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Old 20 Mar 2012, 06:44 PM   #345882 / #26
cnorman18
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So can you prove to me that I could NOT have chosen differently? No, you cannot. Unprovable woo. Sorry. Not buying it. I'll accept the evidence of my senses and my perceptions of how the world works over your philosophical dogma, thanks. It sure as Hell ain't science.
This is a Burden of Proof fallacy. Assuming the particles in our head behave like the particles that are not in our head (that we can do experiments on) is the default position. To deviate from this default requires evidence.
Perhaps the fact that you believe your own thoughts have actual meaning?

Can you explain how the movement of the particles in YOUR head give rise to thoughts that have significance, if their motion is predetermined by physics?

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Stephen Hawking is the world's premier PHYSICIST, and he's not buying it either: for all PRACTICAL purposes, free will exists.
You must be aware that this the fallacy of Appeal to Authority.
You are making an argument that purports to be factual, and not a matter of opinion; and since it is based on the science of physics, citing the views of an actual physicist is not out of place.
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In response, let me first say that I don't think Stephen Hawking does believe in free-will.
In practical terms, yes, he does. He has, in fact, said so:
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I want to suggest that the concept of free will and moral responsibility for our actions are really an effective theory in the sense of fluid mechanics. It may be that everything we do is determined by some grand unified theory. If that theory has determined that we shall die by hanging, then we shall not drown. But you would have to be awfully sure that you were destined for the gallows to put to sea in a small boat during a storm. I have noticed that even people who claim everything is predetermined and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road. ... One cannot base one's conduct on the idea that everything is determined, because one does not know what has been determined. Instead, one has to adopt the effective theory that one has free will and that one is responsible for one's actions. This theory is not very good at predicting human behavior, but we adopt it because there is no chance of solving the equations arising from the fundamental laws. There is also a Darwinian reason that we believe in free will: A society in which the individual feels responsible for his or her actions is more likely to work together and survive to spread its values.
Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays, 1993, pp. 133-135
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Secondly, so what if he does? There are plenty of smart physicists who are also Christians. Should we adopt their beliefs too?
A rather obvious red herring. Again, by your own standard and argument, the discussion is about free will as it relates to physics, which is Hawking's area of expertise, and not as it relates to religion, which is, scientifically speaking, entirely unrelated and irrelevant. Nice try.
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(And Hawking is most certainly not the "world's premier physicist".)
Who is?
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Since you can't show me a difference in how I shall live my life, your "no free will" woo is as meaningless as the Bearded Sky Fairy.
To a certain extent you are correct. I can't prove you have no free-will, just as I can't prove there is no god. So you are free to continue your life as before, believing as you always have. Nevertheless, my original claim that there is no free-will was given in a completely separate context, and you chose to engage and contradict my assertion. I don't think I am being unreasonable in thinking that you should be able to back up your contradiction.
I entered this conversation, from the first line in my first post, from a PRACTICAL perspective. "If there has ever been an idea that is pure pie-in-the-sky theory and speculation, with no practical evidence or application whatever, the idea that free will does not exist is that idea." And I HAVE backed up that assertion, proven by the fact that you have here admitted that I was and am entirely correct.
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Old 20 Mar 2012, 06:48 PM   #345883 / #27
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That view is profoundly anti-science.
Why?

As noted, actually, the prevailing view, that laws "govern" the world, may be thought of as profoundly anti-science, in that this view is a hangover of the idea that there is a lawgiver: God.

How does a law "govern" the speed of light? What is that law? Where does it reside, and how does it work its -- dare I say -- magical, supernatural power, to make sure light always travels at c in a vacuum?
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Old 21 Mar 2012, 10:45 AM   #346145 / #28
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Perhaps the fact that you believe your own thoughts have actual meaning?
What does that have to do with free-will? The words in a book contain meaning, but (presumably) you wouldn't claim a book has free-will.

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Can you explain how the movement of the particles in YOUR head give rise to thoughts that have significance, if their motion is predetermined by physics?
I am not a neurosurgeon, so I can't tell you exactly how the brain works, but I have no conceptual difficulty with the notion. After all, I do understand how computers work, and computers certainly do have "thoughts" with significance. And it is all governed by the laws of physics.


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In practical terms, yes, he does. He has, in fact, said so:
No - in the passage you quote he is making the point that not believing in free-will will not change the way you live your life. In fact, in the very part you quote he says "everything we do is determined" and the free-will is an "effective theory that... we adopt... because there is no chance of solving the equations arising from the fundamental laws". He is using the term "effective theory" in the physics sense where we know it is not the correct theory but gives us useful information otherwise denied to us by the complexity of the true theory. He is explicitly saying that if we could solve "the equations arising from the fundamental laws" then we would not need to concern ourselves with fictions like free-will. He is espousing my view, not yours!

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I entered this conversation, from the first line in my first post, from a PRACTICAL perspective. "If there has ever been an idea that is pure pie-in-the-sky theory and speculation, with no practical evidence or application whatever, the idea that free will does not exist is that idea." And I HAVE backed up that assertion, proven by the fact that you have here admitted that I was and am entirely correct.
Spoken like a true theist.

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As noted, actually, the prevailing view, that laws "govern" the world, may be thought of as profoundly anti-science, in that this view is a hangover of the idea that there is a lawgiver: God.

How does a law "govern" the speed of light? What is that law? Where does it reside, and how does it work its -- dare I say -- magical, supernatural power, to make sure light always travels at c in a vacuum?
This is just ridiculous. The entire point and goal of science is to provide predictions. We make observations and derive physical laws that describe these observations; then we test the laws by making more observations and change them where appropriate. The prediction part of this is key. If you regard the observations as merely something to describe, you lose the predictivity. Formulating a hypothesis about how all events must behave (a law) gives you the ability to make testable predictions.

Was this a serious point? Am I missing a joke here?
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Old 21 Mar 2012, 11:07 AM   #346148 / #29
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Free-Will is Pre-Determined.

The Time-Line must be preserved.
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Old 21 Mar 2012, 01:42 PM   #346197 / #30
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If there has ever been an idea that is pure pie-in-the-sky theory and speculation, with no practical evidence or application whatever, the idea that free will does not exist is that idea.
Given that the claim that free will exists is often used as a form of indoctrination, the application of the idea that there is no such thing as free will is useful in fighting such indoctrination. It's also useful in, you know, understanding reality and consciousness, little things like that.
Could you explain that a bit, without the unnecessary patronizing?
It's often used in religion to deflect attention from the fact that people are being threatened; kind of an "abusive relationship with God" kind of thing, where it's all your fault if he smites you, because you have free will. It can be very insidious.
I've been about five different kinds of "theist" now, and I've never heard that one even once.
Since I had to tell you about it, that stands to reason, doesn't it.

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That God "smites" you -- don't hear that one much any more either, outside of Far Side comic panels and the like
That was me having a turn of phrase. And this is apparently you having a red herring.

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-- it might be said to be because you did something wrong, but certainly not "because you have free will." The idea is to do something else, you see.
Yes, oftentimes it is used when telling someone to do something else when there is approximately zero chance they will be able to. Such as telling a teenager not to have sexual thoughts, for instance.

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The idea is to "indoctrinate" people into understanding that they have personal responsibility for the things that they do. Is that a bad idea, in your estimation? Should that not be taught?
No, I believe people should be taught personal responsibility. They should be taught it from a reality-based perspective, though. Not a delusional, anti-human one.



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You DON'T have an internal sense of making decisions?
I already edited my previous post to explain that more fully. The experience of making decisions is not the experience of free will.
[/quote]
Yeah, I saw that. Simulating alternatives, trying to approximate one and not another -- sounds like you're saying we're PRETENDING to have free will.[/quote]Nope. We are doing just what we do. It is not pretending or trying or acting like free will; it is the reality of decision-making, a process that nobody can rationally deny takes place and that nobody can explain how determinism could possibly get in the way of.


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Sorry, I can't confirm that from my own internal experience. Feels like real alternatives to me.
All I can say to this is that if you think you are really seeing the future in your mind when you make a decision, then you are either clairvoyant or an idiot. I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you don't really believe what you just wrote, and that you really do know that you do not choose between real alternatives but rather alternatives that exist only in your mind, limited by your ability to imagine them, none of which will come to pass in every detail, regardless of what you decide.


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You didn't answer my question, either. How does it happen that you have one thing for breakfast and not another? Are you conscious of "simulating the alternatives," or are you conscious of thinking "I want a fried egg"?
I'm not sure what more you want from me, I already said that I make decisions just like everybody else. Are you saying that if I don't consider the alternatives, that makes it a real decision, whereas if I did, it wouldn't be? WTF is your point?

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And here's another question, perhaps more to the point: What would "the experience of free will" actually feel like, and how would it be different from what we feel now?
You might as well ask me what a square circle would look like. Free will is not a meaningful concept, which is how we know that it doesn't exist.

Now your turn--if we didn't have free will, what would the decision-making process feel like? How would it be different?

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A "rebuttal" is not a practical application; it's a philosophical application by definition.
Whatever, that's what it's for. If you don't like it, tough luck.

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What are the "problems" that are caused by the idea of free will?
Objection, your honor, asked and answered. Indoctrination, remember?


How is that different from what I said here? "...there is quite a long jump from observing the FACT that we must make decisions in the real world and take its limitations into account, and the claim that we make no decisions at all and that everything we do is predetermined and unchangeable."
[/quote]
It's different in that it does not include the part about "predetermined or unchangeable", which is the part where the concept of free will comes smack up against the reality of how freedom works. Think about what it means to claim reality is "changeable". Events that have already happened at a specific time and a specific place can't be changed (without time travel, at least). Events that will happen in the future cannot be changed because things first have to exist before they can be changed into something else. In the sense relevant to free will discussions, there is no point at which "changing" things with our decisions is even on the table.
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If things in the future cannot be changed, what's the point of doing anything at all? Shouldn't that leave the future unaffected?[/quote] The future will come to exist whether we do anything or not, that's true. But if we do nothing, that means we will have no part in creating it. Whether you want to create the future is up to you. You are perfectly capable of creating the future. But you can't change it, because that would mean that it had already been created and you were replacing it with something else.


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From where I sit, this is -- as I said -- meaningless intellectual boardgaming.
You sure do love to talk about how you don't see any point in talking about this subject. If you want to argue, argue. If you don't, there's the door.


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Once more: Can you show me what it would feel like, or how the world would work, if we really did get to pick, and how the world, or what we feel, would be different from what we have now?
Once more: the whole idea is silly. We don't really know what the results of our actions will be. You're asking what it would be like if everyone had knowledge of the future, and not only that but also the ability to alter what they know to be true about it. This would create all sorts of paradoxes. I have no idea what such a world would be like, but I suspect it would be very different from the one we inhabit.

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Really, this strikes me as silly at a very elementary level;
Yes...yes, it really is. It does not take complicated philosophizing to understand that free will is nonsense, it's just basic logic that anyone should be able to follow. It's always disturbing to me when people just don't get it. They tend to end up making absolutely bizarre claims and angrily defending them to the death.

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Or, alternatively; if you can't PREDICT what the dice will roll every time, how do you KNOW that that future is fixed?
The future isn't anything yet, so in that sense it is clearly not "fixed". I suppose it can be said to be "fixed" in that whatever the future turns out to be, once it happens, it won't happen again in a different way, so present statements about the future can be considered to have a specific truth value. But of course that has nothing to do with whether we can predict the future.

You still seem to think I'm saying that the future can't be changed because it's "fixed", where as what I really said was that the future can't be changed because it does not, as yet, exist, and you can't change something that doesn't exist.

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There is one past, one present, and one future, and determinism or lack thereof has nothing to do with that.
You're saying that there is only one possible future, but that has nothing to do with "determinism"?[/quote]Right.

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What does that word MEAN, then? How is this not just playing with words?
It's simple logic. I already laid it out, but I guess I'll rephrase. Determinism, for the purposes of this discussion, is about causation. But causation has nothing to do with the fact that at any specific time and place, there is ultimately only one state of affairs that can obtain. To disagree with this is to deny the law of non-contradiction, one of the most basic, elementary rules of logic. if more than one state of affairs obtained at the same time and place, then that would mean that a contradiction existed in reality, and logic would be invalidated. Therefore, there is no more than one state of affairs in existence at all times and at all places, past, present, and future. Or, to put it another way, there is (at most) one past, one present, and one future.

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(Stephen Hawking "out of his depth"... Now THERE'S a pronouncement to chew on.)
You must be one of those people who thinks Einstein's political opinions held a lot of weight.
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Old 21 Mar 2012, 01:46 PM   #346198 / #31
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Perhaps the fact that you believe your own thoughts have actual meaning?
What does that have to do with free-will? The words in a book contain meaning, but (presumably) you wouldn't claim a book has free-will.

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Can you explain how the movement of the particles in YOUR head give rise to thoughts that have significance, if their motion is predetermined by physics?
I am not a neurosurgeon, so I can't tell you exactly how the brain works, but I have no conceptual difficulty with the notion. After all, I do understand how computers work, and computers certainly do have "thoughts" with significance. And it is all governed by the laws of physics.


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In practical terms, yes, he does. He has, in fact, said so:
No - in the passage you quote he is making the point that not believing in free-will will not change the way you live your life. In fact, in the very part you quote he says "everything we do is determined" and the free-will is an "effective theory that... we adopt... because there is no chance of solving the equations arising from the fundamental laws". He is using the term "effective theory" in the physics sense where we know it is not the correct theory but gives us useful information otherwise denied to us by the complexity of the true theory. He is explicitly saying that if we could solve "the equations arising from the fundamental laws" then we would not need to concern ourselves with fictions like free-will. He is espousing my view, not yours!

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I entered this conversation, from the first line in my first post, from a PRACTICAL perspective. "If there has ever been an idea that is pure pie-in-the-sky theory and speculation, with no practical evidence or application whatever, the idea that free will does not exist is that idea." And I HAVE backed up that assertion, proven by the fact that you have here admitted that I was and am entirely correct.
Spoken like a true theist.

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As noted, actually, the prevailing view, that laws "govern" the world, may be thought of as profoundly anti-science, in that this view is a hangover of the idea that there is a lawgiver: God.

How does a law "govern" the speed of light? What is that law? Where does it reside, and how does it work its -- dare I say -- magical, supernatural power, to make sure light always travels at c in a vacuum?
This is just ridiculous. The entire point and goal of science is to provide predictions. We make observations and derive physical laws that describe these observations; then we test the laws by making more observations and change them where appropriate. The prediction part of this is key. If you regard the observations as merely something to describe, you lose the predictivity. Formulating a hypothesis about how all events must behave (a law) gives you the ability to make testable predictions.

Was this a serious point? Am I missing a joke here?
Of course it's not a joke, it's a neo-Humean regularity theory of "law." And no, it does not impede the ability to make predictions. If we observe that the speed of light travels at c every time we look, we can and do make inductive predictions. Of course for all we know at some future point light may fail to travel at c, in which case our predictions break down, but inductively we have grounds to believe this will not occur.

You still have not explained hat a law IS. How, and where, does this "law" reside, and what power does this "law" have, to compel light to travel at c?

There is no such law. Light travels at c. The "law" is a description of what light does. That's it.
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Old 21 Mar 2012, 03:00 PM   #346235 / #32
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I'm with Ozy on this one, more or less. I've always been a little sketchy on exactly what "the supernatural" is supposed to be, but it is clear to me that free will is a matter of belief, not science, and probably contradicts science. We certainly act as agents in our social environment- that is it is perfectly legitimate to say that we have a will- fair but we have never been unconstrained in that respect. How could human culture exist, if we were? And if it is not unconstrained, why call it "free"?
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Old 21 Mar 2012, 04:39 PM   #346275 / #33
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A Neo-Humean Perspective: Laws as Regularities.

From the linked article, by Norman Swartz:

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...adopting the Regularity Theory solves one of the perennial problems, not just of academic philosophy, but of the wider Western worldview. For generations, thinkers have struggled with 'the problem of determinism and free will'. "How could human beings possibly have, and exercise, free will in a world governed (in every detail) by physical laws?" The number of attempted solutions fills volumes, but few of these solutions manage to wring much conviction from their readers. The very persistence, the obduracy, of the problem suggests that there is something seriously wrong with its presuppositions. (It is not unlike the puzzle "What is the last digit in the decimal expansion of ?" None of the answers "0", "1", ... "9" is acceptable: instead one must reject one of the presuppositions of the question itself, viz. one must argue that there is no last digit in the decimal expansion of .) The solution to the perdurable problem of determinism and free will lies ready at hand if one adopts the Regularity Theory. For one is then in a position to reject the principal presupposition of the puzzle, namely the belief that the world is 'governed' by physical law. Give up that belief – more exactly, continue to believe that there are physical laws, but abandon the Necessitarian account of physical laws which makes them nomologically necessary, regard physical laws simply as true descriptions of what occurs in the world – and the problem of free will and determinism is solved so completely that it cannot even coherently be stated so as to appear to be a problem. (The argument in its full comprises chapters 10-11 in Swartz 1985.)

Last edited by davidm; 21 Mar 2012 at 04:50 PM.
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Old 21 Mar 2012, 04:59 PM   #346281 / #34
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I'm with Ozy on this one, more or less. I've always been a little sketchy on exactly what "the supernatural" is supposed to be, but it is clear to me that free will is a matter of belief, not science, and probably contradicts science. We certainly act as agents in our social environment- that is it is perfectly legitimate to say that we have a will- fair but we have never been unconstrained in that respect. How could human culture exist, if we were? And if it is not unconstrained, why call it "free"?
If it has degrees of freedom, why not call it free? If it is not externally constrained, why not call it free.

Conflating freedom with absolute freedom seems to me the problem.

Rather akin to conflating knowledge with absolute knowledge, which we also don't have.

But still, we know well enough to say that we don't live in a world created according to the literal Genesis account, and we are free enough to make morally significant decisions, IMV.

And that will do for me.

David
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Old 21 Mar 2012, 06:05 PM   #346315 / #35
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Perhaps the fact that you believe your own thoughts have actual meaning?
What does that have to do with free-will? The words in a book contain meaning, but (presumably) you wouldn't claim a book has free-will.
Of course not; a book is an inanimate object which produces no words and no thoughts, but only records words and thoughts from another source. Is your mind an inanimate object? If your mind does not produce thoughts, from where do they come?
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Can you explain how the movement of the particles in YOUR head give rise to thoughts that have significance, if their motion is predetermined by physics?
I am not a neurosurgeon, so I can't tell you exactly how the brain works, but I have no conceptual difficulty with the notion.
You "have no conceptual difficulty" with something you admit you do not understand? Okaaay...
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After all, I do understand how computers work, and computers certainly do have "thoughts" with significance. And it is all governed by the laws of physics.
Are computers conscious? Are you?

Nobody's talking about violating the laws of physics, Ozy. We're talking about a process that is more complex than we presently understand by several orders of magnitude, and which you admit that you don't claim to understand yourself; and further, I, at least, am speaking of PRACTICAL APPLICATION of these ideas. Your perspective has none.
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In practical terms, yes, he does. He has, in fact, said so:
No - in the passage you quote he is making the point that not believing in free-will will not change the way you live your life.
Um, isn't that precisely the point I'm trying to make here?
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In fact, in the very part you quote he says "everything we do is determined"...
Rather obvious selective quoting here; the complete sentence reads, my emphasis added, "It may be that everything we do is determined by some grand unified theory." That's rather far from your implication that Hawking regards even THAT matter as settled.
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...and the free-will is an "effective theory that... we adopt... because there is no chance of solving the equations arising from the fundamental laws". He is using the term "effective theory" in the physics sense where we know it is not the correct theory but gives us useful information otherwise denied to us by the complexity of the true theory.
"Useful" = "practical." My point again.
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He is explicitly saying that if we could solve "the equations arising from the fundamental laws" then we would not need to concern ourselves with fictions like free-will.
Oh? Where does he say that, exactly? A quote, again: "...there is no chance of solving the equations..." I don't get the impression that Hawking thinks that that is even possible. Ever. And he certainly says nothing about it being desirable or practical in ANY sense.
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He is espousing my view, not yours!
Is it your view that "free will is a fiction" is a totally impractical and functionally pointless position that is confined to theory alone and has no real-world significance? If so, then I guess you're correct -- but in that case we agree, and I have to wonder why you're arguing with me.
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I entered this conversation, from the first line in my first post, from a PRACTICAL perspective. "If there has ever been an idea that is pure pie-in-the-sky theory and speculation, with no practical evidence or application whatever, the idea that free will does not exist is that idea." And I HAVE backed up that assertion, proven by the fact that you have here admitted that I was and am entirely correct.
Spoken like a true theist.
Please point out something -- anything -- in that assertion that is dependent on, or even related to, religious belief of any description; and while you're at it, please point out anything about it that is factually false and explain why it is so.

Looks like a cheap parting shot to me, unrelated to the actual debate and with no significance other than as evidence of your reflex hostility to all things "religious," even when "religion" has nothing whatever to do with the conversation.
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Old 21 Mar 2012, 07:12 PM   #346339 / #36
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I’ve decided to drop a lot of this, since I think I now understand the core of our disagreement -- and it was purely a misunderstanding. See if you agree.

The following is edited from a rather more combative post, as you will see; but as I say, I have dropped all that. Whatever acrimony remains was left in to show what I'm talking about.

For instance:

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If there’s no such thing as free will, what on Earth is a “decision”?
All I can say to this is that if you think you are really seeing the future in your mind when you make a decision, then you are either clairvoyant or an idiot. I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you don't really believe what you just wrote, and that you really do know that you do not choose between real alternatives but rather alternatives that exist only in your mind, limited by your ability to imagine them, none of which will come to pass in every detail, regardless of what you decide.
Oh, stop it. No one is talking about predicting the future, woooo.... If I’m approaching a red light, and I foresee the possibility that if I drive through it, I might be struck by cross traffic, I’m hardly acting as either a psychic or an idiot.
(I think I’m beginning to see the problem here. As you see, I am talking about "alternatives one sees in one's mind," just as you are. No one is talking about “changing the future,” which is a phrase that obviously can have no objective meaning. I’m talking about “shaping” or, as you put it below, “creating” the future, which we do with DECISIONS that we make from our limited understanding of the alternatives before us. What’s the problem with THAT?

If the answer is “nothing,” then we have nothing to argue about.)

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You might as well ask me what a square circle would look like. Free will is not a meaningful concept, which is how we know that it doesn't exist.
I freely decide to have eggs for breakfast and not to run red lights. That’s obviously a matter of actual decision-making, since other people have waffles for breakfast and DO run red lights. How is that not a meaningful concept?

The only answer I can come up with is that you are using “free will” in some totally theoretical, impractical, and materially nonexistent philosophical sense that has no relation to actually living in the real world. I’m okay with that; but let’s not pretend the real world isn’t there, or that we don’t have the responsibility to make decisions in it.
(And on review and reflection, I don't think you're saying that. If you are, tell me, and the combat can continue...!)

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Now your turn--if we didn't have free will, what would the decision-making process feel like? How would it be different?
There would be no such thing as conscious thought; we would all be automatons who do as we are programmed. At least some of those who say there is no such thing as free will seem to hold that that is precisely the case, but that we dimwitted humans buy into the illusion that we are actually conscious, thinking creatures who actually make real decisions.
(I assume that neither of us, here, think that that is the case. You seem to believe, as I do, that decisions are real, even though they only have one ACTUAL outcome.)

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How is that different from what I said here? "...there is quite a long jump from observing the FACT that we must make decisions in the real world and take its limitations into account, and the claim that we make no decisions at all and that everything we do is predetermined and unchangeable."
It's different in that it does not include the part about "predetermined or unchangeable", which is the part where the concept of free will comes smack up against the reality of how freedom works. Think about what it means to claim reality is "changeable". Events that have already happened at a specific time and a specific place can't be changed (without time travel, at least). Events that will happen in the future cannot be changed because things first have to exist before they can be changed into something else. In the sense relevant to free will discussions, there is no point at which "changing" things with our decisions is even on the table.
(See below on "potential futures.")

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If things in the future can’t be changed, what's the point of doing anything at all? Shouldn't that leave the future unaffected?
The future will come to exist whether we do anything or not, that's true. But if we do nothing, that means we will have no part in creating it. Whether you want to create the future is up to you. You are perfectly capable of creating the future. But you can't change it, because that would mean that it had already been created and you were replacing it with something else.
(And there’s that misunderstanding. Things in the future cannot be changed, true; but what about shaped or affected by what we do in the present, which is what I meant in the first place? I’m beginning to suspect that all we’re arguing about here is -- well, semantics; verbal and mental constructs. Intellectual boardgames, like I said.

Back to combat...)

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Once more: Can you show me what it would feel like, or how the world would work, if we really did get to pick, and how the world, or what we feel, would be different from what we have now?
Once more: the whole idea is silly. We don't really know what the results of our actions will be.
Seriously? You’re saying that the 1/100,000,000 chance that cross traffic will swerve and hit me even if I DON’T run the red light negates the perception of the obvious reality that if I DO run the light, the likelihood of being hit is MUCH greater? Can you explain that to me? Does the fact that we can’t predict the future in microscopic and 100% accurate detail mean that we can’t even THINK about it, or that we don’t actually make decisions based on those thoughts?
(Neither of us is an idiot. Again, I think we've just been arguing about words.)

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You're asking what it would be like if everyone had knowledge of the future, and not only that but also the ability to alter what they know to be true about it. This would create all sorts of paradoxes. I have no idea what such a world would be like, but I suspect it would be very different from the one we inhabit.
That’s another pseudophilosophical red herring. I’m asking no such thing. I’m saying that people CAN know the GENERAL shape of the IMMEDIATE future -- at LEAST -- and CAN make decisions that, as you yourself have admitted above, determine the shape of it. That doesn’t mean “change the future,” a phrase that actually has no objective meaning; it means “affect the potential future by actions in the present.”
(There it is again.)

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Or, alternatively; if you can't PREDICT what the dice will roll every time, how do you KNOW that that future is fixed?
The future isn't anything yet, so in that sense it is clearly not "fixed".
(Well, there you are. I don’t know what we’re arguing about.)

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I suppose it can be said to be "fixed" in that whatever the future turns out to be, once it happens, it won't happen again in a different way, so present statements about the future can be considered to have a specific truth value. But of course that has nothing to do with whether we can predict the future.
(Agreed.)

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You still seem to think I'm saying that the future can't be changed because it's "fixed", where as what I really said was that the future can't be changed because it does not, as yet, exist, and you can't change something that doesn't exist.
(Much clearer. This is the point where I began to get it, after wrangling over "indoctrination" and other side issues.

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There is one past, one present, and one future, and determinism or lack thereof has nothing to do with that.
I get what you're saying now; but I don’t know that I would agree, still, that “there is only one future,” since, as you say, the future doesn’t exist yet. It remains to be shaped, by human decisions among other things, and therefore there are an infinite number of potential futures. Would that formulation work for you?
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Old 21 Mar 2012, 07:16 PM   #346341 / #37
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The future arguably does exist, just as does the past and the present (see eternalism, support from special theory of relativity).

If the past, present and future all exist in a blockworld, this does not rule out free will, because free will does not entail that one be able to change the past, present or future, but merely make those realms be what they were, are and will be.
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Old 21 Mar 2012, 07:29 PM   #346345 / #38
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The future arguably does exist, just as does the past and the present (see eternalism, support from special theory of relativity).

If the past, present and future all exist in a blockworld, this does not rule out free will, because free will does not entail that one be able to change the past, present or future, but merely make those realms be what they were, are and will be.
One sees that idea in SF novels, where the protagonist goes into the past with the intention of changing it, but ends up being a vital part of the very events he hoped to prevent.

In others, of course, the hero steps on a bug in the past and comes back to a very different present. That's why SF is and has been for centuries a great way to speculate about such things.
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Old 21 Mar 2012, 08:11 PM   #346360 / #39
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Anyone here read Dennett Freedom Evolves?
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Old 21 Mar 2012, 08:43 PM   #346370 / #40
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If it has degrees of freedom, why not call it free? If it is not externally constrained, why not call it free.

Conflating freedom with absolute freedom seems to me the problem.
I would agree, if I thought we had degrees of freedom. I don't. It is true that human decision-making is, from our standpoint, somewhat unpredictable. But no more than any other complex system. I can see and test the mechanisms that clearly limit human freedom, and they are quite consistent. What I haven't seen or tested is any mechanism that would allow for freedom of choice. I can see what it looks like in the brain when someone does make a choice (and funny how there are pretty consistent patterns associated with that) and observe the attendant emotions, but I can't really talk about this philosophical notion of free will as though it itself were a valid empirical phenomenon. Example: you will always express your opinions in one or two languages that you know well, and that will always have an affect on what you can communicate, how well, and what range of emotional responses will accompany the activity. There are lexical choices, from the perspective of the speaker at least, but it would not be difficult to predict what most people will choose in a given situation, given sufficient knowledge of their communicative intent and the linguistic resources available to them. So we can reasonably say we know some of the constraints of speech. We can observe them in play and even make reasonable predictions. But we can't study "free will" in language; the only explanation we are given is that it seems like we have it. That's just not quite as scientifically rigorous as the contrary suggestion.
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Old 21 Mar 2012, 09:12 PM   #346381 / #41
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The future arguably does exist, just as does the past and the present (see eternalism, support from special theory of relativity).

If the past, present and future all exist in a blockworld, this does not rule out free will, because free will does not entail that one be able to change the past, present or future, but merely make those realms be what they were, are and will be.
One sees that idea in SF novels, where the protagonist goes into the past with the intention of changing it, but ends up being a vital part of the very events he hoped to prevent.
The late Princeton philosopher David Lewis has a classic paper on this, linked below. The upshot is that if one were able to travel into the past, one would do there just what one already did before one was born. So one will not change the past. But the interesting part of the paper for me is why this fact does not impeach free will.

The Paradoxes of Time Travel
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Old 21 Mar 2012, 09:26 PM   #346385 / #42
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Anyone here read Dennett Freedom Evolves?
Yes, and considering that and Hofstadter, for all that some sneer at him, have raised questions that have helped me solidify my compatibalist position.

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Old 21 Mar 2012, 09:39 PM   #346392 / #43
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The future arguably does exist, just as does the past and the present (see eternalism, support from special theory of relativity).

If the past, present and future all exist in a blockworld, this does not rule out free will, because free will does not entail that one be able to change the past, present or future, but merely make those realms be what they were, are and will be.
One sees that idea in SF novels, where the protagonist goes into the past with the intention of changing it, but ends up being a vital part of the very events he hoped to prevent.
The late Princeton philosopher David Lewis has a classic paper on this, linked below. The upshot is that if one were able to travel into the past, one would do there just what one already did before one was born. So one will not change the past. But the interesting part of the paper for me is why this fact does not impeach free will.

The Paradoxes of Time Travel
I've always enjoyed "All you zombies"
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Old 22 Mar 2012, 12:46 AM   #346429 / #44
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The future arguably does exist, just as does the past and the present (see eternalism, support from special theory of relativity).

If the past, present and future all exist in a blockworld, this does not rule out free will, because free will does not entail that one be able to change the past, present or future, but merely make those realms be what they were, are and will be.
One sees that idea in SF novels, where the protagonist goes into the past with the intention of changing it, but ends up being a vital part of the very events he hoped to prevent.
The late Princeton philosopher David Lewis has a classic paper on this, linked below. The upshot is that if one were able to travel into the past, one would do there just what one already did before one was born. So one will not change the past. But the interesting part of the paper for me is why this fact does not impeach free will.

The Paradoxes of Time Travel
I've always enjoyed "All you zombies"
Exactly. That is probably the best demonstration in fiction of the thesis outlined in the linked paper.
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Old 23 Mar 2012, 07:17 PM   #347115 / #45
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(I think I’m beginning to see the problem here. As you see, I am talking about "alternatives one sees in one's mind," just as you are. No one is talking about “changing the future,” which is a phrase that obviously can have no objective meaning. I’m talking about “shaping” or, as you put it below, “creating” the future, which we do with DECISIONS that we make from our limited understanding of the alternatives before us. What’s the problem with THAT?
I don't have a problem with it. People who think determinism (if it were true) would take away freedom have a problem with it, because it doesn't actually contain anything that would contradict determinism.
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Old 23 Mar 2012, 08:07 PM   #347143 / #46
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(I think I’m beginning to see the problem here. As you see, I am talking about "alternatives one sees in one's mind," just as you are. No one is talking about “changing the future,” which is a phrase that obviously can have no objective meaning. I’m talking about “shaping” or, as you put it below, “creating” the future, which we do with DECISIONS that we make from our limited understanding of the alternatives before us. What’s the problem with THAT?
I don't have a problem with it. People who think determinism (if it were true) would take away freedom have a problem with it, because it doesn't actually contain anything that would contradict determinism.
One wonders how many human arguments have more to do with the different ways of expressing concepts as opposed to actual conflicts between the concepts themselves.
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Old 23 Mar 2012, 11:15 PM   #347177 / #47
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A differently expresses concept is a different concept, in my opinion. We may be talking about the same referent, and even using the same word, but that doesn't mean we mean the same thing.
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Old 24 Mar 2012, 02:13 AM   #347221 / #48
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A differently expresses concept is a different concept, in my opinion. We may be talking about the same referent, and even using the same word, but that doesn't mean we mean the same thing.
True, but sometimes the hard part is finding out where the disagreement actually is, and the words can get in the way.
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Old 06 Apr 2012, 10:29 AM   #352158 / #49
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http://www.smbc-comics.com/?db=comics&id=2108#comic

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Old 01 May 2012, 05:49 PM   #360503 / #50
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We have no free-will. All physics is either cause and effect or random and neither has room for free-will. Your actions are probabilistically predetermined since the beginning of time (so to speak).[/QUOTE]

Although I agree with your principle that there may not be a free will, probablistically predeterimined makes no sense. What can you possibly mean by this. Since the discovery of quantum mechanics we know that certainty escapes us (see Heisenberg here). It sounds like you think that everything is predetermined by probability, but that makes no sense. No, if there is no free will, it does not mean that everything is predetermined -- quantum mechanics put this idea to rest a century ago.
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