Home » Intelligent Design » Do split-brain cases disprove the existence of an immaterial soul? (Part Two)

Do split-brain cases disprove the existence of an immaterial soul? (Part Two)

In my last post, I discussed the problem of split-brain cases, which was first raised by KeithS in a post over at The Skeptical Zone titled, Split-brain patients and the dire implications for the soul (June 22, 2013). I began by distinguishing three varieties of dualism (leaving aside property dualism, whose inadequacies from a theistic standpoint have already been ably exposed by Professor William Dembski – see here and here), which I referred to as substance dualism, thought control dualism and formal-final dualism. I then examined the six assumptions used in KeithS’s split-brain argument from the perspective of each of these versions of dualism.

What is a split-brain operation?

Before I go on, I’d like to provide a brief scientific explanation of what a split-brain operation is. The information below is taken from a Web page created by the Psychology Department at Macalester College (bold emphases are mine):

In a normal brain, stimuli entering one hemisphere is rapidly communicated by way of the corpus callosum to the other hemisphere, so the brain functions as a unit. When the corpus callosum of an individual is severed, leaving a split brain, the two hemispheres cannot communicate. In some forms of epilepsy a seizure will start in one hemisphere, triggering a massive discharge of neurons through the corpus callosum and into the second hemisphere. In an effort to prevent such massive seizures in severe epileptics, neurosurgeons can surgically sever the corpus callosum, a procedure called a commissurotomy. If one side of the brain can no longer stimulate the other, the likelihood of severe epileptic seizures is greatly reduced.

Answering KeithS’s questions on split brain patients

In this post, I’d like to discuss and respond to KeithS’s reductio ad absurdum argument. He begins by posing three questions, based on actual cases of split-brain patients, described in the medical literature:

1. In the case of the man who attacked his wife with one arm and defended her with the other, what did the soul want to do? Is the soul guilty of attacking her? Does the soul get credit for defending her?

2. If the right hemisphere knows something that the left hemisphere doesn’t, then does the soul know it? What if it’s the other way around, with the left hemisphere knowing something that the right hemisphere doesn’t?

3. In the case of the patient whose left hemisphere didn’t believe in God but whose right hemisphere did, what did the soul believe? Was the soul a theist or an atheist?
[NOTE: KeithS is alluding here to a case discussed by the neurologist Dr. V. S. Ramachandran in a video lecture in 2006, about a split brain patient who was asked to point to "Yes," "No" or "I don't know," in response to a series of questions, and whose right hemisphere, when shown the question, "Do you believe in God?", directed the patient to point to "Yes," while the patient's left hemisphere, in response to the same question, directed the patient to point to "No."]

I might add another interesting case which I’ve come across, relating to a patient named Paul S. (whose case history is discussed in detail on a Macalester College Web page on split-brain consciousness), who underwent brain bisection in the 1970s, and whose right hemisphere (unlike that of most split-brain patients) was able to understand not only nouns, but also verbal commands and also questions, after surgery, and respond to these questions in writing, giving simple one-word answers:

Paul’s right hemisphere developed considerable language ability sometime previous to the operation. Although it is uncommon, occasionally the right hemisphere may share substantial neural circuits with, or even dominate, the left hemisphere’s centers for language comprehension and production. The fact that Paul’s right hemisphere was so well developed in its verbal capacity opened a closed door for researchers. For almost all split brain patients, the thoughts and perceptions of the right hemisphere are locked away from expression. Researchers were finally able to interview both hemispheres on their views about friendship, love, hate and aspirations.

Paul’s right hemisphere stated that he wanted to be an automobile racer while his left hemisphere wanted to be a draftsman. Both hemispheres were asked to write whether they liked or disliked a series of items. The study was performed during the Watergate scandal, and one of the items was Richard Nixon. Paul’s right hemisphere expressed “dislike,” while his left expressed “like.”

(Reference: Atkinson, Rita L., Introduction to Psychology, Eleventh Edition , Harcourt Brace College Publishers, Orlando, c. 1993.)

The case of Paul S. is fully described in an article by Joseph E. LeDoux, Donald H. Wilson and Michael S. Gazzaniga, titled, A Divided Mind: Observations on the Conscious Properties of the Separated Hemispheres (Annals of Neurology 2:417-421, 1977). I’ll quote a few relevant excerpts here:

The question of whether the essence of human consciousness can be represented bilaterally in the split brain patient has so far remained unanswered. The following observations on a new patient, Patient P. S., may help to resolve the issue. For the first time, it has been possible to ask subjective questions of the separated right hemisphere and to witness self-generated answers from this mute half-brain. This opportunity was made possible by the fact that linguistic representation in the right hemisphere of our patient is greater than has been observed in any other split-brain patient. In addition to an extensive capacity for comprehending written and spoken language, the right hemisphere, though unable to generate speech, can express its mental content by arranging letters to spell words [12]…

Results

The right half-brain spelled “Paul” in response to the question “Who are you!” When requested to spell his favorite girl, the right hemisphere arranged the Scrabble letters to spell “Liz.” The right hemisphere spelled “car” for his favorite hobby. When the right hemisphere was asked to spell his favorite person, the following was generated: “Henry Wi Fozi.” (Henry Winkler is the actor who plays Fonzie.) The right hemisphere generated “Sunday” in response to the question “What is tomorrow?” When asked to describe his mood, the right hemisphere spelled out “good.” Later, in response to the same question, the left spelled “silly.” Finally, the right hemisphere spelled out “automobile race” as the job he would pick. This contrasts with the frequent assertion of the left hemisphere that he will be a “draftsman.” In fact, shortly after the test session, when asked what he would like to do for a living, the left hemisphere said, “Oh, be a draftsman, I guess.” … Finally, it should be noted that on each of these right hemisphere trials the patient was unable to name the lateralized information, thus confirming that the left hemisphere did not have access to the critical information.

Discussion

It is important to reemphasize that these responses were self generated by the right hemisphere from a set of infinite possibilities. The only aid provided to the right hemisphere was the two complete alphabets from which he could select letters at will…

Each hemisphere in P. S. has a sense of self, and each possesses its own system for subjectively evaluating current events, planning for future events, setting response priorities, and generating personal responses…

On a day that this boy’s left and right hemispheres equally valued himself, his friends, and other matters, he was calm, tractable, and appealing. On a day when testing indicated that the right and left sides disagreed on these evaluations, the boy became difficult to manage behaviorally.

I therefore propose to add two more questions to KeithS’s list:

4. What did Paul S.’s soul want to be, an automobile racer or a draftsman?

5. Did Paul S.’s soul support or oppose President Richard Nixon?

These are all fair questions, and they deserve straight answers.

Sir John Eccles on split brain cases

I’ll begin by examining what the late Nobel Prize-winning neurophysiologist Sir John Eccles, a modern substance dualist, had to say about split-brain cases.

To begin with, I would invite readers to take a look at this diagram, taken from Eccles’ 1979 Gifford Lectures on The human psyche. As readers can see, the main channel of communication between the (disembodied) conscious self and the brain is via the dominant left hemisphere, but there is also a limited degree of communication with the minor right hemisphere. Next, here is a diagram of communications to and from the brain and within the brain, after the corpus callosum has been severed. Communication from the conscious self to and from the brain is now exclusively via the dominant left hemisphere.

In his 1979 Gifford lectures on The human psyche, Sir John Eccles describes the performance of the two hemispheres of the brain, after a split brain operation:

[T]he left (speaking) hemisphere has a linguistic ability not greatly impaired. It also carries a good memory of the past linked with a good intellectual performance and with an emotional life not greatly disturbed. However it is deficient in all spatial and constructional tasks. By contrast the right hemisphere has a very limited linguistic ability. It has access to a considerable auditory vocabulary, being able to recognize commands and to relate words presented by hearing or vision to pictorial representations. It was also surprising that the right hemisphere responded to verbs as effectively as to action names. Despite all this display of language comprehension, the right hemisphere is extremely deficient in expression in speech or in writing, which is effectively zero. However, in contrast to the left hemisphere, it is very effective in all spatial and constructive tasks and it is also proficient in global recognition tasks.

After reviewing some investigations by Roger Sperry et al. (1979) on two split-brain patients that were designed to test for aspects of self-consciousness in the right hemisphere, Eccles was forced to acknowledge:

It can hardly be doubted that the right hemisphere has at least a limited self-consciousness.

But then he went on to add:

These tests for the existence of mind and of self-conscious mind [in the right hemisphere - VJT] are at a relatively simple pictorial and emotional level. We can still doubt if the right hemisphere has a full self-conscious existence. For example, does it plan and worry about the future, does it make decisions and judgements based on some value system? These are essential qualifications for personhood as ordinarily understood (Strawson, 1959; Popper and Eccles, 1977, Sects. 31 and 33)…

I would agree with DeWitt’s (1975) interpretation of the situation after commissurotomy:

Both minor and major hemispheres are conscious in that they both, no doubt, have the basic phenomenal awareness of perceptions, sensations, etc. And they both have minds … in that they exhibit elaborated, organised systems of response hierarchies, i.e., intentional behaviour. But in addition I would conjecture that only the major hemisphere has a self; only the language utilising brain is capable of the abstract cognising necessary in order to be aware of itself as a unique being. In a word, only the major hemisphere is aware of itself as a self.

This corresponds to the situation in real life, where the associates of the patient find no difficulty after the operation in regarding it as the self or person that it was before the operation. The patients themselves would of course concur, but they do have a problem arising from the splitting of the conscious mind. There is the difficulty in controlling the movements emanating from the activity of the right hemisphere with its associated mind. These movements are completely beyond the control of the conscious self or person that is exercised through the left hemisphere. For example they refer to their uncontrollable left hand as their ‘rogue hand’.

It would seem that this interpretation of DeWitt conforms with all the observational data on the commissurotomy subjects, but avoids the extreme philosophical difficulties inherent in the hypothesis of Puccetti that even normally there is a duality of personhood – ‘two persons in one brain’ as he provocatively expresses it.

Eccles died in 1997. More recent studies have shown that both hemispheres of the brain are extensively involved in self-recognition, and that only the right hemisphere possesses the further ability to recognize familiar others (see Lucina Q. Uddin et al., “Split-brain reveals separate but equal self-recognition in the two cerebral hemispheres”, Consciousness and Cognition 14, 2005, pp. 633–640). In an article titled, Self-Awareness and the Left Hemisphere: The Dark Side of Selectively Reviewing the Literature (Cortex, (2007) 43, 1068-1073), Alain Morin argues forcefully that it is a mistake to equate self-recognition (the ability to recognize oneself in a mirror) with self-awareness, which requires a deeper awareness of one’s current emotions, goals, values and thinking patterns. Even the much-vaunted “Theory of Mind” (or the recognition that other minds exist out there in the real world) fails to exhaust self-awareness – as Morin puts it, “It is very likely indeed that one needs first to access one’s own mental self before one can ponder about others’ potentially comparable inner life” (p. 1069). Morin finds that self-awareness is widely distributed across both sides of the brain, but suggests that if anything, it is the left hemisphere (and not the right hemisphere, as argued recently by some authors) which predominates in self-awareness. Elsewhere, Morin argues for the notion of a relation between inner speech and self-awareness, and he concludes: “one must not neglect the role of language (i.e., inner speech) in self-awareness — an activity deeply associated with normal functioning of the left hemisphere.” (Right hemispheric self-awareness: A critical assessment, Consciousness and Cognition 11 (2002) 396–401.)

In another paper, titled, “The split-brain debate revisited: On the importance of language and self-recognition for right hemispheric consciousness” (Journal of Mind and Behavior (2001) 22 (2):107-118), Morin elaborates his argument for the significance of inner speech in self-awareness. Inner speech, he writes, allows us to “incorporate other persons’ potential views of ourselves in our self-talk and gain an objective vision of ourselves which facilitates self-observation” and “address comments to ourselves about ourselves, as others do towards us.” Referring to the mute right hemisphere, he writes: “Certainly it can experience an emotion, but without inner speech I suggest that it might not clearly know that it is experiencing it.” Morin concludes his discussion of split brain cases as follows:

My position is that two unequal streams of consciousness (i.e. self-awareness) emerge out of the transection of the forebrain commissures…. [T]his analysis incorporates empirical evidence (1) regarding the importance of language (inner speech) for self-awareness, and (2) concerning the legitimacy of self-recognition as an operationalization of self-awareness.

Morin adds that in his opinion, the case of Paul S. (discussed above) is “the only convincing case of real full double self-awareness in a split brain patient,” probably owing to the fact that this patient suffered early brain injury in the left hemisphere at the age of two, which led to his language abilities being bilateralzed. Morin regards it as an open question as to whether Paul S. actually has “two independent streams of inner speech – two concurrent but different self-conversations” (p. 531). For my part, I would regard such a claim as doubtful: the extent of Paul S.’s right-hemispheric language abilities amounted to comprehension of simple verbal commands and questions (in oral form), the ability to read single words and the ability to spell single words with Scrabble letters. That’s hardly an argument for the existence of a second independent streams of inner speech in the right brain.

I conclude that Sir John Eccles’ empirical claim that the conscious self is predominantly linked to the left hemisphere of the brain remains a highly defensible position which will probably turn out to be verified over the next few decades, whatever one may think of Eccles’ interactionist substance dualism.

A substance dualist’s answers to five tricky questions on split brain patients

We can now answer the five questions posed above, from the standpoint of Sir John Eccles’ modern version of Descartes’ substance dualism. It is important to note that for Eccles, the terms “self” and “soul” were more or less inter-changeable, as when he wrote: “I am constrained to attribute the uniqueness of the Self or Soul to a supernatural spiritual creation” (Evolution of the Brain: Creation of the Self, Routledge, paperback, 1991, p. 249), and he went on to liken the body and brain to a computer built by genetic coding, while “the Soul or Self is the programmer of the computer” (pp. 249-250).

1. In the case of the man who attacked his wife with one arm and defended her with the other, he attacked her with his left hand (which is controlled by the right hemisphere) while simultaneously trying to protect her with his right arm (which is controlled by the left hemisphere). Since the conscious self interfaces with the brain only via the dominant left hemisphere after a split-brain operation, what the man’s soul wanted to do was to defend his wife – an act for which he gets credit. The man is not morally responsible for what his rogue left hand does, as it is controlled by the right hemisphere, which is no longer controlled by the conscious self.

Indeed, Eccles famously suggested in The Self and its Brain (Berlin: Springer International, 1977, p. 329) that a homicide committed by the left hand of a split brain patient (which is controlled by the right hemisphere) would be manslaughter rather than murder!

2. If the right hemisphere knows something that the left hemisphere doesn’t, then the conscious self (or soul) doesn’t know it. But if If the left hemisphere knows something that the right hemisphere doesn’t, then the conscious self knows it.

3. In the case of the patient whose left hemisphere didn’t believe in God but whose right hemisphere did, the patient’s soul, I am sorry to say, didn’t believe in God. In the case described by Dr. Ramachandran, all the patient had to do was point to “Yes” or “No”, when asked, “Do you believe in God?” But that behavior is not enough to warrant the attribution of a belief to someone, in the way in which that word is properly applied to rational beings. A belief is pre-eminently something which you may be called upon to justify, and state your reasons for. The patient’s right hemisphere couldn’t say why it believed in God; nor could it defend its point of view against objections. Hence it could hardly be said to have a belief in the proper sense of the word. It may have had a residual belief in God from early childhood, when people are unable to vocalize the grounds for their beliefs, but since the patient, as an adult, came to consciously reject that belief, then the patient’s soul, or conscious self, will be held liable for this rejection and judged accordingly.

4. Paul S.’s soul or conscious self wanted to be a draftsman, since that is the answer given by his left hemisphere.

5. Paul S.’s soul supported President Richard Nixon, since his left hemisphere expressed a liking for the man.

How would a thought control dualist answer these five questions?

One of the main differences between substance dualism and thought control dualism is that the former identifies the soul with the highest part of a human being – the conscious self – whereas the latter regards the soul as a hierarchical structure which informs the body at multiple levels, the highest of which (rational thought) is immaterial. In other words, thought control dualism, like Professor Edward Feser’s formal-final dualism, is hylemorphic: it regards the soul as the essential form of the body.

What that means is that according to thought control dualism. my lower mental states (e.g. sensations, desires) are just as much “mine” as my higher mental states (e.g. acts of reasoning, understanding and will). However, I am only morally culpable for those states which are subject to rational control.

1. In the case of the man who attacked his wife with his left hand (which is controlled by the right hemisphere) while simultaneously trying to protect her with his right arm (which is controlled by the left hemisphere), what his soul wanted to do on a rational level was to protect his wife. However, on a sub-rational level, he may well have had some feelings of hostility towards his wife. These feelings would also be attributable to his soul, but because the movement of his left hand was no longer subject to reason, he would not be morally culpable for attacking his wife with his left hand, as it is controlled by the right hemisphere.

A thought control dualist would agree with Eccles’ contention that a homicide committed by the left hand of a split brain patient (which is controlled by the right hemisphere) could not be called murder.

2. If the right hemisphere knows something that the left hemisphere doesn’t, then a thought control dualist would say that the soul does know it, but not in a manner which is amenable to reason and critical thinking. (It would be interesting to see what happened if the right hemisphere of a split brain patient was exposed to someone dressed up as a ghost. How, I wonder, would the patient react? My guess is that unless the patient was previously skeptical of ghosts, it would be impossible to convince the right hemisphere that what it had seen was not a ghost.)

What the dominant left hemisphere knows, on the other hand, is amenable to critical thinking and reflection. Such knowledge belongs to the highest faculties of the soul.

3. In the case of the patient whose left hemisphere didn’t believe in God but whose right hemisphere did, a thought control dualist would say that the soul retained, at some level, a habit of belief (derived from childhood, perhaps) in God. However, such a belief is no longer amenable to reason in the split brain patient. By contrast, the belief expressed by the patient’s left hemisphere is a belief that the patient could justify and give reasons for, if asked to do so. Thus it counts as a bona fide belief.

Sometimes, it is true, we may think we believe that something is true because we consciously avow it, but at a subconscious level, we intuitively recognize that what we consciously declare is mistaken. (I know a man who once told me of two ex-Catholics he knew, who publicly denied the faith, but who re-expressed a belief in it after they’d had a few beers!) In a person with a normally functioning brain, reason and intuition doubtless have lots of little tussles of this sort, and they usually manage to resolve them eventually. The truly sad thing about the split brain patient is that this kind of resolution cannot take place. In the case of the left-brain atheist discussed by KeithS, the patient’s right brain may know on an intuitive level that there is a God, but the bridge between intuition and reason has been severed. God, being merciful, will take the patient’s impairment into account.

4. Paul S.’s soul wanted to be a draftsman on a rational level, but on a more primitive, feeling-based level, his soul wanted to be an automobile racer.

5. Paul S.’s soul liked President Richard Nixon on a rational level, but disliked him on an intuitive level.

How would a formal-final dualist answer the above five questions?

The principal difference between thought control dualism and form-final dualism is that on the former account, the soul can interact with the brain and initiate neural processes, while on the latter account, the soul does not make neurons in the brain move: the soul explains the “what” and the “why” of a voluntary human action, but not the “how.” Thus thought control dualism, like substance dualism, would attempt to identify locations in the brain which are still capable of interacting with the rational soul (whose choices, like its acts of understanding, are disembodied acts), whereas formal-final dualism, which rejects such an interactionist account, would attempt to identify those actions performed by split-brain patients which still manifest rationality (and hence are morally praiseworthy or blameworthy), on an operational level – i.e. by performing relevant tests, such as carefully probing the patient’s stated reasons for his/her actions.

Bearing this in mind, we can answer the five questions above from the perspective of the formal-final dualist, as follows:

1. In the case of the man who attacked his wife with his left hand (which is controlled by the right hemisphere) while simultaneously trying to protect her with his right arm (which is controlled by the left hemisphere), both acts are attributable to different levels of the soul, as each human being embodies a psychic hierarchy. However, the action that should be counted as rational (and hence morally evaluable) is the one that the man himself can give a reason for, both before and after performing the act (this last condition is vitally important, in order to prevent confabulation, where patients make up reasons to cover their embarrassment over sudden bodily movements of theirs which they are unable to explain).

2. If one hemisphere knows something that the other hemisphere doesn’t, then a formal-final dualist would say that the soul knows it, but not in a manner which is fully integrated with the entire body. Recall that for a formal-final dualist, the soul is essentially the form of the body. If the form is badly damaged, in a way that affects cognitive functions, then the patient’s awareness may be localized, rather than spread over the global brain.

3. In the case of the patient whose left hemisphere didn’t believe in God but whose right hemisphere did, a formal-final dualist would try to ascertain which stated belief was properly integrated into the patient’s life. For example, if the patient made a habit of praying every night and going to church on Sundays, then that would be a good reason to take seriously the right hemisphere’s avowal that it still believed in God, notwithstanding the left hemisphere’s professed atheism. Deeds speak louder than words.

4. There may be different levels of the soul on which Paul S.’s soul wants to be a draftsman and an automobile racer, but the one that deserves to be called most authentically Paul S.’s wish is the one which he doggedly pursues over a period of several years, as people do when undertaking long-term rational plans.

5. Regarding President Nixon, it’s very hard for a formal-final dualist to ascertain what a split brain patient’s feelings were towards a politician, unless that patient had devoted a fair bit of time towards getting Nixon elected – or alternatively, ejected from office. In the absence of such rational, goal-oriented behavior, a formal-final dualist might be inclined to reject both hemispheres’ professed likes and dislikes as mere preferences, as opposed to rational choices. Of course, if Paul S. was able to say why he liked Nixon, than that kind of behavior would count as evidence, but only if it cohered with the rest of his political views. Since Paul S. was only eleven when Le Doux, Wilson and Gazzaniga wrote their famous article about him in 1977, some skepticism is warranted. (His views now would of course count as evidence, as well.)

In this post, I have tried to answer KeithS’s questions about split brain patients from the perspective of three distinct varieties of dualism. I shall leave it there, and let readers judge for themselves between these versions of dualism. What I have attempted to show, however, is that split brain patients do not pose an insoluble problem – or even a particularly pressing one – for believers in an immaterial soul.

Readers wanting to learn more about the history of how Christian and other dualistic philosophers tackled the problem of split brain patients may like to consult Minds Divided: Science, Spirituality, and the Split Brain in American Thought by Stephen E. Wald (ProQuest LLC, ISBN-13: 2940032034322, eISBN-13: 9780549633204), some of which can be viewed online here).

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140 Responses to Do split-brain cases disprove the existence of an immaterial soul? (Part Two)

  1. Dr. Torley, amazingly well done article. Makes me ashamed for the short terse objections of ‘straw man’ that I was responding to keiths with :$ .,, Hopefully, keiths will respectfully consider your well laid out reasoning and humbly realize that his split brain argument, like all other arguments for atheism ultimately turn out to be, is not anywhere near as strong as he personally held it to be. I know it is a long shot to hope for such a humble admission from an atheists, but hey, I believe in miracles! :)

  2. Dr. Torley, I was wondering if you could elaborate on how hemispherectomies would play out in what you have thus far outlined for ‘self’ since ‘intellect’ seems unaffected by removal of the left or right hemisphere?

    Miracle Of Mind-Brain Recovery Following Hemispherectomies – Dr. Ben Carson – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3994585/

    Removing Half of Brain Improves Young Epileptics’ Lives:
    Excerpt: “We are awed by the apparent retention of memory and by the retention of the child’s personality and sense of humor,” Dr. Eileen P. G. Vining; In further comment from the neuro-surgeons in the John Hopkins study: “Despite removal of one hemisphere, the intellect of all but one of the children seems either unchanged or improved. Intellect was only affected in the one child who had remained in a coma, vigil-like state, attributable to peri-operative complications.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/1997/08.....lives.html

    Strange but True: When Half a Brain Is Better than a Whole One – May 2007
    Excerpt: Most Hopkins hemispherectomy patients are five to 10 years old. Neurosurgeons have performed the operation on children as young as three months old. Astonishingly, memory and personality develop normally. ,,,
    Another study found that children that underwent hemispherectomies often improved academically once their seizures stopped. “One was champion bowler of her class, one was chess champion of his state, and others are in college doing very nicely,” Freeman says.
    Of course, the operation has its downside: “You can walk, run—some dance or skip—but you lose use of the hand opposite of the hemisphere that was removed. You have little function in that arm and vision on that side is lost,” Freeman says. Remarkably, few other impacts are seen. ,,,
    http://www.scientificamerican......than-whole

    Related note:

    Self-awareness in humans is more complex, diffuse than previously thought – August 22, 2012
    Excerpt: Self-awareness is defined as being aware of oneself, including one’s traits, feelings, and behaviors. Neuroscientists have believed that three brain regions are critical for self-awareness: the insular cortex, the anterior cingulate cortex, and the medial prefrontal cortex. However, a research team led by the University of Iowa has challenged this theory by showing that self-awareness is more a product of a diffuse patchwork of pathways in the brain – including other regions – rather than confined to specific areas. The conclusions came from a rare opportunity to study a person with extensive brain damage to the three regions believed critical for self-awareness. The person, a 57-year-old, college-educated man known as “Patient R,” passed all standard tests of self-awareness. He also displayed repeated self-recognition, both when looking in the mirror and when identifying himself in unaltered photographs taken during all periods of his life. “What this research clearly shows is that self-awareness corresponds to a brain process that cannot be localized to a single region of the brain,”,,,
    http://medicalxpress.com/news/.....ously.html

  3. Even supposing the splitting of the brain created two conscious persons (not that I really believe it), it doesn’t disprove the immaterial character of the soul. It might call into question some ideas about Christian theology, but it doesn’t disprove the immateriality of the soul.

    As much as I hesitate to bring this up, in the New Testament we have cases of demon possession. Certainly it is possible that two streams or even a legion of stream of consciousness can occupy an individual. But this is theological speculation, not science…

  4. All these arguments are laughable:

    1-I assume free will is real, because religion says so.

    2-Now let’s imagine and twist our minds around all sorts of speculative scenarios where free will can work, even in extreme cases like split brains, and then use them to sustain my beliefs.

    Christians are as rational as Darwinists.

    God, being merciful, will take the patient’s impairment into account.

    Is that idea of God based on empirical evidence, or just blind acceptance of what the Bible says?

    *crickets* (probably)

    split brain patients do not pose an insoluble problem – or even a particularly pressing one – for believers in an immaterial soul.

    Actually split brain patients pose no problem at all for believers in an inmaterial soul (like me). The concept in trouble is the interaction (or total lack there of) of such soul with the material world.

  5. Not to mention dissociative identity disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder). I seem to remember that these personalities might or might not be aware of each other.

    So, which hemisphere, left or right, are involved with these personalities? There are often more than two.

    Does this mean that people who suffer from DID have more than two brain structures involved, or is it possible that multiple personalities can be associated with the left hemisphere for example?

  6. Proton if I read you correctly you are denying free will altogether. If so, you have a little matter within Quantum Mechanics to deal with:

    “Thus one decides the photon shall have come by one route or by both routes after it has already done its travel”
    John A. Wheeler

    Alain Aspect speaks on John Wheeler’s Delayed Choice Experiment – video
    http://vimeo.com/38508798

    Here’s a recent variation of Wheeler’s Delayed Choice experiment, which highlights the ability of the conscious observer to effect ‘spooky action into the past’, thus further solidifying consciousness’s centrality in reality. Furthermore in the following experiment, the claim that past material states determine future conscious choices (determinism) is falsified by the fact that present conscious choices effect past material states:

    Quantum physics mimics spooky action into the past – April 23, 2012
    Excerpt: The authors experimentally realized a “Gedankenexperiment” called “delayed-choice entanglement swapping”, formulated by Asher Peres in the year 2000. Two pairs of entangled photons are produced, and one photon from each pair is sent to a party called Victor. Of the two remaining photons, one photon is sent to the party Alice and one is sent to the party Bob. Victor can now choose between two kinds of measurements. If he decides to measure his two photons in a way such that they are forced to be in an entangled state, then also Alice’s and Bob’s photon pair becomes entangled. If Victor chooses to measure his particles individually, Alice’s and Bob’s photon pair ends up in a separable state. Modern quantum optics technology allowed the team to delay Victor’s choice and measurement with respect to the measurements which Alice and Bob perform on their photons. “We found that whether Alice’s and Bob’s photons are entangled and show quantum correlations or are separable and show classical correlations can be decided after they have been measured”, explains Xiao-song Ma, lead author of the study.
    According to the famous words of Albert Einstein, the effects of quantum entanglement appear as “spooky action at a distance”. The recent experiment has gone one remarkable step further. “Within a naïve classical world view, quantum mechanics can even mimic an influence of future actions on past events”, says Anton Zeilinger.
    http://phys.org/news/2012-04-q.....ction.html

    In other words, if my conscious choices really are just merely the result of whatever state the material particles in my brain happen to be in in the past (deterministic) how in blue blazes are my choices instantaneously effecting the state of material particles into the past?,,, Please also consider the fact that free will is not physically ‘causing’ the particles to be in any particular state but free will of consciousness is only choosing which way consciousness shall perceive a particular particle to be at a particular time. Not a minor point to consider in developing proper causal relations in the experiment! As well, I consider the preceding experimental evidence to be a vast improvement over the traditional ‘uncertainty’ argument for free will, from quantum mechanics, that had been used to undermine the deterministic belief of materialists:

    Why Quantum Physics (Uncertainty) Ends the Free Will Debate – Michio Kaku – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFLR5vNKiSw

    Of note: the mental choice of ‘intentionality’, which is an aspect of free will, is also discernible at the macro-level above the micro-level of the quantum world :

    Scientific Evidence That Mind Effects Matter – Random Number Generators – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4198007

    Here are some of the papers to go with the preceding video;

    Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research – Scientific Study of Consciousness-Related Physical Phenomena – publications
    http://www.princeton.edu/~pear/publications.html

    I once asked a evolutionist, after showing him the preceding experiments, “Since you ultimately believe that the ‘god of random chance’ produced everything we see around us, what in the world is my mind doing pushing your god around?”

    Thus free will

  7. Proton,

    Thank you for your post. I’m a little puzzled by the tone, as you state that you believe in an immaterial soul but adopt a somewhat mocking stance towards religion (“-I assume free will is real, because religion says so,” “use them to sustain my beliefs,” etc.) Unless you’re a Gnostic, a New Ager or a Platonist, I find it hard to imagine where you’re coming from.

    Please allow me to explain the purpose of my last two posts. They were written in order to answer an objection to traditional religious belief, by KeithS. Since the objection was directed at belief in an immaterial soul, and most people who share that belief also believe in free will, I don’t see anything problematic about assuming for argument’s sake that it exists. If you have a good reason to reject free will, then by all means let’s hear it.

    As for God being merciful, once again, this is an assumption I made because KeithS asked whether the man’s soul would be held accountable for attacking his wife or whether it would get credit for defending her – an explicitly theistic question. It was only natural that I should point out in reply that if you’re going to assume a God, it’s reasonable to assume a merciful, all-loving one. Scripture and reason both say as much.

    Finally, you state that you believe in an immaterial soul but express skepticism about its interaction with the material world. OK, now I’m curious. What kind of dualism do you believe in?

  8. Proton,

    Why would you assume that all religions have the same views regarding the soul?

    Personally, I believe that the soul is our personality. It’s easily observable, but difficult or impossible to measure scientifically.

    There’s a passage in the Bible that states

    For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

    This passage seems to acknowledge a difference between the soul, the spirit, and the heart (mind). This is a different model than the beliefs and controversies that the Greeks of antiquity wrestled with. For example

    The view found in Plato and in later thinkers, influenced by him, is essentially the same cosmological dualism as is found in later Gnosticism. Like Gnosticism, Platonism is a dualism of two worlds, one the visible world and the other an invisible “spiritual” world. As in Gnosticism, man stands between these two worlds, related to both. Like Gnosticism, Platonism sees the origin of man’s truest self (his soul) in the invisible world, whence his soul has fallen into the visible world of matter. Like Gnosticism, it sees the physical body as a hindrance, a burden, sometimes even as the tomb of the soul. Like Gnosticism, it conceives of salvation as the freeing of the soul from its entanglement in the physical world that it may wing its way back to the heavenly world.

    My point is that Hellenistic beliefs are profoundly different than Biblical Christian beliefs, and you shouldn’t lump them together.

  9. VJT:

    Good effort, as usual.

    I note the link to the 1979 Eccles Gifford Lecture is not sufficiently specific, could you help us?

    My own thought is that we should recall that a useful architectural model of the cybernetics of a rational actor engaging the external world created by Derek Smith [a researcher in the field] involves two interacting tiers of controller, an I/O loop controller, and a supervisory controller responsible for longer term, purposive acts and plans or intents, etc.

    Architectural discussions on the effects of severing a nexus between two controlling centres, producing divergence of action, I find interesting, especially because of the well known challenge of being in two minds or having two factions in a decision-making body. The discussion of a rogue left arm is particularly interesting, as it shows a dominance of impulsivity. The ex Catholics that a few beers on reverted, look like conflicted personalities with the underlying intuitive emerging when the first effects of alcohol are present. (Sounds, too, like the saying about there being no atheists in foxholes.)

    I am also reminded of how when life and considerable property were on the line, the Space Shuttle designers ended up preparing a multiple processor controller, and a voting resolution mechanism, with IIRC, a final reserve casting vote if there was deadlock. So, evidence of an internal debate may point to a similar pattern.

    My own inclination is that there is no good — decisive — reason to conclude that we have anything here that cannot be explained on a multiple member control architecture, with communication and control difficulties; here induced by physical cutting of communication channels.

    As for the issue of an immaterial substantial soul, I think there is more at work than information and programming at some level. I would suggest that given the impact of subtle inputs in highly non-linear and divergent systems, a governing mechanism that uses subtle influences, whether quantum or classical or both, is feasible. Chaotic systems are predictable/controllable in the short-run, but not the long run where subtle differences lead to unpredictable divergence.

    Cutting control paths would normally have significant impact in such a system. Not least, by distort6ing perceptions, leading to delusion-driven decisions and acts,a s well as ungoverned impulses leading to triggered rogue behaviour. (And, isn’t that pretty much what happens so often when men seek the aid of alcohol in seduction?)

    KF

    PS: Proton, if we are not capable of significant responsible choice, we can neither be rational nor moral, we would just be passive meat processors drifting based on whatever cluster of genetic, psychosocial etc conditioning happened to hit us at key points. You are treading into self referential incoherence here.

  10. So essentially you link the soul/self to the left hemisphere – not the right. I am curious about the status of the right hemisphere. It is capable of quite complicated actions included simple language processing. It seems to be something way beyond involuntary actions such as breathing. Would you say it has free will? I suspect you will say not. But how can you tell? What does it lack that indicates it has not free will.

  11. Mark:

    I will answer here your last post in the old thread, just to keep the discussion more “fresh”.

    My point is not really one about continuity of self. It is about identity. Compare this situation to monozygotic twins. A Christian who believes the self inhabits the body at the point of fertilisation must accept that it is possible for two selves to share a common past (if not memories). The question is how do we know that is not happening in the case of a split brain patient?

    OK, the point is obviously both identity and continuity. I believe the two things are strictly related.

    Let’s talk monozygotic twins. My view is that the original zygote is “inhabited” by a single self. Then, as soon as the division into two embryos takes place, the second one becomes “inhabited” by another self, and the original one remains with its unique self. IOWs, the original embryo “generates” a new one, with a new self. So, there is no common past (no more than between a mother and her child), and no common memories (I doubt physical memories are stored in the cells at that level).

    The only way to interpret a split brain scenario in that sense, would be, as Sal has pointed out, to assume some form of “possession”. I don’t believe that is what takes place.

    Not exactly like that relationship – one can’t help having special feelings for the poor sod who is going to take on a rather pathetic middle-aged body with no idea who he is or where he came from . But I think we cannot imagine what it would be like to have no memories at all. We probably think it is a bit like forgetting all the semantic knowledge ever had. But memory is much more than semantic memory. The way we perceive the world; the things we attend to; the emotions created by a smell; they are all heavily moulded by our past experience. What we would have to imagine is being a like a new-born baby in a middle-aged body and I just can’t do that.

    Let’s say that I can agree with you that the whole of one’s memories can never be completely cancelled. But those memories are sometimes very deep, and they have not much to do with the “conscious” memories of the waking state, those that usually structure ego and personality.

    I see the mind more or less like an iceberg. The small part that emerges is our “conscious” ego, our personality, our more “available” memories. But most of what we really are is beneath.

    So, the case of the split brain could be seen as an iceberg with two different emerging parts, with different properties and faculties. But most of the deep mental features remain common.

    The self is even beyond the submerged part of the iceberg. It can retain access to the deepest parts of personality, and than it is forced to express either through one “peak” (the left emisphere) or through the other (the right emisphere). When it seems that the two things happen at the same time, it is simply through a process of time split multitasking.

    An important clarification is that I never said that the split brain case is evidence for an immaterial self. It was Keiths, I believe, and in general your part, that stated that it was evidence against an immaterial test. I have only pointed out that that is not true, and that the split brain scenario is perfectly compatible with a single immaterial self.

    My evidences, or simply arguments, for an immaterial self that makes possible and unifies all subjective representations are of different kind.

    I am afraid this kind makes it difficult to have a debate. I want evidence. You say I have rely on intuition. How we do take that forward if my intuitions are different from yours?

    I don’t agree. I don’t consider intuitions as personal subjective things. For me, intuitions are the basic constituents of cognition. For example, all rational processes are based on a few basic shared intuition, first of all the intuition of “meaning”, and obviously, all the fundamental intuitions that make logic possible.

    Those intuition can be shared, and one can help another to clarify those intuitions in his own experience.

    The same is true, IMO, for the fundamental intuitions about consciousness, its properties and its processes.

    So, I do believe that we can certainly go on having a debate, and that intuitions, more or less shared, can certainly be part of it. Maybe we will not agree, but we cab still debate. That’s part of the game.

  12. Ehm, Errata corrige:

    “against an immaterial test”, in the previosu post, should obviously be “against an immaterial self”.

    I hope that’s not too much of a freudian slip :)

  13. Gpuccio

    I was mostly just trying to clarify which way you were going with the split-brain. If you believe actions done out of free will are the result of a soul there seem to be three options:

    * A second soul was attached as a result of the operation. You have dismissed that as “possession”

    * One, presumably rather tormented, soul which acts against itself from time to time, e.g. both trying to kill its wife and defend her against itself. This seems to be your option.

    * VJ appears to be saying the soul is responsible for the left hemisphere and the right hemisphere is soulless.

    All of them seem a bit implausible but my real question is how do can anyone know which is the correct choice including the various souls involved?

  14. Mark:

    My answer would definitely be the second one:

    “One, presumably rather tormented, soul which acts against itself from time to time, e.g. both trying to kill its wife and defend her against itself.”

    Tormented, certainly. A split brain does not seem to be the most relaxing state I can imagine.

    It should be clear, at this point, That I do not agree completely with VJ’s views. I would have clarified that in some post to him, but I was already committed to this discussion with you, so I preferred to go on with the discussion that had already been started.

    I want to state again that I have not used the term “soul” in this discussion, exactly because I don’t want to deal with the philosophical problems connected to the concept of substance. I prefer to remain at a level where the facts of consciousness are treated empirically, starting from what we perceive of ourselves.

    My deep conviction of the uniqueness, identity and continuity of the self derives from many observations, most of them inner ones, that you would probably simply dismiss as “not evidence”.

    My certainty that the self is immaterial, instead, is even more empirical. It does not come from any philosophical argument about substance or soul, but from the empirical certainty that I have that arrangements of matter, or of any other purely objective aspect of reality, can never explain the existence of a subject, of subjective representations, of their unity given by the unity and continuity of the self.

    IOWs, I treat here the self (as I have always done in mt ID arguments) as an empirical reality, the perceiver of all the many subjective representations unified by the same subject, and I maintain that:

    a) We are empirically certain that the self exists (we perceive it by our own self)

    b) It is absolutely obvious that no explanation for subjective experiences can be given at a purely material level, and I am sure that it will never be given, because the formal properties of material objects, and in general of objective realities, are completely different from the formal properties of the subjective world, and there is no chance at all that the second mat be “reduced” to the first, not even by the most fanciful reductionist.

    So, the self does exist, and it is immaterial, at least in the sense that arrangements of matter can never explain it. If it is also a substance, that can be called soul, is a matter for philosophy and religion.

    Regarding free will, I am indeed very open to discussion. I can admit that free will can operate much better in the presence of a normal brain. I can conceive that free will may be a function of the self that, in some measure, requires a functional interaction with external reality through the brain.

    However, in principle even a self that attacks his wife and “at the same time” defends her, could still be exercising some free will in both cases, and it is not absolutely obvious that one action is good and the other is bad. As you should know, if you have followed at least some of my many discussions about free will, I don’t conceive of free will as something tied to the final action, but rather to the way the self innerly reacts to real possibilities that it has, given the global input it receives moment by moment. So, paradoxically, attacking the wife could still be an action that inevitably occurs even after a good use of free will by the self: all depends on what the self perceives, and how it reacts, and what its real possibilities of “variation of response” are at that moment. There is no doubt that having to express its connection to reality through the right brain is something that changes very much the context and the realistic possibilities of action of the self at that moment. It makes also very difficult for us to judge what happens, since our conscious waking personality usually works mainly through the left brain.

    I would simply say that an ideal relationship with outer reality, in the human condition, requires that the self may use both brains, working as they were meant to work. Other situations (including a split brain, but not only that) certainly change very much the scenario, especially if we want to judge the moral meaning of actions. I suppose that is a rather trivial concept, well known even in legal matters.

  15. @vjtorley

    Sorry for my tone, I just find it irritating when religion is put before evidence. Darwinists bend their observations in matters of evolution, but are mostly very rational when discussing free will or morality (Lizzie comes to mind for example). Christian IDs are very rational when discussing ID topics, but when the topic of free will/morality comes into play, I start seeing that rationality gets a bit blurry as the religious bias kicks in.

    If you have a good reason to reject free will, then by all means let’s hear it.

    The main reason I believe free will is false is because there’s an obvious correlation between people’s backgrounds/circumstances and their choices, which implies that choices are not ultimately free, as they’re always constrained by higher forces.

    If free will was true, then there should be a 0% probability of guessing what choice a person would make in a certain situation, however that’s obviously not true, because we can see that in the same situation people tend to do one thing over another, and therefore we can predict how likely is certain individual to make certain choice under a specific situation. This means that choices are ultimately constrained, and therefore not free, even if they look like they are.

    Finally, you state that you believe in an immaterial soul but express skepticism about its interaction with the material world. OK, now I’m curious. What kind of dualism do you believe in?

    I think property dualism, probably emergent materialism, but I’ve never thought of it, it might get clearer as I go.

    Also I think my views are similar to Gnosticism, but only in the sense that there’s a material world (the one we live in) and a spiritual/eternal world (a place for souls in the afterlife).

    ——————————

    @BB77:

    Experiments in quantom mechanics do nothing to disprove and obvious (observable) correlation between people’s backgrounds/circumstances and their choices. To prove free will true, you must prove that such correlation is unexistent or a coicidence. Either scenario is crazy.

    ——————————

    @Querious:

    I apologize, when I mean “religion” I mean Christianity specifically.

    ——————————-

    @KF

    Proton, if we are not capable of significant responsible choice, we can neither be rational nor moral, we would just be passive meat processors drifting based on whatever cluster of genetic, psychosocial etc conditioning happened to hit us at key points.

    The “passive meat processor” thing is kind of strong, maybe something you’d want to say to an atheist. But I’m a theist and an ID and I see purpose in the way our brain works, so I don’t believe we’re just computers made of meat, especially because computers don’t feel or dream. I believe we were specifically designed to imagine, to feel and to dream, and therefore such things have an important, or maybe the most important, place in the Creation.

    if we are not capable of significant responsible choice, we can neither be rational nor moral

    Free will is irrelevant to morality (or the value of any human feeling) unless you have a preexisting idea of morality matching a religious belief which imposes that we should be held accountable for our actions.

    You are treading into self referential incoherence here.

    Why? Because I say that my choices are predetermined and yet I’m making the choice to write this? That might be incoherent under YOUR definition of choice (in which nothing constrains them, meaning, choice = free will, a religiously biased idea). There’s no incoherence under a deterministic view of what choices are. Don’t impose your religiously motivated definition of choice as a truth.

  16. Proton, you seem to think you are above empirical rebuke from quantum mechanics in your ‘no free will’ claim for reality. Let me be the first to assure you that you are not above rebuke from empirical evidence. Moreover for you to deny free will any place in how humans interact with reality is ‘not even wrong’ as to being way things actually are!

    Proton, to give you a clue as to the monumental hurdle you are facing in quantum mechanics, free will is actually ‘built into’ quantum mechanics as one of the starting assumptions. i.e. You will literally have to overturn all of quantum mechanics in order to deny free will any objective place in our perception of, and interaction with, reality:

    An experimental test of all theories with predictive power beyond quantum theory – May 2011
    Excerpt: Hence, we can immediately refute any already considered or yet-to-be-proposed alternative model with more predictive power than this. (Quantum Theory)
    http://arxiv.org/pdf/1105.0133.pdf

    Can quantum theory be improved? – July 23, 2012
    Excerpt: Being correct 50% of the time when calling heads or tails on a coin toss won’t impress anyone. So when quantum theory predicts that an entangled particle will reach one of two detectors with just a 50% probability, many physicists have naturally sought better predictions. The predictive power of quantum theory is, in this case, equal to a random guess. Building on nearly a century of investigative work on this topic, a team of physicists has recently performed an experiment whose results show that, despite its imperfections, quantum theory still seems to be the optimal way to predict measurement outcomes.,
    However, in the new paper, the physicists have experimentally demonstrated that there cannot exist any alternative theory that increases the predictive probability of quantum theory by more than 0.165, with the only assumption being that measurement (*conscious observation) parameters can be chosen independently (free choice, free will, assumption) of the other parameters of the theory.,,,
    ,, the experimental results provide the tightest constraints yet on alternatives to quantum theory. The findings imply that quantum theory is close to optimal in terms of its predictive power, even when the predictions are completely random.
    http://phys.org/news/2012-07-quantum-theory.html

    i.e. it is found that there is a required assumption of ‘free will’ in quantum mechanics. Moreover, it was shown in the paper that one cannot ever improve the predictive power of quantum mechanics by ever removing free will as a starting assumption in Quantum Mechanics!

    Of related note as to how solid quantum mechanics is as a description of reality:

    Philosophy and Physics in the Kadison-Singer Conjecture – 21 June 2013
    Excerpt: Kadison-Singer Conjecture. Let A be a discrete maximal abelian subalgebra of B(H), the algebra of bounded linear operators on a separable Hilbert space. Let p : A -> {C} be a pure state on that subalgebra. Then there exists a pure extension p’ : B(H) -> {C} of p to all of B(H), and that extension is unique.
    Proof of this statement provides a very nice assurance, that our experiments really are enough to describe quantum systems as we understand them.
    http://www.soulphysics.org/201.....onjecture/

    Moreover, as if the preceding was not devastating enough for the ‘no free will’ position, denying free will undermines our ability to reason itself thus the ‘no free will’ position undermines itself as to being logically coherent:

    Sam Harris’s Free Will: The Medial Pre-Frontal Cortex Did It – Martin Cothran – November 9, 2012
    Excerpt: There is something ironic about the position of thinkers like Harris on issues like this: they claim that their position is the result of the irresistible necessity of logic (in fact, they pride themselves on their logic). Their belief is the consequent, in a ground/consequent relation between their evidence and their conclusion. But their very stated position is that any mental state — including their position on this issue — is the effect of a physical, not logical cause.
    By their own logic, it isn’t logic that demands their assent to the claim that free will is an illusion, but the prior chemical state of their brains. The only condition under which we could possibly find their argument convincing is if they are not true. The claim that free will is an illusion requires the possibility that minds have the freedom to assent to a logical argument, a freedom denied by the claim itself. It is an assent that must, in order to remain logical and not physiological, presume a perspective outside the physical order.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....66221.html

  17. The word “soul” is unhelpfully ambiguous. Does it refer to the human “spirit” (Greek pneuma) or to the human “mind” (Greek nous)? It is sometimes used either way and the difference affects how one answers the questions.

    The apostle Paul was clear about the fact that his human spirit and his conscious human mind were distinct, and that his spirit had access to knowledge and understanding that his mind did not have. He made this distinction explicitly in his discussion of the activity of speaking in tongues, i.e. one’s spirit expressing a language that one’s mind does not know. See 1 Cor. 14:1-19.

    Christianity has always affirmed that the conscious human mind of Jesus developed gradually as it does for any other human (e.g. increasing in wisdom, Luke 2:52). At the same time, Christians have also affirmed that the spirit of Jesus has existed eternally and did not come into existence with the incarnation as a human (e.g. “Before Abraham was, I am.” John 8:56-58).

    So the distinction between what a conscious human mind knows and what one’s spirit knows is also directly applicable to the distinction between what the human mind of Jesus knew (e.g. at some times asking questions about what he did not know), and what he knew by spirit (e.g. knowing information that a mere human mind on its own would not have perceived through the physical senses).

    I don’t have any problem at all with thinking that operations on the brain can affect the operation of the human mind (nous), just as drugs or alcohol can affect the minds operation, or diseases like dementia. None of this indicates anything about the nature of the spirit (pneuma) or whether there is an existence to one’s nature that is not corporeal.

    For example, dementia can erode the ability of the mind to recognize people or even comprehend consciously ideas affirmed by Christianity. This does not mean that one’s spirit has lost a connection of trust previously formed with God.

    So these split brain results are interesting in what they may tell us about the brain and possibly about aspects of the conscious human mind. But they tell us virtually nothing about the spirit, which does not depend on a brain.

  18. Hi ericB,

    Thank you for your post. In response to your question about the soul: you seem to be assuming the existence of a distinction between “mind” (nous) and “spirit” (pneuma) within the human person which I would regard as questionable, on both philosophical and Biblical grounds.

    I would say that the human soul is a spirit, and that it is also the form of the human body. A form, being a principle of unity, can have no parts: if it did, it would need something else to hold it together. Because the human soul (unlike that of plants and non-human animals) is a spirit, it is capable of immaterial, non-bodily operations such as reasoning, understanding, choosing and loving (in the sense of caritas). “Mind” (nous) refers to the soul’s capacity to understand the nature of things – i.e. grasp their forms. “Spirit” (pneuma) refers to the fact of the soul’s being created for a supernatural end: everlasting beatific union with God.

    I am aware that there are some Christians who espouse a tripartite division of the human being into body, soul and spirit. However, the Scriptural evidence adduced to support this view is extremely slim: usually it rests on nothing more than an appeal to 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (“May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”) and Hebrews 4:12 (“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”)

    Concerning 1 Thessalonians 5:23: in Luke 10:27 we are told to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind” (see also Deuteronomy 6:5). That would seem to support a four-fold division of man. Which is it to be, four or three? As for Hebrews 4:12, I would say that the point of the verse is not that it’s possible to separate soul from spirit, but that God’s Word is alive, powerful and sharp.

    Regarding the distinction made in some Scriptural passages between “soul” and “spirit,” here’s how the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains it, in paragraph 367:

    Sometimes the soul is distinguished from the spirit: St. Paul for instance prays that God may sanctify his people “wholly”, with “spirit and soul and body” kept sound and blameless at the Lord’s coming. The Church teaches that this distinction does not introduce a duality into the soul. “Spirit” signifies that from creation man is ordered to a supernatural end and that his soul can gratuitously be raised beyond all it deserves to communion with God.

    From a Catholic perspective, there’s an excellent article by Tim Staples over at Catholic Answers, entitled, Is Man Bipartite or Tripartite? which discusses the Biblical evidence in great detail. The article goes on to say that the “fleshly man” (sarki’nois) spoken of in some Scriptural passages means the man who is dominated by his “lower nature” or passions, and who therefore cannot please God, whereas the “spiritual man” (pneumatikos’) is one who allows himself to be led by the Spirit of God. Food for thought.

    You mentioned 1 Corinthians 14:1-9. As far as I can tell, however, there’s nothing here to support a distinction between mind and spirit within a human being, as the “Spirit” being spoken of is the spirit of God, rather than the spirit of man. Thus we are told to “follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy” (verse 1) and that people who speak in tongues “utter mysteries by the Spirit” (verse 2).

    You also contrasted Luke 2:52, which tells us that Jesus “grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man,” with John 8:58, where Jesus declares, “before Abraham was born, I am!” But Jesus is referring here not to His human nature (which cannot have pre-existed Abraham) but to His Divine nature. None of us possesses a Divine nature. Human persons like ourselves possess only a human nature.

    I fully agree with you, however, that there is a need for people to be more precise when using words like “soul” and “spirit.” I’d also agree with your conclusion that the human spirit does not depend on a brain for its existence, and that it is capable of being supernaturally illuminated by God (e.g. in a post-mortem state, or during a revelation).

  19. Proton writes,

    All these arguments are laughable:

    Yes, mostly because they are logically invalid.

    1-I assume free will is real, because religion says so.

    No. A person may assume free will is real and be an atheist or agnostic. Your first argument rests on a faulty premise.

    2-Now let’s imagine and twist our minds around all sorts of speculative scenarios where free will can work, even in extreme cases like split brains, and then use them to sustain my beliefs.

    This premise makes little sense.

    Christians are as rational as Darwinists.

    This conclusion is based on faulty premises (see above) and is therefore logically invalid.

    Is that idea of God based on empirical evidence, or just blind acceptance of what the Bible says?
    *crickets* (probably)

    Not necessarily. You stated in the other thread that we can infer design from examining creation (Romans 1:20). Who are you to state that other religious people, including Christians, don’t do likewise? Do you have knowledge of all Christians or of all religions? No?
    Try again.

    The main reason I believe free will is false is because there’s an obvious correlation between people’s backgrounds/circumstances and their choices, which implies that choices are not ultimately free, as they’re always constrained by higher forces.

    And, as it has been pointed out to you repeatedly, people can and do make choices freely regardless of their background circumstances. We all are influenced in one way or another by people (friends and family), circumstances (growing up poor or wealthy), culture, society, and religion.

    If free will was true, then there should be a 0% probability of guessing what choice a person would make in a certain situation, however that’s obviously not true, because we can see that in the same situation people tend to do one thing over another, and therefore we can predict how likely is certain individual to make certain choice under a specific situation.

    Albert Einstein is frequently quoted as saying that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” And some people do make the same choices over and over again. Does this disprove free will?

    No. You are blatantly ignoring the fact that many people behave differently given the same set of circumstances.

    “Doubting one’s free will may undermine the sense of self as agent,” Dr. Vohs and Dr. Schooler concluded. “Or, perhaps, denying free will simply provides the ultimate excuse to behave as one likes.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03.....&_r=0)
    This is mostly what I am hearing from Proton’s argument. He wishes to behave as he likes without any moral accountability.

  20. @Barb, my old friend. I’m really not interested in discussing with you anymore, not because our discussion has rached an impasse or something, but because there’s nothing new going on anymore, everything has already been said.

    This is mostly what I am hearing from Proton’s argument. He wishes to behave as he likes without any moral accountability.

    I’m sad you see me that way, especially after all that we’ve discussed, but I guess it’s extremely hard for a Christian to imagine that someone can choose to behave morally out of genuine empathy and not out of divine fear.
    That makes Christians sad people somehow, for they’ll never now how it feels to have true, genuine and unconditional empathy for fellow human beings, one of the many gifts that comes with the understanding of the nature of choices.

    I don’t believe free will is false because it’s convenient for me (like Christians like to think), I believe so because I see people’s choices constrained by their circumstances everytime I look out to the world.

    You may call me inmoral, but out of the two of us, the one who can say that he truly feels empathy, undertanding and love for humanity, is me (unlike selfish Christians, who behave morally to save themselves first and help others second).

  21. Proton continues,

    I’m sad you see me that way, especially after all that we’ve discussed, but I guess it’s extremely hard for a Christian to imagine that someone can choose to behave morally out of genuine empathy and not out of divine fear.

    It seems that way to me because you argued that serial killers should be shown empathy.

    I think atheists and agnostics can and do behave morally out of empathy or integrity. So do Christians, but this escapes you due to your bigotry against Christianity.

    Let me explain a little about what you characterize as “divine fear.” I don’t believe in hell as taught by many mainstream churches (a place of eternal torment). I do believe in divine fear, because it is described as “the beginning of wisdom.” This fear is not fear of being punished but rather a fear of displeasing God.

    It’s seen every day. People obey their bosses because they don’t want to displease them. Students obey their teachers for the same reason.

    That makes Christians sad people somehow, for they’ll never now how it feels to have true, genuine and unconditional empathy for fellow human beings, one of the many gifts that comes with the understanding of the nature of choices.

    Condescending much?

    Christians probably have more empathy than you ever will, Proton.

    I don’t believe free will is false because it’s convenient for me (like Christians like to think), I believe so because I see people’s choices constrained by their circumstances everytime I look out to the world.

    And because you choose (free will!) to ignore evidence to the contrary.

    You may call me inmoral,

    I never called you immoral. Nor do I believe that you are immoral.

    but out of the two of us, the one who can say that he truly feels empathy, undertanding and love for humanity, is me (unlike selfish Christians, who behave morally to save themselves first and help others second).

    Condescending much?

    What have you done for humanity lately?

    What charity work can you claim to have done? Walked in any charity races? Donated time or money to worthy causes?

    Your supercilious, arrogant attitude does you no favors. It does not make you appear empathetic in the slightest. I wonder if you realize this.

  22. @Barb, maybe I let myself be a bit arrogant when dealing with irrational people, who knows.

    And for your question, yes, I’ve recently made some donations in fact. I run an online store, and many people have helped in the process of building it, so recently I donated part of my profits to them as a thank you gift. Nothing too big, but I did it because I wanted to give back something. Those people don’t even know me personally, they’re strangers to me even in the online world. I just got a thank you email from them.

    I did it because I felt like it was the right thing, my only motivation for doing it was a need to give something back.

    But that someone like me can do something so unselfish without expecting a reward is inconceivable to you right?

  23. Proton,

    I’m sad you see me that way, especially after all that we’ve discussed, but I guess it’s extremely hard for a Christian to imagine that someone can choose to behave morally out of genuine empathy and not out of divine fear.

    Why would you assume that you understand what motivates me as a Christian? I would strongly assure you that my empathy is my natural response to the love that God lavished on this world, providing me with forgiveness for all my shortcomings.

    - I don’t get brownie points (and I don’t want any).

    - I’m not afraid of punishment (I’m assured that Jesus already paid my penalty).

    - I don’t have empathy out of a sense of moral superiority simply because I’ve had to let go of any self-righteousness to receive God’s forgiveness.

    That makes Christians sad people somehow, for they’ll never now how it feels to have true, genuine and unconditional empathy for fellow human beings, one of the many gifts that comes with the understanding of the nature of choices.

    On what basis can you accuse me of not having “true, genuine, and unconditional empathy for fellow human beings”? How would you know?

    I don’t believe free will is false because it’s convenient for me (like Christians like to think), I believe so because I see people’s choices constrained by their circumstances everytime I look out to the world.

    Certainly people are influenced by their environment, both internal and external. But that does not excuse people from stealing from their boss, cheating on their exams, lying about other people, raping women, abusing children and so on. But I guess you disagree.

    You may call me inmoral, but out of the two of us, the one who can say that he truly feels empathy, undertanding and love for humanity, is me (unlike selfish Christians, who behave morally to save themselves first and help others second).

    Believe it or not, my being saved (being forgiven by God) has nothing to do with my behavior! This is the gift of God to anyone who doesn’t want to try to justify themselves anymore, and instead is willing to admit their total inadequacy and accept God’s mercy made possible by Jesus dying in their place. My accepting God’s mercy toward me, strongly motivates me to respond in kind.

    You’ve chosen for yourself what you consider moral, namely feeling empathy for people. And no big surprise, you pass with flying colors, especially because you’ve convinced yourself that you can’t be held responsible for anything you do. It’s all circumstances, remember?

    But think about this. If you have no free will, why do you feel motivated to try to justify yourself by arguing this point? Is it because you actually do have a choice? ;-)

  24. vj

    I am repeating my short comment #10 as I think it got lost among the longer ones.


    you link the soul/self to the left hemisphere – not the right. I am curious about the status of the right hemisphere. It is capable of quite complicated actions included simple language processing. It seems to be something way beyond involuntary actions such as breathing. Would you say it has free will? I suspect you will say not. But how can you tell? What does it lack that indicates it has not free will.

  25. 25

    There is no reason to see anything more going on then memory interference.
    imagination and memory can explain all split brain stuff.
    tHere is still just one soul. The soul only learnt the original identity.
    Saying one can’t invent a new identity, with conviction, is denying great actors getting deep into their characters.

  26. vjtorley @18 writes:

    In response to your question about the soul: you seem to be assuming the existence of a distinction between “mind” (nous) and “spirit” (pneuma) within the human person which I would regard as questionable, on both philosophical and Biblical grounds.

    Thank you for such a detailed response. However, most of it was about the meaning of “soul”, about which there are various view and various uses in Scripture. I knew that sometimes it is used in a more narrow sense that is in distinction to spirit (you give the primary examples) and at other times and by other writers in broader and more inclusive ways that are indistinguishable from spirit. As with words in English, it can have ranges and nuances of meaning and use that vary. The length of your discussion of “soul” only reveals the very reason why I said from the start that I consider the word “soul” to be unhelpful in its ambiguity. It can be used and is used in various ways, even within Scripture, whether narrow or broad.

    Therefore, I prefer to bypass the question of whether “soul” is or is not equivalent to “spirit” or to “mind” or is inclusive of both, or something else.

    Likewise, I consider the question of how many parts one can divide the human nature into as something of a red herring and unhelpful. (One can choose to inclusively refer to the whole of the incorporeal aspect, or two any number of finer distinctions.)

    Instead, I propose to focus on the one fact that mind and spirit are distinct. This is true regardless of whether one equates soul with mind or with spirit or with the whole or something else.

    I do not assume the distinction between mind and spirit, as you implied. I observe that Paul states it. It is, in fact, central to the point of his passage. He declares that when he (not God, but when he himself) speaks or sings in an unknown language, his spirit knows what his mind does not. The fact that the mind does not know is precisely what makes it speaking or singing in an unknown language. Yet, notice his repeated use of references to my spirit or your spirit.

    For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? –ESV, emphasis added

    You pointed out that the spirit of Jesus is divine and eternal. I completely agree, but this only underscores my point and my reason for bringing it up in the first place. The conscious human mind of Jesus was not eternal. It grew and developed as it does for any human. Jesus learned language as humans do. He consciously understood language with his mind, as Paul and other humans do. By stark contrast, the spirit of Jesus did not begin with the incarnation, as his human mind did.

    The spirit of Jesus did not need to learn in the way and manner that a human mind does and as the human mind of Jesus did. Yet, the spirit does have its own capacity of knowing (which is the same point that Paul was making).

    Thus, it is not possible for the eternal divine spirit of Jesus (i.e. God is spirit, cf. John 4:24) to be the same thing as the conscious human mind, even (or especially) in the case of Jesus.

    Mind and spirit cannot be the same. They are necessarily distinct. That is the distinction I propose would be helpful to discussions about such things as split brain experiments.

  27. @Querius:

    But think about this. If you have no free will, why do you feel motivated to try to justify yourself by arguing this point? Is it because you actually do have a choice? ;-)

    The problem is that you assume that “choosing = free will”, so no wonder you believe that free will is “obviously” true, because you’re assuming the conclusion from the start.

    But:

    Free choice = Free will.

    Constrained choice = NOT free will.

    Choices can exist and yet NOT be free (just feel like they’re free), so the existence of choices does not imply the existence of free will (something some people just don’t understand).

    Evidence suggests clearly that choices are not ultimately free because they’re always constrained. Believing that choices are not always constrained requires ignoring the evidence.

    Hence, because is convenient, free will advocates ignore the evidence.

  28. Proton writes,

    @Barb, maybe I let myself be a bit arrogant when dealing with irrational people, who knows.

    Who says I am irrational? You? The one who freely ignores evidence that contradicts his worldview?

    Your arrogance does you no favors.

    And for your question, yes, I’ve recently made some donations in fact. I run an online store, and many people have helped in the process of building it, so recently I donated part of my profits to them as a thank you gift. Nothing too big, but I did it because I wanted to give back something. Those people don’t even know me personally, they’re strangers to me even in the online world. I just got a thank you email from them.

    That’s pretty cool. What does your online store sell?

    I did it because I felt like it was the right thing, my only motivation for doing it was a need to give something back.

    That’s a perfectly normal, logical explanation. But why do you believe that no Christians would have the same motivations to give back? Why do you believe that all Christian giving is motivated by divine fear?

    But that someone like me can do something so unselfish without expecting a reward is inconceivable to you right?

    Actually, it’s not. But please continue making unwarranted assumptions without any facts.

  29. Hi VJ,

    What I find fascinating about the split-brain phenomena is how it helps us to understand how we were created in the image of God. We know that two of the Divine Persons are the Word and the Spirit, which seem to correspond to our left and right brains. In Genesis 1, the Divine Spirit hovers, waiting for the Divine Word to give direction.

    But now I’m wondering what part of us, if any, corresponds to the Father?

  30. Proton,

    The problem is that you assume that “choosing = free will”, so no wonder you believe that free will is “obviously” true, because you’re assuming the conclusion from the start.

    Not really.

    I was considering at the consequences of assuming the lack of free will, as defined and promoted by B.F. Skinner (Beyond Freedom and Dignity).

    However, you raise the point of limited “free will.” You assert that limitations on will amount to “not free” will. I wouldn’t go that far. We still call many countries in the world as “free,” but they still have laws.

    My definition of free will is the ability to choose. The degree to which those choices are internally constrained by non-volitional influences or factors seems to indicate a range rather than an all-or-nothing view of free will.

    Perhaps this perspective is the origin of the legal concept of temporary insanity. And that’s the subject of many courtroom debates.

  31. @Proton

    If free will was true, then there should be a 0% probability of guessing what choice a person would make in a certain situation, however that’s obviously not true, because we can see that in the same situation people tend to do one thing over another, and therefore we can predict how likely is certain individual to make certain choice under a specific situation.

    Wow, this has to go down as the most amusing and absurd quotes I have heard in a while. The fact that people are rational means that their actions are going to be predictable to a considerable extent – humans reason based on the knowledge available to them to achieve desired results. To have 0% probability of guessing what choice they will make (despite the fact that knowing possible choices means there will never be a 0% chance), means they would have to make entirely random choices based on their circumstance. Don’t you see how absurd this statement it?

    In fact, I can construct a computer program in just a few minutes that meets your criteria of free will – a random number generator associated with jump operation in a space of random op-codes. It should be obvious that such a program would not even possess ‘intelligence’, let alone free will. Predictability of actions is a sign of an intelligent agent where those actions are reasoned and goal oriented. In computer science we talk about heuristics, which are strategies for exploring search spaces that increase the probability of finding a desirable result. Human beings use heuristics all the time, which is why they are predictable. We are goal-oriented and inferring goals implies predictable actions.

    Oh BTW, as much as you believe that a person is predictable based on their circumstances there are always outliers.

    Sorry, but this one has to go on the list of dumb things atheists say..

  32. #31 LT

    Predictability of actions is a sign of an intelligent agent where those actions are reasoned and goal oriented.

    I agree with you that free will is compatible with predictability. Welcome to compatibilism.

  33. MF:

    Pardon, but compatibilism is a nice way of saying we are free save that we are not.

    Responsible and reasonable choice is choice, as anyone who has had to make serious 49.9/50.1% decisions with sobering consequences, will note — and I assure you on repeated experience, such decisions are NOT decided by flipping coins or the thrust of impulses; especially when they have a significant moral component. (Which so often forces us to go against the odds despite the very reasonable counsel of our fears. On that I keep going back in my mind’s eye to the perspective of a 2nd Lieutenant on the Somme on that first morning that is forever remembered as the worst day in the history of the British Army, and I am led to reflect on why one of Jamaica’s national heroes, Norman Manley, serving on that same Western Front [where, IIRC, he lost a brother], refused to go through promotion to that status.)

    Similarly, if we do not have significant and real freedom in making responsible choices, that even includes lack of freedom in reasoning and deciding. Which undermines ability to decide to follow a reasoned argument.

    That is, if — as evolutionary materialist ideology alleges — we are wholly programmed and controlled by blind forces of necessity and chance starting from Darwin’s warm pond and moving up to nature and nurture through genes, memes, impulses and more, we are inherently, inescapably irrational.

    So not even the ideology of evolutionary materialism, on such premises would be rationally arrived at.

    This whole view is, in short, self-refuting.

    Even in so-called compatibilist forms or emergentist forms.

    If we are reasonable and responsible creatures, and our direct self-experience and observations of one another, as well as thousands of years of culture stand in massive support of that, we are free, through of course subject to impulses, influences, errors and ill will, as well as moral struggle etc.

    We may not fully understand how that comes to be, but that is a requisite of that which we are all exercising here, freedom to think and decide.

    KF

    PS: On Split brains etc, I have already pointed out that it seems to me that Smith-type multi-level controller model architecture and severing of connexions normally present suffice to account in principle for the sort of patterns described and imagined by materialists to pose insuperable problems for non-materialistic views of man and mind. I would not like to see what would happen to a robot controller or a factory assembly line subjected to similar cuts or to triggering of random patterns based on noise propagation. The very presence of redundancies meant to lead to more robust control, under such circumstances, could prove devastating if a controller goes out of its programmed pattern. Loss of coordination and chaos are obvious consequences.

  34. PPS: Folks, it will help to remember that I would love to help design and build R Daneel Olivaw and kin, though I have doubts on positronic systems. I think the key issue is that as algorithmic controllers are equivalent to Turing machines, we have to move beyond algorithms. Maybe decision by internal committee governed by views, values and variable principles with considerable flexibility, are all involved in moving beyond the algorithmic. Asimov’s hint of that in his three laws of Robotics, may be a good start point for onward thought. Maybe the exposed internal debates we see in split brain patients and the metaphor for doubts and fears of being in two minds, is trying to tell us something. But, how do we create UNDERSTANDING and broad applicability in flexible ways of principles, not just rules? That sounds to me like moving towards analogue things by Zadehan fuzzy-sets and the like, triggering crisp actions on balanced internal debates. [But not merely mechanistically.] Or, am I the only one here who feels like sometimes he carries a whole parliament in his head and heart? KF

  35. #32 Mark Frank
    So if I understand compatibilism correctly in terms of an agent system, a human agent has “”free-will”" regarding the execution of goal oriented behaviour (can select from a variety of possible goal oriented behaviours), but their motivation (goals) are determined?

    I think Mark has just identified himself as a chat-bot agent. I wonder if UD has a policy against chat-bots posting in the forum.?
    :)

  36. #35 LT

    So if I understand compatibilism correctly in terms of an agent system, a human agent has “”free-will”” regarding the execution of goal oriented behaviour (can select from a variety of possible goal oriented behaviours), but their motivation (goals) are determined?

    I am not sure if you are being ironic or really don’t understand compatibilism. The point about compatibilism is that acting to achieve your goals is free in any meaningful sense of the word. In this sense your goals also determine what you will do and that is not a problem. Those goals will in turn be determined by your desires, circumstances etc – again not a problem for free will.

  37. KF:

    I would just like to extend my best wishes for you and your family at this time. Please keep up informed of the situation.

    ~jerad

  38. Querius:

    My definition of free will is the ability to choose. The degree to which those choices are internally constrained by non-volitional influences or factors seems to indicate a range rather than an all-or-nothing view of free will.

    My point is that YOU decided what “your definition” of free will is. Under the definition “free will is the ability to choose”, then obviously ALL human experience is evidence of free will. But’s that because you assume free will = any form of choosing” from the start. Please don’t do a “Barb”…

    Free will, in it’s correct definition, means to be able to choose WITHOUT any external constraint.

    So “free will” is NOT “to choose”. Free will is “to choose without any external constraint”. So your definition is wrong, and therefore any argument based on it is also wrong.

    If we define “free will” correctly as “to choose without any external constraint“, then evidence clearly implies that free will is false, because choices are known to be constrained by people’s backgrounds.

    Which leads me to my next point:

    @LT says:

    The fact that people are rational means that their actions are going to be predictable to a considerable extent – humans reason based on the knowledge available to them to achieve desired results.

    Your argument helps my point. Think a bit a harder about what you said: If people’s actions are predictable to a considerable extent, then you mean that their choices (to do such actions) are preditable to a considerable extent, which is to say that free will is FALSE to a considerable extent.

    Which means you agree that there is a REAL correlation between backgrounds and choices, and such correlation is the RULE fo the game “to a considerable extent”. Good to know we agree on that.

    What? There are EXCEPTIONS to that correlation that prove free choice is still true?

    Well, we face a dilemma and there are two ways to look at it:

    1) MY view: Those “exceptions” are not really exceptions. Those “exceptions” just appear in the data because we don’t know ALL of someone’s background, which means there could be other before unknown factors involved in the person’s background that produced the apparent “exception”. Such factors can even be further investigated with forensic precision, discovered, and account for the choices, leading finally to the conclusion that those exceptions weren’t really exceptions at all.
    2) Free will advocates view: Those exceptions are the product of free will, NOT a lack of information about the person’s background.

    One has to make a decision on which option to pick: 1) or 2). But considering the predominant evidence that backgrounds constrain choices to a considerable extent (as you LT say), option 1) is the rational one.

    Choosing option 2) is ILLOGICAL, because it contradicts the predominant evidence. NOT ONLY THAT, but option 1) can increase it’s validity even more by further investigation of the person’s background to find empirical evidence that their choices were constrained by factores previously unknown.

    All of this means that not only a correlation is HIGH implying that free will is false (which on itself can be used as strong supporting evidence that exceptions to the correlation are not really exceptions), but also that exceptions to the correlation can be INVESTIGATED to reduce or eliminate them to the point of making any argument for free will from them useless in the face of the huge amount of evidence against it.

    This is just a normal forensic exercise of following empirical evidence.

    As a summary:

    1) Vast amounts of evidence exist of a correlation between background and choices.

    2) Such correlation implies the falsehood of free will.

    3) Exceptions to the correlation can be used as an argument against 2).

    4) However, an argument from exceptions is extremely weak. Reasons:
    —4.A) Exceptions can be an artifact of incomplete data. Therefore, they can’t be relied on as evidence as they could be false (unexistent). Not only that, they actually CAN be investigated to prove so.
    —4.B) The amount of evidence that backgrounds constrain choices is so paramount that it’s useless to rely on possibly false exceptions anyway.

    So, I conclude again: It’s irrational to believe in free will (in “the ability to make choices without any external constraint”).

    We feel free to make choices because we CAN’T perceive the presence of ALL the factors that constrain our choices. That’s why in our head we feel our decisions are ours, even if they are predetermined.

    Can Christians really assure me that when they FEEL they’re making a free choice they’re not missing a mountain of unperceivable factors that lead them to that choice? Can they truly be sure that their choices are free other than because of blind faith?

    I’m not an atheist by the way LT.

  39. Proton,

    It seems to me that you’re going in a circle.

    1. I understood what you were asserting. Really.

    2. My point was that your definition is too restrictive. I cited examples from Chaos theory.

    3. Your counterargument was to point out that my definition was my own invention (however, yours is apparently immutable). You didn’t address the challenge from Chaos theory, which has been demonstrated in many scientific disciplines, and then you proceeded to restate your original assertion.

    4. Rinse and repeat.

    Vast amounts of evidence exist of a correlation between background and choices.

    Citation needed. Not one example was forthcoming from you, not even the infamous “Jukes” family study. You assert a 100% correlation, which is unlikely, given that even things like cigarette smoking and lung cancer don’t have a 100% correlation. For example, a 50-year study in the UK (cancerresearchuk.org) indicates that 75-year old men who are current smokers have a cumulative risk of developing lung cancer of . . . [drum roll] . . . 16%. So how much less likely is a 100% correlation between external stimulii or “constraints,” and the behavioral choices made.

    Finally, putting the cherry on top, you seem to assert that exceptions apparently cannot falsify your position.

    What can I say? If you’re so determined to believe in the non-existance of free will, fine. At least read B.F. Skinner’s book to make stronger arguments.

  40. #38 Proton
    I’m surprised you would continue to argue such an absurd argument. Ok let’s presume that correlation implies lack of free will and set up an experiment to prove it: I will line up 100 people and drive my car towards them at high speed. They have 2 choices – to move and live or stay and die. According to you view the fact that all moved out of the way implies they had no free will in the matter (since we could predict it with 100% accuracy), and if they truly had free will their choice would be entirely unpredictable. The fact that humans are intelligent agents REQUIRES that their actions be predictable by other intelligent agents – it’s a property of intelligence to act rationally. Surely you can understand that?! The capacity of free will resides in the fact that if I so choose I can override such behaviour. Right now I think you should exercise your free will and stop posting embarrassing arguments.

  41. 41

    ericb:

    Thank you so very much for pointing out the 1 Cor. 14 passage. That is such an important passage for this discussion not just because it distinguishes between the mind and the spirit, but also because it suggests the role of the mind in communication with man and the role of the spirit as communication with God. The doctrine of the Trinity combined with the doctrine of imago dei to me suggests a tripartite man in the image of a tripartite God. The “soul” is a less technical word referring to the whole person. The three parts I see are spirit, mind, and body in the order of their hierarchical priority. There is lots of Biblical evidence for this view that has not been mentioned here, for instance:

    Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

    Romans 12:1-2 (NASB)

    There you have body, mind and the human will in Christ-like, free submission to God’s will.

    I have written a brief summation of what I think on this here: http://amishmashpaddywhack.blo.....ysics.html

    Also thank you VJ for the very interesting post. I think though that the modern understanding of the brain’s hierarchy has identified the neocortex as the top of the pyramid. The neocortex is a lining of cells all around the brain, both right and left hemispheres. I am not at this time venturing a guess as to what that means for split brain patients or if the neocortex is the sole part of the brain which interacts with the will/spirit. But once again, a very interesting and thoughtful post from probably my favorite poster at UD.

  42. @Querius:

    Thanks for the reply.

    You didn’t address the challenge from Chaos theory, which has been demonstrated in many scientific disciplines

    But chaos theory actually proves my point Querius… Chaotic systems are still predetermined, only that they’re highly sensitive to initial conditions, making them highly unpredictable if there’s a lack of precision in the approximation of the present conditions. This doesn’t prove my argument wrong in any way. Actually, chaos theory is still a materialistic theory, so it helps my point. Why do you even use it to try to prove free will?

    Also, even if choices are the result of a chaotic dynamic, that still proves my point, because that means they’re still predetermined. Being chaotic would only mean that it’s hard to predict a choice unless the initial conditions are precisely determined. But choices are STILL determined, being hard to predict (in this scenario, not in reality) doesn’t change that fact!

    Citation needed.

    I tried to find online sources with statistics, but such type of information is hard to locate or is not even indexed. However, I guess that this is not needed. No one disagrees with the correlation I base my arguments on, most of you base on the exceptions of such correlation.

    But as an example, think about the amount of global surveys on any imaginable human topic that includes behaviour, beliefs or opinion. You’ll see then that people from different countries/cultures think differently about the same topics. This is classic and obvious evidence of how our backgrounds (in this case country and/or culture) determine our choices.

    you seem to assert that exceptions apparently cannot falsify your position.

    I explain here why such “exceptions” are really an artifact of the experiments, and NOT REAL, and therefore are useless to the case for free will.

    Your counterargument was to point out that my definition was my own invention (however, yours is apparently immutable).

    Free will according to some dictionaries:

    “the power of making free choices that are unconstrained by external circumstances or by an agency such as fate or divine will.”

    “freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention.”

    “the ability to make choices without any prior prejudice, inclination, or disposition.”

    You see that there’s a DIFFERENCE between “making a choice” and “making a choice unconstrained by external factors/prior causes”

    So yes, your definition of free will was wrong, because “free will” is NOT the same as just “making a choice”. We DO make choices that are not free. A choice has to be unconstrained to be truly free, and my whole argument explains why choices are ALWAYS constrained, making free will, as defined in the three examples above, false.

  43. @LT

    They one making embarrasing arguments is yourself. My argument is correct, if free will is true, then there should be a 0% correlation between backgrounds and choices, meaning, humans should be completely unpredictable.

    When you claim that we ARE predictable because we can reason, you’re falling in your own trap and contradicting yourself, look:

    The capacity of free will resides in the fact that if I so choose I can override such behaviour

    What you don’t understand is that evidence points to the fact that “OVERRIDING” any predetermined behaviour is an illusion, because you were predetermined to do so from the start. Underlying conditionings that you can’t notice caused a chain of events that originated the overriding of certain behaviour, so your choice was still predetermined.

    The fact remains that for choices to be truly free, the correlation between background and choices should be unexistent even on paper. Statistical experiments regarding behaviour/opinions/beliefs should be totally inconclusive. However this is not the case.

    If you are ultimately predictable, then you’re not truly free. Do you realize that?

    Hence, free will is false.

  44. 44

    if free will is true, then there should be a 0% correlation between backgrounds and choices

    It’s unfortunate you have so much invested in your argument. If you ask a man would he rather have the fish or the meatloaf, he must answer in something he is unaware of – or free will is false.

    Why the man cannot freely choose among the choices he is aware of – one does not say. Presumably, the answer would gum up the clarity of your argument.

  45. Proton,

    Also, even if choices are the result of a chaotic dynamic, that still proves my point, because that means they’re still predetermined. Being chaotic would only mean that it’s hard to predict a choice unless the initial conditions are precisely determined.

    You’re starting to understand more about Chaos, but you’re missing this: there is no way to determine the initial conditions precisely. Chaos lies between deterministic at one extreme and random events at the other.

    Here’s the other point you’re missing: you will have non-predictable chaotic events if God and free will don’t exist . . . BUT . . . you will not be able to tell whether God or free will are tweaking the results if they do exist!

    Your fanatically strict interpretation of the popular definitions of “free will” simply defines free will out of existence. For example, I can argue that there’s no such thing as pure water using the same approach (don’t forget about ions and dissolved gases in even the purest H2O).

    As I’ve mentioned before, what you’re trying to argue is Skinnerian behaviorism, which asserts that humans are no more than programmable animals, and that they are “beyond freedom and dignity.” He used that as his premise for an educational philosophy, which didn’t work very well in practice IMHO.

    Ok, I’ll resort to the Princess Bride method. If Wesley was “mostly dead”, it meant he was partly alive, not dead dead.

    So, yes. We’re all influenced by our environment. But that just means we’re mostly free and partly influenced. Mostly free is not the same as coerced and not free at all.

    But go ahead and read Skinner if you want to follow the programmed animal path.

  46. @Proton

    if free will is true, then there should be a 0% correlation between backgrounds and choices

    First of all this statement isn’t even technically correct even presuming your argument were true – in a scenario of n choices, even a random guess would have 1/n% chance of being correct.

    Your argument has so far gone something like:
    1. Predictability of choice implies lack of free will
    2. Humans are predictable based on knowledge of their background
    3. Therefore humans have no free will

    I demonstrated an instance in which 1 was contradicted due to the existence of other factors such as rationality. Since universal quantification can be falsified by a single counter-example (and you framed your argument as a universal), your argument in its original form is falsified. You could have modified your argument to claim to predictability of choice CAN imply lack of free will (existential quantification), but I think you realise that makes for a weak argument. Instead you have taken the strategy of 1) denial and avoidance by not directly addressing my refutations and counter-examples, and 2) assuming the consequent when the conditional has been refuted.
    You have actually made two different arguments: firstly that every decision a person makes is determined based on historical factors (presumably such that if we knew all variables we could predict their behaviour with certainty), and secondly that predictability of actions necessarily implies this. I didn’t directly address the first argument, just your use of the second as evidence for the first, which is clearly false. If you really want to continue arguing the first I’d suggest you review what evidence you use, because your current argument is incoherent.
    Regarding whether a persons actions are predetermined (as a stand-alone argument), I think there is good evidence from quantum-physics that affirms the free-will argument. Unfortunately you haven’t provided any coherent argument against free-will. If you really want to be taken seriously I suggest you take a formal logic class.
    In the mean time, I will be stepping out of this conversation because I am travelling for the next 10 days. Good day to you.

  47. Upright Biped:

    Why the man cannot freely choose among the choices he is aware of – one does not say. Presumably, the answer would gum up the clarity of your argument

    The “reasoning” behind the person’s choice is predetermined, so it’s not free.

    Free will is not just “the ability to make choices”, free will is “the ability to make choices UNCONSTRAINED by external factors”. Reasoning, which is the source of the choice, IS constrained by external factors (the background) therefore choices are constrained, even if they look like they’re not. Therefore free will is false.

    Saying that free will is true because “people can choose between A and B” just shows ignorance about the very definition of free will.

    Just because you “feel” that your choices are free doesn’t mean they’re are, it just means that you’re consciously UNAWARE of the underlying factors that are constraining your choices.

  48. Querius:

    You don’t deny the validity of my argument, you just think that the evidence that supports my argument can’t be conclusive because we can’t know exactly all the initial conditions.

    However, that’s a kind of “grasping at straws” position. Even if we can’t know 100% of someone’s backgrund (and so determine exactly which factors caused a choice), we can still see that, from the data we CAN know, choices ARE constrained by the background to a considerable extent.

    You tried to minimize it by claiming that in reality we re influence only “in part”, as here:

    We’re all influenced by our environment. But that just means we’re mostly free and partly influenced. Mostly free is not the same as coerced and not free at all.

    But of course that’s false, evidence doesn’t indicate that we’re influence only in “part”, but MOST of the time.

    So what I argument really is that:
    -Given that evidence points to the fact that choices are constrained MOST of the time, then it’s rational to believe that choices are constrained ALL the time, and that small fraction of choices that seem exceptions are only an artifact of a flawed data recolletion, NOT “free will”.

    So even if you claim that exceptions are examples of free will (which can’t be proved), you’d still have to admit that MOST of the time choices are not free.

    The odds are bad for free will even if exceptions are hard to be accounted for, but in practice exceptions can be reduced dramatically by further investigation of someone’s background, leaving free will outside of empirical evidence almost completely.

    I might not prove free will is false with 100% certainty (maybe with 99.9%), but free will has a hopeless position nonetheless and common sense dictates we shouldn’t believe in things that are highly likely to be unexistent.

  49. 49

    Free will is not just “the ability to make choices”, free will is “the ability to make choices UNCONSTRAINED by external factors”.

    Reasoning, which is the source of the choice, IS constrained by external factors (the background) therefore choices are constrained, even if they look like they’re not. Therefore free will is false.

    If reasoning among alternatives falsifies free will because the chooser would exist with an external factor (a background) on which to contemplate a choice, then the only way free will is actually free is to be a chooser that does not exist and therefore has no external factor (no background) on which to reason.

    Thanks for playing.

  50. Upright BiPed:

    The only way free will is actually free is to be a chooser that does not exist and therefore has no external factor (no background) on which to reason.

    You’re absolutely right, it’s absurd. That’s exactly why free will doesn’t exist (there are NO choices that are unconstrained).

    It’s like you agree with my argument, but didn’t realize yet that it means free will is false.

    I wonder when it’ll hit you…

  51. Hi Mark Frank,

    Sorry for not getting back to you sooner. Here’s my answer to your question:

    You link the soul/self to the left hemisphere – not the right. I am curious about the status of the right hemisphere. It is capable of quite complicated actions including simple language processing. It seems to be something way beyond involuntary actions such as breathing. Would you say it has free will? I suspect you will say not. But how can you tell? What does it lack that indicates it has not free will.

    I would answer that in individuals whose left brain is dominant, the right hemisphere, while capable of some degree of self-consciousness, as Eccles acknowledged, is nevertheless incapable of free will, because it is incapable of expressing itself in even simple propositions and therefore incapable of language in the true sense of the word. If an entity is by nature incapable of answering the question, “Why did you do that?” then we do not call its actions free. I hope that answers your question.

  52. #51 So a baby does not have free will?

  53. 53

    You’re absolutely right, it’s absurd. That’s exactly why free will doesn’t exist (there are NO choices that are unconstrained).

    So you apparently believe (obviously very strongly) that the unresolved philosophical debate over ‘free will’ isn’t really about whether or not the mind is free from pure physical determinism. Instead, it’s about a definition which cannot exist even in principle. And instead of questioning your own idiosyncratic understanding of the issues, you deem all of those who came before you as arguing in the “absurd”.

    That’s all very interesting. It obviously has never occurred to you that those who argued before you were not so impoverished that they’d argue over something impossible by definition

    Now, you’ll have to excuse me. I did not realize who I was talking to.

  54. VJT:

    I am aware that there are some Christians who espouse a tripartite division of the human being into body, soul and spirit. However, the Scriptural evidence adduced to support this view is extremely slim: usually it rests on nothing more than an appeal to 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (“May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”) and Hebrews 4:12 (“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”)

    I tend to lean toward a tripartite division, but I do so primarily because a triune God said, “Let us make man in our image.”

    I think ericB makes a good case for Scriptural support of a mind/spirit distinction, and tragic mishap’s body/mind/spirit formulation seems quite plausible to me. I don’t tend to think of this as a denial of dualism, but as an extension of it, since we can still speak in terms of the material and immaterial.

    I think there could be some interesting parallels between the unity and interaction between members of the Trinity and the unity and interaction between various parts of a tripartite human. When materialists question how an immaterial mind can interact with a material body, for instance, I’m tempted to answer, “Perhaps in the same way the Father has always been able to interact with the Son.” This isn’t to say that the analogy is perfect, however, since I don’t believe each human is somehow three persons in one.

    Though not explicitly named such, I believe the Bible teaches pretty clearly about the salvation, sanctification, and glorification of man, which, again, maps rather nicely to a tripartite human consisting of spirit, mind, and body.

    In any case, though I am certainly not going to claim it should be dogma, I don’t think tripartite notions should be dismissed so readily or thoughtlessly. But again, neither do I think they undermine the main points you’ve been making.

  55. Hi Proton,

    You argue that free will is “the ability to make choices UNCONSTRAINED by external factors.” Please define what you mean by a constraint.

    Do you mean absence of limitations? Are you saying that the only free will is a will that can choose absolutely anything? By that definition, even the dictator of the world (if there were one) would not be free: he would still limited by gravity.

    Or do you mean absence of control? In that case, the chess analogy I mentioned in a comment on another thread comes into play: the rules of the game constrain the movements of the players, but do not determine which way they will move.

    You write that “there’s an obvious correlation between people’s backgrounds/circumstances and their choices, which implies that choices are not ultimately free.” All it proves is that people’s backgrounds/circumstances are a causal factor in people’s choices. But causality isn’t the same thing as control.

  56. Hi Bilbo I and Phinehas,

    Thank you for your comments, and my sincere apologies for not getting back to you earlier, Bilbo. Very briefly: different theologians have found different images of the Trinity in man. My own view (which is heavily influenced by Augustine) is that God the Father corresponds to the mind, God the Son corresponds to its concept of itself, and God the Holy Spirit corresponds to its love of itself. I don’t think the Trinity maps onto the different parts of man (e.g. body/mind/spirit) because these parts are not all equal, whereas the Three Divine Persons are.

  57. Upright BiPed you’re getting it all wrong, and that’s because you jumped into the debate without reading the previous comments.

    The definition of free will is NOT under discussion. Free will is “the ability to make choices without any constrain from external causes”. It’s the definition you find in online dictionaries.

    My argument is based on a vast amount empirical evidence (for example, global surveys on human behaviour, besides common sense observation) that gives clear indication of a correlation between backgrounds and choices, meaning, choice constrainment is “the rule” of the world, which puts in serious doubt whether a choice without constrainment can even exist on principle.

    But because the relationship between backgrounds and choices resembles a chaotic system, it’s hard to determine with 100% accuracy the origin of a choice (generating apparent “exceptions” to the rule), even if a higher level correlation exists indicating that such exceptions are not real.

    Free will advocates take advantage of this “technical problem” and try to sustain that the existence of those exceptions prove free will is true, or that even if free will is false, we can’t prove it.

    But the technical problem of the “accuracy” is not unresolvable, because deep investigation of people’s background can eliminate such apparent exceptions and end for good the idea that a choice can exist without constrainment (free will advocates will fear the day such investigations are held in an experiment on sources of behaviour).

    In any case, given the overwhelming evidence supporting the constrainment of the majority or even all choices, any position in favour of free will begs the question and depends on a “grasping at straws” position, namely, they must believe that if we look close enough to people’s backgrounds, then we will find “certain” choices (the imaginary exceptions) that were not constrained by apparantly anything, which goes against common sense and it’s a belief based on nothing but an a priori assumption that free will exists.

    Free will is like evolution, the only reason to believe in it is a prior commitment to it’s existence, and you must close your eyes to the evidence in order to keep sustaining that belief.

  58. Proton,

    You don’t deny the validity of my argument, you just think that the evidence that supports my argument can’t be conclusive because we can’t know exactly all the initial conditions.

    Yes, I deny the validity of your argument for that reason.

    However, that’s a kind of “grasping at straws” position.

    Not at all. It’s called Chaos theory. Proton it has been demonstrated scientifically many times! Please do yourself a favor and read up on it.

    You can still argue behaviorim along the lines of B.F. Skinner. At least do so from an informed position. And it’s still inconclusive, although Chaos theory puts a big hole in the position.

    Here let me help you argue. “If the weather is as unpredictable as scientists now believe, how would you know that weather doesn’t have free will.”

    See isn’t that better? ;-)

    Here’s a test for you. Do you believe that there is such a thing as “pure water”?

  59. Upright BiPed, Phinehas, and vjtorley . . .

    Very nicely articulated arguments! My hat’s off to you. :-)

    I would also say that while I believe in the tripartite nature of human beings, as far as I know, this is not something that can be proved scientifically, and probably gets more complex as we learn any details.

    Oh, and sorry aout the messed up formatting in my previous post. The first and third paragraphs quote Proton’s incomprehension of Chaos. Oh well.

    Let’s see whether he equivocates on the existence of “pure water”. ;-)

  60. @vjtorley

    Do you mean absence of limitations? Are you saying that the only free will is a will that can choose absolutely anything?

    Absolutely not, I never proposed such scenario.

    Or do you mean absence of control? In that case, the chess analogy I mentioned in a comment on another thread comes into play: the rules of the game constrain the movements of the players, but do not determine which way they will move.

    This analogy doesn’t represent a different scenario than the one with limitations you talked about above, and doesn’t deal with my argument. Constrainment by external causes means constrainment by the person’s background. Of course we are constrained by law, but law is something we can know. But we can be constrained by things we don’t know about, and therefore things that escape our reasoning even if they are responsible for the ultimate outcome of our choice.

    Please define what you mean by a constraint.

    Anything that is part of someone’s background. Genes, culture, personality traits, health, childhood experiences, parents’ jobs, relationship with siblings, former friends, ego, bad memories, etc etc. Constraints are basically anything that sets the path of our choices to an ultimately predetermined outcome, whether we are consciously aware of such set of constraints or not.

    When you make a choice, can you be absolutely certain that there are no underlying factors constraining it? Even if you feel that your choice is free because you can be conscious of you making it, can you be sure that you’re not being constrained by a something so sutil that you can’t perceive it consciously?

    My guess is you can’t. In such scenario, we should rely in what evidence tells us to decide what’s the most probable scenario (are we constrained or not by our backgrounds?). And the most probable scenario is that we are in fact constrained at least most of the time, if not all the time, because that’s what evidence says.

  61. vj

    vj #51 wrote

    the right hemisphere, while capable of some degree of self-consciousness, as Eccles acknowledged, is nevertheless incapable of free will, because it is incapable of expressing itself in even simple propositions and therefore incapable of language in the true sense of the word. If an entity is by nature incapable of answering the question, “Why did you do that?” then we do not call its actions free. I hope that answers your question.

    It is quite interesting. I am not sure when something is incapable of answering the question “Why did you do that?” “by nature” and when it just can’t answer it. But presumably this means you do not allow free will to animals, new born babies, or anyone sufficiently mentally disabled they are not able to articulate propositions. The interesting thing is that babies do not suddenly become able to answer the question “why did I do that?”. They work up to it gradually from “I was angry” or “I wanted the toy” which are reflections on what were spur of the moment decisions to much more subtle and considered alternatives. This indicates that free will, as defined this way, is a matter of degree. Is that right?

  62. vj

    vj #51 wrote

    the right hemisphere, while capable of some degree of self-consciousness, as Eccles acknowledged, is nevertheless incapable of free will, because it is incapable of expressing itself in even simple propositions and therefore incapable of language in the true sense of the word. If an entity is by nature incapable of answering the question, “Why did you do that?” then we do not call its actions free. I hope that answers your question.

    It is quite interesting. I am not sure when something is incapable of answering the question “Why did you do that?” “by nature” and when it just can’t answer it. But presumably this means you do not allow free will to animals, new born babies, or anyone sufficiently mentally disabled they are not able to articulate propositions. The interesting thing is that babies do not suddenly become able to answer the question “why did I do that?”. They work up to it gradually from “I was angry” or “I wanted the toy” which are reflections on what were spur of the moment decisions to much more subtle and considered alternatives. This indicates that free will, as defined this way, is a matter of degree. Is that right?

  63. Querius:

    Chaos theory isn’t doing you any favors. It’s a materialistic theory. And if you say that the correlation between backgrounds and choices corresponds to a chaotic system, then you’re admitting that choices are predetermined.

    There’s a difference between “predetermined” and “unpredictable”. Chaotic systems are predetermined even if they’re unpredictable.

    Choices might be unpredictable depending of the scenario (however a higher level correlation indicates that they’re predictable to a large extent), and still be PREDETERMINED. Actually, the very fact that they’re a chaotic system indicates predetermination!

    Keeping the chaos theory in the argument just helps me because it implies the materialistic and deterministic nature of choices.

    In fact, thanks to you I discovered that the chaos theory can be used as an argument against free will (because it helps to make clear the difference between unpredictability and determination, something that some people here tried to use), so thank you for that.

  64. Proton

    There’s a difference between “predetermined” and “unpredictable”. Chaotic systems are predetermined even if they’re unpredictable.

    Not necessarily. Non-linear systems can be both stochastic and non-stochastic.

  65. I meant can be either stochastic or non-stochastic. Inadvertently violated the LNC there :)

  66. tragic mishap @41, I’m glad you find the distinction between mind and spirit helpful.

    I’ve found that whenever someone has difficulty with the Christian position that Jesus was simultaneously both fully human and fully God (e.g. Nicene Creed), their questions and difficulties are easily answered once one takes into account the difference between mind and spirit.

    Since all humans have both a mind (nous) and a spirit (pneuma), therefore to be fully human, Jesus also necessarily had a conscious human mind as well as a spirit. His human mind had the same capabilities and limitations as other human minds. (He needed to learn, including learning to speak language. He slept. His human mind was, of itself, not omniscient. And so on.)

    His spirit, on the other hand, has always been divine and eternal (e.g. John 1:1-18; 8:56-58, etc.), being forever in communion with the Father and with the Advocate/Helper (Greek paraclete, i.e. the Holy Spirit).

    By contrast for all other humans, our spirits are neither divine nor eternal and have a beginning. For example, Jesus could not have said, “Before Abraham was, I Am.”, if it were not also true that Abraham had a beginning, including for his spirit.

  67. Phineas @54 writes:

    I think ericB makes a good case for Scriptural support of a mind/spirit distinction, and tragic mishap’s body/mind/spirit formulation seems quite plausible to me. I don’t tend to think of this as a denial of dualism, but as an extension of it, since we can still speak in terms of the material and immaterial.

    Exactly so. When trying to count the number of “parts” to a human, it’s a flexible matter that depends on resolution, i.e. groupings or distinctions. Some references in Scripture refer to the immaterial aspect of man collectively and inclusively.

    Meanwhile, as Dr. Torley correctly pointed out @18, other passages may make descriptions that go as far at least a four-fold distinction.

    It’s not a matter of saying there is only one way to cut up a human being in terms of parts. (We could raise the same questions about how many physical parts the one material body could be expressed as. Different resolutions would give different counts.)

    What matters for many practical considerations — including the questions raised by this column about split-brain cases — is that the human mind and the human spirit are not synonyms. They are distinct, even if one could justifiably use the word “soul” to refer to either or both.

  68. Hi Mark Frank,

    Thank you for your post. In my previous post, I wrote: “If an entity is by nature incapable of answering the question, ‘Why did you do that?’ then we do not call its actions free.” I placed the words “by nature” in italics for a reason.

    A newborn baby has the same nature as a rational adult: the only difference is that its genetic program is at an earlier stage. But the genetic program is up and running, nevertheless, and if the baby grows up in a suitable environment, the baby’s genetic program will see to it that the baby acquires language, and with it, the ability to answer questions like “Why did you do that?”, while retaining its individual identity throughout.

    By contrast, in a left-brain dominant person, their right hemisphere will never acquire the ability to answer questions like “Why did you do that?” and give an account of its actions. In order to acquire that ability, it would have to be re-engineered into a left hemisphere – in other words, it would have to lose its identity.

    Can we legitimately speak of a newborn baby (or for that matter an embryo) as rational from the get-go? Indeed we can. A substance dualist could say: if the soul or self is present from day one, then rationality is present from the beginning, even if the body attached to that soul is not yet sufficiently developed for the soul to (a) acquire all the information necessary for it to figure out the rules of a language (a newborn baby needs to be exposed to over 10 million words before it can figure out how to make the sentences required for even minimal rational discourse), and (b) physically express what it has figured out (it’s pretty hard to talk without teeth, for instance). A body control dualist would argue along similar lines, except that he/she does not view the body as a distinct entity from the soul. Both a body control dualist and a formal-final dualist would add that the built-in goals that characterize a human being are the same in the baby (or embryo) and in a human adult, and that the exercise of practical reason is one of those built-in goals. Even a materialist could concur with this last point, as I argued in my online book, Embryo and Einstein – Why They’re Equal (written a couple of years ago).

    As far as the exercise of free will is concerned, I would say that a child of about three exercises free will sometimes, to the extent that it is capable of justifying its actions. Is there a “magic moment” at which it is first exercised? In order to answer that question, you’d need to be able to track what goes on in a child’s brain as it makes a decision, see which areas light up and compare the pattern with that of a rational adult making a similar decision. There is almost certainly a distinctive pattern of brain activity that would enable an observer who saw it to conclude that the possessor of that brain is currently cogitating, as opposed to merely imagining or remembering (say). (A dualist can happily affirm this point, too.) Thus there might well turn out to be a first moment at which that pattern is manifested in a baby’s brain.

  69. Does anyone believe in the type of soul that keiths refers to?

  70. ericB,

    Thank you for your post. Your claim that Jesus’ Spirit was Divine and eternal but the spirit of other human beings has a beginning in time, raises some rather troubling theological questions. Perhaps I’m badly misreading you, but your view sounds a little like that of Apollinaris of Laodicea in the forth century, who taught that in Christ the human spirit was replaced by pure, divine Logos.

    If Jesus was fully human as well as fully Divine, then He must have possessed human nature in all its fullness. As St. Athanasius put it, “That which He did not assume, He did not redeem.” That means He must have possessed human nature in all its parts. If the spirit (as opposed to the mind) is part of the nature of a normal human being, then Jesus must have had a human spirit as well. In that case, if one accepted a body/soul/spirit trichotomy in man, then it would be better to say that Jesus has two spirits – a Divine spirit that is eternal, and a human spirit that has a beginning.

    In any case, whether one accepts a bipartite, tripartite or quadripartite account of man, it is important for Christians to hang onto the truth that Jesus is a Divine Person as well as the truth that He possesses human nature in all its fullness. Cheers.

  71. Proton,

    Thank you for your post. When I asked you to define a constraint, you wrote:

    Anything that is part of someone’s background. Genes, culture, personality traits, health, childhood experiences, parents’ jobs, relationship with siblings, former friends, ego, bad memories, etc etc. Constraints are basically anything that sets the path of our choices to an ultimately predetermined outcome, whether we are consciously aware of such set of constraints or not.

    I see two definitions here, which I’ve italicized. It seems to me that they are non-equivalent: something can be part of someone’s background without necessarily determining that person’s choices, either by itself or in conjunction with other causes.

    I’d say there’s plenty of observational evidence for your first definition of “constraint,” and none for the second definition, in human beings.

  72. vj #68

    I don’t think this “by nature” concept really stands up. A newly fertilised egg has a genetic programme that means that one day it will (with luck) be able answer questions about why it did things. In fact it may lead to more than one such thing. Does that mean a single cell has free will while a say a dog does not? Meanwhile just occasionally the right hemisphere may develop left-hemisphere language skills which means it will be able to answer the question.

    More strangely you seem to be saying the question of whether something has free will or not depends on its linguistic performance or potential for linguistic performance – an externally observable characteristic. This opens up the usual issues that we should soon be able to programme computers to answer questions about why they made decisions (in fact we already can in a limited way e.g. medical diagnostic systems). I always thought that libertarian free will was a characteristic about the nature of decisions which only the decided could finally tell whether they had it (I admit I have no idea what that characteristic is)

  73. I say:

    There’s a difference between “predetermined” and “unpredictable”. Chaotic systems are predetermined even if they’re unpredictable.

    Lizzie says:

    Not necessarily. Non-linear systems can be both stochastic and non-stochastic.

    But classical chaos (the one under discussion) happens to be non-stochastic, so it IS predetermined.

    If the relationship between backgrounds and choices are an example of a chaotic system, then they’re predetermined, and so free will is false.

  74. @vjtorley

    I’d say there’s plenty of observational evidence for your first definition of “constraint” (anything part of someone’s background), and none for the second definition (anything that sets the path of our choices to an ultimately predetermined outcome), in human beings

    I don’t understand why you say that there’s plenty of observational evidence for the first one and not for the second one.

    Constraints are not a “force” that pushes you to a certain choice but were you ultimately have the final say (free will). Constraints are embedded in the very reasoning behind a choice. They don’t “force us” to do something and then we can reason out of such force, they are WITHIN the very choice making process. In other words, we can’t escape from our constraints with reasoning because our reasoning was built with them inside.

    That’s why our constraints are mostly invisible to us when we’re trying to reason regarding a choice, and that’s because our constraints are part of the reasoning itself.

    In fact, without a background, a life experience, we wouldn’t have reasoning at all. We can reason because we have a background on which we built such reasoning. That’s why no two people reason identically.

    If to make choices we need to reason, and our reasoning is the product of our background, then our choices are a product of our background.

    If you say there’s “plenty of observational evidence” for the idea that “constraints are anything that’s part of someone’s background” then you have to agree too that there’s a lot of evidence that our backgrounds constrain our choices, and so our choices are not really free.

  75. vjtorley @70,

    I would not describe humans as body/soul/spirit, since the word “soul” in unhelpfully ambiguous and variable in its meanings. I would say that every human has a body, a mind, and a spirit (not two spirits but one). Paul certainly did have all three (e.g. 1 Cor. 14), and he seems to have expected the same for others.

    Since Jesus is fully human, I submit that it is necessary that he has a body, a mind, and a spirt (not two spirits but one), just as any human has.

    I do observe that Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I Am”, so it is evident that the spirit of Jesus — His core identity — preceded the beginning of Abraham. Thus, I consider the fact that the Spirit of Jesus was divine and eternal to be a completely noncontroversial position for Christians.

    You wrote:

    Your claim that Jesus’ Spirit was Divine and eternal but the spirit of other human beings has a beginning in time, raises some rather troubling theological questions.

    If you find my affirmation of both of those truths “raises some rather troubling theological questions.”, then I would have to ask you which of those two truths you would recommend eliminating or rejecting?

    Would you claim that the spirit of Jesus was not divine and eternal?

    Would you claim that the spirit of other human beings do not have a beginning in time (i.e. by implication that every human has an eternal spirit)?

    I would hope and expect that you would say, No, to both of these questions. If my guess is correct, then both of us actually affirm both of these two propositions. If affirming both does not raise troubling theological questions about your own position (since you affirm both), then the fact that I affirm both cannot by itself raise any more of an objection than it does for you to affirm both.

    Ergo, if you find something troubling about what I am saying, it has to be something other than the fact that I affirm both of two claims that are widely held by orthodox Christians. Even if there is a matter worth questioning, it cannot be as you have described it (i.e. that I affirm both of two claims, which you also affirm).

    So what is the real question that troubles you, if any still does?

    Meanwhile, I could ask you this question. If you were to reject the distinction between mind and spirit, and suppose that mind=spirit, then by your own argument (not mine) @70, wouldn’t you be saying that because the mind of Jesus is eternal (and divine), then (by the same reasoning you posted) He could not be fully and truly human, since it was not a merely human mind with a beginning? OR, one could still ask the same question substituting “spirit” for “mind”, i.e. human spirits are not eternal as is true for Jesus. However you describe Jesus, it is obvious that some aspect of His nature did not have a beginning, whereas the corresponding aspect of all other humans would have had a beginning. So I don’t see how you would escape the objection you raised.

    My own response to that kind of argument is this. I do not consider the fact that the spirit of Jesus is eternal and divine disqualifies the claim that in His nature He is fully human. The human spirit was created in the image of God. The spirit in Jesus fully qualifies for fulfilling the requirement that every human, including Jesus, has a spirit (pneuma) as well as a conscious human mind (nous) and a body (soma). In every respect wherein one might examine Jesus (hypothetically) for tests of His humanity, the verdict of every test of examination would be, “This is a human.” The fact that the spirit of Jesus has existed eternally does not change the reality of His humanness.

    Is there anything unreasonable about that?

  76. Mark Frank:

    So a baby does not have free will?

    Define baby. Define free will.

  77. Proton,

    Chaos theory isn’t doing you any favors.

    I’m not looking for, nor do I need any favors.

    It’s a materialistic theory. And if you say that the correlation between backgrounds and choices corresponds to a chaotic system, then you’re admitting that choices are predetermined.

    No, I originally asserted that you can hide free will and God in a Chaotic system, meaning that you would not be able to tell whether there are non-materialistic influences or entanglements present.

    Think of it this way, pick a point on an XY plane. Notice that the Cartesian coordinates are irrational numbers. According to many scientific observations, the outcome of an effect or process can be profoundly dependent on the initial conditions as Edward Lorenz discovered. Now, try to pick that same point again. You will always fail. Even knowing that the coordinates are (pi,pi) doesn’t help you. And you would *not* be able to tell if some outside intelligence nudged the values in the trillionth place, but the outcome would be different.

    Philosophically, it is likely that in a chaotic system, both free will and predestination can coexist!

    There’s a difference between “predetermined” and “unpredictable”. Chaotic systems are predetermined even if they’re unpredictable.

    They can be both. And you’d have to be God to know exactly what those initial conditions are. Thus, as you implied above, nobody but God can know the outcome of your unpredictable free will. LOL

    Care to answer my question as to whether you believe pure water exists or not? ;-)

  78. Joe,

    Does anyone believe in the type of soul that keiths refers to?

    Not me. I believe that my “soul” is my non-material, but very observable personality.

  79. Proton @63:

    Chaotic systems are predetermined even if they’re unpredictable.

    Elizabeth Liddle @64:

    Non-linear systems can be both stochastic and non-stochastic.

    Elizabeth Liddle @65:

    I meant can be either stochastic or non-stochastic.

    So? Are all non-linear systems chaotic?

    Elizabeth is talking about non-linear systems. Proton is talking about chaotic systems.

    How is Elizabeth’s “rebuttal” even relevant?

  80. Chaotic behaviour is a characteristic of non-linear systems.

    My point is simply that not all systems that exhibit chaotic behaviour are deterministic. You can include stochastic terms in a non-linear model and still get chaotic behaviour.

    Chaotic behaviour neither depends on, nor precludes, stochastic factors.

    It wasn’t even supposed to be a rebuttal. I don’t think myself that the existence of free will depends on whether a system is deterministic or not.

    I do agree that decision-making is profoundly non-linear, which means, in my view, that it offers enough degrees of freedom for me to regard myself as free.

  81. Querius:

    Think of it this way, pick a point on an XY plane. Notice that the Cartesian coordinates are irrational numbers. (..) Now, try to pick that same point again. You will always fail. Even knowing that the coordinates are (pi,pi) doesn’t help you. And you would *not* be able to tell if some outside intelligence nudged the values in the trillionth place, but the outcome would be different.

    You’re basing your entire argument in that defining someone’s background is the SAME as picking a point in a plane which coordinates are irrational numbers?

    Leaving aside that you provided no evidence for that claim, you’re asserting that people’s backgrounds can’t be known with 100% accuracy, and therefore we can’t be sure if backgrounds do indeed determine choices.

    So basically your argument is “We can’t be sure if free will is false with 100% certainty, so I believe it’s true”.

    I hope you see how weak this argument is, especially because we see everywhere a correlation between background and choices, so in the absense of 100% certainty, following the evidence to find the most probable cause (the cause which provides the highest % of certainty) is common sense, and common sense dictates free will is an illusion.

    nobody but God can know the outcome of your unpredictable free will.

    Evidence says otherwise. We may not be able to predict with 100% certainty the outcome of a choice making process, however we can get pretty close to 100% the more we investigate someone’s background and the more details we pick up. So even if we can’t be 100% certain that free will is false, we still have VERY strong supporting evidence that it is indeed false in maybe like 95% (as an example). Believing in free will depends on ignoring that 95% positive evidence against it and sticking to a “5%” that’s not even conclusive due to the nature of a chaotic system, so it’s completely against common sense.

    Yet you’re argument fails for a completely different reason: If you’re claiming that the correlation between backgrounds and choices is a chaotic system were initial conditions can’t never be defined with 100% accuracy, then you are ALSO claiming that choices are the outcome of a materialistic system, which would imply that there’s no inmaterial soul controlling our behaviour anyway.

    So in trying to prove my argument wrong you brought up the chaos theory, but in doing so you admitted the materialistic origin of choices.

    You see your contradiction? You can’t believe free will is real and at the same time believe that choices are the result of a chaotic (materialistic) system!

    It doesn’t matter if we, humans, can’t define with 100% accuracy someone’s background (we don’t even need to to produce powerful evidence against free will). If behaviour is the result of a chaotic system, then it’s source is materialistic, and so there’s no inmaterial soul affecting it.

  82. Elizabeth:

    I don’t think myself that the existence of free will depends on whether a system is deterministic or not.

    Can you expand on that a bit? Can choices be part of an indeterminate system and yet not be free?

  83. Well, I think there is an underlying problem with the whole concept of “free will”.

    If I really don’t know which of two things to pick, I can “toss a coin” – literally, or by some other trick.

    That means, in effect, I am delegating my choice to something over which I have no control – some “random” event.

    We would not want to say that this was an exercise of “free will” – it is a conscious rejection of will at all, in favour of a system that is equally “free” to choose one thing rather than the other. So we could say the outcome is free but not willed.

    Now let’s say that we think we would prefer the strawberry but we are not sure. So we still “toss a coin” but weight it, so that the heads-for-strawberry is more likely than tails-for-vanilla. Now we have exercised more volition – will – but the choice is still “free” – the coin could still come down tails. So as the degree of volition goes up, the degrees of freedom come down.

    If we know we want strawberry, we could use a two-headed coin. Now there is no freedom for the coin (it has to come down heads) but the decision is totally willed.

    In other words, putting a bit of stochastic noise into a decision-making system (either internally, within the brain, or externally, in the form of a coin-toss) may make it more “free” but in so doing makes it less “willed”.

    That’s my problem with the concept of “libertarian free will” – I don’t think it’s coherent as a concept – if it is unconstrained, then it is no longer will – if it is highly constrained, it is no longer free.

    A better conceptualisation, in my view, is that the more degrees of freedom a decision-making system has (i.e. the more possible outcomes), the freer it is, and the more inputs and re-inputs the system allows (and re-inputs would make it chaotic, with or without a stochastic component), the more willed it potentially is – because it enables the decision to be based on good information as to possible outcomes, and to compare those outcomes with an intended goal.

    And choosing that intended goal would, I suggest, work in the same way.

    Thus, while I do not find the concept of an “immaterial soul” coherent (how does it change decisions without interacting with matter, and if it interacts with matter, in what sense is it immaterial?), I do find the concept of a “material” “soul” coherent – I think that the thing we call “I” embraces our whole decision-making system, including our motor and sensory systems, which are responsible for both seeking further information and enacting decisions.

    It can’t be “reduced” to any part of the system (eyes alone; brain alone; hands alone) or even to the unassembled parts. The soul, I’d say, is a property of the whole, not of its parts.

  84. Hi ericB,

    Thank you for your post. I think I understand you now. All right, let’s go with your body/mind/spirit account of human nature. Here’s my problem with your account.

    1. According to orthodox Christian theology, Jesus, in addition to having a Divine Nature (as God the Son), also had a fully human nature: he was a man like us in all things but sin (Hebrews 4:15).

    2. If Jesus had a fully human nature, then He possessed all of the human parts that make up human nature.

    3. On your account, human nature has three parts: a human body, a human mind and a human spirit.

    4. Therefore Jesus had a human spirit.

    5. But you say Jesus only had a Divine spirit: the eternal, uncreated Spirit of God.

    6. So Jesus, on your account, lacks one of the human parts which make up human nature: namely, a human spirit.

    In other words, it seems to me that your Jesus is a human missing his highest part, conjoined to (or hypostatically united to) to the Spirit of God.

    You argue that this is not a problem, as the human spirit is made in the image of God anyway. But I would answer that anyone with a fully human nature must have all the parts that make up human nature, and they must be human parts. Otherwise what we have is not a human nature but a Divine-human amalgam: neither one thing nor the other. What Christians have traditionally maintained is that Jesus was both fully Divine and fully human. (The person of Christ is however Divine: God the Son.)

    I therefore conclude that if there is indeed a body/mind/spirit division in human nature, as you maintain (and as some of the Greek Fathers did in the fourth century), then Jesus must have had both a finite, created human spirit and a Divine, Uncreated Spirit.

    I would conclude by citing John 4:24: “God is a spirit.” Although God is three persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), God is only one spirit.

  85. Hi Elizabeth,

    Thank you for your post. You write:

    …[P]utting a bit of stochastic noise into a decision-making system (either internally, within the brain, or externally, in the form of a coin-toss) may make it more “free” but in so doing makes it less “willed”.

    That’s my problem with the concept of “libertarian free will” – I don’t think it’s coherent as a concept – if it is unconstrained, then it is no longer will – if it is highly constrained, it is no longer free.

    What you are assuming here is that the noise in the brain of a free human agent is nothing but noise. At the micro level, it may be statistically random (like a coin that is equally likely to come up with heads and tails), but at the macro level there may be an overarching pattern that is decided by the agent. An example I often give is that of two random sequences:

    1 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 1 1
    0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 0 1 1 1 0 1

    Now suppose I impose the macro requirement: keep the columns whose sum equals 1, and discard the rest. I now have:

    1 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
    0 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 0

    Each row is still random, but I have imposed a non-random macro-level constraint. I think that’s how my will works when I make a choice: our minds select a specific macro-level pattern, but at the micro level, there is still a lack of bias.

    I don’t think there’s anything in the laws of quantum physics prohibiting the existence of such macro-level patterns as the one I have described. Free will makes perfect sense, if you allow for the possibility of top-down causation.

    Finally, I would distinguish between liberty of spontaneity (which may be found in many animals – think of Buridan’s ass) and liberty of choice, which is unique to rational agents. A spontaneous selection between equally desirable alternatives is not the same thing as a choice, as it lacks the element of reason.

  86. Hi Proton,

    Thank you for your post. You write:

    …[W]we can’t escape from our constraints with reasoning because our reasoning was built with them inside.

    That’s why our constraints are mostly invisible to us when we’re trying to reason regarding a choice, and that’s because our constraints are part of the reasoning itself.

    In fact, without a background, a life experience, we wouldn’t have reasoning at all. We can reason because we have a background on which we built such reasoning. That’s why no two people reason identically.

    If to make choices we need to reason, and our reasoning is the product of our background, then our choices are a product of our background.

    It’s one thing to argue that without a background of life experiences, we wouldn’t have reasoning at all. It’s quite another thing to infer (as you do) that our reasoning is the product of our background. That’s a non sequitur.

    This is not the libertarian understanding of how reason works. Here’s what Aquinas has to say on the issue:

    …[M]an acts from judgment, because by his apprehensive power he judges that something should be avoided or sought. But because this judgment, in the case of some particular act, is not from a natural instinct, but from some act of comparison in the reason, therefore he acts from free judgment and retains the power of being inclined to various things. For reason in contingent matters may follow opposite courses, as we see in dialectic syllogisms and rhetorical arguments. Now particular operations are contingent, and therefore in such matters the judgment of reason may follow opposite courses, and is not determinate to one. And forasmuch as man is rational is it necessary that man have a free-will. (Summa Theologica, I, q. 83, art. 1.)

    I hope that helps.

  87. Proton,

    I wrote, “nobody but God can know the outcome of your unpredictable free will.” And you replied

    Evidence says otherwise. We may not be able to predict with 100% certainty the outcome of a choice making process, however we can get pretty close to 100% the more we investigate someone’s background and the more details we pick up.

    Wrong! You still don’t comprehend Chaos. It’s counter-intuitive, but extremely well researched, which is why I recommended James Gleick’s book to you. The tiniest deviation in the initial conditions can have an ENORMOUS impact in outcome, and the “closer you get to 100%” as you put it, the MORE likely (not less likely) that you will get highly disparate results! For that reason, being “pretty close to 100%” is utterly useless when working within chaotic systems.

    You’re also misrepresenting my argument.

    Chaos is materialistic, but it’s unpredictable. Deviations and entanglements at the quantum level allow for the existence and intervention of “free will” and God . . . with dramatic results.

    I also noticed that for the second time you didn’t answer my simple question, so I’ll ask you a third time:

    Do you believe pure water exists or not?

    Answer:

  88. vjtorley @84,

    Thanks for your response! I’m glad you understand my position perhaps a bit better.

    I would suggest that by assuming there is a meaningful distinction of kind or nature between a human spirit and the divine spirit of Jesus, you are creating a false dilemma, one from which it seems to me your own position would also have problems. You recall that I indicated earlier:

    Meanwhile, I could ask you this question. If you were to reject the distinction between mind and spirit, and suppose that mind=spirit, then by your own argument (not mine) @70, wouldn’t you be saying that because the mind of Jesus is eternal (and divine), then (by the same reasoning you posted) He could not be fully and truly human, since it was not a merely human mind with a beginning? OR, one could still ask the same question substituting “spirit” for “mind”, i.e. human spirits are not eternal as is true for Jesus. However you describe Jesus, it is obvious that some aspect of His nature did not have a beginning, whereas the corresponding aspect of all other humans would have had a beginning. So I don’t see how you would escape the objection you raised.

    Let me pose back to you your own argument with adjustments.

    All right, let’s go with your [dualistic body/spirit] account of human nature. Here’s my problem with your account.

    1. According to orthodox Christian theology, Jesus, in addition to having a Divine Nature (as God the Son), also had a fully human nature: he was a man like us in all things but sin (Hebrews 4:15).

    2. If Jesus had a fully human nature, then He possessed all of the human parts that make up human nature.

    3. On your account, human nature has [two] parts: a human body and a human spirit.

    4. Therefore Jesus had a human spirit.

    5. But you say Jesus had a Divine spirit: the eternal, uncreated Spirit of God.

    6. So Jesus, on your account, [has two spirits].

    In other words, it seems to me that your Jesus [falls into the same problem of having two spirits that you were so concerning previously about "some rather troubling theological questions"].

    So I pose it to you again. How does your position avoid the “two spirits” problem?

  89. Hi ericB,

    Thank you for your response. I think you misunderstand me. I don’t have any problem ascribing two spirits to Jesus (although I would prefer to say two minds and two wills – one Divine and one human). Rather, it’s the notion that Jesus had one spirit that I find theologically troubling, as that flies in the face of the Christian tradition.

    You might like to have a look at these articles on Monothelitism: here and here.

  90. Thanks vjtorley (@89)! You are correct that I did misunderstand you. Sorry about that.

    I did look a bit into the links you posted regarding terminology and historical camps, and to connected links. Although you brought it up, I would not consider the term Monothelitism to be appropriate or applicable, since that term includes the position of Eutychianism, which I would reject. I would also reject Nestorianism. What I hold to firmly (as I’ve already indicated throughout my posts) is that Jesus is fully human as well as fully divine, without compromise to either truth.

    You wrote:

    Rather, it’s the notion that Jesus had one spirit that I find theologically troubling, as that flies in the face of the Christian tradition.

    Your statement implies the assumption that there is one and only one Christian tradition, but that is not true. When it comes down to the fine-grained distinctions between Miaphysitism, which is the tradition of the Oriental Orthodox churches and Dyophysitism, which is the tradition of the Chalcedonian churches, I am willing to be persuaded one way or the other.

    What catches my attention foremost is that these fine-grained distinctions of position seem to turn on subtle nuances of terms that even in the original Greek had potential overlap of meaning.

    “Over recent decades, leaders of the various branches of the Church have spoken about the differences between their respective christologies as not being as extreme as was traditionally held.

    John Meyendorff, an historian of this period of Church history, held that the official teaching of the Eastern Orthodox Church is not expressed by Chalcedon alone, but by “Chalcedon plus Cyril” – i.e., the dyophysite position expressed by Chalcedon, plus Cyril’s miaphysite expression quoted above in its Orthodox interpretation – with the former attempting to express the inexpressible from one side (the dyophysite site) and the latter doing the same from the miaphysite side, both approaches being necessary and neither sufficient by itself.”

    “Much has been said about the difficulties in understanding the Greek technical terms used in these controversies. The main words are ousia (?????, ‘substance’), physis (?????, ‘nature’), hypostasis (?????????) and prosopon (????????, ‘person’). Even in Greek, their meanings can overlap somewhat. These difficulties became even more exaggerated when these technical terms were translated into other languages. In Syriac, physis was translated as ky?nâ and hypostasis was qnômâ. However, in the Persian Church, or the East Syriac tradition, qnoma was taken to mean nature, thereby confounding the issue further. The shades of meaning are even more blurred between these words, and they could not be used in such a philosophical way as their Greek counterparts.”
    Excerpts from here

    So I would have to question how well we even understand what we are talking about at the level of these distinctions. It should be motivation for caution about being overly emphatic.

    While I am willing to be persuaded either way, I don’t consider the statement, “this view is a tradition”, to carry significant decisive weight.

    1. Because that statement can be made of different positions, both different current positions and different positions across changes over time, and

    2. Because humans are notorious for repeatedly creating traditions that are wrong and that set aside what God has revealed.

    Jesus pointed it out about the Jews of His time. (See Matt. 15:1-9; Mark 7:1-13.) We see this again in the need for the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation, and we can see it yet again in traditions that Protest churches have established since the Reformation. There are no churches that are immune to this human tendency.

    Therefore, what would be persuasive to me is to see where Scripture actually tells us something that clearly points toward one rather than the other. (For example, we see Paul clearly distinguishing between what the human spirit knows and what the human mind does not know in 1 Cor. 14. That is a clear, direct and explicit distinction. Thus, the human spirit and the human mind are necessarily distinct.)

    If we cannot find such clear indications in Scripture regarding this other fine-grained distinction about the nature of Jesus, then I submit that we would be entering into differences about words that go beyond what Scripture has clearly revealed.

    Thanks, Dr. Torley, for your patient input.

  91. Querius:

    Chaos is materialistic, but it’s unpredictable. Deviations and entanglements at the quantum level allow for the existence and intervention of “free will” and God . . . with dramatic results.

    Leaving aside that by saying “chaos is materialistic” you’re addmiting that choices are the result of materialism (and not an inmaterial soul), what does “dramatic” mean? Unpredictable? You’re trying to avoid or minimize the obvious correlation between background and choices seen everywhere and hiding behind quantum indetermination to give room to free will. QM might be unpredictable at quantum level, but on the macro level it’s not because an obvious correlation exists between backgrounds and choices, so your entire argument is meaningless because you’d have to account for this correlation to sustain it, and you can’t.

    I don’t see in which way you resemble choices to chaos. You’re just keeping yourself in the mathematics without relying in observation at all. When I say:

    “we can get pretty close to 100% the more we investigate someone’s background and the more details we pick up.”

    I mean that when we find apparent exceptions to correlations, such exceptions can be reduced as we investigate more, because the more we investigate about someone’s background the more we can find evidence of elements in such backgrounds constraining a specific choice.

    It’s not a matter of mathematics or chaotic theory, it’s a matter of OBSERVATION.

    Let me give an example so you understand my position in the practical way it should be understood:
    (quoted for easier reading)

    For example, if we find, in an experiment, that 92 out of 100 kids (92%) who grew up in a familiy of thieves ended up stealing at some point in their lives (an existing correlation between the kids’ backgrounds and their choices to steal), then free will advocates might say that the remaining 8 kids that never stole even under such background prove that backgrounds don’t always determine choices.

    However, if we investigate a bit more the backgrounds of those kids representing the “exceptions” (those 8) we will probably find that the reason those kids never stole was because there were EXTRA ELEMENTS in their backgrounds that conditioned them to not steal and were not taken into account when the first correlation was made, for example, some of those kids had friends from rather good families and others had close members of their families (for example, an older brother or father) arrested, things that were not part of the backgrounds of the other 92 kids.

    If we now take into account the details added from the experiment, we will find, for example, that 89 out of 92 kids who grew up in a family of thieves where close members of the family were never arrested stole eventually in their lives, making the correlation close to a 97%.

    If we study a bit more of the background of those 3 kids that didn’t steal even if no one in their family was arrested, we might find that the reason they never stole was because they had to take care of a baby brother/sister from a young age and the stealing was made by their older brothers.

    So when we add this final details to the correlation, we will find that 89 out 89 of kids (100%) who grew up in a family of thieves, where close members of the family were never arrested and were the kids didn’t have to take care of any younger sibling, eventually stole in their lives. ALL OF THEM.

    THIS EXPERIMENT shows how, from a “less than 100%” correlation between backgrounds and choices, we can get to an 100% correlation, simply by studying someone’s background in more detail. This shows why “exceptions” are an artifact of incomplete data and can be eliminated by adding further details to the background under study.

    It also shows the clear correlation between a specific background (family of thieves + close members never arrested + never had to take care of a baby brother or sister) and a specific choice (steal at least once in their lives).

    A similar experiment can be made with kids from a wealthy family and the same choice of stealing. We might find that 98% of kids under such situation never stole in their lives, and the 2% that did had something in their backgrounds that the other 98% didn’t have: Friends from darker backgrounds.

    In any case, this type of experiments show cleary that free will is never involved anywhere and common sense, after observing these results, would lead to believing that free will is a religious fairy tale.

    Now explain to me WHERE does chaos enter in the experiment above so your entire argument makes any sense (I won’t answer your pure water question until you show that it’s relevant for anything).

    Under such blunt evidence of how our backgrounds determine our choices, where’s room left for free will other than in the imagination of Christians?

  92. Interesting: The mind vs. spirit distinction seems implied by some of the statements in Dr. Torley’s article above. In short, it comes down to this.

    If you could have more than one of something called M, and if you simultaneously still have only one of something called S, then M and S cannot be synonyms for the same thing. They must have distinct references. Even if the former is plural, yet the latter is singular.

    Consider first the proposals that a split-brain operation may result in the division of the mind into two minds, two streams of consciousness. (I am not taking a position on whether that is truly what happens or not — merely looking at the implications.) Emphasis added is mine, though sometimes also emphasized in the quotation as given above.

    I [Sir John Eccles] would agree with DeWitt’s (1975) interpretation of the situation after commissurotomy:

    Both minor and major hemispheres are conscious in that they both, no doubt, have the basic phenomenal awareness of perceptions, sensations, etc. And they both have minds

    …There is the difficulty in controlling the movements emanating from the activity of the right hemisphere with its associated mind.

    Eccles died in 1997. More recent studies have shown that both hemispheres of the brain are extensively involved in self-recognition, …

    Alain Morin: “My position is that two unequal streams of consciousness (i.e. self-awareness) emerge out of the transection of the forebrain commissures…. ”

    Again, I am not advocating for a particular view of these proposals. What I’m pointing out are the implications of combining this idea with questions on what “the soul” (always singular) is believing or doing, which is the core of this column. All discussion about the soul has assumed that the soul remains singular despite any split to the brain and the mind/consciousness.

    As I understand the article, I would assume that in this context, “soul” is being used in a sense that is interchangeable with “spirit”, though I am open to correction if that is a misunderstanding.

    If there is the possibility that a split-brain operation may result in some unequal division of mind into two minds and two streams of consciousness (even if unequal), while there is yet only one spirit (or “soul”), then it would seem to follow that spirit (or “soul” as used here) cannot be synonymous with the conscious human mind.

    When we ask and seek to answer the questions mentioned above about which hemisphere and which mind/stream of consciousness the soul/spirit primarily or exclusively interfaces with, it would seem to me that doing so implicitly acknowledges a mind vs. spirit distinction.

  93. Thanks for your comment Elizabeth, very clear ideas.

  94. vjtorley:

    What you are assuming here is that the noise in the brain of a free human agent is nothing but noise. At the micro level, it may be statistically random (like a coin that is equally likely to come up with heads and tails), but at the macro level there may be an overarching pattern that is decided by the agent.

    What you’re assuming here is that de DECISION from the agent is the result of free will. But if choices are reasoned, then where does the information on which that reasoning is based on comes from?

    Leaving that aside, you posted this:

    Now particular operations are contingent, and therefore in such matters the judgment of reason may follow opposite courses, and is not determinate to one.

    What I disagree with is the idea that judgment/reasoning is indeterminate. It seems to me that you believe that when a person is faced with choice A or B, people can go either way and nothing determines that other than pure free will.

    What I argue is precisely that evidence indicates that such thing is FALSE: People with certain backgrounds are more inlined to choose B and people with a different background are more inclined to choose A. If we see people with certain backgrounds judge things differently, what can we say about the origin of judgment? Wouldn’t be rational to assume, as we look at the evidence and just observe the world, that judgement and reasoning depends on background?

    This is common sense to me and I fail to see why is so hard for free will advocates to understand: If the outcome of choices is observed to be highly, if not totally correlated to the backgrounds of the agents, on WHICH GROUND do free will advocates believe that choices are still free? (other than religious commitment)

    It doesn’t make sense to me, can you explain vjtorley how do you personally view the correlation I’m talking about and how do you put free will in there in a way that doesn’t contradict observation?

    If you say people can choose between A and B freely, then what do you think when observation shows that people with certain background X choose A a lot more often and people with background Y choose B a lot more often? Doesn’t this show that judgement is predetermined to a certain outcome (choice A or B) depending on if your background is X or Y? How does free will make sense to you in such contradicting situation? Are people from backgrounds X and Y really free to choose?

  95. Proton,

    I don’t see in which way you resemble choices to chaos. You’re just keeping yourself in the mathematics without relying in observation at all.

    Chaotic behaviors have been observed and studied in many scientific fields. The reason that you don’t see any correlation is because you don’t understand Chaos theory. You’re grimly trying to hold on to determinism in the face of all recent scientific evidence to the contrary. This is getting hopeless. Read the literature.

    Now, for the fourth time, please don’t evade my simple question:

    Do you believe that there is such a thing as “pure water”?

    Come to think of it, you sound like keiths. Am I right?

  96. Hi Vincent – apologies for the delayed response:

    Hi Elizabeth,

    Thank you for your post. You write:

    …[P]utting a bit of stochastic noise into a decision-making system (either internally, within the brain, or externally, in the form of a coin-toss) may make it more “free” but in so doing makes it less “willed”.

    That’s my problem with the concept of “libertarian free will” – I don’t think it’s coherent as a concept – if it is unconstrained, then it is no longer will – if it is highly constrained, it is no longer free.

    What you are assuming here is that the noise in the brain of a free human agent is nothing but noise.

    Actually, I wasn’t. I think the “noise” is rather important, and may even consist of some “quantum” noise.

    At the micro level, it may be statistically random (like a coin that is equally likely to come up with heads and tails), but at the macro level there may be an overarching pattern that is decided by the agent. An example I often give is that of two random sequences:

    1 0 0 0 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 1 1
    0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 0 1 1 1 0 1

    Now suppose I impose the macro requirement: keep the columns whose sum equals 1, and discard the rest. I now have:

    1 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
    0 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 0

    Each row is still random, but I have imposed a non-random macro-level constraint.

    I think this is a mistake, Vincent. I don’t think you can determine whether a pattern is “random” by looking at it. I don’t know if either of your original patterns is “random” nor can I tell unless you tell me how you generated it. I can tell you how probable they’d be under certain generative processes, but I cannot tell you what those processes were.

    To give an example I’ve posted before:

    This sequence was randomly generated, using the random number generator in Excel:
    1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 0

    This was not:

    1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 0

    I simply copied and pasted it from the sequence above. The first had a probability of 2^-10. The second had a probability of 1.

    In other words, two identical sequences can have very different probabilities, and can vary from being highly random (very low probability given the generative process) to being fully determined, as in my second example. In other words, probability, or randomness, isn’t a property of a sequence but of the sequence given its generative process.

    And your third sequence is a result of natural selection, and has a probability of 1, given your first two. In other words your third sequence is not “random” at all.

    I think that’s how my will works when I make a choice: our minds select a specific macro-level pattern, but at the micro level, there is still a lack of bias. I don’t think there’s anything in the laws of quantum physics prohibiting the existence of such macro-level patterns as the one I have described. Free will makes perfect sense, if you allow for the possibility of top-down causation.

    Finally, I would distinguish between liberty of spontaneity (which may be found in many animals – think of Buridan’s ass) and liberty of choice, which is unique to rational agents. A spontaneous selection between equally desirable alternatives is not the same thing as a choice, as it lacks the element of reason.

    OK, let’s suppose that the mind controls the organism, including the brain, and it does so at the quantum level, by, for example, tipping an ion a little nearer, or a little further away, from an ion channel in a neuron, thus infinitessimally affecting how near that neuron is to firing, and thus, Butterfly-In-Peking, like, potentially sending a neural cascade down one path, resulting in one decision, rather than a different path. And it can do so based on reason – presumably based on information from the environment, and some kind of foreknowledge of what the consequences of the two competing actions are likely to be.

    In what sense, does it differ, then, from the organisms itself doing the same thing, but by supra-quantum means? It has the information; it has the reasoning capacity; what does it lack that requires this extra entity that tips it one way or the other? Or, to put it differently, what does this extra entity have that the rest of the organism doesn’t?

  97. Oops, messed up the quote tags. Hope you can sort out who said what!

  98. Elizabeth B Liddle (I think) @96:

    In other words, two identical sequences can have very different probabilities, and can vary from being highly random (very low probability given the generative process) to being fully determined, as in my second example. In other words, probability, or randomness, isn’t a property of a sequence but of the sequence given its generative process.

    I quite agree that probability is not a property of the sequence itself.

    A different way to consider probability is as a measure of ignorance vs. knowledge. For example, viewed from outside of time (i.e. God’s perspective) or from the future looking back with complete knowledge of events, every proposed event always has a probability of either 1 (it happened) or 0 (it didn’t happen).

    Suppose I reach into a jar with three differently colored marbles (red, green, and blue) and grab one marble without looking. Suppose you do the same, and Dr. Torley also grabs a marble. What is the probability that my marble is red? And so on.

    In reality, that is with complete information, the answers are either 1 or 0. With partial knowledge we would assign probabilities, based upon what we know. Note however, that what one person knows may be different from what another person knows.

    Knowing nothing more, I would assign my probability of red to 1 in 3. But if Dr. Torley peeks at his marble and sees green, then he would set my probability to 1 in 2. Someone who observed the marbles remaining after my pick would assign either 1 or 0, depending on whether the red was still in the jar after my pick.

    Similar examples could be made for predictive probabilities for future events based on knowledge vs. ignorance of the relevant factors and influences. Knowing more (or less) changes the probability, with complete knowledge collapsing into 1 or 0.

  99. I absolutely agree, Eric. And that’s the basis for regarding a probability as a form of “information” – traditionally by taking the negative base 2 log!

    But the answer doesn’t tell you how much information the sequence “contains” – which would be meaningless. It tells you how much information you’d need to be able to predict the sequence – specify it – with 100% certainty.

  100. Querius-

    Do you know how you can tell if you are holding a glass of pure water? Pure water will NOT conduct electricty. It is all the dissolved minerals in water that allows it to conduct electricity.

  101. And why is that, Joe?

  102. Pure water doesn’t have any free electrons to carry the current.

  103. No ions either…

  104. No ions, no free electrons, no conductor.

  105. That’s why I mentioned ions at 96 :)

  106. Ions are what is used to give our bodies the required electricity. Sodium and potassium ions, mostly.

  107. Well, most electric currents in the body are ionic currents. They don’t exactly give us “the required electricity” – but it’s changes in trans-membrane potentials that determine whether a neuron “fires” or not, i.e. whether a wave of depolorisation flows down the axon to release neurotransmitters at the down stream synapse, so they are crucial to how our brains work. In a split brain patient, the axons of the neurons in each hemisphere that synapse onto the neurons in the other are severed, so no information can pass from one hemisphere to the other via that route.

    However, it is possible that the electric fields generated on one side can affect the polarisation of neurons on the other. Not sure how that might help.

    But the point I was making to vjtorley was that at the molecular level, whether an ion actually passes through an ion channel, resulting in polarisation change, depends on where it is relative to the channel, and that might depend on quantum level events.

  108. Hi ericB,

    Thank you for your posts (#90, 92, 98). I hadn’t heard of Miaphysitism before, so I looked it up in Wikipedia. Its central claim appears to be as follows (emphases mine):

    The distinction of this stance was that the incarnate Christ has one nature, but that nature is still of both a divine character and a human character, and retains all the characteristics of both.

    I agree with you that we need to go back to Scripture in resolving Christological controversies, because even if the exact philosophical terms used in dogmatic formulations are not to be found in Scripture, the truths they express are nevertheless based on those contained in Scripture.

    On a whim, I decided to consult the Tome of Pope Leo I, which was originally written as a letter to Flavian, the bishop of Constantinople, in 449 A.D., and subsequently read aloud to the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D., where it was received with great acclaim. I found these passages very telling:

    So the proper character of both natures was maintained and came together in a single person. Lowliness was taken up by majesty, weakness by strength, mortality by eternity. To pay off the debt of our state, invulnerable nature was united to a nature that could suffer; so that in a way that corresponded to the remedies we needed, one and the same mediator between God and humanity the man Christ Jesus, could both on the one hand die and on the other be incapable of death.

    Each nature kept its proper character without loss; and just as the form of God does not take away the form of a servant, so the form of a servant does not detract from the form of God.

    …Whilst remaining pre-existent, he begins to exist in time. The Lord of the universe veiled his measureless majesty and took on a servant’s form. The God who knew no suffering did not despise becoming a suffering man, and, deathless as he is, to be subject to the laws of death….

    There is nothing unreal about this oneness, since both the lowliness of the man and the grandeur of the divinity are in mutual relation. As God is not changed by showing mercy, neither is humanity devoured by the dignity received. The activity of each form is what is proper to it in communion with the other: that is, the Word performs what belongs to the Word, and the flesh accomplishes what belongs to the flesh. One of these performs brilliant miracles; the other sustains acts of violence….

    So, if I may pass over many instances, it does not belong to the same nature to weep out of deep-felt pity for a dead friend, and to call him back to life again at the word of command, once the mound had been removed from the four-day-old grave; or to hang on the cross and, with day changed into night, to make the elements tremble; or to be pierced by nails and to open the gates of paradise for the believing thief. Likewise, it does not belong to the same nature to say, “I and the Father are one,” and to say, “The Father is greater than I.” For although there is in the Lord Jesus Christ a single person who is of God and of man, the insults shared by both have their source in one thing, and the glory that is shared in another. For it is from us that he gets a humanity which is less than the Father; it is from the Father that he gets a divinity which is equal to the Father.

    What Pope Leo is arguing here, with obvious Scriptural allusions (Philippians 2:6-11; John 11:38; John 11:43; Luke 23:44-45; Matthew 27:51-53; Luke 23:43; John 14:9; John 14:28) is that contradictory predicates cannot be ascribed to one and the same subject. One and the same X cannot be both born in time and timeless, or both mortal and immortal, or both less than the Father and equal to the Father. That would violate the Law of Non-Contradiction. Consequently there must be two X’s – in other words, two natures.

    Miaphysitism holds that Christ has one nature which has both a divine character and a human character, and which retains all the characteristics of both. But if the characteristics of divine nature and human nature are contradictory, then it makes no sense to ascribe them to the same nature. It is for that reason that I find Miaphysitism unintelligible.

    The Council of Chalcedon declared in 451 A.D. that it “stands opposed to those who imagine a mixture or confusion between the two natures of Christ.” This, it seems to me, is what Miaphysitism does. I therefore find it puzzling that the historian John Meyendorff could argue that the theology of the Eastern Orthodox Church combines the dyophysite position expressed by Chalcedon with the miaphysite position of St. Cyril, who spoke of the “one (mia) nature of the Word of God incarnate.” St. Cyril, who died seven years before the Council of Chalcedon, taught that in Jesus there was “One Nature united out of two” – a position which (if taken at face value) is at odds with that of the Council. Cyril’s theology seems to have been imprecise, but he can be excused as he was writing before the Church had thrashed the issue out.

    I had another look at 1 Corinthians 14, and finally found the passage you were talking about: 1 Corinthians 14:14-15:

    14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit (pneuma) prays, but my mind (nous) is unfruitful. 15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.

    As you correctly point out, this is different from the body-soul(psyche)-spirit division of 1 Thessalonians 5:23.

    I think what the foregoing verses establish is the existence of two distinct kinds of consciousness in man: spiritual (i.e. super-rational) and mental (i.e. rational). However, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that St. Paul is asserting that there are two distinct parts. Still, it’s an interesting point, all the same.

    You then argue:

    If you could have more than one of something called M [i.e. mind - VJT], and if you simultaneously still have only one of something called S [i.e. spirit], then M and S [i.e. mind and spirit] cannot be synonyms for the same thing. They must have distinct references…

    If there is the possibility that a split-brain operation may result in some unequal division of mind into two minds and two streams of consciousness (even if unequal), while there is yet only one spirit (or “soul”), then it would seem to follow that spirit (or “soul” as used here) cannot be synonymous with the conscious human mind.

    What the foregoing argument does show is that “spirit” (which is one) cannot be simplistically equated with “consciousness” (which is to some extent split in two after a brain bisection).

    However, this doesn’t support the notion that pneuma and nous are two distinct parts of man, as you seem to hold, on the basis of 1 Corinthians 14:14-15. For nous is by definition rational, and as we saw above, only the left hemisphere can properly be described as rational after a brain bisection. The right hemisphere is conscious and even (to some extent) self-aware, but nevertheless sub-rational. However, the pneuma that St. Paul speaks of is super-rational, so it cannot be identified with the consciousness of the right hemisphere.

    What St. Paul does show, however, is that pneuma cannot be equated with “rational consciousness”, as man has a super-rational faculty of knowledge, about which we know very little.

    Finally, I was interested in your remark that “viewed from outside of time (i.e. God’s perspective) or from the future looking back with complete knowledge of events, every proposed event always has a probability of either 1 (it happened) or 0 (it didn’t happen).” That sounds obvious enough, but recently some philosophers and theologians have called that assumption (the necessity of the past) into question.

    You might like to have a look at this article on foreknowledge and free will in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which questions the notion that the past is necessary. I’ll quote a brief excerpt:

    What do we mean when we say that the past, the strict past, is necessary? When people say “There is no use crying over spilled milk,” they presumably mean that there is nothing anybody can do now about the spilled milk; the spilling of the milk is outside the realm of our causal control. But it is not at all clear that pastness per se puts something outside the realm of our causal control. Rather, it is pastness in conjunction with the metaphysical law that causes must precede their effects. If we decided that effects can precede their causes, we would no longer speak of the necessity of the past.

    So the necessity of the past is the principle that past events are outside the class of causable events. There is a temporal asymmetry in causability because everything causable is in the future. But some of the future is non-causable as well. Whether or not determinism is true, there are some events in the future that are causally necessary. If a future event E is necessary, it is causable, and not E is not causable. If the necessity of the past is the non-causability of the past, it seems a bit odd to pick out the class of propositions about the past as having an allegedly distinct kind of necessity since some of the future has that same kind of necessity.

    This reveals a deeper problem in the idea of the necessity of the past. The modes of causable and not causable do not correspond to the standard modes of necessary, possible, impossible, and contingent. The actual past is not causable, but alternative pasts are not causable either. If it is too late to make something have happened, it is too late to make something else have happened instead. So if a proposition p about the past is not causable, not-p is also not causable. This is a disanalogy with the logical modalities since if p is necessary, not-p is the contrary of necessary; it is impossible. Another disanalogy between necessity and non-causability is that if p is necessary, p is possible, but if p is not causable, there is no category parallel to the possible that applies to p.

    The author of the article, Professor Linda Zagzebski, suggests that we “give up the so-called necessity of the past and replace it with the non-causability of the past.” Food for thought.

  109. Querius:

    Chaotic behaviors have been observed and studied in many scientific fields. The reason that you don’t see any correlation is because you don’t understand Chaos theory. You’re grimly trying to hold on to determinism in the face of all recent scientific evidence to the contrary.

    I don’t hold to determinism on philosophical grounds, I believe in determinism because OBSERVATION highly suggests determinism (at least on the matter at discussion, which is a correlation between backgrounds and choices).

    The one ignoring contrary evidence is yourself. We can’t both be right, and observational evidence clearly indicates YOU are on the wrong side, not me.

    You’re hiding behind QM and chaos theory because on those small scales things are chaotic and so free will *might* have a place in there. But you can’t hide from higher level observations that prove that such chaos does not have the effect you want it to have in real life experience.

    As long as there’s powerful evidence of a higher level correlation between backgrounds and choices, all your arguments from chaos just FAIL. They fail because they can’t explain this higher level correlation. In other words, when we’re studying a correlation between backgrounds and choices, chaos theory just can’t explain this correlation, maybe because choices DON’T BEHAVE LIKE A CHAOTIC SYSTEM AT THE MACRO LEVEL.

    My evidence: Observations of a clear high-level correlation.
    Your “evidence”: reliance on a theory that may not even applicable.

    Who’s ignoring the empirical evidence here? Not me!

    This is getting hopeless.

    I agree. If you’re going to sustain you “free will is real” belief, you must ACCOUNT for the correlation between background and choices eventually, but I don’t see you accounting for it anywhere in your comments, you just put the chaos theory strawman to avoid it. You haven’t addressed it not even once.

    If you can’t account for it, you already lost the argument.

    I’ll answer your pure water question when you account for the correlation between background and choices (highly or totally suggestive of determinism) in the context of chaos (which you claim is not deterministic when applied to choices).

  110. Hi Elizabeth,

    Thank you for your post (#96). You argue that one cannot tell whether a sequence is random or not simply by looking at it. I would reply by distinguishing between causal randomness (a diversity of outputs, without a cause) and statistical randomness (an absence of bias in the outputs). I quite agree with you that if we look at a finite string of 0′s and 1′s, we cannot tell how it was generated. However, we can test that string for bias, and quantify how likely it is that an unbiased source would generate a string like that. If the likelihood is sufficiently high, we will credit the claim that the string is statistically random.

    What quantum physics tells us is that down at the micro level, statistical randomness prevails. However, quantum physics says nothing about causal randomness. It cannot tell us, for instance, whether the statistically random sequence of measurements (say, 0′s and 1′s) associated with a given particle was actually generated by some celestial pseudo-random generator invented by God, or whether it is truly uncaused. I prefer the former hypothesis.

    As for the macro level, quantum physics does not tell us that this level is random in either sense of the word. Hence I am inclined to believe that non-random macro states can generate statistically random micro sequences.

    You then write:

    OK, let’s suppose that the mind controls the organism, including the brain, and it does so at the quantum level, by, for example, tipping an ion a little nearer, or a little further away, from an ion channel in a neuron, thus infinitesimally affecting how near that neuron is to firing, and thus, Butterfly-In-Peking, like, potentially sending a neural cascade down one path, resulting in one decision, rather than a different path. And it can do so based on reason – presumably based on information from the environment, and some kind of foreknowledge of what the consequences of the two competing actions are likely to be.

    In what sense, does it differ, then, from the organism itself doing the same thing, but by supra-quantum means? It has the information; it has the reasoning capacity; what does it lack that requires this extra entity that tips it one way or the other? Or, to put it differently, what does this extra entity have that the rest of the organism doesn’t?

    That’s a good question. You’re asking why we need a non-physical X to bring about top-down causation, where the macro somehow acts upon the micro while preserving its statistical randomness. Actually, we don’t need a non-physical X for that. I’m quite willing to grant that some kind of top-down causation occurs in all living things – even bacteria.

    What I would hold, however, is that rational top-down causation requires a non-physical operation by a person, acting on his/her brain. And my reason for holding that is that the brain – or for that matter, any physical system – is simply not capable of instantiating the kinds of abstract concepts that human beings do. (Ask yourself this: what’s the neurological difference between the concept of “having 999 sides” and that of “having 1,000 sides” (which may both employ the same mental image), or between the Bronsted-Lowry concept of an acid and the Lewis concept of an acid, or between the universal concept of “true” and that of “false”?) That’s my reason for positing an extra-corporeal activity (but not an extra-corporeal agent, as I am not a substance dualist like Eccles).

    I hope that helps.

  111. Hi Proton,

    Thank you for your post. You write:

    What I disagree with is the idea that judgment/reasoning is indeterminate. It seems to me that you believe that when a person is faced with choice A or B, people can go either way and nothing determines that other than pure free will.

    That’s true. I do not, however, claim that acts of will are uncaused. What I hold is that they are undetermined by the causes that act on them.

    You also write:

    What I argue is precisely that evidence indicates that such thing is FALSE: People with certain backgrounds are more inclined to choose B and people with a different background are more inclined to choose A…

    If you say people can choose between A and B freely, then what do you think when observation shows that people with certain background X choose A a lot more often and people with background Y choose B a lot more often? Doesn’t this show that judgement is predetermined to a certain outcome (choice A or B) depending on if your background is X or Y? How does free will make sense to you in such contradicting situation? Are people from backgrounds X and Y really free to choose?

    Here’s how I would explain it. If you grow up in a certain environment, then you’ll absorb a certain way of thinking about the world – a world-view, if you like – from those around you, which will, after a certain amount of time, feel like “second nature” to you. It’ll become your “default” mode, and when confronted with situations in real life, you’ll deal with them by thinking about them from the perspective you acquired from your parents and/or peers. So if I know enough about you, I can make a pretty good guess what choices you’ll make, in certain situations.

    And yet, people can and do “step outside” their perspective. Our intellect gives us the ability to not only formulate syllogisms but also critique the premises upon which they are based. Usually we are mentally lazy and don’t bother doing this – hence the high correlation between people’s backgrounds and their choices. But we can question our own adoption of certain goals (“Is this really a good thing?”) and of a certain world-view (“Is life all about maximizing pleasure, as my friends think?”) And this is where freedom comes in: once we open these boxes, there’s no telling where we’ll end up. Anything is possible.

  112. From Elizabeth:

    OK, let’s suppose that the mind controls the organism, including the brain, and it does so at the quantum level, by, for example, tipping an ion a little nearer, or a little further away, from an ion channel in a neuron, thus infinitessimally affecting how near that neuron is to firing, and thus, Butterfly-In-Peking, like, potentially sending a neural cascade down one path, resulting in one decision, rather than a different path. And it can do so based on reason – presumably based on information from the environment, and some kind of foreknowledge of what the consequences of the two competing actions are likely to be.

    In what sense, does it differ, then, from the organisms itself doing the same thing, but by supra-quantum means? It has the information; it has the reasoning capacity; what does it lack that requires this extra entity that tips it one way or the other? Or, to put it differently, what does this extra entity have that the rest of the organism doesn’t?

    Great question! That’s why free will as a concept is ultimately incoherent.

    -What’s the source of our reasoning capabilites (which determine the result of a choice based on the information input) if the brain has no effect on them? The inmaterial soul?

    -And if our brains (our experiences) do not affect our inmaterial soul, then what is the source of the inmaterial soul’s reasoning capabilities?

    -If the brain has no effect on the reasoning capabilities of our inmaterial soul, then WHAT makes a soul different from another?

    -If the souls are different (and so are our reasoning capabilities), then wouldn’t the external/spiritual cause that made them different take free will away from us by deciding what reasoning capabilities each person has beforehand and therefore deciding beforehand what choices we would make?

  113. Well, most electric currents in the body are ionic currents. They don’t exactly give us “the required electricity” – but it’s changes in trans-membrane potentials that determine whether a neuron “fires” or not, i.e. whether a wave of depolorisation flows down the axon to release neurotransmitters at the down stream synapse, so they are crucial to how our brains work.

    It’s called a potential difference and it is the required electricity.

  114. I would reply by distinguishing between causal randomness (a diversity of outputs, without a cause) and statistical randomness (an absence of bias in the outputs). I quite agree with you that if we look at a finite string of 0?s and 1?s, we cannot tell how it was generated. However, we can test that string for bias, and quantify how likely it is that an unbiased source would generate a string like that. If the likelihood is sufficiently high, we will credit the claim that the string is statistically random.

    What quantum physics tells us is that down at the micro level, statistical randomness prevails.

    I’m not convinced by this distinction, Vincent! We can certainly tell whether the frequency distribution of a string indicates that the causal process was one in which each outcome was equiprobable or not, but I don’t see that that tells us that it is “statistically random” or not – indeed, I’m not sure what that would mean, unless it just meant “equiprobable”. And we already have a word for that.

    As part of my job as a cognitive scientists, I often design tasks in which the stimuli are randomised. Sometimes the stimuli will be drawn from a flat distribution (be equiprobable) but more often they will not be. For example I may want one kind of stimulus to be quite rare. But my stimuli sequences are still random and the only change I have to make to my program to alter what you call the “bias” is to change the distribution in the “population” from which my stimuli are still randomly drawn. And there’s nothing special about an equiprobable distribution – they aren’t all that common in nature – the only times I tend to use them is with signal-processing, where phase angles have a uniform distribution, but because of the Central Limit Theorem, many natural distributions are Gaussian, while others have a Poisson distribution. And lots more, but those are the ones I come across most. But we can draw randomly, or not randomly, from those distributions, and we can draw independently, or not (i.e. we can let the last draw influence the next, or not).

    So if by “statistically random” you simply mean “equiprobable”, as you seem to, then that quantum effects are not “statistically random”. They have extremely well defined probability distributions that are far from flat (the universe would be very strange if an electron was as likely to be in your ear as in Alpha Centauri!) In other words, the probability of finding a particle at a given location is highly biased in favour of some locations (where the probability density is high) and against others (where it is near zero).

    However, quantum physics says nothing about causal randomness. It cannot tell us, for instance, whether the statistically random sequence of measurements (say, 0?s and 1?s) associated with a given particle was actually generated by some celestial pseudo-random generator invented by God, or whether it is truly uncaused. I prefer the former hypothesis.

    I agree that if you have what looks like an a periodic string of 1′s and 0′s you cannot readily tell what caused it. But I don’t see that that gets us very far!

    As for the macro level, quantum physics does not tell us that this level is random in either sense of the word. Hence I am inclined to believe that non-random macro states can generate statistically random micro sequences.

    Could you flesh out an example?

    That’s a good question. You’re asking why we need a non-physical X to bring about top-down causation, where the macro somehow acts upon the micro while preserving its statistical randomness. Actually, we don’t need a non-physical X for that. I’m quite willing to grant that some kind of top-down causation occurs in all living things – even bacteria.

    Well, I’m not convinced by the “top-down” distinction, either! It’s a common-enough term in cognitive science, but I tend to use “endogenous” (as opposed to “exogenous”) myself, to indicate causal factors that lie within the prior state of the organism as opposed those that lie in new incoming data – but all evidence suggests that there is tremendous feedback between those two, not least because what input we next receive is partly a function of how we’ve reacted to the last lot.

    What I would hold, however, is that rational top-down causation requires a non-physical operation by a person, acting on his/her brain. And my reason for holding that is that the brain – or for that matter, any physical system – is simply not capable of instantiating the kinds of abstract concepts that human beings do.

    Why not? I mean, what are your reasons for thinking this?

    (Ask yourself this: what’s the neurological difference between the concept of “having 999 sides” and that of “having 1,000 sides” (which may both employ the same mental image), or between the Bronsted-Lowry concept of an acid and the Lewis concept of an acid, or between the universal concept of “true” and that of “false”?) That’s my reason for positing an extra-corporeal activity (but not an extra-corporeal agent, as I am not a substance dualist like Eccles).

    I hope that helps.

    Not really, but I do appreciate your response! Thanks!

  115. Joe:

    It’s called a potential difference

    What is?

    and it is the required electricity.

    What’s it required for?

  116. vjtorley:

    Here’s how I would explain it. If you grow up in a certain environment, then you’ll absorb a certain way of thinking about the world – a world-view, if you like – from those around you, which will, after a certain amount of time, feel like “second nature” to you. It’ll become your “default” mode, and when confronted with situations in real life, you’ll deal with them by thinking about them from the perspective you acquired from your parents and/or peers. So if I know enough about you, I can make a pretty good guess what choices you’ll make, in certain situations.

    So you agree with pretty much my entire argument. You also agree that the things you wrote above are the result of inference from the observable evidence right?

    However, the next part of your argument, and really the part that should let free will enter the ecuation, is not based on empirical evidence, and I’d like to know what is it based on:

    And yet, people can and do “step outside” their perspective. Our intellect gives us the ability to not only formulate syllogisms but also critique the premises upon which they are based. Usually we are mentally lazy and don’t bother doing this – hence the high correlation between people’s backgrounds and their choices. But we can question our own adoption of certain goals (“Is this really a good thing?”) and of a certain world-view (“Is life all about maximizing pleasure, as my friends think?”) And this is where freedom comes in: once we open these boxes, there’s no telling where we’ll end up. Anything is possible.

    So I see some assertions here (let me know if I’m wrong):

    1) People are usually “mentally lazy” most of the time, hence: The correlation between backgrounds and choices we see.

    2) When people are not lazy (in default mode), they are free (unpredictable), and so exceptions to the correlation occur.

    3) I assume you believe then that people shouldn’t be held morally accountable (by God) for choices made during the “lazy/default” state right? Is this correct?

    So for you free will exists because you believe exceptions to the correlation between backgrounds and choices exist, right? If such exceptions didn’t really exist (as in proven to be an artifact of incomplete data), would you stop believing in free will?

    Also, when you say “we can question our own adoption of certain goals and of a certain world-view” you’re asserting that our “not mentally lazy moments” are exercises of free will. However, what evidence makes you believe that such “free moments” are not part of the same “default mode” that rules our behaviour most of the time?

    I believe this is the big question: On what grounds do you give apparent “moments of lucidity” the special status of “excercising free will”, when, extrapolating/interpolating from the evidence, we could, more easily, attribute such “lucidity” to part of the default mode/default behaviour? Don’t you think that some people, depending on their backgrounds, are more prone to have more or less “lucid” moments, and in different intensity? If those “lucid moments” were actually part of the “default behaviour” of some individual, wouldn’t then choices made under that default mode also be “default”, and therefore not free?

    Is there really a reason to attribute free will to moments of “lucidity” when empirical evidence can close the gap easily, implying that such apparent lucidity is just part of a permanent “default mode”?

    Is there really a reason to believe we’re ever OUT of the default mode?

  117. vjtorley @108 wrote:

    I hadn’t heard of Miaphysitism before, …

    I find that interesting, and in part, I can see why, since the Catholic Encyclopedia entry you pointed me to doesn’t bother to mention anything about it — even though it is the principle alternate Christian perspective on this topic to this day. That also accounts for why you were not aware that there is another Christian tradition still embraced today by the Oriental Orthodox churches on this topic.

    Now, why would the Catholic Encyclopedia omit all mention of that main alternative? It seems they’ve chosen to leave you and everyone else in the dark on this. Hmm. ;-) Actually, since you’ve quoted the sentence before, you probably also read this sentence.

    Though the Miaphysites condemned Eutychianism, the two groups were both viewed as monophysites by their opponents.

    So you see, even to this day the Catholic Encyclopedia does not bother to educate people about the important differences between the two, choosing instead to lump them together improperly. Not what I would consider a charitable thing to do, nor even displaying a suitable minimum of scholarly integrity.

    On the other side, some of those of the Miaphysitism position have been prone to concern that the Dyophysitism position is not sufficiently different from Nestorianism. “Sounds quite a lot like your saying there were really two different people inside Jesus” and so on — an association which the Chalcedonian churches reject. (You’ll notice that the Catholic Encylopedia does bother to include entries about that, so that people do understand and are educated about that distinction.)

    So each side has a concern that the other is getting much too close for comfort to a heretical ditch on the far side of the path.

    Miaphysitism holds that Christ has one nature which has both a divine character and a human character, and which retains all the characteristics of both. But if the characteristics of divine nature and human nature are contradictory, then it makes no sense to ascribe them to the same nature. It is for that reason that I find Miaphysitism unintelligible.

    I may not be able to say anything to convince you, immediately and directly, that Miaphysitism is intelligible and reasonable, at least so long as you try to understand it from within the perspective of your own paradigm. That never works.

    As a minimal goal, I would like to suggest to you that it is understandable that you don’t understand it. First, because it is (unfortunately) completely new to you. Second, and more importantly, you would have to be willing to consider it within its own framework, not within yours. This is true regarding any paradigm shift.

    You know about learning another language. If someone tries to learn and speak, say Japanese, while thinking in English, that just doesn’t work. The same threshold is encountered when someone tries to understand God or the immaterial from within an implicitly materialistic framework.

    So even if you don’t understand (despite anything I say), I would invite you to nevertheless consider the fact that it does make sense to other people, and the problem of your not understanding just might possibly have to do with the prior assumptions you are still holding on to.

    Miaphysitism holds that Christ has one nature which has both a divine character and a human character, and which retains all the characteristics of both. But if the characteristics of divine nature and human nature are contradictory, then it makes no sense to ascribe them to the same nature. It is for that reason that I find Miaphysitism unintelligible.

    What if they are not “contradictory”?

    Distinct, yes. Profoundly different, of course. But “contradictory”? Are you willing to consider that they are not “contradictory”?

    God knew there would be an incarnation before the first human was created. The human nature was created to be in the image of God. Must we conclude that not even God can create a human nature that is not “contradictory” to incorporating the divine nature. Even though Scripture specifically points out that mankind is made in the image of God, after God’s likeness? Does this likeness sound like a declaration of contradiction?

    With no intention of disrespect, let’s look at one supposed example in the list of proofs(?) of “contradiction”. What is necessarily contradictory about Jesus weeping prior to raising Lazarus?

    Scripture commands us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Rom. 12:15). When did Jesus weep? Not until He had seen others weeping. He fulfilled what Paul told us was right for all of us to do. This is right for all the sons of God. How then is it “contradictory” for the Son of God to do this?

    I don’t yet see anything like “contradiction” (in the sense needed by that argument) or a reason to expect it, given God’s expressed intentions for the creation of mankind and the plan for the incarnation.

    What might be persuasive to me, and what I have not seen, is any indication in Scripture itself that Jesus had two minds, two wills, and two spirits. Where is that indicated? What I do find seems to say just the opposite, i.e. the use of singular references, never plural that I can recall.

    It seems that the Dyophysitism position rests primarily on human reasoning about what we confidently expect would have been necessary to resolve issues some believe would have been present, instead of being based on actual references that describe that position or aspects of it as being the truth (e.g. an indication of two minds, two wills, two spirits).

    But even if none of this is persuasive, please consider that there are those who do consider the position and find it comprehensible. But it will never seem so as long as you bring it into your paradigm’s assumptions to consider it.

    Thanks for your patient help for me. I’ll respond to other stuff later.

  118. Proton,

    I’ll answer your pure water question when you account for the correlation between background and choices (highly or totally suggestive of determinism) in the context of chaos (which you claim is not deterministic when applied to choices).

    Really? Is that all you ask? Would like it in book form or a series of 24 chapter installments? LOL

    Ok. A person’s background provides them with analogous experiences and a context for making a decision. Besides direct physical influences, this environment includes the cognitive and affective domains, including knowledge. personal values and convictions, risk assessments, aspirations, impulses, emotions, religious convictions, and so on. A person’s immediate social environment can also play a significant role. The key is that several of these influences can be at variance with each other, producing conflicted motivations. In this case, subtle chaotic factors that have been DEMONSTRATED in the laboratory, observed in nature, and published in books and journals, can result in surprising and counter-intuitive outcomes. For example, in some circumstances a person might become violent for no apparent reason. You know, “He was always such a good boy.” These undetectable and unpredictable chaotic factors, perhaps originating at the quantum level, allow us to make non-deterministic choices that easily do not correlate with expected outcomes.

    Now, Proton (you’re actually keiths, right?), for the fifth time, don’t evade the question. Do you believe that pure water exists? Yes or no.

  119. Of course pure water exists! It just depends how finely you draw your boundary of definition. Is one water molecule pure?

  120. Querius: if you want an answer to your question, then you would have to give an operational definition of “pure water”.

    Do you mean water in liquid form containing nothing but H20 molecules? What quantity do you have in mind? And how would you assay the purity?

  121. About my probability experiment with vjtorley and Elizabeth B Liddle @98, I wanted to add that although each observer gives a different value for the probability, each observer is correct!

    That may seem like a contradiction (“What is the right answer??”), but if the experiment were repeated over and over, then provided there is not bias, each observer would find their own evaluations of probability confirmed on average.

    This is not a contradiction, because they would each have a different experience of how often conditions were exactly like they were for them the first time.

    Thus, though different, each distinct evaluation of the probability is correct, given what they each know at the time. The correctness is not an illusion. It is real and would be confirmed by repeated the experiment.

    Personally, I think that is pretty cool. It reminds me of how under special relativity different observers make different measurements, but there is no contradiction.

  122. I think part of the issue that we compute probability as normalised frequency, and yet if we only have a sample we only have an estimate of the frequencies in the population from which we are drawing.

    So “probability” estimates based on frequencies observed in a sample should come with error bars :)

    Which makes rather a mockery of calling it a “probability” in the first place.

    I think this is a very important point, and has implications for all kinds of things, including free will and predictability. We tend to assume a “God’s eye” view of an entire population over time when we talk about probabilities.

    But for anyone with such a view, the probability of any event is 1 because there is no uncertainty! But from within the system, we only have samples, so there is uncertainty, and therefore probabilities of less than unity make sense, and can be derived from observing patterns of data, and regarding them as samples from a greater whole.

  123. Regarding my comments on observation and probability as a function of knowledge (@98, 121), vjtorley provided a link and excerpt @108 regarding the necessity of the past.

    Thanks for the info. So far, I don’t see that it really changes my point. Though I make an allusion to the common place experience regarding the past, the real dependency is upon this relationship.

    Events cause observations of events.
    or
    Observations of events are possible effects from events.
    or
    Observations of events are causally downstream from the events they observe.

    That is the basis for saying that a true observation of an event collapses the probability to 1 for the event or 0 for a competing event that did not occur.

    This would still be so, even if we allowed for people observing events occurring in the future. It is independent of whether our experience or assumptions about the flow of cause and effect with regard to time are suspended.

  124. It’s called a potential difference

    What is?

    The difference in voltage between the inside and outside of a nerve.

    and it is the required electricity.

    What’s it required for?

    For us to live, move, talk…

  125. p.s. The omniscience of God does not exclude choice or randomness due to what I mention @123.

    Suppose a perfectly random event that cannot be determined by any events or conditions prior to that event within time. That event cannot be predicted based on extrapolation from conditions and cause to effect relationships. No being confined within time would be able to predict such an event.

    Nevertheless, God, who transcends time, is able to observe the outcome of that event. He sees whether or not that coin came up heads or tails. The observation is causally downstream from the unpredictable event.

    Yet, since God is not bound within time, His knowledge of that event is not bound within time. He is free to declare what He knows into any point of time.

    Thus, God’s perfect omniscience is fundamentally different from the attempted predictions of time-bound creatures or time-bound conceptions of deity. It in no way depends upon the event being fated and obligatory in a forced sense.

    (That said, nothing I’ve said here should be taken to deny God’s sovereign control over the events of history.)

  126. Alan Fox:

    Of course pure water exists! It just depends how finely you draw your boundary of definition. Is one water molecule pure?

    One water molecule isn’t water.

  127. Querius:

    I’m not keith. If you didn’t realize, I’m a theist, and an ID as well.

    Ok. A person’s background provides them with analogous experiences and a context for making a decision. Besides direct physical influences, this environment includes the cognitive and affective domains, including knowledge. personal values and convictions, risk assessments, aspirations, impulses, emotions, religious convictions, and so on. A person’s immediate social environment can also play a significant role. The key is that several of these influences can be at variance with each other, producing conflicted motivations.

    Agree.

    In this case, subtle chaotic factors that have been DEMONSTRATED in the laboratory, observed in nature, and published in books and journals, can result in surprising and counter-intuitive outcomes.

    What are you trying to prove with all that “demostrated in labs and published in journals… etc etc”? Did I ever say that I don’t believe in chaos theory? No.

    For example, in some circumstances a person might become violent for no apparent reason. You know, “He was always such a good boy.” These undetectable and unpredictable chaotic factors, perhaps originating at the quantum level, allow us to make non-deterministic choices that easily do not correlate with expected outcomes.

    But you didn’t answer the question! All you said is that chaos can account for the apparent unpredictability of SOME choices (which I disagree with), you didn’t account for the correlation between backgrounds and choices!

    You see that all your argument is useless unless you can account for such correlation? You can’t escape from it by saying that SOME choices are the result of chaos, because the correlation I base my argument on is PERVASIVE in human experience (it’s the rule, not the exception), you can’t explain it away with chaos.

    So are you going to account for this observable correlation or not? You didn’t address it not once in your responses, like if you were pretending it’s not there. Do you agree that such correlation between backgrounds and choices exists? Let’s make that clear before moving on.

  128. Great progress regarding mind vs. spirit. vjtorley @108 wrote:

    I had another look at 1 Corinthians 14, and finally found the passage you were talking about: 1 Corinthians 14:14-15:

    14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit (pneuma) prays, but my mind (nous) is unfruitful. 15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.

    As you correctly point out, this is different from the body-soul(psyche)-spirit division of 1 Thessalonians 5:23.

    I think what the foregoing verses establish is the existence of two distinct kinds of consciousness in man: spiritual (i.e. super-rational) and mental (i.e. rational). However, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that St. Paul is asserting that there are two distinct parts. Still, it’s an interesting point, all the same.

    What St. Paul does show, however, is that pneuma cannot be equated with “rational consciousness”, as man has a super-rational faculty of knowledge, about which we know very little.

    While I’m not stuck on the word “parts”, still it seems we can agree that even within one human, the nous and the pneuma are distinct and cannot be equated with each other.

    I would observe that Paul’s declarations also require that the nous and the pneuma each have their own basis of knowledge. Specifically, a human’s spirit (pneuma) may know something even though that same human’s mind (nous) does not know this. For example, the human spirit may know and understand the meaning of statement or song in an language unknown to the same human’s mind.

    Given that level of distinction — each with its own basis of knowledge and knowing, I wonder where the source of your hesitation about “parts” comes from. If it is just that “parts” sounds too mechanical and like a machine, I can sympathize with that as being not the most suitable imagery. Something equivalent but less crude might be used instead.

    Or, is it because you have a prior philosophical commitment that will not permit you to go as far as that (despite the distinction Paul makes)?

  129. Proton,

    I’m not disagreeing that internal and external factors influence people. I’m saying that free will exists despite these influences. It’s not exclusively one or the other.

    Chaos theory demonstrates that under some circumstances, the tiniest perturbations, can result in dramatically different outcomes such as storms in Chicago. Chaos theory precisely allows for non-Newtonian interactions (i.e. billiard ball predictability) on mental processes, and it disallows you from assuming that anyone can ever know precisely what the initial conditions were nor could you ever know without collapsing the wavefunction.

    Practically speaking, I’m aware of people going through similar circumstances and crises. Some reacted one way, some another way. Have you ever heard the aphorism that “attitude is everything”? I believe it’s true.

    Now, despite the heroic rescue attempts by Alan and Elizabeth, I’m now going to ask you an unprecedented sixth time to not evade my simple question:

    Do you, Proton, believe that pure water exists? Yes or No.

  130. Querius

    Onlookers can easily see that you’re hiding behind the chaos strawman.

    1-You believe that, because of chaos theory, we can’t predict someone’s choices (and assume that free will “uses” this loophole to act, something based on a wish only, no evidence).

    2-You believe, therefore, that the pervasive observable correlation between backgrounds and choices we see needs no explanation.

    3-Hence, you refuse to try to account for this correlation, and turn the argument around chaos (the strawman).

    Querius, if you can’t account for the correlation between backgrounds and choices (which holds, even under incomplete data, most of the time) USING your chaos argument, then your argument fails completely, simple as that.

    As I see it, your argument failed already, I’m just waiting on your defense.

  131. Proton,

    1. Yes. We can’t measure “free will” directly.
    2. No. People aren’t predictable robots.
    3. There’s no compelling correlation. People have tried, but you’re not familiar with the literature.

    Your unwillingness to discuss rather than simply to argue is adequately demonstrated by your refusal to answer a simple question after six chances.

    Goodbye.

  132. vjtorley @108, I propose that Miaphysitism and Dyophysitism are not as far apart as you supposed. I’d like to offer three points for you to consider.

    First consideration:
    Regarding whether “the characteristics of divine nature and human nature are contradictory”, after thinking about my response @117 and your original post, I would like to suggest that in your enthusiasm, the use of “contradictory” may have overstated the position of Dyophysitism. I’ll give three reasons.

    1. To be fair to Pope Leo, the excerpt you quoted from him never said the natures were “contradictory”. The actual point was only that “it does not belong to the same nature to” do or say various things. That does not imply that the natures are “contradictory” but only that they each have unique characteristics not shared by the other. A major theme of that very quotation is the harmonious (not contradictory) “oneness” and “communion” of these natures.

    So the proper character of both natures was maintained and came together in a single person. …

    …Each nature kept its proper character without loss; …

    There is nothing unreal about this oneness, … The activity of each form is what is proper to it in communion with the other: that is, the Word performs what belongs to the Word, and the flesh accomplishes what belongs to the flesh …

    2. We know that Jesus has manifested and made known God’s invisible nature (e.g. John 1:14-18). When Philip asked the Lord to “show us the Father”,

    Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:9, ESV)

    If the human and divine natures were truly “contradictory”, the message expressed through the life of Jesus would be sending contradictory signals, making it effectively impossible to clearly see God’s nature in Jesus.

    3. Both of the preceding reasons point back to the fact that Dyophysitism maintains that both natures are united in one person in such a harmonious union that the two minds, two wills, and two spirits can act as one with no contradiction in intention or choice. If the two natures were inherently contradictory, such a harmonious union would be inherently excluded.

    Second consideration:
    While Dyophysitism proposes a harmonious union of two natures in one person, such that the two minds, two wills, and two spirits act as if they are one (i.e. never in contention or disagreement, etc.), …

    “Miaphysitism holds that in the one person of Jesus Christ, Divinity and Humanity are united in one “nature” (“physis”), the two being united without separation, without confusion, and without alteration.

    “Miaphysitism has often been considered by Chalcedonian Christians to be a form of monophysitism, but the Oriental Orthodox Churches themselves reject this characterization, a position which the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches have begun to take more seriously.”

    excerpt from http://orthodoxwiki.org/Miaphysitism

    Since you are not used to thinking about Miaphysitism (rather than about Monophysitism), I would especially urge you to not to miss that the union is “without confusion, and without alteration.” With this in mind, please consider the following question.

    Are there any actions of Jesus that are not compatible with either of these ways of describing Jesus?

    In particular, I would suggest to you that every action of Jesus in the list of illustrations by Pope Leo is compatible with the description given by Miaphysitism. Can you think of any counter examples?

    Third consideration:

    Are there any statements of Jesus or statements in Scripture describing Jesus that are not compatible with either of these ways of describing Jesus?

    On this point, the only indication that comes to my mind is that so far as I know, Jesus is never described as having two minds, two wills, or two spirits. These are always in the singular, never in the plural. Thus, I find no biblical basis for that manner of describing Jesus. Its motivation appears to entirely rest upon various philosophical preferences, despite the consistent use of the singular within Scripture itself.

  133. Querius:

    Your unwillingness to discuss rather than simply to argue is adequately demonstrated by your refusal to answer a simple question after six chances.

    You sound just like a Darwinist when they start being cornered.

    There’s no compelling correlation. People have tried, but you’re not familiar with the literature.

    You’re so deluded Querius… Even vjtorley agreed with me regarding the existence of this correlation. Not only that, evidence of this correlation exists EVERYWHERE. Think about any global survey studying human behaviour/opinion/beliefs, it’s easy to see how people from different countries/cultures all differ in their worldviews and social/family values, or any other specific behaviour, opinion or belief that emerges from such geographical/cultural backgrounds. And this is just an obvious example of how backgrounds affect behaviour, everywhere you look you’ll find more examples, showing how this correlation is not only real, but it’s the RULE.

    Implying that a correlation between backgrounds and choices doesn’t exist is as low as I’ve seen a free will advocate go, no one else here at UD tried to suggest such an insane argument.

  134. 134

    Implying that a correlation between backgrounds and choices doesn’t exist is as low as I’ve seen a free will advocate go, no one else here at UD tried to suggest such an insane argument.

    I’m with Querius. Furthermore, correlation does not equate to causation. But even if people are sheep and often choose to follow the crowd, give in to peer pressure, follow in the footsteps of their forefathers, etc this does not in any way detract from the fact that we all truly freely make our choices, no matter how unoriginal and common those choices may be.

    It is insanity to deny true free-will. Or intellectually dishonest. What’s your excuse, Proton?

  135. Chris Doyle:

    It is insanity to deny true free-will. Or intellectually dishonest

    On what grounds? Le me remind you that free will is NOT “the ability to make choices”, but “the ability to make UNCONSTRAINED choices”. Evidence points to the fact that “unconstrained choices” don’t exist. Hence free will is false. It’s common sense. Only religious people believe in free will because they’re committed to such belief in the same way Darwinists are commited to materialism.

    correlation does not equate to causation.

    This is not applicable to my argument as I explained here.

    even if people are sheep and often choose to follow the crowd, give in to peer pressure, follow in the footsteps of their forefathers, etc, this does not in any way detract from the fact that we all truly freely make our choices

    This is wishful thinking. You provide no evidence that people make truly free choices, all you say is they simply do. I base my argument in empirical evidence. What do you base your argument on other than religious commitment?

  136. 136

    Hi Proton.

    Clearly, you are not open to the possibility that true free-will exists. Yet, in the real world, you surely think and act as though you are truly free to choose how you think and act. You are clever enough and reasonable enough to understand that there are all kinds of influencing factors behind your choices, and, recognising that fact you can reflect upon your conscious choices and see why you made those choices. But, most importantly, you are freely choosing whether or not to act rationally or irrationally, to freely choose the ‘default-lazy’ option (which is nonetheless undetermined and indeterminable) or set that aside for the unknown or the challenging option: you can choose pain and discomfort, you can choose doubt even. This is what the empirical data indicates.

    This is who you are, Proton, whether you like it or not: you are completely responsible for your choices, and even the intentions behind those choices. And, theologically speaking, I’m no Christian, but the Day is coming when we will all be brought to account for those choices and it doesn’t matter what you believe: we will all face Judgement for our works as we are truly responsible for them.

    Now, I freely admit, I am not open to the possibility that true free-will is an illusion. That would be like asking me to be open to the possibility that 2+2=4 or my uncle is really my aunt. So, close-minded as we both are on this subject, there is no point debating it any further as neither of us will budge. Maybe you will give theology another try and find out for yourself that you cannot honestly deny free-will. Maybe you won’t. The choice really is yours and no amount of bashing particles will ever take true freedom of will away from you.

    Feel free
    ;-)
    to have the last word, though I may not see what you write as I’ll be taking a break from the comment sections of UD for a while.

    I wish you well, Proton.

  137. Chris Doyle

    Feel free to have the last word, though I may not see what you write as I’ll be taking a break from the comment sections of UD for a while.

    Nice way of running away from an argument…

    No problem if you don’t see this, my response will be here for you and onlookers and also as a record (I save this threads for future reference).

    Most of your argument is based on a simple wish and a refusal to aknowledge the existence of the evidence against free will (namely, the observable correlation between backgrounds and choices).

    there are all kinds of influencing factors behind your choices, and, recognising that fact you can reflect upon your conscious choices and see why you made those choices.

    That’s the delusion precisely. The very act of “reflecting” on something implies using reasoning, and reasoning is a product of our background, so you are already being constrained by your background even when you think you’re reflecting on your choices. You can’t escape this constrain because it’s built into the very reasoning you use to reflect on it, and therefore no matter how “free” you feel when making choices, you ultimately aren’t.

    most importantly, you are freely choosing whether or not to act rationally or irrationally, to freely choose the default-lazy’ option (which is nonetheless undetermined and indeterminable) or set that aside for the unknown or the challenging option: you can choose pain and discomfort, you can choose doubt even. This is what the empirical data indicates.

    In bold you’re claiming that the “default lazy option” (I assume you’re reffering to the correlation between backgrounds and choices) is “undetermined and indeterminable”. However this is contradictory and goes against the evidence. People are not unpredictable if you know enough about them, and the more we know about them, the less unpredictable they are. THIS is what evidence points to, and so you’re argument doesn’t make any sense.

    This is what the empirical data indicates.

    Please explain in which way. We can’t both be right.

    Now, I freely admit, I am not open to the possibility that true free-will is an illusion.

    Great way to indicate that you prefer delusion over truth. Sorry if I’m too hard on you, I’m just stating the facts.

    This is who you are, Proton, whether you like it or not: you are completely responsible for your choices, and even the intentions behind those choices.

    It’s not about whether I like it or not, it’s whether it’s true or false. I have no personal problem with free will, I’m not biased agaisnt it (unlike free will advocates, who are adamantly biased FOR it), but the fact is free will doesn’t make sense AT ALL when the evidence is taken into account, it’s even laughable that people can believe in it. The concept of free will is simply ridiculous.

    And, theologically speaking, I’m no Christian, but the Day is coming when we will all be brought to account for those choices and it doesn’t matter what you believe: we will all face Judgement for our works as we are truly responsible for them.

    LOL. You’re not a Christian? Well you sound just like one. What’s so funny is that as you say that “it doesn’t matter what you believe: we will all face Judgement for our works as we are truly responsible for them.”, and yet I can’t say with even more confidence the following thing: When you die and you get to be face to face with the Creator you’ll understand how naive and deluded you were to believe that something as ridiculous as free will could exist when it was obvious, by looking around you, that it wasn’t.

    The choice really is yours and no amount of bashing particles will ever take true freedom of will away from you.

    Please, keep saying things like this, it only helps onlookers see that free will is something that is believed on faith only and not something inferred from observation.

  138. Dr. Torley, if you have any thoughts about my questions @132, I would still be very interested to hear them, especially regarding the second and third considerations that I offer.

    In any case, I’ve wanted to say that I appreciate that you have (albeit unintentionally) made me aware of Miaphysitism. I only began to look into it due to the links you provided to Monothelitism @89, particularly the Wikipedia link. (The Catholic link was unhelpful since it leaves its readers — including you, until our conversation — completely in the dark about the fundamental distinction, or even about the existence of the Christian tradition of Miaphysitism. I hope you did not take offense when I criticized their neglect for not providing that minimal level of clarity. It should not be that we have to go to Wikipedia to discover the distinction.)

    Thanks again for your helpful, patient and informative posts.

  139. Hi ericB,

    My sincere apologies for not getting back to you sooner. Posts tend to disappear from the main page very quickly these days, which means that if I don’t spot a comment by a reader in the side bar on the right, I may not realize that a conversation on one of my posts is still continuing.

    Thanks also for your kind comments. Re Miaphysitism, what I’m saying is not that the two natures of Christ are contradictory, but their characteristics are contradictory. I still cannot make sense of the notion that one and the same nature might be eternal and have a beginning in time, for instance, as the Miaphysites hold. You quoted a statement saying that according to Miaphysitism, Christ’s divinity and humanity are united “without separation, without confusion, and without alteration,” in one nature. My question would be: if they are united in the same nature, how can they not be confused?

    I understand that Miaphysitism tries to circumvent this difficulty by saying that Christ has one nature, but two characters. OK, but what’s the difference between a “character” and a “nature”?

    For my part, I would define “nature” as a principle of agency. Thus on the Dyophysite account, Christ has two agencies – divine and human – with the former exerting sufficient control over the latter as to prevent the two from ever coming into conflict.

    Regarding your question about Scriptural texts that would decisively tell in favor of Miaphysitism or Dyophysitism, I can’t think of any clear-cut cases, off the top of my head. The nearest I can think of is Romans 1:3, which speaks of God’s Son as “descended from David according to the flesh” (ESV), while Hebrews 7:3, speaks of Melchizidek as “resembling the Son of God,” by “having neither beginning of days nor end of life” (ESV). But neither text uses the term “nature.”

    I will acknowledge, however, that there’s nothing in Scripture that clearly states Jesus had two principles of agency, or for that matter, two minds, two wills, or two spirits – a point which does give me twinges of concern, at times. These ways of speaking, as I see it, are developments in Church teaching, which were formulated in order to make sense of seemingly contradictory statements in Scripture, which speak of one and the same person in two seemingly incompatible ways (mortal/immortal, beginning in time/eternal, limited/unlimited in knowledge, etc). The Catholic Church’s solution was to ascribe these ways of speaking to different natures. I realize that’s a Greek philosophical solution to a problem of Scriptural interpretation, but I’m OK with that. I just can’t see any other rational alternative.

    I understand the Miaphysite solution is to ascribe the two ways of speaking to different characters of the one nature. But consider what would happen to the Law of Non-contradiction (LNC) if we were to allow that. LNC says that one and the same thing cannot be both X and not-X at the same time. If we interpret “thing” to mean “agent” or “nature,” then there’s no problem with regard to the incompatible characteristics of Christ’s divine and human natures.

    But if the Miaphysites are right, then we’d have to modify the LNC to: one and the same character of one and the same thing cannot be both X and not-X at the same time. What worries me about this new formulation is that I could no longer prove that (say), this crow is not the same thing as that camel. You might argue that they have different shapes, sizes, DNA and so on, but I could reply: “They’re both one and the same thing, but this thing has two distinct characters: a crow character and a camel character. The mutually incompatible characteristics you point to (e.g. size, shape and DNA) belong to two distinct characters.” On that way of thing, any two things might (for all we know) be one and the same thing.

    I guess what I want to say is that for all I know, there might be something in Miaphysitism, but if there is, then its defenders have a lot of work to do, if they want to articulate their position clearly against philosophical objections. Perhaps we’ll hear more from the Miaphysites in the future.

    I’d just like to close by thanking you for this exchange of views, ericB. I have learned something useful from it, and it has helped me to think more critically about background assumptions which I had hitherto taken for granted, when discussing the Incarnation.

  140. Dr. Torley, thanks for your extensive response.

    I will acknowledge, however, that there’s nothing in Scripture that clearly states Jesus had two principles of agency, or for that matter, two minds, two wills, or two spirits – a point which does give me twinges of concern, at times. These ways of speaking, …

    That is exactly the primary reason why I have trouble with the Chalcedonian way of speaking.

    I think you are exactly right that Miaphysitism or Dyophysitism are two “ways of speaking” about a very unique situation.

    You said (my emphasis added):

    I understand that Miaphysitism tries to circumvent this difficulty by saying that Christ has one nature, but two characters. OK, but what’s the difference between a “character” and a “nature”?

    For my part, I would define “nature” as a principle of agency. Thus on the Dyophysite account, Christ has two agencies – divine and human – with the former exerting sufficient control over the latter as to prevent the two from ever coming into conflict.

    Regarding your question about Scriptural texts that would decisively tell in favor of Miaphysitism or Dyophysitism, I can’t think of any clear-cut cases, off the top of my head. The nearest I can think of is Romans 1:3, which speaks of God’s Son as “descended from David according to the flesh” (ESV), while Hebrews 7:3, speaks of Melchizidek as “resembling the Son of God,” by “having neither beginning of days nor end of life” (ESV). But neither text uses the term “nature.”

    I think you are showing that the traditional debate of these two “ways of speaking” has bogged down over differences of definitions of favored terms that are not clearly defined in Scripture. No wonder there is difficulty.

    You said (my emphasis added):

    These ways of speaking, as I see it, are developments in Church teaching, which were formulated in order to make sense of seemingly contradictory statements in Scripture, which speak of one and the same person in two seemingly incompatible ways (mortal/immortal, beginning in time/eternal, limited/unlimited in knowledge, etc). The Catholic Church’s solution was to ascribe these ways of speaking to different natures. I realize that’s a Greek philosophical solution to a problem of Scriptural interpretation, but I’m OK with that. I just can’t see any other rational alternative.

    Coming from my mathematical background and perspective, rather than introduce plurality where Scripture is consistently singular, my inclination has been to think in terms of a harmonious orthogonal union of fully divine and fully human.

    If you were to think of a visual metaphor, one could look at a situation or an object from two angles and see from two different perspectives. Each would show or reveal something different. Neither is exclusive of the other. Neither by itself is the whole story. Neither perspective is an illusion. The orthogonality makes it possible for both perspectives to be true harmoniously and without contradiction about the same one subject.

    For an imperfect physical analogy, one could look at an insulated wire by examining a cross section (which would allow you to see the layers of insulation) or by viewing it from the side so as to see its length. (Please remember the acknowledged imperfection of such an analogy. It might be helpfully suggestive, but it is not claimed to be durable.)

    With regard to the divinity of the Son = the Word, He has remained as He has always been without diminution or compromise or confusion. He is immortal, eternal, unlimited in knowledge, etc. Then, at a point within time, comes the incarnation…

    Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
    “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
    but a body have you prepared for me; (Hebrews 10:5, ESV)

    Regarding the human incarnation, full and true humanity was added in an harmonious and orthogonal (i.e. integrated yet not conflicting, not colliding) manner. The humanity is mortal (because the added body is mortal and can die), beginning in time (because the incarnation and addition of humanity happened at a point in time), limited in knowledge (because all humans have a conscious human mind (=nous) that is distinct from their spirit (= pneuma), that interacts with the physical brain, and that is limited in how it learns and how much it knows), etc.

    I do believe that recognizing the human nous vs. pneuma distinction is an essential consideration to eliminating many supposed apparent contradictions.

    But if the Miaphysites are right, then we’d have to modify the LNC to: one and the same character of one and the same thing cannot be both X and not-X at the same time.

    Without endorsing Miaphysitism, per se, I would point out that it is no violation to the LNC to say that, in light of orthogonal perspectives, certain properties must be evaluated per a perspective to be meaningful. One must specify which perspective to be unambiguous.

    So I don’t see that there is any necessary problem with regard to the LNC.

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