# Free will

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On 5/31/2020 at 10:14 PM, Ghideon said:

Tricky to answer. The dice, as I said above, does not have free will. For me it it's about what I know about the dice rolling. If I know that an individual chooses to let the dice decide something, then that is an act of free will. If I know that the individual possibly could want to not let the dice decide today, then free will is involved**.

On 6/2/2020 at 11:13 AM, Eise said:

Tricky to answer. The dice, as I said above, does not have free will. For me it it's about what I know about the dice rolling. If I know that an individual chooses to let the dice decide something, then that is an act of free will. If I know that the individual possibly could want to not let the dice decide today, then free will is involved**.

These themes are explored in the Dice Man. Good book. I find these ideas are better explored in narrative form.

21 hours ago, joigus said:

I think, is that while you do not accept reductionism, I think @MigL, @iNow, (I'm not so sure about @Ghideon, @Prometheus and @vexspits,...) and I are reductionists.

That's because i'm not so sure about myself. I suspect that the reductionist approach has its limits at that point new behaviors emerge from simpler antecedents. If consciousness is an emergent behaviour then i don't think a reductionist approach is the best way to think about free will. But i'm not sure what the best approach is - Eise offers a compelling alternative, but i'm deliberately sceptical as it contains an emotional draw for me.

On 6/3/2020 at 7:18 AM, Eise said:

And one other confusion: internal and external 'forces' are not just constraints. They are the 'substance' of the choice. Just imagine that there were no constraints for 'free will' at all. Then there neither would be grounds for acting. 'Your' free will is only constrained if the 'internal forces' are somehow blocked to act out by somebody else. Otherwise the 'internal forces', i.e. the constituents of 'you' are free to play out the will that they constitute into the chosen action.

I'm not sure how useful this distinction between internal and external forcing is - brain processes are as much a part of the universe as anything 'external'. However, if by internal we simply mean those processes which i call me by convention i can see some utility - though the boundary becomes blurry when we consider that our gut micrbiome influences neural processes, as do social interactions, our environment etc...

May i ask, since this is the religion forum, if you're position on free will mirrors that of the Buddhist concept of self: a useful concept for everyday life, but there is no True Self that somehow sits outside the universe upon the throne of decision making.

15 minutes ago, MigL said:

By your 'model' of free will, it is equally possible for an artificial intelligence to have free will.
Yet that AI, at some basic level, is controlled/constrained by programming that is provided externally.
Does the 'external' programming, then also become part of its free will ?

If we accept a deterministic universe (which i think all parties here do?), then in what sense could we say that humans have free will and that some AI in the future could not?

AI, even today, can act in ways that are not explicitly coded. It may have a utility function which it seeks to minimise, but it is 'free' to find any means to this end. Identical AI agents can easily converge to different solutions if they are learning agents - the data inputs help them navigate the landscape of all possible actions they could perform, and even slightly different data could lead to a divergence of behaviour. The difference between them would lie in the accumulated weights of their neural networks rather than their code.

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, iNow said:

Aren’t the structures of the components also part of the larger set “components?”

Sorry, I do not understand your question.

3 hours ago, MigL said:

By your 'model' of free will, it is equally possible for an artificial intelligence to have free will.

Of course. But not by 'old-fashioned AI', i.e. by explicit programming of beliefs and wishes. See my example of 'massive parallel processing'. And therefore, the following is not necessarily true:

3 hours ago, MigL said:

Yet that AI, at some basic level, is controlled/constrained by programming that is provided externally.

It is more like 'the bigger and complexer the structure, the more possibilities arise'. Don't you think that a modern PC has slightly more possibilities than a pocket calculator from the 70s/80s? However, their basic components are the same: transistors, flip-flops, adders, multipliers, etc.

A 'programmer' of a neural network has only provided a physical and functional layer: what the neural network does in the end, depends on its 'experiences': if it is trained to recognise cats, it will have different weights at the nodes than the same neural network that was trained to recognise paintings of Magritte.

Edited by Eise

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4 hours ago, Eise said:

But wishes and beliefs only exist at the highest level description of the brain, so only in that context it makes sense to ask oneself if an action was free or not. On the levels below that, the question simply does not apply.

If this is true, then whether various processes are stochastic, deterministic, a mixture of these at various stages (or something else completely unimaginable) is irrelevant; as long as somewhere in the midst of it all, we get a sentience with beliefs and wishes potentially fulfilled.

Well why didn’t you just say that from the beginning! LOL

All kidding aside, it was very difficult for me to “hear” you. The level of analysis you speak of seems far removed from good old, hard-boiled empirical science, which is why I so much empathize with @joigus. Even as I say "I agree with you Eise", I still (like @Prometheus) doubt the veracity of the word “free” as applied to will. Maybe something I’ll never shake—like my catholic upbringing which insidiously gives me pause to doubt when I hear myself say: “Jesus Christ was just a man”.

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2 hours ago, Prometheus said:

If consciousness is an emergent behaviour then i don't think a reductionist approach is the best way to think about free will.

Right. But as people with a naturalistic world view we are curious enough to want to understand how such high-level phenomena can be implemented in the structure of the brain. But quantum field theory, however correct it is, and is the basis for our understanding of how elementary particles behave, it is not much use to understand which actions are free and which aren't. To understand a chess computer in order to beat it, you'd better find out its strategies: understanding the physical principles will not help you.

So 'reductionism' for me is not that everything must be understood from the basic particles a system exists of. But it means that any system, must be implemented in some physical substrate, and we understand how the capabilities of a system can be explained by the the functioning of a layer below, without referring to some 'magic'. (A soul, the magic of free will, etc).

2 hours ago, Prometheus said:

I'm not sure how useful this distinction between internal and external forcing is - brain processes are as much a part of the universe as anything 'external'. However, if by internal we simply mean those processes which i call me by convention i can see some utility - though the boundary becomes blurry when we consider that our gut micrbiome influences neural processes, as do social interactions, our environment etc...

I do not think this is such a problem. We are products of evolution, and nature has so to speak put the 'border' at our skin. The evolutionary success of higher animals, is their capability to somehow see themselves in their environment. They know what do when it is cold, and when they are thirsty they know where to go to find water. So I think our concept of 'self' is an evolutionary product of organisms to 'self-preserve'. We identify ourselves with our body.

2 hours ago, Prometheus said:

May i ask, since this is the religion forum, if you're position on free will mirrors that of the Buddhist concept of self: a useful concept for everyday life, but there is no True Self that somehow sits outside the universe upon the throne of decision making.

Of course it does, and it is no accident... Our self does not exist independently. I think there are strong parallels between Buddha's idea of the five skandhas, that form the basis of what we are, and on the other side, say, the chemical elements we exist of. There is nothing that endures in Buddhism, and that is just as valid for the 'self'.

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Posted (edited)
27 minutes ago, Eise said:

Sorry, I do not understand your question.

You seem to say that we make a mistake focusing down to the bare components of these systems. The suggestion was that more important are the structures of these components:

Quote

It is the structures of the components, and the processes they enable, that make computers, steam trains and humans to what they are, not just their components.

My suggestion is that ALL of these things are components of the system, just at different levels. Depending on the scale at which you view the system, even the structure and organizations of these components are themselves a “type of component.”

So, you seem to be criticizing the focus others like me have on components and you push back on our suggestion that these components are the important bits for consideration. Then, in response and as you try offering a better alternative, you advise that we should instead focus on the structures or organizations of those components.

Aren't these structures and organizations of which you speak also components of that system being studied? Just another piece of the system at a different level... Isn’t this a “six to one, half a dozen to another” situation... a distinction without a difference?

Individual components. Structures of components. They’re all just components in the end.

I don’t really have a deeper point here, just see it as a potential inconsistency or weakness in your approach

Edited by iNow

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I think the only one who enjoys free will here is @Eise. The rest of us are machines!!!

Sorry, Eise, that was a cheap joke.

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14 minutes ago, vexspits said:

If this is true, then whether various processes are stochastic, deterministic, a mixture of these at various stages (or something else completely unimaginable) is irrelevant; as long as somewhere in the midst of it all, we get a sentience with beliefs and wishes potentially fulfilled.

I do not agree. We need sufficient determinism for free will to exist. If there is no more or less fix connection between what I observe, belief, wish, and do, my actions will be chaotic, and have nothing to do with the situation I am in. If my beliefs and wishes change randomly, I have no character. If I want to move my arm to fetch something, but because of some random process I move a toe instead, acting becomes difficult, etc, etc.

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43 minutes ago, Eise said:

I do not agree. We need sufficient determinism for free will to exist. If there is no more or less fix connection between what I observe, belief, wish, and do, my actions will be chaotic, and have nothing to do with the situation I am in. If my beliefs and wishes change randomly, I have no character. If I want to move my arm to fetch something, but because of some random process I move a toe instead, acting becomes difficult, etc, etc.

Yes of course; the levity I introduced--only to make a point about what the emergent property is (what we are actually looking for)--was careless, in that it belittles the other main point you've repeatedly tried to make about determinism being necessary for it to even exist in the first place. My apologies.

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Posted (edited)
On 6/7/2020 at 5:40 PM, iNow said:

Aren't these structures and organizations of which you speak also components of that system being studied?

Of course.

On 6/7/2020 at 5:40 PM, iNow said:

Isn’t this a “six to one, half a dozen to another” situation... a distinction without a difference?

No. E.g. concentrating on the elements that make up a traffic jam, i.e. cars, you will never get at the concept of a traffic jam. It is a phenomenon that transcends the individual components, yet is completely dependent on its components. But assuming that the components are determined, of course the higher level is just as determined too.

Maybe here also lies some misunderstandings in our (@MigL, @joigus) discussion. I am nowhere implying that at higher levels determinism will be broken. But maybe you are reading me like that. When I say that we are determined, I really mean 'determined', and not that emergence somehow can 'break free' from its components.

The problem seems to be that you are looking for something that I would call 'genuine free will', which would imply that we can act independently from laws of nature. But of course we can't. And if we can't at the lowest level, then we cannot at all.

But the 'logic': 'if determined, than not free'. is wrong! Maybe I should turn the discussion upside down: as long as you cannot prove that there is a contradiction between free will and determinism, you have no point at all. (And 'it is obvious' of course will not do... ) Whereby I define 'free will' as 'being able to act according your wishes and beliefs'.

I am pretty sure, that everytime you deliver such a kind of proof, I can point you to a place in the argument where you use another definition of free will.

Edited by Eise

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On 6/7/2020 at 3:08 PM, Prometheus said:

That's because i'm not so sure about myself. I suspect that the reductionist approach has its limits at that point new behaviors emerge from simpler antecedents. If consciousness is an emergent behaviour then i don't think a reductionist approach is the best way to think about free will. But i'm not sure what the best approach is - Eise offers a compelling alternative, but i'm deliberately sceptical as it contains an emotional draw for me.

I personally don't abide by what maybe @Eise would call a shallow reductionism. I consider myself a reductionist in the sense that I think that what molecules do in people's brains, however complex, determines what they think, feel, believe, wish, and finally do. And those things must have been set in motion by what they have seen, heard, thought, felt, believed, wished, and finally done, in full circle, before that, reflected in the behaviour of the molecules in their brains, which have registered somehow in their states the previous experiences. I don't think that saying that what people wish, or think, feel, believe, wish, and finally do determines what the molecules in their brains do. There is a fundamental asymmetry in the explanation, if nothing else. I think that it's the workings of the molecules what gives rise to actions, feelings and decisions. It's very awkward to me, to say the least, that it's the other way around. I don't think that's what @Eise is saying though, I must clarify.

One thing is what molecules determine with their behaviour and a very different thing is the system of concepts that we need to describe it (rest potentials and activation potentials, membrane processes, homeostasis, and so on.) An atom alone is not engaged in homeostasis. It wouldn't "know" it is. It's the fact that there are many atoms, that they are what they are in the proportions that they are, and that they are combined in the precise way the are, that determines my wishes, beliefs, and course of action. My wishes determine nothing in what an atom does. Or maybe concepts can be twisted so that you can express things as if they do, but it's the most uneconomic way of describing things.

On 6/7/2020 at 5:26 PM, vexspits said:

All kidding aside, it was very difficult for me to “hear” you. The level of analysis you speak of seems far removed from good old, hard-boiled empirical science, which is why I so much empathize with @joigus. Even as I say "I agree with you Eise", I still (like @Prometheus) doubt the veracity of the word “free” as applied to will. Maybe something I’ll never shake—like my catholic upbringing which insidiously gives me pause to doubt when I hear myself say: “Jesus Christ was just a man”.

I just hope we don't agree just because we've had similar upbringings, @vexspits. I've always envied the Protestant/Jewish/atheist upbringing because of the tradition of rational criticism. But it's been a long time since I freed myself from my Catholic upbringing. At a high price family-wise, of course. But when you dislodge yourself from such amount of nonsense, the momentum you gain is truly amazing.

12 hours ago, Eise said:

Maybe here also lies some misunderstandings in our (@MigL, @joigus) discussion. I am nowhere implying that at higher levels determinism will be broken. But maybe you are reading me like that. When I say that we are determined, I really mean 'determined', and not that emergence somehow can 'break free' from its components.

The truth is that the more we talk about this, the more points of agreement I find with you, at least as to a working definition of free will. Being able to act according to your wishes and beliefs is good enough for me. I would throw in things like fear, or reckoning, etc. But... It's possible that our sticking point is just about the role that emergence plays in all this. It seems to me that you contemplate emergence as something that stands on its own, independently of what @iNow calls "the components." I find it very difficult to see, as you seem to do, a mechanism levitating logically on top of other substructures that we know to be there and be sub in a meaningful way.

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Posted (edited)
11 hours ago, joigus said:

One thing is what molecules determine with their behaviour and a very different thing is the system of concepts that we need to describe it (rest potentials and activation potentials, membrane processes, homeostasis, and so on.) An atom alone is not engaged in homeostasis. It wouldn't "know" it is. It's the fact that there are many atoms, that they are what they are in the proportions that they are, and that they are combined in the precise way the are, that determines my wishes, beliefs, and course of action. My wishes determine nothing in what an atom does. Or maybe concepts can be twisted so that you can express things as if they do, but it's the most uneconomic way of describing things.

Yes, but!

Imagine following computer program:

counter = 0
loop
counter = counter + 1;
sleep 1 second;
if counter > 600 then exit loop;
end loop;
shutdown computer;

On one side you are completely right: the program is stored in a constellation of physical states, and the program can only run thanks to the physics of the hardware. But now, imagine we run the program on an Intel machine, or one with an AMD processor, under Windows, under Linux, on a Mac, on a main frame... On every system, the same happens: in the end, the relay that switches the power is activated to interrupt the electricity. But the hardware is different in all cases, or at least behaves differently. Now a super duper computer model of each of the systems can predict correctly, on basis of the laws of physics and physical configuration of the respective systems, that the electricity will be cut off after 10 minutes. But those models will not have an explanation, why these different systems do this exactly the same. The explanation for that is the program, which is an higher order description of the system. Knowing no details about the system, you, @joigus, recognise immediately why the computers switches off after 10 minutes. You can predict, in one single glance, why the computers shut down. Where the physicists staying on the level of the physical description, have no idea what the different systems have in common. They are simply missing something, and that something only reveals itself to us at the higher level description.

11 hours ago, joigus said:

I think that what molecules do in people's brains, however complex, determines what they think, feel, believe, wish, and finally do. And those things must have been set in motion by what they have seen, heard, thought, felt, believed, wished, and finally done, in full circle, before that, reflected in the behaviour of the molecules in their brains, which have registered somehow in their states the previous experiences.

Again: yes, but! 'Free will' does not lie in how we became who we are, but in the relationship between what I have seen, heard, thought, felt, believed, wished and in fact do. If what I do is in accord with what I feel, believe and wish, then I acted freely. If for some reason I have to act against them, I am coerced, and the action is not free.

11 hours ago, joigus said:

The truth is that the more we talk about this, the more points of agreement I find with you, at least as to a working definition of free will.

Well, one way to see this is that I say this 'working definition' is exactly what free will is. It never was more, and the idea that we think it should be more ('genuine free will') is historical: we are still not loosened completely from our religious heritage, that says that we are souls, and that nature is forced to behave as it does because the laws of nature that were put in place by God.

11 hours ago, joigus said:

It seems to me that you contemplate emergence as something that stands on its own, independently of what @iNow calls "the components." I find it very difficult to see, as you seem to do, a mechanism levitating logically on top of other substructures that we know to be there and be sub in a meaningful way.

First, just remember what I wrote in my previous post: if the physical layer is determined, than everything that supervenes on this layer will be determined too. Really, I am not saying that we are not determined! So the word 'levitating' does not apply.

But there is a certain independence of higher level phenomena from the exact physical layer, as you can see from my program example above. It can be implemented on different kind of systems! You, as a human, can even understand immediately what will happen, and you need no detailed information about the computer system. It cannot run on any physical system (a car will not do), but given a minimal set of requirements, any computer system will do. I, as a database administrator, need no knowledge of physics, even if there is a tremendous amount of physics in the workings of a computer. For the greatest part I even don't have to know if my Oracle database is running under Windows or Linux, on an Intel- or AMD-based server.

11 hours ago, joigus said:

Being able to act according to your wishes and beliefs is good enough for me.

Yes, for me too. And there simply is not anymore to free will. And I even go further: it is good enough to support our practice of responsibility, ethics, etc. 'Genuine free will' is an old fashioned chimera, that we still carry with us long after we abandoned religious (meta)physics.

Edited by Eise

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@joigus and @eise

It has been interesting following your discussion; you have both raised many good points.

But I have to say I don't fully agree with either of you.

I am not completely clear what either of you mean by reductionism or emergent phenomena.

Eise's layer analysis contains some interesting approaches. Do you think an action (proposed, desired or real) could be free in one layer but not free in another ?

But I think the drive towards a sort of 'reductionism' that reduces choice to the level of a Turing machine is oversimplicication.

A Turing machine is not capable of allowing for or determining 'net forces', either internal or external, yet most activity in Nature is the result of some 'netting' effect.

Eise, your computer program example seems to me to be similar to the question "Do perfect circles exist in Nature?"
A brick encloses some physical space so you could define a perfect circle as passing through a particular set of elements of that brick, at some level or 'layer'.
So is the circle like your program   -   Something you can perhaps isolate?

Can free will be partial? Are there degrees of free will? Is free will itself a 'layered' phenomenon?

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2 hours ago, studiot said:

Do you think an action (proposed, desired or real) could be free in one layer but not free in another ?

No. Because I define free will with 'high-level phenomena', i.e. wishes, believes and actions, one can only define, and recognise, free will on that level.

2 hours ago, studiot said:

Can free will be partial? Are there degrees of free will?

Of course. but again, it can only be described in the realm of these higher level phenomena. The simplest version is that the more situations I am in, in which I can do what I want, the freer I am. A slightly more complicated version, is the better I know my self and the world, the easier it becomes to live according my wishes and believes. Then, when some of the capabilities needed for free will is somehow impaired, I am less free than if I could. E.g. when somebody is not so good in evaluating the results of his actions, he is less free. But in all cases there is no need to refer to laws of physics to describe the differences between them.

2 hours ago, studiot said:

Is free will itself a 'layered' phenomenon?

2 hours ago, studiot said:

Is free will itself a 'layered' phenomenon?

2 hours ago, studiot said:

Is free will itself a 'layered' phenomenon?

No .

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3 hours ago, Eise said:

Again: yes, but! 'Free will' does not lie in how we became who we are, but in the relationship between what I have seen, heard, thought, felt, believed, wished and in fact do. If what I do is in accord with what I feel, believe and wish, then I acted freely. If for some reason I have to act against them, I am coerced, and the action is not free.

I get tripped up a bit with this path. You say (and apologies if I butcher this anywhere... just trying to paraphrase quickly for context) that:

Free will is compatible with determinism. You say that even though we are nothing more than our molecules and chemistry and interactions... mostly bags of water and chemicals... those things still describe "us" or "me." I AM those things and I act according to the wishes those things generate within me, so I am by definition free. Basically, even though all of these various things that compose us stem from underlying physics and chemistries, it's still us... it's still our feelings and our wishes, regardless of their inputs and sources, that are being acted upon... so we're free.

Okay, but...

You then say that if we're coerced then we're no longer free (again, not intentionally butchering this... just trying to paraphrase quickly for context). When I hear this framing of the situation, I struggle to see the difference you're making. From my perspective, it's the same deterministic processes underlying our behavior and it's not clear where the boundary is between one agent or input "coercing" and another agent or input is not... one could argue that they're all types of coercion, just from different sources.

You see.. any time you mention coercion as a path toward us not being free, it does little more than change the inputs, but those inputs are still coming in from everywhere around us each moment... it's a hot / cold or potato / po-tah-toe kind of thing. One input comes from the left, the other comes from the right, but they're still inputs into the same system and acting up us in the same ways... in the same ways as all of the various other inputs which already drive us. One could equally say it's our hydration / dehydration levels that are coercing us, or that it's our fatigue that's coercing us, or our level of hunger or electrolyte balance, or the fact that our house is too close to a smoke producing factory, or it's due to underlying illness or a virus, or our proximity to loud noise, etc. that's "coercing" us.

Every one of these inputs is a coercion, so (if I accept the logic as you've presented it, then) this makes us not actually free... We are instead being coerced.

So... If we are just the output of these underlying inputs and physical interactions, what distinction is there between one of those inputs "coercing" us and the other inputs not? We are the totality of those inputs and processes, and even when "coerced" we are still acting on those same processes you said were free.

It's hard to put this into words, but basically I don't see how coercion is relevant here since all inputs that lead to our determined selves are also a type of coercion. Hope that makes sense, and that perhaps it'll become more clear after my next cup of coffee.

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2 hours ago, Eise said:

No. Because I define free will with 'high-level phenomena', i.e. wishes, believes and actions, one can only define, and recognise, free will on that level.

etc

You then have the problem of defining the level or layer at which free will becomes apparent.

2 hours ago, iNow said:

Free will is compatible with determinism. You say that even though we are nothing more than our molecules and chemistry and interactions... mostly bags of water and chemicals... those things still describe "us" or "me." I AM those things and I act according to the wishes those things generate within me, so I am by definition free. Basically, even though all of these various things that compose us stem from underlying physics and chemistries, it's still us... it's still our feelings and our wishes, regardless of their inputs and sources, that are being acted upon... so we're free.

I am reminded of a description by Stafford Beer about another slippery concept  -  value.

I don't have the exact quote but he wrote to the effect:

Conside a pound of apples, which has value in itself.
Give it to a first class chef and he will produce something of greater value from those apples.
Give those same apples to some ham fisted idiot and he will reduce those apples to a slimy mess of no value at all.

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, iNow said:

Free will is compatible with determinism. You say that even though we are nothing more than our molecules and chemistry and interactions... mostly bags of water and chemicals... those things still describe "us" or "me." I AM those things and I act according to the wishes those things generate within me, so I am by definition free. Basically, even though all of these various things that compose us stem from underlying physics and chemistries, it's still us... it's still our feelings and our wishes, regardless of their inputs and sources, that are being acted upon... so we're free.

That is what you say, not me. I extra highlighted the 'nothing but' operator. As I stated before, everytime in these kind of debates, somebody uses this operator, you can bet on it that he leaves out what es essential. Take an example: in the 1990's there were two completely different computer architectures, RISC and CISC. On very basic logical level, they worked on different principles. However, it was possible to install Windows NT on RISC systems, where the standard for Windows NT was (and is) computers based on a CISC architecture. That means on the surface, they become the same: the difference is so to speak hidden under the operating system. However, what is important for the usage of the computer is above the operating system layer. So for me, as a database administrator, the essence of the computer lays a few levels above the physics of the computer, and to exaggerate a little, overnight somebody could exchange the hardware, and I would not even notice.

3 hours ago, iNow said:

ou then say that if we're coerced then we're no longer free (...). When I hear this framing of the situation, I struggle to see the difference you're making. From my perspective, it's the same deterministic processes underlying our behavior and it's not clear where the boundary is between one agent or input "coercing" and another agent or input is not... one could argue that they're all types of coercion, just from different sources.

The problem here is that our underlying mechanisms have no intentions. They are constituents of what I am. For coercion, as opposite of free, also belongs an intention. If you stumble over something on the floor there is no intention involved. It is just an accident, and to describe your falling as an action is wrong. You had not the intention to fall, and the object on the floor neither. And the object is not part of the mechanism that makes you. However, if somebody wants to avoid that you are following your way, he might threaten you to beat you to the floor. Now an intention is involved, but not your's. So you decide not to go on on your path, but now it is coerced. This is the way I use the concept of 'coercion', to distinguish it from physical causation (no intention involved). If you have another meaning for coercion, then I must invent a new word for it (let's call it the @koti-move...).

Your use of 'coercion', I would say, is metaphorical, not literal. So can we stick to the accepted meaning of 'coercion'?

Quote
1. (not countable) Actual or threatened force for the purpose of compelling action by another person; the act of coercing.
2. (law, not countable) Use of physical or moral force to compel a person to do something, or to abstain from doing something, thereby depriving that person of the exercise of free will.

Italics by me.

3 hours ago, iNow said:

Every one of these inputs is a coercion, so (if I accept the logic as you've presented it, then) this makes us not actually free... We are instead being coerced.

So... If we are just the output of these underlying inputs and physical interactions, what distinction is there between one of those inputs "coercing" us and the other inputs not? We are the totality of those inputs and processes, and even when "coerced" we are still acting on those same processes you said were free.

Just make three categories of 'forcing' relationships:

1. Physical causation
2. Coercion, meaning intentional influencing you
3. Emergence: higher level phenomena in an otherwise purely physical system

In my opinion you mix them up: neurons have no intentions, my brain doesn't cause me, electrons are not coerced on their paths, etc etc.

So take a cup of coffee, and tell me what you think.

21 minutes ago, studiot said:

You then have the problem of defining the level or layer at which free will becomes apparent

I don't have that problem. So you first must convince that I have a problem... So take a glass of advocaat.

Edited by Eise

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7 minutes ago, Eise said:

I don't have that problem. So you first must convince that I have a problem

Not 'a' problem but 'the' problem.

I did not introduces the layers (though I have agreed the idea has merit)
But I think you did.

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Posted (edited)
10 hours ago, studiot said:

I am not completely clear what either of you mean by reductionism or emergent phenomena.

I will have to go in bits and pieces, because it's taking me a while to get up to date with everything.

By reductionism (not shallow, nor naive reductionism) I mean the contention that in general small (many in their instances, simple in structure, and few in their categories) parts determine what the big (much fewer in their instances, very complex in structure, many in their categories) self-organizing systems of matter do, and not the other way about. "Determine," for me, is a physical causal connection; not --repeat, not-- a contingency in our mechanisms of explanation. So it doesn't really matter that much whether the explanation is easy or convenient or how many variables you have to use to describe the causal connection.

By emergent phenomena I mean those patterns of regularities that do not belong to the simpler parts on their own, but can be deduced in principle from the fact of there being many of them and how the different categories interrelate.

A relatively small-scale example would be phospholipids in their role of forming membranes. You can't see a membrane in the properties of one individual molecule, but if you consider many of them in aqueous solution, it's relatively easy to understand how they tend to group together by hiding their fatty hydrophobic part towards the interior of a bubble, showing the polar part towards the exterior, and thus forming an isolating unit.

It is because the questions of reductionism and emergence are important for this matter of free will or whether it makes any sense at all, or is just about words that I put it out here.

23 hours ago, joigus said:

Being able to act according to your wishes and beliefs is good enough for me.

I wish to correct myself. I think the panoply of states that determines decisions at least must include:

wish

belief

fear

revulsion

reckoning

...

More coming.

Edited by joigus
small addition: deduced --> deduced in principle

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7 hours ago, Eise said:

what is important for the usage of the computer is above the operating system layer. So for me, as a database administrator, the essence of the computer lays a few levels above the physics of the computer, and to exaggerate a little, overnight somebody could exchange the hardware, and I would not even notice.

That essence of a computer is measurable only as the emergent property of underlying programming codes and 1s & 0s. While they’re executed in specific ways based on the instructions in that code, or triggered through specific workflows via the design of the UI, they’re still processed the same way and reliant on memory and hardware... click click click... one by one... a string of individual dominoes falling in specific ways.

Even when looking at a massive dbase, there are individual attributes and cells that underlie it all. Of course we group those attributes in logical ways and give them structure via columns and rows and data types, and we use unique keys and common variables to join different data sets together or to filter the output. We can even review those sets at a macro level to see trends or patterns and relationships... but once we start changing the individual data points then the rest all changes, too. A single domino added or removed changes the pattern by which they fall.

We can put up dashboards and interactive visualizations, and we can look at deltas over time and slice and dice the data a thousand ways, but we’re still sourcing everything from more basic layers...

The only layer which is independent of the rest is the base. The rest is built atop that foundation and is not essential in a fundamental sense.

Which view we take or which later we focus upon depends on our purpose and objective... am I looking at individual transactions at the micro level, am I looking at macro trends, am I adjusting the inputs and testing to forecast different scenarios? It all comes from that base layer.

What I realize as I type this, however, is that each of those perspectives has merit. While I’m reducing things to constituent parts, your focus on the emergent parts (the essence) has value, too. Maybe instead of this being an either/or scenario it’s really a both/and scenario.

Anyway, it’s well passed coffee hour and now time for a cocktail. Cheers.

7 hours ago, Eise said:

if somebody wants to avoid that you are following your way, he might threaten you to beat you to the floor. Now an intention is involved, but not your's.

Quickly... I want to explore this more, but not now. I’m still acting on the collection of inputs. Whether my low blood sugar level is driving my behavior or the other human before me holding a knife, it’s still equally determined. Six to one, half a dozen to another.

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15 hours ago, Eise said:

This is the way I use the concept of 'coercion', to distinguish it from physical causation (no intention involved). If you have another meaning for coercion, then I must invent a new word for it (let's call it the @koti-move...).

As in I like to invent new words for things?

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8 hours ago, iNow said:

The only layer which is independent of the rest is the base. The rest is built atop that foundation and is not essential in a fundamental sense.

I would like to examine this statement more closely (how's that for free will ?).

I see what you mean, but cannot each higher layer regard evrything below it as 'the base' ?

Is there such a thing as 'the base' or bottom layer or is the structure like an open set in MAthematics?
After all we can reduce down from components to molecules to atoms to subsections to atomic particles to quarks to fields to......

Secondly there is the question about 'independence'.
Does that imply you cannot substitute a different 'base' and still achieve the same effect?

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4 hours ago, studiot said:

I see what you mean, but cannot each higher layer regard evrything below it as 'the base' ?

I think that's correct, and also that you've raised a fair point. It's turtles all the way down... quarks, preons, fields, strings, whatever...

For whatever reason, I find it most useful to focus on the chemical interactions of collections of physical inputs...

4 hours ago, studiot said:

Does that imply you cannot substitute a different 'base' and still achieve the same effect?

My intuition on this is one could do exactly that. There would IMO be no functional difference between running my "being" on "wet hardware" as happens for all of us today through my biology versus running my "being" on an AI or simulation... but while interesting... that's another topic entirely.

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4 minutes ago, iNow said:

I think that's correct, and also that you've raised a fair point. It's turtles all the way down... quarks, preons, fields, strings, whatever...

For whatever reason, I find it most useful to focus on the chemical interactions of collections of physical inputs...

My intuition on this is one could do exactly that. There would IMO be no functional difference between running my "being" on "wet hardware" as happens for all of us today through my biology versus running my "being" on an AI or simulation... but while interesting... that's another topic entirely.

Thank you for those replies, especially the second one.

Thank you also joigus for your lipid/micelle example if an emergent phenomenon. I had never considered those associations that way before.

Which brings me to my usual example of an emergent phenomenon, arch action.

This only 'emerges' only when the last component voussoir is in place and not until.

Or does it?

Arching action occurs when there is only one component and can be likened to my earlier example to Eise of a perfect circle.

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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, studiot said:

Thank you also joigus for your lipid/micelle example if an emergent phenomenon. I had never considered those associations that way before.

You're welcome, Studiot. When it comes to free will I'd rather start with examples from biology, however simple. Whenever people propose a computer program as a model for thinking, I always miss the dynamical aspect: a program that's constantly being edited while it's being used. That's more like what I think is going on.

Edited by joigus
minor correction

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Posted (edited)
On 6/12/2020 at 2:28 AM, iNow said:

The only layer which is independent of the rest is the base. The rest is built atop that foundation and is not essential in a fundamental sense.

With 'fundamental' you mean (sorry for the technical wording) 'ontological primacy'. To say it simple: a database could not exist, if there were no atoms; atoms can very well exist without databases.

But now do the same with an algorithm. You can also run the program I gave above: count to 600 every second, and then switch the light off (I changed the example a little, to make it less cruel... ). So what is the 'fundamental sense' of such an algorithm? (In the case of relational databases, it started as a mathematical theory on organising information. Everything a relational database can do, you can do too: use paper to write down your tables in columns and rows, join the data to get the information you want. So the idea of relational databases is independent of its implementation, even if it needs at least some physical implementation: it can be you with pencils, eraser, and paper, or it can be software running on a CISC computer. Some people do not seem to realise that the essence of a relational database is the algorithm. Real life example: one day a developer came to me how he could get certain information from a database. I showed him with an example on paper that it was logically impossible, and ended saying that even Oracle (a relational database software) cannot do what is logically impossible, despite its name...) So the primary existence of a relational database, is definitely not the way it is implemented in 'reality': it only must be implemented somehow. Not its ontology, but its functions.

On 6/12/2020 at 2:28 AM, iNow said:

What I realize as I type this, however, is that each of those perspectives has merit. While I’m reducing things to constituent parts, your focus on the emergent parts (the essence) has value, too. Maybe instead of this being an either/or scenario it’s really a both/and scenario.

Exactly. And in different situations there are different 'merits'. We must use the one that has the most merit given the situation. Asking if an action was free or not is not answered by reference to the ontological primary parts, but by looking (asking, investigating) the motives of an action.

On 6/12/2020 at 2:28 AM, iNow said:

Whether my low blood sugar level is driving my behavior or the other human before me holding a knife, it’s still equally determined

Definitely, I never said otherwise. For all practical purposes, we are determined. You cannot undermine my view by saying we are determined. The difference between a free or coerced action lies not in the question if one is undetermined, and the other is not. The difference lies in the way the action is determined. With the above example about databases in mind: the essence of a free or coerced action lies not in its physical implantation, but in its relationship with my believes, my wishes, my fears, etc.

On 6/12/2020 at 2:28 AM, iNow said:

Six to one, half a dozen to another.

So this is simply not true.

21 hours ago, iNow said:

For whatever reason, I find it most useful to focus on the chemical interactions of collections of physical inputs...

Somehow I do not believe you. I do not think that you find your knowledge of chemical interactions of collections of physical inputs very useful when e.g. coping with relationship problems. So it really depends on the context what is most useful. In your very well formulated postings in the 'George Floyd thread' you never refer to 'chemical interactions of collections of physical inputs'. (I do not expect you at a demonstration with a banner with the text 'black atoms matter', or 'atoms of black lives matter').

21 hours ago, iNow said:

There would IMO be no functional difference between running my "being" on "wet hardware" as happens for all of us today through my biology versus running my "being" on an AI or simulation... but while interesting... that's another topic entirely.

Not quite. Imagine AI would be so far to 'run persons' that can listen, speak, act etc, then it would be shown that our essence does not lie in the hardware from which something is build up (organic chemistry or semi conductors).

On 6/11/2020 at 11:37 PM, joigus said:

I wish to correct myself. I think the panoply of states that determines decisions at least must include:

• wish
• belief
• fear
• revulsion
• reckoning
• ...

Of course. But I always take these two examples, because they express the two elements that are needed for a successful action: knowing the facts, and knowledge of your motivations. Or say it another way: it needs a picture of reality as I perceive it, and a picture of how I want it to be.

12 hours ago, joigus said:

Whenever people propose a computer program as a model for thinking, I always miss the dynamical aspect: a program that's constantly being edited while it's being used. That's more like what I think is going on.

Sure. I think that is a reason LISP was designed. But you are right: in the brain there is not such a clear distinction between hardware and software. So in an extreme case, it might mean that the only way to make AI conscious and able to be free is by modeling the brain till the level of synapses (or worse), because no other structure can mimic how a physical structure gives rise to our capabilities.

On 6/11/2020 at 11:37 PM, joigus said:

"Determine," for me, is a physical causal connection

That is in its generality wrong. There is no causal connection between the constituents of an emergent property and its constituents: it is a logical, or if you want, a conceptual connection. I think this is one of the confusions that leads people to say that we are not free because we are 'caused by our brain'. We aren't. We are implemented in our brains.

On 6/12/2020 at 10:12 AM, koti said:

As in I like to invent new words for things?

Yeah!

Edited by Eise

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