basic respect and civility are a premise of serious dialogue constrained by responsible use of reason.

    So is basic truthfulness, rather than suppression of the truth [the echo of Ch 1 of a certain "obscure letter" -- NOT! -- by a certain C1 Apostle is not coincidental . . . ] by use of red herring distractors leading out to oil of ad hominem soaked strawman distortions that are then ignited spectacularly to create a misleading impression of triumph in “debate.” (And we must never forget Jefferson’s echo of Socrates in Gorgias: debate is the often dubious art of making the worse appear the better case, being in that aided and abetted by rhetoric, the art of persuasion, not demonstration.)

    I trust Rib will reconsider his behaviour, apologise and correct his errors, so that he may one day return as a participant in serious and responsible dialogue.

    GEM of TKI

  95. PPS: Mark at 89 on MRI’s:

    What you have presented is consistent with the view of the brain as a front-end I/O processor for the human body considered as a cybernetic system.

    That is, it is entirely compatible with a Mind/brain system in which the mind is a higher level supervisory processing element. In short, it fails as a proposed experimentum crucis.

    Cf JDH [88], DG [90] and SB [91].

    Cf also my discussion at 92 above, on what I do believe is a key case where there is a fundamental incompatibility between the two views, and which one “wins.”

    GEM of TKI

  96. Mark (#89):

    “1) Is there anything about your current experience of choosing that tells you this can never happen? ”

    First of all, it has never happened. Our understanding of the nervous system is so primitive that we cannot even begin to understand what happens in it, except for very trivial associations.

    But let’s pretend such an experiment were in principle possible. I believe that we could never really predict “always” the behaviour by such a tool. But we could certainly predict it sometimes.

    In other words, we could in some way have a map of the available options in the existing state of mind of the person, and perhaps also of their relative “strength”. Sometimes, the strongest option will be really chosen. Sometimes not.

    But all that could still be a random fluctuation, compatible with a purely quantum model of the mind. Indeed, your example of choosing a card is not so much a good model, because in a sense choosing a card is mainly a random choice, which could bear no meaning.

    I do insist that free will is related to meaning, both cognitive and moral. So I will change your example a little bit. Let’s imagine that the experiment is the same, but that the choice observed is another one, a morally and cognitively relevant one: for instance, you are observed (and it would be better without your knowing) while you decide if you will betray your best friend to get an important personal advantage or not. Di you still believe that your MRI would predict the outcome in all cases? And do you understand the implications for concepts like responsibility, loyalty, value, etc.?

    I will not answer the second question, because I think I have already expressed my point.

  97. 97

    1) Is there anything about your current experience of choosing that tells you this can never happen?

    Never? Well, it could certainly happen for many if not most people, but I doublt it would work on me and many others a lot of the time.

    After many years of examining the issue of free will from both an atheistic and theistic point of view, I came to my current conclusion that not everyone demonstrates free will, because their behavior is utterly predictable, even to how they interpret and process informtion, and what they’ll say (or write) in response.

    We see this often on this website, and other such websites; we see it all the time in real life. It’s really no wonder materialists consider humans to be biological automotons; I mean, who really even needs a machine to predict behavior? Con men, magicians, mentalists, and detectives do it all the time. Did anyone here not predict that Rib would eventually choose to be banned, in order to satisfy what he wanted to believe about the moderation here?

    In such people (systems that reveal little or no free will), it is obvioulsy possible to closely predict behavioral choices. Note: one can predict behavioral choices with various degrees of high accuracy; however, IMO one cannot predict free will intentionality with a high degree of accuracy.

    To explain better, here is a real-world example from my life. I bought a video game and it wouldn’t load on my computer. I tried to take it back but they wouldn’t take back opened software. Now, what are my possible response choices? Anger? the mental state of “I just wasted $40.00″ ? Resignation? None of those choices were going to lead to me being happy and joyful leaving the store, yet those were my only reasonable options.

    If you programmed a computer to recognize the “mental states” of a particular individual and extrapolations of those mental states, it would require programming in all possible such states, and all possible extrapolations of that intitial state with corresponding meaning.

    My actual free will mental, emotional response to the above scenario was, “Great! For every $10 I spend in good faith that seems wasted, I’ll receive 10x .. no … 15X that amount in return from the world somehow!” It was an intent of faith that transformed the “loss” into a good feeling and a sense of positive gain and joy.

    Irrelevant to the main point, but just to finish the story (and this is all true), later that day at work, a co-worker asked me how I as going to spend my rebate check. I didn’t know what he was talking about. He explained the government rebates that were coming (this was at the time of the Bush economic incentive) and that I was going to be getting $600 since my wife didn’t work. Do the math.

    The point, though, is that free will intent is pre-language (since the same intent can be expressed in any language), pre-image (since the same intent is often expressed in variant imagery, like love, success, happiness, etc.), and doesn’t necessarily have to correspond to any known material or mental cause (epiphany, innovation, creativity, etc.) In fact, there’s really no telling how a free will intent is going to manifest from time to time in one’s own mind, let alone from individual to individual.

    So, you see, I could walk into your room and when you ask me to choose a card, the card I choose might be “world peace”, because my intent, and my choices, are not constrained by the apparent available options. You couldn’t program that into the recognition system of your machine as a potential outcome of the options you provided.

    Now, if you had a recognition system that could read me as I made my choice (after setting it to my particular pattern/system), so what? You’d just be reading the state of my brain after my free will provided the intent, and my brain interpreted it.

    This is why I think it is important to distinguish “free will” from any choice; not all choices are equally representative of free will.

    Many choices, if not most, are absolutely predictable and might even represent a process of subverting free will intent so that the program can output something it recognizes as valid; that isn’t because free will doesn’t exist, it’s only because most people simply don’t exercise it – if they do, in fact, have it at all.

    I’m undecided about that last part.

  98. Mark, a couple of points:

    1. what you are describing (89) is not compatibilism but determinism — assuming of course this predictive method works each time, since if it didn’t you’d have proved free will.

    2. when you use science fiction to defend your argument, you’ve lost the debate :-)

  99. #94 and #90

    “That is, it is entirely compatible with a Mind/brain system in which the mind is a higher level supervisory processing element.”

    I should have explained the point of the thought experiment. It is not about dualism vs materialism. It is about exploring what you mean by free will and determinism. It works just as well if you allow the causal chain to hop into some transcendental realm and back again (although clearly I don’t believe in such a realm).

    If we allow a bit of dualism in the middle of the causal chain, do you accept this little scenario might be possible sometime in the distant future? It includes a complete causal chain from current brain state through to decision and this allows the researcher to predict with certainty the decisions of the subject.

    If you don’t think it is possible – how do you know?

  100. #95

    gpuccio

    “Do you still believe that your MRI would predict the outcome in all cases?”

    Yes (except for completely random variation).But my concern is only to show that compatibilism is not just a semantic trick (as Barry suggested in the initial post). I am not out to prove it true in this limited space. To show that it is more than a semantic trick I want to explore what the non-compatiblists mean by free will and determinism and what grounds they have for believing the two are not compatible.

    You have given me two extensive accounts of what you mean by free will. But part of your definition was “not determined” so in your case I guess it comes down to:

    “How do I know that what appears to me to be my free will is not determined?”

    The scenario just gives it a bit of context.

  101. 101

    “How do I know that what appears to me to be my free will is not determined?”

    or:

    “How do I know that what appears to be designed isn’t really the product of natural laws, chance, deep time and multiple universes?”

    or:

    “How do I know that these profound, virtually universal ideas of basic morality and ethics aren’t just relative inventions of evolution?”

    or:

    “How do I know that the complex, coded, specified information in DNA isn’t the result of some as-yet undiscovered natural law that isn’t really intelligent, but generates information as if it were?”

    I’ve got a question: why invest so much effort avoiding what is apparent and trying to salvage a belief system that renders everything ultimately pointless and meaningless, including this discussion?

  102. Mark Frank

    You wrote:

    “…I want to explore what the non-compatiblists mean by free will and determinism and what grounds they have for believing the two are not compatible.”

    If you want a good argument for rejecting compatibilism, I suggest you start with this argument, taken from “Causality and Determination,” by the philosopher G. E. M. Anscombe:

    “Ever since Kant it has been a familiar claim among philosophers, that one can believe in both physical determinism and ‘ethical’ freedom. The reconciliations have always seemed to me to be either so much gobbledegook, or to make the alleged freedom of action quite unreal. My actions are mostly physical movements; if these physical movements are physically predetermined by processes which I do not control, then my freedom is perfectly illusory. The truth of physical indeterminism is then indispensable if we are to make anything of the claim to freedom. But certainly it is insufficient. The physically undetermined is not thereby ‘free’. For freedom at least involves the power of acting according to an idea, and no such thing is ascribed to whatever is the subject (what would be the relevant subject?) of unpredetermination in indeterministic physics. (“Causality and Determination,” An Inaugural Lecture, Cambridge: University Press, 1971, p.26).

    There’s the case against compatibilism in a nutshell: if my actions are determined by circumstances beyond my control, then they are not free.

    If you’d like to read more about Anscombe’s views, you might like to try this site: http://www.informationphilosop...../anscombe/
    . I’d also be interested to hear your opinion of this Website, which articulates a very well thought-out position on free will: http://www.informationphilosopher.com/freedom/ .

  103. 103

    #101:

    That’s a great website – thanks for sharing.

    It occurs to me that the quantum indeterminancy, coupled with the lawful behavior of natural phenomena and the existence of the mind & brain, appears to be specifically designed to (1) allow a free will intent/choice, (2) interpret that choice in a meaningful way, and (3) act on that choice with meaningful, reliable consequences.

    It seems to me apparent that quantum indeterminancy is required to allow a free will agent to act.

  104. Mark:

    Excuse me, but I don’t understand. If the purpose of the scenario (be it with card selection or friend betrayal) was to prove “that compatibilism is not just a semantic trick”, I can’t see how it accomplishes that. If I understand well, even in the case of card selection, the selected card is determined, even if the agent id convinced that he has choosen freely. In other words, all compatibilsm accomplishes, if determinism is true, is to affirm that an agent can “believe” that he is choosing freely while he is not doing that at all. In my opinion, that means only that free will does not exists, but that we can erroneously think that it exists, in other words that we can fool ourselves. That is no great news, but in what sense should it demonstrate “compatibility”? That determinism can be compatible with self-deception is apparently no great result.

    My “moral” variation of the scenario allows a better visualization of what is implied. Say I betray my best friend. If I feel that was my free choice, and that I could have acted differently (the usual scenario), then I will probably feel guilty (if I have retained that capacity). My friend, if and when he discovers truth, will be sad, or angry, or depressed, or will just forgive me (not the most likely option, I know). But if I did not really choose anything, if the MRI would have demonstrated that my betrayal was already written in my previous state, save for random fluctuations, then my guilt is self-deception as much as my feeling of being able to choose, and so are my friend’s feelings, whatever they are. After all, all these reactions (guilt, anger, and so on) have really no character of freedom in them: they are determined too.

    But then, if I happen to be determined to understand the fact that determinism is true, then I will be perfectly justified in not feeling any guilt (if I succeed in that, with the help of some precious determination). My friend would then be justified in not feeling any anger, although I doubt that he would cooperate. And so on.

    Where is the intellectual achievement of compatibilism? Where is it saying anything else than that we can fool ourselves in believing things which are not true, and that that could perhaps be a good idea, just to appear more human to ourselves and others?

    And please, mote that these arguments are not about the problem if compatibilism is true, but only about the problem of what it really means if it is true. Because at present, it really seems to me that it is a semantic trick.

  105. Mark:

    You say:

    ““How do I know that what appears to me to be my free will is not determined?””

    Well I agree with what William Murray has already argued: the burden of proof should be mainly on the determinist. Why?

    In a sense, it is obvious that we cannot at present know for certain from a purely objective point of view: human behaviour remains completely impredictable in terms of the laws of physics, and our understanding of how the brain works is still so gross that we can be sure that the situation is not going to change for a very long time.

    But on the subjective side, we have empirical knowledge that consciousness works with a whole phenomenological cohort of properties, states, and logical connections which make up a consistent set of experience, and that free will is a very strong ad essential component of that set, as I have tried to show in my previous posts. From a determinist point of view, all those properties, and especially free will, are essentially self-deceptive.

    As materialists have not succedeed in explaining how consciousness emerges, least of all why it should so completely fool itself about itself, the simplest explanation is still to give some credit to the phenomenology of subjective experience, and to accept it as the best hypothesis until and unless objective observations prove it false.

    Has that happened? No. Will it happen? IMO, never. But I can wait. In the meantime, free will, like consciousness, remains a fundamental component in my view of reality.

  106. “I trust Rib will reconsider his behaviour, apologise and correct his errors, so that he may one day return as a participant in serious and responsible dialogue.”

    Does Rib possess the free will to make such a decision or is he determined and forever sentenced to such behavior.

    kairosfocus, I have not been following this debate but it seems to me that Sartre who was an atheist believed in free will or at least he believed we were actualized by our choices and who we were was an outcome of what we chose to do in life. I believe an example Sartre used was the prisoner tied to the rock in a dungeon whose fate was bleak but even this prisoner had choices as to how he reacted to his guards and his plight.

    I ask you since you are a font of knowledge on such stuff. But if anyone else has any knowledge on Sartre or the other atheist existentialists (I know not all were atheists), I would be interested in how these atheists believed in free choice or free will.

    By the way the Teaching Company has a course on free will and determinism and it periodically goes on sale and it is possible to get the course relatively inexpensively to listen on your IPOD or computer.

  107. 107

    I think that what Mark might be looking for is an answer to #2, where the ability to accurately predict the outcome “means” that you don’t have free will. If so, then it doesn’t matter if the machine or god can accurately predict your choices; your free will would be an illusion.

    Fortunately, I don’t believe in a version of god that knows what my choices are going to be before I make them.

    I think that there might be an argument to be made that some theists are also compatabilists; if god is able to know in advance what choices you are going to make with your free will, exactly how can one rationalize that those choices aren’t predetermined? The very fact that any entity can access the actual result witout error prior to its realization logically indicates IMO there is no true free will involved.

  108. William J. Murray (#103):

    “It seems to me apparent that quantum indeterminancy is required to allow a free will agent to act.”

    I agree. Indeed, practically all recent non deterministic theories of the mind make some use of QM, from Eccles to Penrose. QM and its probabilistic “collapse of the wave function” are certainly a “window” where intelligent and free agency could intervene with neuronal processes, influencing them without violating any explicit physical law. It is interesting that free will could, in a sense, act like the design process, imparting order and meaning to random processes. That conversion of a truly random substrate into a pseudo-random order could be the true pattern of interaction between consciousness and matter.

    But that is only a model. In reality, deeper things could be involved. I am sure that our understanding of matter and of physìcal reality, including QM, is till very superficial. I do believe that physics (and/or other sciences) will give us new and unexpected knowledge, and that the new perspectives will be of great relevance for all the themes we are discussing, from design to consciousness to free will. So, I have great confidence in the future of science, and I am grateful to anybody who discovers a new piece of information, whatever his scientific ideology may be.

  109. William J. Murray (#107):

    “if god is able to know in advance what choices you are going to make with your free will, exactly how can one rationalize that those choices aren’t predetermined?”

    As I have suggested, if one wants to believe in an omniscient God, and still maintain free will, that difficulty could be overcome by thinking of that God as “out of time”. If God is the creator of everything, including time, there is no difficulty in thinking that he knows everything, because all time is before Him. But only a knowledge “inside time” of what still has to happen would really create a problem for free will.

  110. 110

    gpuccio:

    I must be having trouble understanding your point.

    If god sits outside of time looking at the expanse of time like I might look a filmstrip laid out, and I am an image at one point of that filmstrip, then I certainly do not have free will, I only have the illusion of it because I don’t know what is going to happen.

    What am I missing?

  111. 111

    BTW,

    My definition of “omniscient” is “knowing everything that can be known” not “knowing everything one can imagine, hypothesize and theorize regardless of paradoxical implications of having such knowledge.”

    In other words, god knows everything that can be known, and is thus omniscient; this does not, and cannot by definition, include the intentional choices of a free will agent, IMO.

    I’m certainly open to argument and illustration otherwise.

  112. William J. Murray: I appreciate your thoughtful posts. I do, however, agree with GPuccio on this one.

    Try this one from Aquinas:

    Summa Theologica > First Part > Question 14 article Article 13. Whether the knowledge of God is of future contingent things?

    Objection 1. It seems that the knowledge of God is not of future contingent things. For from a necessary cause proceeds a necessary effect. But the knowledge of God is the cause of things known, as said above (Article 8). Since therefore that knowledge is necessary, what He knows must also be necessary. Therefore the knowledge of God is not of contingent things.

    Objection 2. Further, every conditional proposition of which the antecedent is absolutely necessary must have an absolutely necessary consequent. For the antecedent is to the consequent as principles are to the conclusion: and from necessary principles only a necessary conclusion can follow, as is proved in Poster. i. But this is a true conditional proposition, “If God knew that this thing will be, it will be,” for the knowledge of God is only of true things. Now the antecedent conditional of this is absolutely necessary, because it is eternal, and because it is signified as past. Therefore the consequent is also absolutely necessary. Therefore whatever God knows, is necessary; and so the knowledge of God is not of contingent things.

    Objection 3. Further, everything known by God must necessarily be, because even what we ourselves know, must necessarily be; and, of course, the knowledge of God is much more certain than ours. But no future contingent things must necessarily be. Therefore no contingent future thing is known by God.

    On the contrary, It is written (Psalm 32:15), “He Who hath made the hearts of every one of them; Who understandeth all their works,” i.e. of men. Now the works of men are contingent, being subject to free will. Therefore God knows future contingent things.

    I answer that, Since as was shown above (Article 9), God knows all things; not only things actual but also things possible to Him and creature; and since some of these are future contingent to us, it follows that God knows future contingent things.

    In evidence of this, we must consider that a contingent thing can be considered in two ways; first, in itself, in so far as it is now in act: and in this sense it is not considered as future, but as present; neither is it considered as contingent (as having reference) to one of two terms, but as determined to one; and on account of this it can be infallibly the object of certain knowledge, for instance to the sense of sight, as when I see that Socrates is sitting down. In another way a contingent thing can be considered as it is in its cause; and in this way it is considered as future, and as a contingent thing not yet determined to one; forasmuch as a contingent cause has relation to opposite things: and in this sense a contingent thing is not subject to any certain knowledge. Hence, whoever knows a contingent effect in its cause only, has merely a conjectural knowledge of it. Now God knows all contingent things not only as they are in their causes, but also as each one of them is actually in itself. And although contingent things become actual successively, nevertheless God knows contingent things not successively, as they are in their own being, as we do but simultaneously. The reason is because His knowledge is measured by eternity, as is also His being; and eternity being simultaneously whole comprises all time, as said above (Question 10, Article 2).

    Hence all things that are in time are present to God from eternity, not only because He has the types of things present within Him, as some say; but because His glance is carried from eternity over all things as they are in their presentiality. Hence it is manifest that contingent things are infallibly known by God, inasmuch as they are subject to the divine sight in their presentiality; yet they are future contingent things in relation to their own causes.

    Reply to Objection 1. Although the supreme cause is necessary, the effect may be contingent by reason of the proximate contingent cause; just as the germination of a plant is contingent by reason of the proximate contingent cause, although the movement of the sun which is the first cause, is necessary. So likewise things known by God are contingent on account of their proximate causes, while the knowledge of God, which is the first cause, is necessary.

    Reply to Objection 2. Some say that this antecedent, “God knew this contingent to be future,” is not necessary, but contingent; because, although it is past, still it imports relation to the future.

    This however does not remove necessity from it; for whatever has had relation to the future, must have had it, although the future sometimes does not follow. On the other hand some say that this antecedent is contingent, because it is a compound of necessary and contingent; as this saying is contingent, “Socrates is a white man.” But this also is to no purpose; for when we say, “God knew this contingent to be future,” contingent is used here only as the matter of the word, and not as the chief part of the proposition. Hence its contingency or necessity has no reference to the necessity or contingency of the proposition, or to its being true or false. For it may be just as true that I said a man is an ass, as that I said Socrates runs, or God is: and the same applies to necessary and contingent. Hence it must be said that this antecedent is absolutely necessary. Nor does it follow, as some say, that the consequent is absolutely necessary, because the antecedent is the remote cause of the consequent, which is contingent by reason of the proximate cause. But this is to no purpose. For the conditional would be false were its antecedent the remote necessary cause, and the consequent a contingent effect; as, for example, if I said, “if the sun moves, the grass will grow.”

    Therefore we must reply otherwise; that when the antecedent contains anything belonging to an act of the soul, the consequent must be taken not as it is in itself, but as it is in the soul: for the existence of a thing in itself is different from the existence of a thing in the soul. For example, when I say, “What the soul understands is immaterial,” this is to be understood that it is immaterial as it is in the intellect, not as it is in itself. Likewise if I say, “If God knew anything, it will be,” the consequent must be understood as it is subject to the divine knowledge, i.e. as it is in its presentiality. And thus it is necessary, as also is the antecedent: “For everything that is, while it is, must be necessarily be,” as the Philosopher says in Peri Herm. i.

    Reply to Objection 3. Things reduced to act in time, as known by us successively in time, but by God (are known) in eternity, which is above time. Whence to us they cannot be certain, forasmuch as we know future contingent things as such; but (they are certain) to God alone, whose understanding is in eternity above time. Just as he who goes along the road, does not see those who come after him; whereas he who sees the whole road from a height, sees at once all travelling by the way. Hence what is known by us must be necessary, even as it is in itself; for what is future contingent in itself, cannot be known by us. Whereas what is known by God must be necessary according to the mode in which they are subject to the divine knowledge, as already stated, but not absolutely as considered in their own causes. Hence also this proposition, “Everything known by God must necessarily be,” is usually distinguished; for this may refer to the thing, or to the saying. If it refers to the thing, it is divided and false; for the sense is, “Everything which God knows is necessary.” If understood of the saying, it is composite and true; for the sense is, “This proposition, ‘that which is known by God is’ is necessary.”
    Now some urge an objection and say that this distinction holds good with regard to forms that are separable from the subject; thus if I said, “It is possible for a white thing to be black,” it is false as applied to the saying, and true as applied to the thing: for a thing which is white, can become black; whereas this saying, ” a white thing is black” can never be true. But in forms that are inseparable from the subject, this distinction does not hold, for instance, if I said, “A black crow can be white”; for in both senses it is false. Now to be known by God is inseparable from the thing; for what is known by God cannot be known. This objection, however, would hold if these words “that which is known” implied any disposition inherent to the subject; but since they import an act of the knower, something can be attributed to the thing known, in itself (even if it always be known), which is not attributed to it in so far as it stands under actual knowledge; thus material existence is attributed to a stone in itself, which is not attributed to it inasmuch as it is known.

  113. William J. Murray:

    First of all, this is a very metaphysical point, and anybody is free to see it in his own way. But, just to clarify, my point is that if God is outside of time, he is seeing, as you say, the whole filmstrip, so he is seeing my free choices “after” I have made them. There is no problem with free will.

    Even if free will originates from the transcendental I, its results manifest in time and form. So, they are part of the whole formal reality. A really transcendent God is beyond that reality, indeed he has created it, and set the rules for both deterministic and free events in it. IMO, for your point to be valid, we should imagine that God knows my actions “before” I act, but that is not the case. God knows my actions as he knows everything else, beyond all relativities of time and space. He is transcendent. In a sense, we can imagine that all things that exist, anytime, anywhere, are known to His consciousness.

    The difficulty in conceiving that is that we can only imagine time from our relative point of view, where past, present and future are the scaffolds of all phenomenological reality. But again, this is highly metaphysical and I can only propose the way I see it.

  114. 114

    StephenB:

    I appreciate that what you presented in #112 is probably a very conclusive logical argument, but I’m afraid it’s over my head.

  115. WJM: OK.

    I like GPuccio’s explanation very much, but I will also have a go at it myself.

    I would argue that an omniscient God doesn’t really “foresee” at all, he simply sees. Indeed, as GPuccio has suggested, the only way foreknowledge can be reconciled with free will if foreknowledge is, in the final analysis, understood as “knowledge.” In other words, foreknowledge is a term that we use to speak of events that have not yet happened. But for an omniscient God who sees the “whole,” the effect is seen right along with the cause, the future is seen right along with the past, all possible contingencies are understood prior to their realization.

    We see things in terms of “before and after” because our intellect is designed such that we can reason only discursively, that is, in IF, THEN propositions. God doesn’t have to take those steps. He sees the IF and the THEN as a whole.

  116. 116

    This is how my mind organizes what you two have said.

    My life, to god, is like a ruler sitting on his desk. I observe myself as an inch mark somewhere on the ruler with the ability to make of myself whatever I wish. Every choice I make is my consciousness actualizing the next mark on that ruler, thinking to myself, “I want to be a metal yardstick”. However, god knows I’m a 12″ inch ruler made out of hickory. I absolutely cannot make my life the equivalent of a metal yardstick, no matter how hard I try.

    Sorry. If my entire life is the equivalent of an object god has on his desk, there is no true free will. Further – and I’m sorry about this – it seems to me that the arguments presented here trying to reconcile a certain kind of omniscient god with free will are almost identical to the compaitibilist argument, relying on very esoteric arguments and scenarios to avoid something that seems genuinely, simply obvious.

  117. 117

    Aside from simply utlizing a word, how exactly does god “know” stuff? Doesn’t knowledge require a framework both for the specific information to exist, and a mechanism by which that information is interpreted and understood which correlates to the source?

    I find this kind of “omniscience” to be paradoxically impossible (aside from its free will ramifications) much in the same way I find the corresponding version of “omnipotence” pardoxically impossible. God isn’t so powerful that he can make a rock so heavy he cannot lift it; similarly god isn’t so omnsicient that what he knows violates the very capacity and framework for “knowledge” to exist at all.

    Knowledge requires certain limitations, correspondences, and a suitable framework.

  118. I discovered this last year when looking into the “free will” debate. It is a letter from a student a scholarship committee thanking them for the opportunites the scholarship provided him. He also tells them that he has learned from Will Provine that people have no “free will” and explains how this has helped him deal with the people he meets.

    Rafik Taibjee’s Scholarship Report
    http://www.alumni.cornell.edu/.....ibjee.html

    “The class has made me a determinist who believes we cannot blame or praise anyone as there is no free will; all that we do is a result of our genetic make-up and our environment.”

    Consider the absurdity involved in writing a thank you note to people who could not do other than what they did do…

  119. —-WJM: “Knowledge requires certain limitations, correspondences, and a suitable framework.”

    So, are you rejecting the proposition that it is possible for God to see the cause and the effect as one? If so, on what basis can you characterize that as an illogial proposition?

    —–”My life, to god, is like a ruler sitting on his desk. I observe myself as an inch mark somewhere on the ruler with the ability to make of myself whatever I wish. Every choice I make is my consciousness actualizing the next mark on that ruler, thinking to myself, “I want to be a metal yardstick”. However, god knows I’m a 12? inch ruler made out of hickory. I absolutely cannot make my life the equivalent of a metal yardstick, no matter how hard I try.”

    It sounds as if you can’t conceive of a God whose infinite knowledge surpasses our own finite capacities, and so you simply shug it off as unreasonable. Omniscience is not an unreasonalble proposition. Much less is it comparable to the materialist and his futile attemp to reconcile hard determinism with free will.

    —–WJM: ….”and I’m sorry about this – it seems to me that the arguments presented here trying to reconcile a certain kind of omniscient god with free will are almost identical to the compaitibilist argument, relying on very esoteric arguments and scenarios to avoid something that seems genuinely, simply obvious.”

    It is the very reverse that should be simply obvious. Just because God, outside of time, knows that the stock market is going to crash doesn’t mean that he causes it. To know is not to cause. In any case, there is a big, big difference between materialistic determinism, which rejects the faculties of mind and will in principle, and Divine foreknowledge that literally created the human mind to make choices. Please!

  120. JDH,

    Let’s be careful of calling people’s statements absurd and stupid.

  121. Clive,

    I did not keep a copy of the post, but a lot of thought went into it. Could you post it with the offending words removed and/or appropriately toned down. I apprecitate the moderation.

  122. Oh and let me add… I’m sorry

  123. William J. Murray:

    It’s not really important for me to convince you of this point. It is indeed a point interesting only for those who have a certain concept of God. If your concepts are different, that problem is really not relevant for you.

    Just a couple of final notes inspired by your last posts:

    1) I basically agre with you that concepts like omniscience and omnipotence must not be considered fanatically, because they can be self-contradictory. For instance, I don’t believe that His omnipotence must include the possibility to really violate His own laws, or contradict Himself in other ways. The only difference is that I don’t believe that the omniscience-free will issue really implies any contradiction, for the reasons I tried to express, but that you are perfectly free not to accept.

    2) You say:

    “Aside from simply utlizing a word, how exactly does god “know” stuff? Doesn’t knowledge require a framework both for the specific information to exist, and a mechanism by which that information is interpreted and understood which correlates to the source?”

    Not in my model. I believe that God knows directly, intuitively if you want. I don’t believe that He needs any framework, or interpretation, or other such thing. In other words, while we usually know through rational cognition, I believe that God is beyond that.

    But again, these are not really pertinent subjects here. I am happy that we agree in general about free will, which is an issue more directly related to the discussions on this blog.

  124. dgosse:

    a very sad example of “education” indeed. If I taught in a class, I would never try to convince anybody that my ideas are absolute truth. True education lies in expressing ideas, and stimulating critical interaction.

    I find the idea is very disturbing that anyone can “learn” to be a determinist, or, just the same, to be religious. General views of reality are such an intimate and personal issue that it cannot in any way be described as “learning”. Whe one chooses a view of reality, he is really excercising his free will in a sacred way: it is not only a cold cognitive effort to be consumed on the school desks.

  125. JDH,

    I’m looking for it. If I can find it I’ll re-post it.

  126. Clive edited me before so let me try again with a different tack.

    A thought experiment has been put forward by Mark Frank and then followed by two questions. ( see comment 90 )

    Quoting the relevant portions here:

    As you came into the room our new super MRI device took an imprint of the state of all the relevant neurons and we predicted that you would spend a minute luxuriating in your choice and choose the 7 of diamonds. We can even show you the electrochemical pathways that led to your decision.

    Two questions:

    1) Is there anything about your current experience of choosing that tells you this can never happen?

    2) If it did happen, would your choice of the seven of diamonds have been proven to have been no choice at all but an illusion?

    Answer to 1.

    Question 1 is a question about my subjective experience. Yes plenty of this is inconsistent with my subjective experience. I feel that I can make a decision independent of my state. I can choose to do something or not to choose it. I could go in completely convinced that I would choose the seven of diamonds and at the last moment choose the three of clubs. I could even have told a lot of people I was going to choose the seven of diamonds, and then go in and choose the three of clubs ( or any other card ). My subjective experience says to me I do not choose until handed the deck. I think those who say there is nothing in this scenario that contradicts there subjective experience are not being totally honest, and only answering what they think is more “intelligent”.

    But the question asked is “could this never happen”. I believe that once in a while ( about 1 out of 52 times ) the experimenter would get the card right. So it would be wrong to say it could never happen. The problem is that what the experimenter read on his machine would have no real bearing on whether or not I chose the seven of diamonds or not.

    Answer to 2.

    Why ask “if this happened…” for something which I know to be contrary to the laws of physics.

    Its like saying “If the Empire State building all of the sudden jumped 100 feet in the air..”

    It is not an interesting line of inquiry.

    All you have to know is a little quantum physics to see the problem here.

    We can know all we can possibly know about the trajectory of an electron about to pass through a crystal, and I can’t predict where it will impact a screen. We can only give a probability distribution. Taking into account quantum mechanics, there is no physical way that all the information necessary to indicate that I will choose the seven of diamonds can be gleaned from an MRI.

    This is not a problem about technology. All of our experimental knowledge in physics states that this is about the way the real world works. There is no possible way to make all the measurements necessary to find out which way my brain is thinking, without disturbing the brain so that a different choice would occur. I know it seems a little weird, but that’s the truth. You can not beat the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. Its just the way things work.

    As an aside, I think it may be part of the necessary tools the designer put in to make free will possible.

  127. I’m sorry JDH I couldn’t find it. It seems that once it’s deleted it’s nowhere to be retrieved. In the future, I’ll give a warning before deleting whole comments. Yours was a very minor issue, and I’m sorry I deleted your comment for such a minor issue.

  128. William J. Murray

    Have you ever considered the idea that God’s omniscience is completely compatible with human free will in the context of God’s viewpoint, but that we can not possibly see it from our view point.

    Let me illustrate. ( Apologies to author of “Flatland” ).

    Imagine you are a two dimensional being ( perhaps a square ) living in a plane. You inhabit a world occupied with other two dimensional beings. You have a vision like sense ( necessary for life in two dimensions ) that allows you to instantly know how far another line is away from you. You also have an instant sense of time. There is a wall ( a line ) which divides your living space into two sections. A small door operates to separate the two spaces. ( i.e. a door in 2-d is just a line that can swing across the blank space in a line ). When the door is shut, the two worlds are completely separate with no communication possible.

    You have a friend on the other side of the wall. You are visited by a three dimensional being which is shaped like a half donut. He can insert his body into your world. He appears to you to be a circle. You can move all around him.

    The odd thing is that because he is three dimensional, and extends out of your plane, and is shaped like a half donut, he can insert his body into both sides of the wall. He can instantly tell you how far your friend is away from the wall at any instant in time, even though you clearly see he is on your side of the wall.

    You later confirm with your friend that he was the stated distances from the wall at the times specified.

    You go back to the “half donut” and ask for an explanation as to how he does this. He says…

    There is no way he ( a three dimensional being ) can explain to a two dimensional being how he sees both sides of the wall at the same time. The word “up” or out just does not make sense.

    I hope this helps you.

  129. Clive, in case you find it useful: WordPress will allow you to ‘unapprove’ a comment, which effectively kicks it into moderation, but keeps it in the database. This can be done through wp-admin->comments.

  130. re: Gods foreknowledge and free will.

    To say that if one knows with certainty what one will does it follow that this means the negation of free will?

    Suppose I am a real jerk, (which some actually think I am btw)and get my kicks by terrifying mothers. How I do this is that I first research mothers. The mothers must be caring, loving, devoted and extremely protective of their children. Additionally they must be great swimmers and allow (under their supervision) their children to play in a park that has a pond.

    What I do for kicks is that I take their children who canntot swim and throw them into the water. Based on my research I know that the mothers I have targeted will most certainly rescue their child. Does this negate the mothers free will because I know what they would do?

    Another point to ponder:

    Now I am speaking from my understanding of how God must be if God exists at all.

    If God is eternal then he must know all possibble existences. Included in thoe possible existences would be my existence as well as all the possible free choices I would make at any time ,any circumstance at any time in history I might inhabit. Out of all the possible existences and possible free choices I could make God spoke into being the one I am now living. Are not my choices free?

    Vivid

  131. One more point about the thought experiment from Mark Frank:

    It makes no sense from an informational point of view, or a causative point of view. He states that the MRI machine analyzed my brain state and it showed “…that you would spend a minute luxuriating in your choice…” yet the MRI machine could not possibly see on a brain scan all that would input during that minute.

    For example, would I make the same choice if a fly was in the room? What if the fly landed on my mouth? That certainly would stir up the old brain. It would probably invalidate the neuron state that existed before. For that moment, what if the seven of diamonds is a bit sticky and repulses my touch. The truth is that his thought experiment really is not very interesting when you demand it face anything that resembles reality. It only is interesting for people who are trying to find some story that allows consciousness not to indicate design. If this is truly a popular story “…which comes up from time to time in philosophy classes…” those who choose to deny design are worse off than I previously thought.

  132. gpuccio

    “If I taught in a class, I would never try to convince anybody that my ideas are absolute truth. True education lies in expressing ideas, and stimulating critical interaction.” [bold added]

    I hope that I am misunderstanding your statement. Let me tell you a story…

    The local newspaper encourages profs at the local college to contribute articles to the paper and I, being a troublemaker, watch for a prof that makes some incredibly foolish assertion and then I take their argument apart. A few years ago one contributed an article that made the claim that “ideas of absolute truth have been discredited.” I knew it was a nonsensical claim and immediately engaged in debate, but my philosophy was still rather incompetent and the argument was a draw.

    Since then, I have cultivated a better understanding of epistemology (a word I could barely spell at the time) and developed a better understanding of “truth” as such. Any “truth” is absolute, whether it “true” that 2 hydrogen molecules and 1 oxygen molecule will combine to form water or whether it is “true” that humans have minds capable of abstract reasoning, or whether it is “true” that there is a God. Each of these statements is either “true” or “false” and they are absolutely “true” or false.

    Our knowledge or belief does not change the truth or falsity of any of them – we may believe something false and think it is true, but that belief is merely a false opinion, it does not change the ontological nature the subject (the thing about which we assert truth or falsity).

    Now, I could read your statement as an expression of that conditional sense with which we should hold any assertion of truth because of our all too human capacity of believing what we desire to be true or I could read it as an assertion that truth is not absolute. If the former, I apologize for my rather long rant, but if the latter, I would encourage you to reconsider that thought. Truth, by its very nature is absolute. Human understanding is limited.

    “True education lies in expressing ideas, and stimulating critical interaction.” [bold added]

    I am also uncertain what you mean by phrase “stimulating critical interaction.”

    Another discipline I studied was classical logic – someone once told me I was “irrational” and I wanted to find out if he was correct. 8^> It was an adventure in self-discovery that I would recommend to anyone. I would hope that by the phrase “critical interaction” you mean the reasoning through the strengths and weakness of the ideas that you had earlier “expressed.”

    We may not know all truth absolutely, but the truth that we do know is always absolute truth.

    Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. I have always wanted a rematch with the prof from the college and this helped me to resort my thoughts in preparation for that eventuality. I think it needs more work, but it is better than my last effort.
    8^>

  133. Dgosse:

    In 91, you have aptly and briefly captured the core issue on compatibilism and other forms of materialism- determinism on the mind:

    Is my thinking causing activity in the matter of my brain or is the activity in my brain-matter giving me the illusion of thought?

    If the latter is true (brain activity causes thought) then thinking is not a reliable way of knowing and any truth-claims I make based upon that belief are rationally incoherent.

    Until materialists and determinists frankly face and have a sound, cogent and credible answer to that, we have no good reason to accept their arguments.

    For, our massive experience is that we are thinkers who are sufficiently free to make real decisions; thus, think for ourselves ands act in light of such reasoning — not mere unconscious forces that turn the mind into a mere delusion of freedom. (I take it for granted that between GP and SB more than enough has been said to show why freedom of the mind and will are so vitally important, as well as why on a theistic view, tehr eis no reason to infer that God’s knowing what will be is proof that we are not free to act. All, on pain of evolutionary materialistic determinism [incorporating of course chance conditions, non foresighted random variations and probabilistic culling through so-called natural selection] leading to self-referential incoherence and resulting reductio ad absurdum.)

    Only absolutely solid evidence and logic should be permitted to change the view that we have minds of our own, however uncomfortable it may be for those who find the possibility of a notorious certain “foot” in the door is.

    On pain of uncomfortably echoing a certain all- too- familiar- sounding classical remark from a now notoriously “obscure” C1 letter — NOT.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: JDH, looked to see if I had saved off your comment. Alas, no. Maybe someone else has.

    PPS: Moderators, has the number of permissible links per post gone up, if so what is the new limit?

  134. PPPS: DG, “truth says of what is, that it is; and of what is not, that it is not.”

    I think GP was speaking in the context of undeniable truth no 1: “error exists.” (Just try to deny it and see what happens with the resulting chain of reasoning.)

    My all -time favourite prof, Harald Neiderriter, always invited us to look carefully at what we were taught in the classroom, underscoring that we were responsible to check things out for ourselves.

    For, “to err is human . . .”

    GEM of TKI

  135. dgosse:

    No, what I meant is very simple, and has nothing to do with epistemology, but rather with my conception of human interactions, and in particular of teaching.

    I love teaching, although that is not my professional role, but I can safely repeat that “If I taught in a class, I would never try to convince anybody that my ideas are absolute truth”. Indeed, when I teach (which I di, but usually not in a class, I never do that (as afr as I am aware of). What I mean is not that I do not believe in absolute truths (I do believe in them), or that I do not believe that some of the things I believe in could be absolute truths (although about that I am less certain). What I mean is that I don’t want to “convince” anybody by authority, like the authority which could be considered implicit in the fact that I am the “teacher”. If anybody wants to be convinced, that must be the result of his personal evaluation of what I, and others, may say, and of his private and free assessment and choice.

    That’s why I add: “True education lies in expressing ideas, and stimulating critical interaction”. For “critical interaction” I mean the power of creative personal thought plus the humbleness of seriously considering others’ideas. I don’t mean “critical” in the sense of “hypercritical”, least of all of “skeptical”. I mean that nobody shoud accept ideas only because someone else expresses them (although the fact that someone else expresses them, and the consideration we have for that “someone else”, are certainly important informattion). Embracing ideas, especially fundamental ideas about reality, is in a sense like choosing and loving friends. It is very personal.

    And that is true even for scientific ideas. Although they can sometimes seem objective and impersonal, I believe there is always an important personal aspect even in science (and if I am sounding like a polanyiite, well, maybe I am).

    That’s the beauty of intellectual (and personal) confrontation, for me: it can be passionate, sometimes it can look like a true fight, but if there is respect for the persons, bilateral and sincere respect I mean, then it’s really fun!

    And the teacher-student relationship is in no way different: the teacher has certainly a leading role, in consideration of his supposed greater knowledge and experience, but that implies no absolute cognitive authority.

  136. 136

    Stephen B. et al:

    I don’t discount any version or idea of god simply because I cannot comprehend it. However, it would be rather irresponsible to accept a view I didn’t comprehend.

    The way I have conceptualized god works for me and my view of free will. The only reason I brought up my concerns about this particular definition of “omniscience” was in personal fairness to mark’s position on compatibilism; just as I find compatibilism instinctively irreconcilable with true free will, I find this particular version of god’s omniscience irreconcilable.

    I’m sure those more versed in logic understand the argument and find it compelling.

    At the end of the day, though, we both find the existence of god and free will self-evident, and materialism self-evidently destructive and nonsensical.

  137. Footnote:

    Went across to the Antievo site [link at 4], to see what has further happened, especially whether they acknowledge and civilly address the civility issue raised above.

    Short answer: They don’t.

    I did, however, see some remarks about failing to address Rib’s arguments. (Never mind that I took up his arguments directed at me and showed why they are specious and strawmannish. Nor, that others and the undersigned have addressed the issues and concerns surrounding evo mat based determinism on mind, reasoning and moral responsibility in both significant details and with at least a modicum of sober and informed reflection; e.g GP at 21 and SB at 56 and 112, or VJT at 62 and 85. I found nowhere any regret for or correction of misrepresentations or disrespect. indeed, I saw further evidence of the underlying problem of zeal bound to contempt for those who differ. that’s actually one definition for a certain concept.]

    In short, strawman misrepresentaitons joined to contempt-filled ad hominem dismissals continue, unabated.

    But, we can also pause to look at a sample of the arguemnts in question; on the principle that one slice of a Christmas Pudding gives the taste of the whole.

    Here’s one, from Rib at 2 above:

    If determinism is true, it does not follow that effort is hopeless, that minds cannot be changed, that tragedy cannot be averted, etc. Those things are part of the causal net and they continue to depend in part on what we do and don’t do.

    The fact that an argument’s outcome is fixed deterministically does not mean that it doesn’t still depend on the points raised or the skill of the debaters. It does, and it may be won or lost depending on them. It’s just that those things are predetermined also.

    Translating: Rib here sees the rhetoric of persuasion as a causal force. In particular, given the longstanding deservedly bad reputation of rhetoric — the “skill” used by debaters — as the art of deceptive manipulation [to be studied by good men by way of self-defence in a world of the ruthless], that should give us all pause, serious pause.

    That is, Rib’s remarks boil down to:

    [a] repackaging “whatever will be will be” in deterministic form [thence; opens the door to destructive propagandistic manipulation . . . ] or else,

    [b] it subverts the key point that makes human dialogue important: we make contribution to a dialogue in which reasoning minds can hear, freely reflect, agree, disagree and come to divergent conclusions on the merits of the evidence and reasoning in light of their own free choice.

    Sadly, judging by the approach he and his ilk have consistently taken, they plainly opted for manipulation and disrespect for civility.

    Sad.

    Further to all this, they have yet to cogently answer the issue that per evolutionary materialist premises, mind in the end reduces to delusion.

    Finally, the real danger:

    since evo mat advocates obviously also have and must use minds, they are forced to reckon with the brute fact of discussion and debate. But if you are inclined to think in terms of deterministic, iron cause-effect bonds, that naturally pushes you towards the manipulative side.

    That tendency would very easily explain a lot of what we have seen at and coming from the antievo site; sadly.

    I only hope we can turn back that destructive tide.

    Please, Rib and co.

    Please.

    GEM of TKI

  138. kairosfocus:

    I briefly looked at the Antievo site, just for curiosity, and yes, it’s really depressing.

    But I hope that some of our “adversaries” who come here are more sincere and open to true discussion. I think we should comcemtrate on the “good” antagonists. The “bad” ones may go on with their self satisying amenities in their private world.

    It’s interesting, however, that when one of those people comes here, even if apparently camouflaged as one who wants to discuss, soon he will show his true nature of dogma and intolerance (see rib).

  139. Ah GP:

    I thought I’d follow up, and responded to a direct challenge.

    Just possibly, someone might listen — they certainly are monitoring. And, as fellow sons of Adam and Daugthers of Eve [the echo of C S Lewis is deliberate], they too deserve a chance to respond to the truth. Even if — in the guise of medicine — it is a bit hard to swallow at first. (Gil Dodgen gives hope to us all . . .)

    But, you are also right: we need to emphasise more positive interactions with those who are interested in genuine dialogue.

    Anyway: a very happy Advent Season!

    GEM of TKI

    PS: Onlookers at UD or from Antievo, we welcome genuine dialogue. It is painful when we find the sort of one-sidedness and contempt that this thread has had to expose. Here’s hoping for a better spirit for the new year.

    PPS: Rib, that includes you!

  140. Gpuccio and Kairosfocus
    The flow of vitriol is pretty strong in both directions (although I notice both of you are consistently polite) – not least from Barry and Denyse. Here is a recent example from Barry.

    My comment
    There is no contradiction in supposing that consciousness is a key factor in ethics and also that it is the consequence of electro-chemical activity of the brain.
    Why do you see the two as incompatible?

    Barry’s reply
    Neither Mike nor Mark seem to understand the point of the post. The post is not about the nature of consciousness. It is about the hypocrisy of trying to have it both ways — saying it means nothing and that it means everthing at the same time. Mike and Mark should move along. Those of you capable of grasping the basic point of the post should feel free to post comments.

    I struggle to find a single post of Denyse that is not insulting and aggressive.

    I am all for cutting all abuse – but let the leaders set a good role model.

    Kairosfocus

    You also write:

    Nor, that others and the undersigned have addressed the issues and concerns surrounding evo mat based determinism on mind, reasoning and moral responsibility in both significant details and with at least a modicum of sober and informed reflection; e.g GP at 21 and SB at 56 and 112, or VJT at 62 and 85.

    Some of these comments are incredibly long and there are lots of them. There is no way anyone can respond to everything and have a life. My biggest plea is for comments that make just one or two points as concisely as possible. Even this one is too long.

  141. Mark

    You are right on the general point, that there is a polarisation on both sides, that sometimes tips over into incivility.

    The evo mat side hat said, i must note that this is not tu quoquo. Thas been consistently extremely aggressive and contemptus, starting from international level leaders. Dawkins, et al.

    We need to move to dialogue.

    And, in a context where there is two facedness, after it has been corrected, the h word is relevant.

    g’day

    GEM of TKI

  142. Okay

    Back on mains, pardon the cutoff above.

    On “length.”

    When I see a comment like GP at 21, I know that thousands of pages of reading and years of reflection and dialogue lie behind it.

    I am therefore plain out grateful for such a — relatively speaking — succinct but responsibly mature, substantial and quite insightful (even, wise) summary on such a serious and consequential matter; available for the mere price of reading it; especially form someone who is struggling with a second language to do that.

    (But then I am not here for debate-games and witty put-downs, but dialogue towards mutual up-building.)

    G’day again

    Enjoy the Advent Season

    GEM of TKI

  143. PS, on your substantial point,

    I note the exchange between Crick and Johnson, from app 7 my online note:

    k] . . . something is very wrong with Sir Francis Crick’s remark in his 1994 The Astonishing Hypothesis, to the effect that:

    “You,” your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules . . .

    l] Philip Johnson duly corrected him by asking whether he would be willing to preface his own writings thusly:

    “I, Francis Crick, my opinions and my science, and even the thoughts expressed in this book, consist of nothing more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.” [Reason in the Balance, 1995.]

    m] In short, as Prof Johnson then went on to say:

    “[t]he plausibility of materialistic determinism requires that an implicit exception be made for the theorist.”

    n] Thus, unless evident “fact no 1″ — that we are conscious, mental creatures who at least some of the time have freedom to think, intend, decide, speak, act and even write based on the logic and evidence of the situation — is true, the project of rationality itself is at an end. That is, self-referential absurdity is the dagger pointing to the heart of any such evolutionary materialistic determinism as seeks to explain “all” — including mind — by “nothing but” natural forces acting on matter and energy, in light of chance boundary conditions. (This is as opposed to restricted, truly scientific, explanations that explain [i] natural regularities by reference to [a] underlying mechanical necessity, and explain [ii] highly contingent situations by reference to [b] chance and/or [c] intelligent action. We then distinguish the two by identifying and applying reliable signs of intelligence; similar to what obtains in statistical hypothesis testing and in control-treatment experiment designs and related factor analysis.)

    I hope that helps you see the gap we see in what you are saying.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: 3 posts . . .

  144. About compatiblism, I haven’t had the chance to read all the comments so my comment might have already been stated. It seems that Barry didn’t like the “absence of coercion” answer, but it is a legitimate one. He states in his article, “….” I really do want to explore the question about whether I have the liberty to choose…” and I think he answers his own question by using the word “liberty”. Does one have the “liberty” to choose? If there is no coercion, then yes, he has liberty. Webster’s defines “liberty” as “Freedom or release from slavery, imprisonment, captivity, or any other form of arbitrary control.” That’s “absence of coercion.”

  145. Hi gpuccio

    I didn’t really think you were of that mindset, but I relish the opportunity to pontificate on the subject of “truth” since it helps me to reconsider my own thoughts on the subject and to hone my arguments.

    You wrote;
    “What I mean is that I don’t want to “convince” anybody by authority, like the authority which could be considered implicit in the fact that I am the “teacher”. If anybody wants to be convinced, that must be the result of his personal evaluation of what I, and others, may say, and of his private and free assessment and choice.”

    I came out of the hyper-sceptical, truth-is-relative, worldview and, looking back, I was convinced that my beliefs were “absolutely” true, not because I had evaluated their content, but because I had been informed that I was qualified to judge their veracity by my own subjective standards. So, with feet firmly planted in the shifting sands of relativism it is absolutely true that my capacity to evaluate the “truth content” of my various (and often conflicting) beliefs was virtually nil.

    The funny thing is, I don’t remember being taught that truth is subjective and relative. I think it is one of those hidden assumptions that so firmly underpins every other teaching that it goes unsaid, but appears everywhere. Looking back I realize that the hidden assumptions are the most influential, they are never challenged or evaluated on their own merits because they are almost never consciously examined.

    You wrote;
    “What I mean is that I don’t want to “convince” anybody by authority, like the authority which could be considered implicit in the fact that I am the “teacher”.”

    I have, at times, been tempted to blame the parents and teachers, to whose tender mercies I was committed, for the deficiencies in my upbringing, however, time and age have informed me that they too suffer from the same deficiencie as I. I can hardly blame thme for failing to pass on to me that which they never possessed in the first place. For more than a century there have been several influential “authories” that have gained predominance in education under the guise of questioning authority (by which they mean all tradition sources of knowledge) so that they might aggressively push their own utopian ideology. A key part of their strategy is the rejection of received authority (traditional sources of knowledge) so that they may assert their own authority without reference to traditional concepts of truth or evidence.

    I recently read to my mother,(she is an MA Psychology with a background in education), a passage from Margaret Mead that asserted (paraphrase) “that parents and educators should avoid presenting truth claims to children, but should instead present ideas and let them determine for themselves the truth or falsity of the ideas.” Her response was that Mead’s advice was sounded good and she agreed with it. The difficulty arises, to my way of thinking, when we ask, “How does the child determine the truth or falsity of the ideas presented?” In my own case I was presented with a great number of ideas, from an equally large number of source, each of which asserted varying claims to the truth of their ideas, but I was nver, ever, taught any method of evaluating truth claims. The underlying assumption seems to have been that I would somehow know which are true and which are false, or that it was perfectly appropriate for me to make up my own truth.

    So I am now firmly in the camp which claims that there are “truths” that can be known to varying degrees of certitude and that we humans are capable of discovering them. So I now challenge any statement that I think implies subjectivity to assertions of truth. Any implication that truth is subjective is, at root, self-referentially incoherent.
    ———————————-

    “Scorn in plenty has been poured out upon the mediaeval passion for hair-splitting; but when we look at the shameless abuse made, in print and on the platform, of controversial expressions with shifting and ambiguous connotations, we may feel it in our hearts to wish that every reader and hearer had been so defensively armored by his education as to be able to cry: “Distinguo.”

    For we let our young men and women go out unarmed, in a day when armor was never so necessary. By teaching them all to read, we have left them at the mercy of the printed word. By the invention of the film and the radio, we have made certain that no aversion to reading shall secure them from the incessant battery of words, words, words. They do not know what the words mean; they do not know how to ward them off or blunt their edge or fling them back; they are a prey to words in their emotions instead of being the masters of them in their intellects. We who were scandalized in 1940 when men were sent to fight armored tanks with rifles, are not scandalized when young men and women are sent into the world to fight massed propaganda with a smattering of “subjects”; and when whole classes and whole nations become hypnotized by the arts of the spell binder, we have the impudence to be astonished. We dole out lip-service to the importance of education–lip- service and, just occasionally, a little grant of money; we postpone the school-leaving age, and plan to build bigger and better schools; the teachers slave conscientiously in and out of school hours; and yet, as I believe, all this devoted effort is largely frustrated, because we have lost the tools of learning, and in their absence can only make a botched and piecemeal job of it.”

    Dorothy Sayers”The Lost Tools of Learning”, http://www.cambridgestudycente.....ayers1.htm

  146. #142

    I have no doubt that GP at 21 represents a lot of reading and thinking. So do my comments and no doubt many others. However, when requested, he kindly precised the same in GP 31 and that seemed to capture all the essential features.

    Maybe it is my age – but I simply can’t digest a long comment without printing it out and marking it up like I would an essay. I don’t have time to do this except in very exceptional cases.

  147. #143

    I, Mark Frank, my opinions, and even the thoughts expressed in this comment, consist of nothing more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.

    Those cells/molecules combine to make me a conscious, mental creature who at least some of the time has the freedom to think, intend, decide, speak, act and even write based on the logic and evidence of the situation.

  148. dgosse–I think (hyper-skepticism/relativism) is one of those hidden assumptions that so firmly underpins every other teaching that it goes unsaid, but appears everywhere.

    I agree and until you start looking for it, you never see it.

  149. Mark–Those cells/molecules combine to make me a conscious, mental creature who at least some of the time has the freedom to think, intend, decide, speak, act and even write based on the logic and evidence of the situation.

    You just had to say that, didn’t you? :-)

  150. —-”I, Mark Frank, my opinions, and even the thoughts expressed in this comment, consist of nothing more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.

    —–”Those cells/molecules combine to make me a conscious, mental creature who at least some of the time has the freedom to think, intend, decide, speak, act and even write based on the logic and evidence of the situation.”

    Atheists are at their funniest when they enter into a discussion about origins or the design of life. On the one hand, they bristle at the allegedly simplistic notion that “God did it.” On the other hand, they believe it to be the last word in intellectual sophistication to assert that “it just happened.”

    Whoever said that it takes more faith to be an atheist than a theist certainly spoke words of wisdom. Its “true believers” have been known to take a word like “determinism,” which, by definition, means no free will, and declare it as compatible with free will.

  151. dgosse:

    thank you for your interesting thoughts. Just a few more notes from me.

    I am in no way a subjectivist, except in a particular sense. I do believe in subjective truth, but exactly in the opposite sense of how it is usually intended. I mean “subjective” as a merit, not as a limit. I believe there is a personal, experiential component in our maps of reality which makes them sacred and deep, and intimately ours. In other words, rational knowledge is important and precious, and must be regarded as fundamental, but it must not remain alone and merely “objective”, in the sense of a set of outer ideas, more or less correct: it has to be interiorized by each one of us, and to become “our” understanding, “our” intuition, “our” faith.

    That personal component is very important in the transmission of our ideas to others. When I say that I do not love authority (in cognitive matters, I obviously respect it in general) I mean that I don’t love authority coming only from an outer role. But the authority coming from inner conviction, and from humble personal assurance, is really important in transmitting our opinions with significance.

    So, while we should always respect teachers for their difficult and important role, still the role in itself is not sufficient to ensure cognitive authority; but if a teacher has personal inner authority, that will be recognized and felt by the student. And that kind of authority is never abusive, is never compulsive, because it is based on respect of the other’s independence and value.

    Finally, while I believe in the deep value of good cognitions, I amnot a fun of the adjective “absolute” for them. The reason is simple: I believe that rational cognitions, however good, are maps, and never the territory. That is in no way intended as a limit. There is nothing more precious than good cognitions, and nothing more dangerous than bad cognitions. But for me, they are anyway maps. And whoever has been lost must know how useful it is to own a good map…

  152. Atheists are at their funniest when they enter into a discussion about origins or the design of life. On the one hand, they bristle at the allegedly simplistic notion that “God did it.” On the other hand, they believe it to be the last word in intellectual sophistication to assert that “it just happened.”

    As I said above – the vitriol flows both ways.

  153. Mark:

    I really think you should be more objective: it is not the same quantity, and quality, of vitriol. There may be excesses here, but it would be truly unfair to compare them to those on many darwinist blogs. Even the examples you quote are not so nasty after all…

    And another difference is that here we discuss our ideas, alone or with those who want to discuss. But certain darwinist blogs seem to exist only to unilaterally insult us. In a sense, I should feel flattered by that. But in another sense, it just seems sad.

  154. —–”As I said above – the vitriol flows both ways.”

    Sorry, but “it just happened,” is a reasonable summation of your philosophy. Others here are more congenial, and I admire them for their manifest expressions of charity. My idea of charity is to unmask materialism’s pretenses and expose it for what it is—-illogical nonsense.

    I am attacking that philosophy, not the people who happen to be living at a time when it is running rampant. I have said it before, and I will say it again. People are precious and they deserve to be treated with respect and mercy. Bad ideas deserve no mercy at all, and I show them no mercy.

  155. #153, #154

    You are probably right that I was being oversensitive. It is just that I go to some effort to be polite when I comment and I am always a bit surprised when I get something different in response.

  156. Mark

    First, Happy Christmas to you and all others here at UD (and even Antievo lurkers . . . )!

    I think several observations, however, are in order. Please do not let them spoil your Christmas:

    1] “Vitriol”

    Have you ever seen someone whose face has been deliberately burned by conc H2SO4? (Some schoolgirls in Afghanistan were recently in the headlines, having been so attacked by Taliban terrorists for the “crime” of going to school.

    That, sir, is the primary reference of “vitriol.”

    [And by the way, Islamist radicals are not to be equated to most Muslims, much less the Bible-believing traditionalist Christians who will be celebrating the birth of the Son of Man at the centre of history tomorrow.]

    I would therefore ask you to pause before again using such an outlandishly exaggerated, strawmannish, demonising term to describe even the strongest language used by ID supporters above, much less the very mild remarks by SB in 150 above.

    Especially, since it — post Expelled — should be notoriously public knowledge that it is the Darwinist establishment and prominent advocates who have repeatedly indulged in the rhetoric of strawmannish demonising caricature ["ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked"], and have gone on to besmirch reputations, bust careers and operate under false colour of public policy and even of law to censor education.

    In short, your sadly rather disproportionate remarks above bear all the signs of improper [im-]moral equivalency designed to blame the victim.

    Please, do better than this.

    2] I, Mark Frank, my opinions, and even the thoughts expressed in this comment, consist of nothing more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.

    I have to infer from this that you have signed on to the most reductionist forms of evolutionary materialism, as an account for mind.

    That brings you up against the basic reductio ad absurdum problem that any such monistic, deterministic, reductionistic philosophy runs into. That is, you face an issue of self-referential incoherence.

    As I summarise in my always linked, App 7:

    . . . [evolutionary] materialism [a worldview that often likes to wear the mantle of "science"] . . . argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature. Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of chance.

    But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this picture. Thus, what we subjectively experience as “thoughts” and “conclusions” can only be understood materialistically as unintended by-products of the natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains. (These forces are viewed as ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance ["nature"] and psycho-social conditioning ["nurture"], within the framework of human culture [i.e. socio-cultural conditioning and resulting/associated relativism].)

    Therefore, if materialism is true, the “thoughts” we have and the “conclusions” we reach, without residue, are produced and controlled by forces that are irrelevant to purpose, truth, or validity. Of course, the conclusions of such arguments may still happen to be true, by lucky coincidence — but we have no rational grounds for relying on the “reasoning” that has led us to feel that we have “proved” them. And, if our materialist friends then say: “But, we can always apply scientific tests, through observation, experiment and measurement,” then we must note that to demonstrate that such tests provide empirical support to their theories requires the use of the very process of reasoning which they have discredited!

    Thus, evolutionary materialism reduces reason itself to the status of illusion. But, immediately, that includes “Materialism.” For instance, Marxists commonly deride opponents for their “bourgeois class conditioning” — but what of the effect of their own class origins? Freudians frequently dismiss qualms about their loosening of moral restraints by alluding to the impact of strict potty training on their “up-tight” critics — but doesn’t this cut both ways? And, should we not simply ask a Behaviourist whether s/he is simply another operantly conditioned rat trapped in the cosmic maze?

    In the end, materialism is based on self-defeating logic . . . .

    Similarly, if you think like Rib did, that natural selection gives a magical out, Plantinga has aptly warned:

    . . . evolution is interested (so to speak) only in adaptive behavior, not in true belief. Natural selection doesn’t care what you believe; it is interested only in how you behave. It selects for certain kinds of behavior, those that enhance fitness, which is a measure of the chances that one’s genes are widely represented in the next and subsequent generations . . . But then the fact that we have evolved guarantees at most that we behave in certain ways–ways that contribute to our (or our ancestors’) surviving and reproducing in the environment in which we have developed . . . . there are many belief-desire combinations that will lead to the adaptive action; in many of these combinations, the beliefs are false.

    Indeed, not even highly reliable, empirically supportexd theories and models of science are proved true beyond dispute or correction — as the very existence of scientific revolutions — such as the one starting at the end of C19, which transformed classical into modern physics — reminds us.

    Also, as Reppert has elaborated from C S Lewis:

    . . let us suppose that brain state A, which is token identical to the thought that all men are mortal, and brain state B, which is token identical to the thought that Socrates is a man, together cause the belief that Socrates is mortal. It isn’t enough for rational inference that these events be those beliefs, it is also necessary that the causal transaction be in virtue of the content of those thoughts. . . . In rational inference, as Lewis puts it, one thought causes another thought not by being, but by being seen to be, the ground for it. But causal transactions in the brain occur in virtue of the brain’s being in a particular type of state that is relevant to physical causal transactions.

    Unless you have a cogent answer to that [and to the like], your position has defeated itself.

    And, sadly, your following words underscore rather than answer the problem . . .

    3] Those cells/molecules combine to make me a conscious, mental creature who at least some of the time has the freedom to think, intend, decide, speak, act and even write based on the logic and evidence of the situation.

    This is a claim that, at best, boils down to an assertion that when certain combimations of matter happen under the forces of chance and necessity, they somethow emerge into and end up as conscious, reasoning creatures.

    This brings you up against the issue in the Welcome to Wales example at the start of Appendix 7:

    . . . suppose you were in a train and saw [outside the window] rocks you believe were pushed there by chance + necessity only [i.e., say, "by extremely good luck we have seen the rocks fall and take up this shape for ourselves . . . "], spelling out: WELCOME TO WALES. Would you believe the apparent message, why?

    a –> It is no accident that most evo mat advocates who have engaged this have tried to turn it into something other than it is: a physically possible, thought experiment designed to be an experimentim crucis.

    b –> So, let me underscore: We know, immediately, that chance + necessity, acting on a pile of rocks on a hillside, can make them roll down the hillside and take up an arbitrary conformation. There thus is no in-principle reason to reject them taking up the shape: “WELCOME TO WALES” any more than any other configuration. (Of course,such an outcome is so improbable that it shows up the problem of claiming that lucky noise can give rise to messages within the search resources of our observed cosmos.)

    c –> We thus can see that apparent messages that trace to non-rational determining forces and circumstances, i.e. chance + necessity only, are not credible as a source of truth, and are further so vastly improbable that we instinctively see that mind is a better explanation for message than chance + necessity.

    d –> this is because of our massive direct experience on the observed source of functionally specific, complex information. And, I can confidently assert that there are no credible exceptions to the statement that where we see FSCI involving information storage capacity beyond 500 – 1,000 bits, and directly know thew source; it is invariably the product of mind.

    e –> In short, you and your fellow materialists are asserting he physically possible but probabilistically incredible, because of a prior commitment to a worldview, not on the evidence in hand.And worse, too many of you then indulge in the sort of censorship of the alternative as Lewontin so plainly described in 1997:

    We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.

    Were I you, sir, I would pause and think again.

    Regards at Christmas

    GEM of TKI

  157. kairosfocus

    Your comment is 1663 words long! That’s about the length of an undergraduate essay. To read an essay properly is at least an hour’s work. I am sorry but if you want intelligent responses to what you write you will have to find a way to be more concise.

    Try setting yourself a limit of say 200 words. You will be amazed at how much better your comments are.

  158. Mark –Atheists are at their funniest etc. is not personal.

    “Clive belongs to that smarmy subclass of believers is rather personal

  159. PS: Mark,

    A: There is a reason an undergrad term paper is of length 2,000 – 5,000 words, and why College grad level theses start at around 40,000.

    I think it is fair to say that a 200 word synopsis is not at all in the same class, where one expects and has to properly address seriously hostile scrutiny [cf Antievo, Panda's Thumb and the like, if you don't know what I am saying], and brief citations will invariably be pounced on as “quote mining” and more.

    But also, we can take this in steps. There’s no rush . . .

    So, why not let’s start with the issue of the term you introduced: vitriol?

    It’s point no 1 in my note just above, and is addressed in 208 words. (If you like imagine ther is a horizontal rule just after that point . . . )

    So, why not look at this one first, then move on from there?

    _________

    [I even put in the HR . . . ;-) )

    B: More broadly, the sort of length just adverted to is what it typically takes to even at a first level seriously and responsibly address an important matter at the level of the guild of peers, or even in a semi-popular but serious forum as at UD.

    (A typical garden variety 1 hour college lecture is 11 pp long, for similar reasons.)

    And, we are here dealing with the core matters that have driven a massive polarising wedge across our whole civlisation.

    _______________

    C: Not to mention, just for a moment, let us indulge a philosophical thought experiment that I hope and believe will help us put things in proportion:

    THOT EXPT: Imagine what happens on a certain Day if you turn out to be wrong in your reductive materialism, and you are asked before a certain Bar, to account for how you handled the opportunity to think through the issues on your worldview and lifestyle. (After all a certain classical and authoritative Christian writer states in his most important writing, that living by even the quite limited the truth one knows or should know and associated persistence in the right are key factors that would count on such a day . . .)

    "It wasn't written out in 200 words or less . . ."

    Do you think such would wash at such a bar? [In short, is the limit of 200 words realistic for responsibly addressing such matters?]

    ______________

    D: As well, I am not just writing for you, but for the many onlookers who almost never post here.

    They, too, need to hear a responsible answer. And, many times such have communicated with me directly, expressing thanks for taking time to take up matters point by point and speak to the evidence and issues. (It helps to view my point- by- point comments and always linked note, longer comments by SB and similar ones by GP or others as back-up to the briefer remarks by others and even by myself. Indeed, I am actually officially “retired” from regular commenting at UD. I re-entered the fray only because of a wave of issues that came to a head recently; on the evidence, tied to a thrust from Antievo. I actually shortly intend to return to my lurking.)

    _______________

    E: Also, again, there’s no rush.

    So, why not let’s take on the points one at a time [they are numbered for that very reason], and we can discuss?

    +++++++++++

    I will monitor UD, especially this thread.

    Merry Christmas

    GEM of TKI

  160. Trib:

    You are very, aptly and sadly right:

    SMARMY: Hypocritically, complacently, or effusively earnest; unctuous. [Amh Dict]

    Let’s add here, vitriolic:

    Bitterly scathing; caustic: vitriolic criticism.

    Mark,

    on a point of following up on my point 1: who, given the definitions above, is — objectively — being smarmy and who is — objectively — being vitriolic? (Cf Antievo in their linked discussion thread [no 4 above] and UD commenters in this thread . . . )

    GEM of TKI

  161. Merry Christmas, KF.

    And you too, Mark

  162. Merry Christmas to all!

    Mark, you really “go to some effort to be polite” when you comment, and we really appreciate that. You are also, IMO, definitely openminded, as far as you can be without changing your personal beliefs (which is the most we can ask of anyone). I personally appreciate that too. And be sure that for me a passionate, vigorous and fair intellectual confrontation is in no way a hindrance to personal esteem, indeed the contrary.

    And, by the way, you have even introduced me to the glories of compatibilism :-)

    So, many special and friendly Christmas wishes to you.

  163. kairosfocus

    Your comments far, far exceed the average length here. You claim that “serious and responsible” responses require that length.

    By implication you are saying that people who make responses in tens or hundreds of words instead of thousands are not serious and not responsible.

    In point of fact you are the irresponsible party unwilling to muzzle yourself for the sake of almost everyone else who has the common courtesy to not spam the comments here with such long winded bloviation. Get over yourself.

  164. In point of fact you are the irresponsible party unwilling to muzzle yourself for the sake of almost everyone else who has the common courtesy to not spam the comments here with such long winded bloviation. Get over yourself.

    seconded.

  165. Mark, for the record, I always try the kindler gentler approach at the beginning of the thread and raise the bar just a little bit (not a lot) at the end for one simple reason—- materialists simply will not address issues and I don’t want to dance with them indefinitely. That is when they go into their “I was offended” mode, and then, suddenly, I become the issue. In any case, you are confusing mild ridicule with vitriol. In fact, vitriol is not even allowed on this site. Vitriol is what I get when materialists say that I am “a slimy liar for Jesus.” I hope that the difference is clear.

    Now back to the two issues:

    [a] Determinism means no free will; free will means not determined. Each word was conceived to dramatize the difference between other. Translation–words mean things even though materialists manipulate them to have it both ways. Compatibilism (of the materialist variety [not the theological variety]) deftly and quietly changes “determined” to mean “heavily influenced by” and changes free will to mean “free from coercion,” and then, surprise, surprise, suddenly the two can be reconciled. Well, under the circumstances, of course they can. In effect, the materialist has surreptitiously maintained the word “determinism” while changing is meaning and justifying it with the word, “soft determinism.”

    [b] Materialists do indeed believe that “things just happened.” For them, something came from nothing and, after coming from nothing, it morphed into you and me.” Like it or not that, that it is your argument. There is no design, no meaning, no objective morality, and no purpose for life. Some materialists, not all, want to put a human face on that inhuman doctrine and the only way they can do it is to manipulate the language and posit that somehow, without help, semi-noble things arose from matter while, nevertheless, being grounded in matter. It goes by the name of “epiphenomenalism.” Frankly, I prefer the honesty of flat out materialism, which, while dodging the issue of its irrational nature, at least makes no bones about its brutality

    At any rate, just to show you what a sport I am, I will be a paragon of gentleness, at least for the remainder of this thread. Onlookers will be shocked. Besides, I can use the practice.

  166. “My idea of charity is to unmask materialism’s pretenses and expose it for what it is—-illogical nonsense……Bad ideas deserve no mercy at all, and I show them no mercy”

    As someone once said “Ideas are more powefull than armies” I say that then armies impose those ideas. Materialism has profound consequences and I cannot agree with you more that it is a bad idea and needs to be examined with no mercy.

    “Determinism means no free will; free will means not determined”

    I would state it this way . Materialistism means the will is “matter determined”. Free will means “self determined”.

    For the materialist self and matter are interchangeable so lets call it what it is, a deception.

    Vivid

  167. I would appreciate if KF could become an official UD contributor. It would be much easier to rather skip complete threads than to identify the ends of his interspersed comments. BTW, did WMAD ever react to any of KF’s musings?

  168. I appreciate KF’s contributions, and the effort invested in them. They are a nice contrast to the one-or-two line sniping that some commenters are wont to offer.

    Personally have no issues using the little scroll bar on the right side of my browser window if a comment is too long. It’s a great way to exercise my right not to read a comment, if time or interest forbids it.

    Merry Christmas KF, and to everyone, in celebration of the birth of our Savior.

  169. “I appreciate KF’s contributions, and the effort invested in them. They are a nice contrast to the one-or-two line sniping that some commenters are wont to offer.”

    Me too. Your right, there is always the scroll bar.

    Vivid

  170. They are a nice contrast to the one-or-two line sniping that some commenters are wont to offer.

    That hurts Apollos :-)

    Anyway I’ll add my kudos for KF’s hard work. Vivid is right about the scroll bar.

  171. Don’t want to be nasty on Christmas night, but would it be possible that some positions against kf be due in part to scarce affinity with him, his style and his arguments, and not to simple laziness in using the scroll bar?

    One thing is certain: kf leaves a sign and gets strong reactions. I love that.

  172. “and not to simple laziness in using the scroll bar?”

    Who attributed the lack of using the scroll bar to laziness?

    Apollos simply said “It’s a great way to exercise my right not to read a comment, if time or interest forbids it.”

    Trib and I registerd our agreement.

    Vivid

    V

  173. vivid:

    maybe laziness in using one’s right not to read a comment? :-)

    Anyway, I take all the responsibility for the “laziness” concept. I hope nobody takes offence for that. I am the most lazy person in the world…

  174. That hurts Apollos :-)

    LOL tribune7, I wasn’t thinking of you…but now that I consider it, you’re quite the marksman! :P

  175. Merry Christmas one and all :-)

  176. Dave:

    First: A happy Christmas to you.

    On the point you raised: I have no desire to enter into a flame war with you, especially on Christmas Day of all days.

    I will note that I have taken up issues where as far as I can see there is need for more detailed commentary, given the stalemated back-forths that sometimes occur. And, sometimes, due to the simple and manifest want of capacity on the Design side to address issues and arguments put up by some evolutionary materialist advocates who come to visit.

    As you will see from some of the responses above, that is a legitimate contribution on my part and on the part of several other long time and valuable commenters. of this, no 21 above is a classic; and I have hosted a similar classic by GP as well that was recently removed from UD on an after the fact policy change, to the detriment of a thread, in my own blog.

    I believe it is fair comment to say that such contributions are not mere bloviation.

    (And, I must note — with just a tinge of sadness — that sharp comments on length or style etc that are at the same time unresponsive to the substantial issues raised, can all too easily become a species of distractive red herring plus strawman plus ad hominem fallacy.)

    Finally, I have no interest in becoming a main contributor at UD, and as I noted I am actually only intervening because of a recent crisis on the site with implications for the wider Design movement. (I believe, on evidence, not without some positive outcome.)

    A happy Christmas to all.

    GEM of TKI

  177. sharp comments on length or style etc that are at the same time unresponsive to the substantial issues raised, can all too easily become a species of distractive red herring plus strawman plus ad hominem fallacy.

    The remaining question is if they do so by design or chance. ;-)

  178. Verily, scrolling through kf length dissertations (comments are bible verse length not bible book length) doth weareth out thou mouse wheel and cause a great weariness to come upon thy fingers. It testeth the patience even of Job.

  179. will note that I have taken up issues where as far as I can see there is need for more detailed commentary, given the stalemated back-forths that sometimes occur. And, sometimes, due to the simple and manifest want of capacity on the Design side to address issues and arguments put up by some evolutionary materialist advocates who come to visit.

    You know, it really isn’t necessary to be insulting to others in the design community. We were doing fine before you chose to grace these pages and will no doubt continue to advance the science long after you retire a second time.


  180. EDIT: Sparc, quoting someone else insulting kf is not something to be appreciated. If you don’t like kf’s style that’s fine–just say so. But this comment went too far. –Admin

  181. MF (and onlookers):

    Season’s greetings

    It seems, so far; per eloquent silence, that the matters of substance for this thread are over. [Of course, you may choose to respond . . . :-) ]

    That leaves it fairly clear, by default, just where the substantial matters stand on the merits; at least as at no 156.

    In a nutshell: even compatibilist materialism evidently fails the reality test.

    ___________

    Others in recent days:

    The effect in the end of the substance of 156 (as, in the end, a capstone to several substantial comments and one outstanding one at 21) — whatever real or perceived defects one may find in style or length — speaks for itself.

    Just as the contrast in tone over the past few days, also speaks; in its own way . . .

    (And, Sparc et al, it is still so that “sharp comments on length or style etc that are at the same time unresponsive to the substantial issues raised, can all too easily become a species of distractive red herring plus strawman plus ad hominem fallacy.”)

    _____________

    Administrator: thanks.

    ___________

    A happy New Year to all . . .

    GEM of TKI

    PS: Lurkers from Anti-Evo, that greeting is also for you.

  182. Onlookers:

    Shorter GEM at 181: I win the thread because no one has responded to my 1663 word epistle at 156.

    Congratulations, KF, on a hard fought victory.

  183. kf

    Re eloquent silence – it was Christmas.

    Re Vitriol – I already recognised I was being oversensitive in #155.

    Re argument from reason. A subtle and complex argument. I am scared of the length of the items you might write if I got started on this.

    Welcome to Wales – I would believe it because it is far more likely that some person arranged the stones in that pattern than that they fell that way naturally.

    I hope you had a great Christmas.

  184. crater:

    “I win the thread because no one has responded to my 1663 word epistle at 156″

    well, maybe there are other reasons too…

    Mark:

    I hope you had a great Christmas too! I want to say that this thread has been great fun, deeply interesting and really, really fair and agreeable.

  185. shorter GEM at 181: I win the thread because no one has responded to my 1663 word epistle at 156.

    As opposed to what? I win the thread because your post was too long for me to read so I don’t have to respond, ha ha ?

  186. Mark

    I trust you had a good Christmas.

    You will see above that I have specifically invited you to take up points on the merits, one at a time; suggesting the very first one as a start.

    You have indeed responded to that one, but unfortunately in a way that materially understates what you did. For, sir, you accused of VITRIOL, an extremely harsh claim; one that if true would go seriously to character. I (along with others) pointed out what it really means. You have backed off; pleading being overly sensitive.

    I will leave it to you to reflect on the disproportion in your earlier language.

    However, on the merits, the balance is clear.

    Next, you suggest just above that I am crowing over triumph by length. Pardon a bit of pedantry, but this, too — given what just happened on point 1 — sounds just a little strawmannish.

    If you wish to seriously address the case on the merits, I and others will be happy to accommodate; as we have repeatedly said.

    But if the pattern of the past few days continues, it suggests rather strongly — or even implies — that, having no real case on the merits, one side is resorting to changing the subject through strawmen and ad hominems. So, as I pointed out at 176:

    I must note — with just a tinge of sadness — that sharp comments on length or style etc that are at the same time unresponsive to the substantial issues raised, can all too easily become a species of distractive red herring plus strawman plus ad hominem fallacy.

    So, again: let’s hear you on the merits.

    Why not look at the reductio issue in point 2, 156?

    G’day,

    GEM of TKI

  187. kf

    #186

    Are you serious or just teasing?

  188. PS: lest I overlook — on Welcome to Wales, kindly note that we are looking at the thought experiment — i.e logically and physically possible case — where we SEE the improbable happen.

    What would such an incident indicate, and what does it imply?

    [Apart from, you imply by the reworking in 183 above, that you do accept the epistemological force of the exhaustion of probabilistic resources point made by the explanatory filter to discern cases of chance and intent per observation of CSI.]

  189. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that the Biblical view of free will is quite sensible. Freedom is contingent upon faith. As long as a man lives “in bondage to the grave,” he is not free and cannot make free choices with regard to happiness (not common choices, like what kind of ice cream I’ll have today, but choices relevant to the trajectory of existence).

    According to this view, there are two possible paths in life. One is the will to power, dictated by the flesh and its mortality. Those who choose this path are attempting to cheat death by building themselves up in the world; by dominating others. The Bible indicates that this is “vanity,” since all men are like the grass—all men are equally mortal.

    There is said to be another path to follow, however, which is described as the path to life. This path tells us not to worry about what we eat and drink because our needs will be provided; not to attempt to raise ourselves up at the expense of others because the only thing that matters in the end is God’s approval and not the glory of this transitory world.

    Now without this faith in the providence and loving-kindness of God, human will is fully determined and not free, because men are mortal. This is what Barb alluded to elsewhere when she pointed to the important verse, “God has put eternity into the hearts of men, but they cannot find it out by any means.” Without faith, men are simply slaves to the grave; their fate is determined by their natural limitations.

    With faith, however, they are free to choose between the way of life and the way of the world. For instance, let’s say that someone has double-crossed us at work. We can either seek revenge, or we can follow the principle of turning the other cheek, which is said to lead to a greater happiness in the end.

    So according to the Bible, the question of free will is neither a scientific one nor a philosophical one. Freedom is possible through faith; everything else is slavery.

  190. —-alllanius: “So according to the Bible, the question of free will is neither a scientific one nor a philosophical one. Freedom is possible through faith; everything else is slavery.”

    From the Biblical perspective, the fundamental question would seem to be this: Can a person really choose which side of the worship ledger he will commit to, or, put another way, can a person really choose to accept (and submit to) the faith that liberates rather than the faith that enslaves, which is materialism.

    Everyone believes something, worships something and, in that sense, chooses to be a slave to that which he worships. So the question is, to which ultimate value will he submit? Will it be “survival,” “matter,” “self,” “power,” “pleasure,” or “the Gospel.” In that respect, free will permits you to decide on that to which you will submit. We are all seeking the best for ourselves, but most of us don’t seem to know that that is.

    Our free will is severely limited. By that I mean there is no freedom from submission, because we must all submit to that which we worship, and we must all worship something. So, in a Biblical sense, free will consists in the decision to worship idols, self, or God. To not worship is not an option.

  191. —–Mark: (To KF) “Re argument from reason. A subtle and complex argument. I am scared of the length of the items you might write if I got started on this.”

    Mark, I have resolved to curb my snippiness, and I will hold to it. Here is an argument that is not so subtle:

    The purpose of reason is to lead us to the truth. According to materialism, there is no such thing as truth. Therefore, reason, even if it exists, (a questionable proposition for materialists), has no purpose.

  192. #192

    Stephenb

    Happy to follow this particular debate but this post

    (a) is not about the argument from reason

    (b) already has 190+ comments

    So I suggest moving the discussion. I have started a post specifically to do this on my own blog. This also allows me to impose a word limit on comments.

  193. Mark, thanks for the gracious invitation, but I don’t think it would do justice to KF, who has, as of yet, not been answered. Also, I want onlookers at UD to get a chance to witness the exchange. So, if we have to wind it down, we can wind it down. I don’t mean that as a put down, believe me. I just wanted to make it clear that arguments can be reduced to their simplest essence.

    In any case, I did take a peek at your site, and I got a chance to see where you might want to take this. Let me assure you, and I mean this in the spirit of friendliness and mutual respect, that materialism leaves no room for truth. Truth, justice, and goodness are all non-material realities. By definition, they transcend matter. It’s just one more reason why materialism can’t work. In any case, if we have any more exchanges, you will get my best in terms of courtesy.

  194. Mark:

    I will bring together a few threads of thought here, in response to your “offer.” [I am willing to discuss here, but not there under your terms. For reasons that will be apparent. (Onlookers, how many even basic proofs in Geometry can effectively be presented in 200 words in a context where challenge is likely? As noted previously, that is the length of a synopsis that needs immediately present backup, not a serious case. Or, why do corporate presentations not simply stop at the Executive Summary? or, why is it often said that "the devil is in the details"?)]

    I observe, now too, that I showed in 156 above how and why the argument from the reality of reason — which even materialists must use to argue for materialism — is tightly linked to the basic reductio ad absurdum faced by evolutionary materialism.

    For those who won’t scroll up, I excerpted your application of Crick’s 1994 “astonishing hypothesis” to yourself:

    I, Mark Frank, my opinions, and even the thoughts expressed in this comment, consist of nothing more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.

    I then inferred, and from your site, evidently correctly:

    . . . you have signed on to the most reductionist forms of evolutionary materialism, as an account for mind.

    That brings you up against the basic reductio ad absurdum problem that any such monistic, deterministic, reductionistic philosophy runs into. That is, you face an issue of self-referential incoherence.

    I then pointed out in steps that:

    a –> An evolutionary materialist account of the cosmos has to explain all phenomena per reduction to material forces, phenomena and factors, i.e. chance + necessity acting on matter-energy across space-time. (Thus, the relevance of the Wales example on the limits of C + N when it comes to creating real and epistemologically credible, not just apparent messages.]

    b –> This, plainly, includes mind. But in so having to account for mind, evo mat thinkers are in a context of self reference, and . . .

    c –> that it is one in which they argue that what we imagine are reasonings and logical conclusions are wholly produced and controlled by forces that have nothing inherently to do with purpose, truth or validity. [I gave several real-world instances that were still relevant in the 1980s when the original to the cite was constructed: Marx, Freud and Skinner, and added also the 1990's case of Crick; which you applied to yourself, MF.]

    d –> I observed that the logical knife cuts both ways, and so we see evident self-undermining of the credibility of even materialistic reasoning. Reductio, in a nutshell; and . . .

    e –> claimed compatibilism by which if the controlling forces are those implanted in the brain by nature and nurture and force majeure of prevailing forces and circumstances, one has “free will” is no out.

    f –> I addressed Rib’s favourite “out,” the appeal to natural selection; by pointing out from Plantinga that NS addresses survival; enhancing behaviour, not accuracy of beliefs. That is, NS is not an out and arguing that in some cases accurate beliefs have survival value is a strawman. (I have also pointed out that even highly reliable and useful theories in science — e.g. Newtonian Dynamics — have limitations and are not to be equated to truth in the sense of “that which says of what is,t hat it is, and of what is not, that it is not”; cf Ari’s Metaphysics 1011b.]

    g –> On the direct point, I then excerpted Reppert on the AFR:

    . . . let us suppose that brain state A, which is token identical to the thought that all men are mortal, and brain state B, which is token identical to the thought that Socrates is a man, together cause the belief that Socrates is mortal. It isn’t enough for rational inference that these events be those beliefs, it is also necessary that the causal transaction be in virtue of the content of those thoughts. . . . In rational inference, as Lewis puts it, one thought causes another thought not by being, but by being seen to be, the [credibly logical] ground for it. But causal transactions in the brain occur in virtue of the brain’s being in a particular type of state that is relevant to physical causal transactions.

    h –> This of course speaks pretty directly to the Crick assertion that you, Mark, have applied to yourself. How do you move from action-potentials in milli-Volts and physically causally structured cybernetic loops to the radically different ones of meaningfulness, reasoning and yea even truth; all of which demand more than physical cause-effect bonds?

    At this point, given the cumulative force of the issues outlined above, I drew a conclusion: Unless you have a cogent answer to that [and to the like], your position has defeated itself.

    I believe that still summarises the balance of the matter on the merits.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: For those still distracted by the “length” debate-point, especially as turned into an ad hominem. Above, I have presented both shorter and longer comments, as appropriate. Where I deemed it necessary to bring focus back to the cluster of key issues, I have used a longer comment. MF’s remarks on how “subtle” the AFR is, is an implicit acknowledgement that to address it responsibly will require significant length. But, he has painted himself into a rhetorical corner.

  195. Hi Stephen

    I like your summary.

    Mind if I expand and adjust it a bit to be a bit more along the fuller lines of my argument?

    The purpose of reason is to lead us towards the truth, reliably detecting and correcting error along the way. However, according to materialism all things in the end reduce to only matter-energy and space-time; interacting per physical forces and chance circumstances. Therefore, reason, even if it exists (a questionable proposition for materialists), has no capacity to surmount the physical chains of cause-effect that produce and control it. These chains act through evolutionarily produced genetic and socio-cultural conditioning and constraints, which manifest themselves in what is nothing more than “the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules” in our central nervous systems. As a direct result, materialistic reasoning is self-referential and inconsistent with itself; as can be shown through many illustrative cases: e.g. Marx, Freud, Skinner, Dawkins, Lewontin and Crick.

    But, such a summary — 134 words, BTW, MF — cannot stand by itself; especially in a hotly debated context. But, take it as my executive summary, created by aid of the kind inspiration and impressive summarising work of Stephen.

    GEM of TKI

  196. Hi KF: Yes, this is a worthwhile and valuable amendment. Let it serve as an abbreviated model of the argument that stands unrefuted or, for that matter, unapproached.

  197. Stephen

    Thanks.

    Let us see if MF or any other Evo mat champion is willing to take it up.

    So far, on your short summary, he has responded:

    According to my version of materialism there is truth. I am not familiar with any version that denies the possibility of truth.

    Evidently, he does not recognise that the issue is not whether one formally accepts that truth exists [through the more extreme relativists seem to have a problem with that, and their name is Legion]; but that — as shown step by step above and in the onward linked — the evo mat system runs into serious trouble accounting for how we come to see and work with it using our minds.

    Starting with origin of said minds.

    Further lurking is the little issue of the definition of “truth.”

    I have stated that “that which says of what is, that it is; and of what is not, that it is not” is both reasonable and has stood since Aristotle. On long observation, many relativists implicitly or explicitly reduce “truth” to perception and belief conditioned by circumstances and one form or another of conditioning.

    That soon enough becomes yet another reductio ad absurdum.

    And, the sets of radical relativists of various stripes and those of evolutionary materialists and their fellow travellers, overlap considerably.

    GEM of TKI

  198. A couple of footnotes:

    1] AntiEvo:

    I note that they continue to comment on this thread, sadly mostly in an ad hominemish tone.

    That is itself — sadly — revealing.

    And when they do turn to matters of substance, sadly, far too much of it is based on strawmen.

    For instance . . .

    2] Logos theology and Jn 1:1 ff

    I am astonished at the failure of many Evo Mat advocates to see that in Jn 1:1 the Old Exile from Gallilee (by way of Jerusalem and Ephesus, thence Patmos) actually exposed the foundation-era core theology of the Christian Faith to empirical tests by saying that reason/information was foundational to reality; per the Christian worldview.

    To see the force of this, think about how the very same advocates would pounce on Jn 1:1 as a point of obvious dis-confirmation, were it the case that the cosmos and life in it showed that they were NOT based on intricate, finely-tuned, function-specifying complex information! (Cf my always linked, Sections A – D.)

    1910+ years after the Old Man from Galilee wrote about the central events in his life from the days of his youth, we instead see abundant and indeed rapidly growing empirical support for his bold worldview level opening statement to his Gospel.

    But, we evidently face what columnist Morris Cargill of Jamaica was fond of calling “logic with a swivel.”

    So, the inference is made to the tired, ad hominem-laced rhetorical point of Design Thought being nothing but Creationism in the disguise of a cheap tuxedo. [The very fact that it draws on a longstanding -- back to "redneck Bible-thumping fundies" like Cicero, Plato and beyond -- line of empirically anchored inference from observation of FSCI to intelligence as its empirically anchored best explanation, is overlooked in a rush to take persuasive advantage of US court rulings of the 1980's which were in themselves questionable and anchored in even more questionable philosophy of science. (E.g. Cf how Mr Ruse has had to back away from his 1981 - 82 era claims.)]

    Gentlemen, please, retire this line of strawmannish, ad hominem-laced rhetoric. It is long past its sell-by date.

    Step into the sunshine, and get out of the stale air of the cave!

    In any case, a happy new year to one and all!

    GEM of TKI

  199. Paul Giem:

    Re:

    Your [Khan's] comments on the ladder remind me of a controversy going on at another thread at UD, where the complaint is raised that someone has posted too long a comment. I have chosen to be more brief, but the attempt to dodge the force of the argument by complaining about the analogy used makes the length of the comment on the other thread a little more understandable. If you don’t want text walls, try to be more understanding and less nitpicking.

    Thanks.

    It has been my longstanding, sad experience that we too often face Cargillian “logic with a swivel”:

    1 –> If we use brief summaries [which inherently cannot stand by themselves and are easily subjected to nit-picking objections], they are twisted into strawmen and occasions to dismiss and even disdain the case being made.

    2 –> If we use such summaries and link to external longer discussions, that is also ignored/dismissed or even met with the demand to “show us here and now,” joined to the same sort of strawmen as at 1.

    3 –> If we make comments of sufficient length and development of points to even initially deal with the issue and likely objections, that becoems “too long” to address and/or is dismissed as mere empty verbosity.

    That sounds uncommonly like: “heads we win, tails you lose, sides — you lose yet again.”

    In the end, my position is to [perhaps with the able assistance of folks like SB!] make summaries for decision-makers, backed up with adequate discussions when these show up as necessary, and trust the many onlookers [FYI: by far and away most of these are NOT banned, AE folks . . . ] to across time see who is seriously engaging evidence and issues, and who is in the end playing rhetorical games.

    [Let us never forget that that rather ungainly and rhetorically less than scintillatingly brilliant figure, Paul of Tarsus, was literally laughed out of court in Athens in Ac 17. But, at length, he it was who built the future.]

    G’day all . . .

    GEM of TKI

    PS: your points on retiring without conceding are also quite apt.

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