Does Physics disprove the existence of free will?

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by M.I.D, Oct 2, 2018.

  1. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    I would argue that the example does not show "free agency" or "free choice" but rather just "agency" and "choice".
    And if one defines "free will" along the lines of the ability to select between different possible outcomes that were more than counterfactual examples of such, then Frankfurt's example above doesn't show that such a free will exists.

    What it does show, and I tend to be in aligned, is that moral responsibility could be considered compatible with a deterministic universe (in which everything is predetermined and nothing is able to do otherwise).
    Does this mean that freewill (as defined above) exists?
    No, I don't think so.

    Maybe it's a half-way house between the compatabilist and incompatabilist... the view that at least moral responsibility is compatible with a deterministic universe where there is no ability to do otherwise, even if free will isn't considered compatible.
    I've certainly never adhered to the incompatabilist view that moral responsibility is not possible in a deterministic universe.
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  3. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    But not "real" or "actual" choice. Right?
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  5. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    No, it isn't. It's a matter of how things actually and in fact are, to us.
    Too funny.
    You've changed nothing, just reconfirmed the claim you so indignantly deny in alternate posts.
    Which is assumed for the human, once it is argued for the universe.
    Drop that assumption, consider the physical reality involved, and your mind will clear.
    It's like waving my hands at the existence of blueprints, architectural drawings, and construction manuals, when somebody is denying that one can build a house out of brick in more than one way.
    Now consider the nature of those possessed by a conscious, decision making human being.
    The ability to do otherwise is one of them.
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  7. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    If one is referring to the process then yes, they are real and actual.
    You even have to qualify that with the subjective "to us".
    "Actually and in fact are, to us" is merely the appearance of a freedom that isn't available in something that is predetermined.
    You really are struggling with understanding the difference between a conclusion and an assumption, aren't you.
    Too bad.
    It is argued for any deterministic system.
    Do you not think the human is a deterministic system?
    Or are you advocating indeterminism within the larger deterministic universe?
    There is no assumption to drop.
    You are certainly waving your hands, but if not shouting at "bricks" and "glass" then at rolls of paper and claiming them to be blueprints.
    You need to do more if you are to be taken seriously here.
    Then show how.
    Put an actual argument together to support that, because at the moment you claim much, wave your hands like you're at a handwaving festival, but you have not actually provided any argument for what you claim.

    Now, without handwaving, without continuing along your rather pathetic misconception about what has been assumed rather than concluded, answer me this question: provide an argument for the genuine (as opposed one that is merely an imagined counterfactual) ability to do otherwise in a predetermined course of events.

    Do that and you may start to contribute something meaningful.
    Until then there is nothing left to say.
  8. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Until you drop that supernatural assumption, you're going to remain stuck. It's blinding you.
    Not much of a struggle any more. I don't even have to point to where you make it, any more - you're posting it explicitly yourself.
    Again: By extrapolation and extension from accepted concepts such as degrees of freedom in engineering and statistics.
    Some details of the approach appear in several posts you have blown off, such as 940.
    You're still stuck on the observation that a driver approaching a traffic light has the ability to stop and the ability to go, both - the ability to do otherwise, in other words, whichever they end up doing. That's a pretty basic level - you get past that, we can worry about the next level stuff.
    No, it isn't argued. At least not coherently.
    Your "predetermined" confusion only clears up for the universe entire, for starters. At the human decision level, you haven't untangled what "predetermined" actually means - the predetermined status of the driver approaching the light is that they will in the future decide according to the light's color, for example, which is not what you need for your "argument".
  9. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    All that you've provided, in post 940 and here, is handwaving.
    Despite requests for you to stump up an actual argument, you have offered nothing else.
    "Ooh, complexity! Logical levels! What more do you need?!"
    Just admit you have nothing else, or at least are willing to offer nothing else.
    The coherence is there.
    I can't be held responsible for your lack of understanding.
    Special pleading for the case of humans again, I see.
    There is no confusion with "predetermined", at least not on my side.
    Predetermined means exactly that: predetermined - established in advance.
    It doesn't matter what system you're talking about but if it is predetermined then it is predetermined.
    Not just predetermined according to imagined counterfactual possibilities (I.e. if A then X but if B then Y), as the input is predetermined as well.
    If the universe is predetermined, which you seem to accept is the logical consequence of being deterministic (do correct me if I'm wrong) then any system within it, be it a Tesla in space, a human, the motion of stars, anything and everything within it is predetermined.
    That doesn't stop just because you want to look at humans.
    Their inputs are predetermined.
    Their outputs are predetermined.
    All you offer is the notion of counterfactual examples that allude to "could have done otherwise", which if the inputs were not predetermined would be a reasonable position to take.
    But those inputs are already established, were already established at the start of the system in question.

    So, again, please explain how anything has the ability to do otherwise when everything... and I do mean everything... within the deterministic universe - and that does include humans - is predetermined.
    Or is all you have to be based on referencing counterfactuals?
  10. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    That was the thread topic.
    And nothing special about it - anything with the mental ability to make a decision based on information would qualify for the level of the driver approaching a traffic light, which is where you are stuck.
    They are factual observations (or nothing is).
    Predetermination of future inputs is irrelevant.
    Short answer: By being predetermined to have that ability, of course.
    And whether or not I can explain how (if after rereading more carefully you still don't like the approach offered in 940 et al), the observation remains: it then becomes your problem, not mine.
    Handwaving you have yet to address, other than with pejorative (and inaccurate) labels.
  11. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    Yep, thermostats, computers and the like, not to mention autonomous vehicles.
    Or are you going to argue that they have free will as well?
    Or are you going to question beg that those don't have "mental ability", just ability.
    No, I'm not the one who is stuck here.
    How is it a factual observation?
    You can't revisit the same situation, same inputs.
    You can at best revisit a scenario with some of the same apparent inputs.
    And even you understand that if different outputs arise then different inputs can be deduced.
    So how, among all of that, do you claim that an observation of different inputs leading to different outputs is an observation of "ability to do otherwise"?
    Irrelevant to what?
    If you consider yourself at any time in the future to have the ability to otherwise, yet the inputs to and the workings of the decision making process are deterministic and predetermined such that the output is already predetermined, how is that irrelevant?
    Because it seems to conclude that you actually have no ability to do otherwise?
    Plus we're not talking only of predetermination of future inputs but of all inputs at any time, be that past, present or future.

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    Predetermined to have the ability to do otherwise, where everything is predetermined?
    We have certainly been predetermined to think that we are able to do otherwise, I'll grant you that much.
    But as to your actual answer: wow.
    Just re-read what you wrote, let it sink in, and then I hope you sit back and have a good laugh about it.
    'Cos if you're still being serious after then... wow.
    Ah, so rather than actually provide an explanation that offers something more than that available to a thermostat, or a computer, you're just going to handwave such complaints away.
    I get it.
    I have addressed it every time I have alluded to Mars-bound Teslas, to thermostats, to computers.
    Your position relies on the presumption that the alternatives are possible rather than counterfactual.
    It relies on nothing more than an "If... Then..." conditional claim.
    Yes, IF the inputs were different THEN the person would have done otherwise.
    But for that to be meaningful you have to show that the different inputs were possible at the time the decision was taken.
    And in a predetermined universe, good luck with that.

    The rest of your handwaving is dismissed for what it is.
  12. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    No. My position relies on the observation that certain abilities exist in the entities considered - human beings, decision makers. The ability to do otherwise than the contingency will eventually indicate, in a contingent decision, for example. This has nothing to do with future "possibility" as determined by an omniscient evaluator.
    To the observation and explanation of the ability to do otherwise.
    They don't have wills at all. One must have a will, to have the associated degrees of freedom.
    The computer, at least, can have the ability to do otherwise inherent in any decision making setup. It's made that way - such an ability is often programmed right in.
    It demonstrates the existence of a decision-making entity, by displaying its contingent behavior as predicted.
    Yep. It's a logical necessity of predetermination, given the observation.
    Drop the supernatural assumption, and your mind will clear.
    I already have, in 940 et al. You are the one handwaving it away.
    Which makes the observation I was explaining your problem. You don't like my explanation, ok - what's yours?
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2019
  13. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    So, despite all your protestations in the past, you now admit that you are relying on the observation... i.e. the appearance.
    There is no actual contingency, though.
    That you consider it a contingency is belief / appearance only.
    The lack of contingency is what you get from a predetermined universe.
    Yes, you have the appearance and thought of there being a contingency but other than the one that occurs the rest are counterfactual.
    The others are simply not possible, only thought of and believed to be possible.
    Sure, if "ability to do otherwise" is taken merely to be the belief or appearance that one has the ability.
    This is what you have rejected it as being in the past, so that leaves you with... what, exactly?
    Wanting an "ability to do otherwise" that is more than just the belief/appearance that we have it, in a universe that, per the valid logic, suggests such doesn't exist.
    Wanting an "ability to do otherwise" than what has been predetermined to occur?
    Yep, you're stuck.
    Is this another handwave to complexity I see before me?

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    Anyway, sure, we can call a program or a process whatever we want.
    The will is deterministic, and predetermined, just like any other process within a deterministic universe.
    To consider it free, though, that's the question.
    So you're saying that a computer has the ability to do otherwise???
    The same as computers, Teslas, bricks etc.
    So we're predetermined to have an ability to do otherwise, when predetermined logically means that we have no ability to do otherwise.
    Ever tried doing something you weren't predetermined to do?
    Let me know when you've done that, 'cos until then you're simply offering up a paradox that you're refusing to address.
    Okay, so we're left with you unwilling to support or clarify your position, with you relying on what is little more than handwaving, and you denying the vast content of the previous 40 pages that I've been involved in.

    Just so we know where we stand.
  14. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Are you questioning the claim that one must have a will to have degrees of freedom for it?
    Usually. Built in. Rudimentary compared with a human being, of course.
    I'm not sure how you get from observation to "appearance", there. Are you relegating the observed physical world to the realm of "appearance"? (In that case nothing in physics can disprove the existence of free will, btw - close the thread).
    I am supported by observation, meaning the existence of what I logically deduced must exist is comfortingly observed. And I enjoy watching you try to claim that a driver about to make a decision has no ability to do whatever they will decide against doing in the future.
    How so? Explain how one "logically" cannot have a predetermined ability to make a decision based on criteria yet to be input.
    Not the same as the orbiting Teslas and bricks. They don't make decisions based on information.
    The content from you is not vast. It's narrow, repetitive. You're stuck.
  15. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    So we are predetermined to have a choice and what ever choice we make is also predetermined.... so?
    stop at the light, go through or turn around .... etc does not matter, as it is a choice that is predetermined. Regardless of the choice...
    Predetermination doesn't necessarily mean no freedom to choose as all choices possible are in effect predetermined to be possible.
  16. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    Not at all, I was just preempting the handwaving.
    The issue I was addressing was one of whether the process is free, not whether they had a process we called "will".
    The "ability to do otherwise" that computers has is exactly the same as for a human being: it is based on counterfactual possibilities, based on the trivial notion that different inputs lead to different outputs within a deterministic system.
    It doesn't once get to the nub of whether the system is actually free, as in being able to do otherwise at the moment of the choice.
    What we observe is necessarily the appearance.
    The question then is whether the appearance matches the underlying reality.
    Observation is thus an inadequate arbiter unless one wishes to beg the question that observation matches it.
    Everything we observe is appearance.
    You have to provide support that the appearance matches what you think you are observing.
    Sure, you're happy in a will that is "free" on the same level, bar some handwaving about complexity, that a Tesla, brick or computer has.
    You could also claim that your cat was a kitchen table, observe a kitchen table and claim you have seen your cat.
    Nice strawman.
    Let's stick to what I am claiming, shall we?
    Again - I am not saying that one can not make a decision.
    The decision is simply a process.
    The process exists, the process is/will be gone through.

    What I am saying is that the decision is not free.
    It does not have the ability to do otherwise, as the inputs are already predetermined, the output is already predetermined.
    You can create any number of counterfactual examples that suggest that IF different inputs than those predetermined THEN you get a different output to the one predetermined, but the actual decision process, the one gone through (or will be gone through) is predetermined at every step along the path.
    They react to input, the same way as any process.
    Their output is as predetermined as their inputs.
    The same as every other deterministic process in a deterministic universe.
    Queue your handwaving about complexity.
    Or the specific name of a process as "decision".
    I only appear stuck because I'm trying to help you out of your hole.
    You're stuck with a hollow and trivial version of "freedom" that offers nothing more than any process has that converts different inputs to different outputs.
    You're simply not concerned with whether there is an actual ability to do otherwise, only with whether there is a counterfactual-based ability to do otherwise.
  17. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    So how is it free?
    Noone disputes the ability to go through the process of choice.
    But there is no freedom to choose, as we (will) go through the process of choice when it is predetermined that we will.
    And there are no "possible" choices, only counterfactual options that we are predetermined to imagine.
    We just don't know at that time which option is the actual and which are the counterfactual until after the decision concludes.
    But every step of the way is predetermined.
    It was written in stone to occur just as it did, just as it will.
    How, then, can anything we do be considered "free"?
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  18. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    Are you suggesting that if all possible choices are predetermined and the actor has the ability to choose from one of those predetermined alternatives that his freedom to choose is being predetermined? How is that not free?
  19. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    No, that is not what I'm suggesting.

    First, as I said above, there are no "possible choices", only the one that is predetermined.
    All the others are counterfactual imaginings that we nonetheless believe to be genuine options.
    But they aren't genuine options.
    Only the predetermined one can ever be the output of the process of choice.
    So the actor does not have the ability to choose from one of them, the actor only has the ability to choose the one that is predetermined - i.e. the process we call "choice" will output the one that is predetermined.

    Second, when you say "that his freedom to choose is being predetermined", you are suggesting I am begging the question.
    I am not.
    I am saying that there is no freedom to choose because everything is predetermined.
    You'll have to tell me, because I'm not suggesting what you seem to think I am.
  20. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Not usually. In most software it is a couple of logical levels below. The AI folks are trying to jump level, and may be succeeding.
    And the field of physics is devoted to answering that question - in this case, in the affirmative. The human mind does make decisions according to criteria, according to multiple different investigative approaches into the underlying reality.
    It's not the same level - even between a brick and a computer there are significant logical levels. Bricks don't process information, and waving your hands at them won't give them that ability.
    That supernatural assumption keeps tripping you.
    Trying to restrict the word "actual" to the supernatural is strange, and unmotivated. There is nothing counterfactual about the abilities of a driver approaching a light to stop and to go, both. In fact, it is a logical necessity of their eventual behavior being determined by the color of the light - if it were not the case, their eventual behavior would be independent of the color of the light, and we would be unable to observe a decision being made (in our brain scans, etc).
    - - -
    We observe the ability to make decisions - fact.
    So? The process of choice nevertheless exists, and involves selection among what the chooser has the ability to do.
    That is the supernatural assumption. It is not necessary. If you can find some way to drop it, the discussion can proceed.
  21. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    including all the possible alternatives availiable.... How is that not free?
  22. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    Nothing but handwaving.
    You have yet to explain, in any of your posts, how the logical levels have any bearing on the matter in hand.
    How they turn something that has no possibility of selecting other than the one it does (I.e. not free) into something that does.
    Yet you've provided nothing but hind waved to some examples that conclude simply on the appearance.
    To wit:
    They conclude a process is followed, yes.
    They make no claim as to whether that process is free with regards being able to do otherwise at the moment of choice.
    You're the one waving your hands at a process and expecting something to not just seem to appear but to actually be what it appears to be: free.
    You have offered nothing in that regard.
    Aren't your hands and arms sore from all the waving?
    The is everything counterfactual about it.
    If a train sees two paths ahead and the switch is already set (i.e. predetermined) how is it genuinely/actually able to go down the other path at that time?
    To say "if the switch was in the other position it could have gone down the other path" is a counterfactual example.
    And your entire notion of what it means to be free is hollow because it relies on such counterfactuals.
    If their behaviour is determined by the colour of the light, as you suggest (same colour light, same response) then it is an even simpler case to examine: their behaviour is no more free than an an autonomous vehicle that is told how to act.
    It has no choice but to do what its programming says.
    No will of its own (unless the program is called "WILL" or some such).
    Can it choose to do anything different?
    No, because, as you have examples, the colour of the light determines its response.
    We certainly do, in the same way that a thermostat does.
    Only we call our process "decision making".
    Otherwise it is fundamentally the same.
    It has never been disputed that the process is carried out, so do try to move on from merely repeating that the process is carried out.
    Yes, the process exist.
    Again, not disputed.
    The selection, however, is not free.
    It has no ability to select, at the time it does, anything other than the one it does, even if prior to that it can imagine many other counterfactual examples of what it has the ability to do.
    Having the theoretical ability to do both X and Y at different times based on different inputs is not the same as having freedom to do other than it does at any given moment.
    Do you agree that when a computer plays chess it has the ability to move many possible pieces?
    I mean, on its opening move it could move any of the pawns either one or two spaces forward, so that's 16 possible moves right there.
    It selects one.
    Now, assuming there is no inherent randomness in the programming, as were talking about a deterministic system, are you saying that the computer was "free" to select any of the others at that time?
    It certainly looks ahead and assesses possible combinations of moves - so thereyouhave your direct analogy to what humans do when they make a choice.
    It then makes its move.
    It has made a choice.
    Are you honestly saying that it had the ability to do other than the move it made?
    In the absence of randomness you could run that simulation at any time and it would play out the same way and it would behave exactly the same way, precisely because it is not free.
    You, though, see the 16 or more moves it could make on its opening move and claim that it has the ability to do otherwise, as if that somehow means that the move it took was chosen freely.
    It's not an assumption, and I try not to appeal to consequence.
    If the conclusion is that our will isn't free, I don't then look for definitions of "free" that give me that warm fuzzy feeling that my free will can be considered intact.
    If you're content with your hollow notion, a sense of "free" that, as relevant to the process of choice, is available to any process that assesses what it considers are possible futures before making its predetermined move, then I will leave you to that, and laugh every time I play a computer game as to how "free" you think it is.
  23. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    They are not "possible" alternatives, as explained twice now.
    They are only imagined / believed to be possible.
    Hence the term counterfactual.

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