[an error occurred while processing this directive]
About
Content
Store
Forum

Rebirth of Reason
War
People
Archives
Objectivism

Post to this threadMark all messages in this thread as readMark all messages in this thread as unreadBack one pagePage 0Page 1Page 2Page 3Page 4Page 5Page 6Page 7Forward one pageLast Page


Post 40

Saturday, March 10, 2007 - 1:50pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
In his review of Joyeux Noel, the Christian Carion war movie, John Hospers says, "The attitude of the filmmakers is quite clear: they believe that the entire war was a tragic series of blunders and mistakes which could and should have been prevented entirely" (Liberty, April 2007, p. 47). I take it that the makers of Joyeux Noel must believe in free will, then, because it makes no sense to believe that the blunders "could and should have been prevented entirely" if what happens always, everywhere, must happen and all things being equal, nothing else could happen.



Post 41

Saturday, March 10, 2007 - 4:46pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Given a particular starting state of a person's mind and context (this includes all current thoughts, memories, the way they think, the sensory information that they are currently picking up, and the actions they can perform)... I don't see how a person could do something differently if we were somehow to reset the state of reality and do it all over again.

Slightly change a memory, or something in short term memory, and then there very well could be a vast difference in a person's decision making. The sound of a water droplet or maybe a car engine revving might distract a person for a moment while they are thinking about what they should do next... and forget a piece of the plan, or not think a plan all the way through, or maybe a memory was triggered by the sound that would help in this context.

Could have, and should have, if only they had better foresight! Or if only they would have considered this instead of that. But these are differences in starting state, and the different starting states would have led to different outcomes.

I would say that we have the capability to decide from a vast number of courses of action, that we can and do change our ways of thinking and behavior. We are highly capable of adapting our behavior to achieve any goals we might have, and we can adapt our goals as well. "Free" doesn't have a very clear meaning to me. Maybe "adaptive will" would be more clear? Mainly self adapted, yet also externally influenced will. Adapted by automatic processes such as pleasure/pain hunger, fear, etc. Adapted by logical reasoning.

Ed wrote:
The capacity to choose among alternative means toward the achievement of the universal and ultimate end of happy living.
I agree that we have the ability to think about various courses of action and decide upon one of them.
(Edited by Dean Michael Gores
on 3/10, 4:57pm)




Post 42

Saturday, March 10, 2007 - 5:59pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Well, now I'm totally confused.

But I am curious what exactly is objectionable with the idea of inborn values in the sense of inborn preferences. Are we not born finding sugar sweet, and liking sweet foods, and thus do we not as babies act to gain or keep sweet substances? The baby doesn't listen to a lecture on nutrition and then make a conscious choice to value sugar.

This may not be exactly what Tibor was objecting to, but it does seem to be something that is both inborn and a case of valuing according to the gain/keep definition.

Of course, a child will later come to value money, because he knows that money will buy him candy, which is sweet, and he wants the pleasant sensation of the sweetness. Doesn't this simply show that we build our value structures from the bottom up?

Ted Keer



Post 43

Saturday, March 10, 2007 - 6:09pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Bill, you respond that the determinist will say that his ability to state counterfactuals is determined by his knowledge of the facts and their implications. Well, of course. The determinist will say a lot of things. What I want to know is, if the determinist says that facts constrain beliefs (not just causing beliefs - which non-determinists also believe) then how can he spontaneously generate thoughts that are counter to fact? (Remember, if the determinist denies that the facts constrain beliefs, and he remains a determinist, then he is saying that something other than the facts constrains his beliefs, in which case he is admitting that his own words are just the ravings of a puppet driven by? - blank out.)

In any case, I don't even think that determinism can be stated in any non-trivial and non-contradictory way. Sure, our thoughts have causes. But we ourselves are in part (the driving part) the cause. The facts are the material we work with. But what we do with the facts is not predetermined by the facts.

We would have to ask, what is a case of non-free willing?



Post 44

Saturday, March 10, 2007 - 11:45pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
In his review of Joyeux Noel, the Christian Carion war movie, John Hospers says, "The attitude of the filmmakers is quite clear: they believe that the entire war was a tragic series of blunders and mistakes which could and should have been prevented entirely" (Liberty, April 2007, p. 47). I take it that the makers of Joyeux Noel must believe in free will, then, because it makes no sense to believe that the blunders "could and should have been prevented entirely" if what happens always, everywhere, must happen and all things being equal, nothing else could happen.
Blunders and mistakes are not made intentionally; one does not choose to commit a blunder or to make a mistake. Yet one can still say that these blunders and mistakes "could" have been prevented if one had engaged in better preparation and more careful planning, and "should" have been prevented if a better outcome was to be achieved. But, of course, hindsight is 20/20, and one did not have the benefit of such knowledge at the time.

Suppose, for example, that one is playing chess and makes a tactical blunder, causing the loss of one's queen. It can be said that one "could" have avoided making such a move, if one had a better grasp of one's opponent's strategy, and "should" have avoided the move, if one had any reasonable chance of winning the game, even though given one's knowledge and understanding at the time, one could not have moved any differently than one did.

- Bill



Sanction: 4, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 4, No Sanction: 0
Post 45

Saturday, March 10, 2007 - 11:59pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
<< What I want to know is, if the determinist says that facts constrain beliefs (not just causing beliefs - which non-determinists also believe) then how can he spontaneously generate thoughts that are counter to fact? >>

I was thinking about this for a while when I went to get my rear bicycle tire's inner tube replaced and I came to the conclusion that the only counterfactual propositions that a determinist could conceive were negations of facts, not alternate/unexhausted propositions.

Let me explain what I mean here first. My view is there are generally two kinds of propositions with two particular states. The kinds are exhausted and unexhausted. Exhausted propositions are propositions of fact, in that they have occurred, thus they are also excluded in that their happening implies that instance of the proposition won't happen again. Now, this does not mean generalized propositions like "isotopes X will decay with an average half life of Y" rather they mean exact events themselves, "JFK was assassinated..." and what not. Unexhausted propositions can either be excluded or unexcluded. Specifically, an unexhausted proposition is any proposition that has yet to occur or can never occur. What makes a any other kind of proposition that is unexhausted also excluded is whether they themselves have no bearing to the next series of related propositions, or change the nature of an exhausted proposition. Therefore, excluded in this regard either means it already happened or it can never happen within this context of these particular propositions.

That being said, a negation of an exhausted [and now excluded] proposition can be the only possible choice for a determined entity in that for them any other possibility, no matter how similar to the negation or original proposition, it could not conceive or discern these particular propositions. Thus, a determined entity in this regard is blind to alternatives since logically the only other alternative is the negation of the exhausted proposition and not any alternative propositions, being that there is no way to derive an implication to the other ones.

That's at least how I figure it.

-- Bridget
(Edited by Bridget Armozel
on 3/11, 12:01am)




Sanction: 4, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 4, No Sanction: 0
Post 46

Sunday, March 11, 2007 - 9:56amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
"Blunders" and "mistakes" are often polite ways of referring to foul ups, oversights, negligence and such, all of which presume that one could have done better, all things being equal. That is the crucial difference between event-to-event causation and agent causation, namely, the former is supposedly but a daisy chain (or series) of events ineluctably moving ahead in time, while the latter depend on what the agent's capacities are, which could included moving in different directions from the same state, depending on the agent's initiative. (Intentions are not what matters, not at least if by them one has in mind deliberate selections of ends. If, however, intentions include conscious but not deliberate selections, then failures like blunders can be intentional; and the courts usually treat them as such. It is no excuse to say, "But your honor, I didn't intend to hit this child in the school zone." The answer is, "You ought to have paid closer attention, which we are all normally free but often fail to do.")



Post 47

Sunday, March 11, 2007 - 1:23pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Ted Keer,
In any case, I don't even think that determinism can be stated in any non-trivial and non-contradictory way
Maybe you use determinism a different way than me, but when I say I am a determinism I mean: I am confident that for every moment through time, there is only one continual flow of states that reality can change through next.
(Edited by Dean Michael Gores
on 3/11, 1:23pm)




Post 48

Sunday, March 11, 2007 - 2:20pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Yes, the relevant form of determinism is the view that whenever a human being acts, the acts are the result of factors that produce that action and must produce only that action, none other. Free will, in contrast, is the view that some of the actions of human beings are produced by the agent, the individual person, who is the cause of those actions and who could have caused different actions without anything apart from his or her choice (or will) being different. Free will assumes people initiate some of what they do, are the first cause of such conduct, so they could have done otherwise without qualification (as opposed to could have done otherwise had they had different values, different desires, different genetic makeup, different brain states). There a pretty comprehensive though philosophically unsatisfying piece in The New York Times Magazine (March 11, 2007), written by Jeffrey Rosen, "The Trails of Neurolaw," that would probably interest some of the participants in this discussion. (I call it philosophically unsatisfying because various of the major figures quoted and discussed appear to be willing to live with quite contradictory notions about the subject.)



Post 49

Sunday, March 11, 2007 - 3:54pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
"Blunders" and "mistakes" are often polite ways of referring to foul ups, oversights, negligence and such, all of which presume that one could have done better, all things being equal.
Foul ups, oversights and/or negligence presume that one could have done better, but only if one had paid closer attention. They do not presume that one could have done better, "all things being equal." It might be argued that one could have chosen to pay closer attention. True, but only if one valued doing so, which one evidently did not.
That is the crucial difference between event-to-event causation and agent causation, namely, the former is supposedly but a daisy chain (or series) of events ineluctably moving ahead in time, while the latter depend on what the agent's capacities are, which could include moving in different directions from the same state, depending on the agent's initiative.
Determinism does not imply that causation is simply an ineluctable series of events divorced from the nature of the acting entities, even if the latter concept implies determinism. Event-to-event causation (if it means something other than agent causation) is nonsensical. Agent causation is the only legitimate kind. An entity's action is determined by its nature -- by the kind of entity it is. As Rand observes, "Living organisms possess the power of self-initiated motion, which inanimate matter does not possess." They operate on a different principle of causation than does inanimate matter, because they have a different nature. But that doesn't mean that the action of living organisms is not necessary; it doesn't mean that a living organism could have acted differently under the same conditions. Agent causation and causal necessity are perfectly compatible concepts, as are causal necessity and self-initiated motion. The self-initiated motion of an animal is caused and necessitated by its perceived goals and interests. A hungry lion perceives a zebra and initiates a chase, but its action is nevertheless determined by its perception of the zebra as the key to satisfying its hunger. Human beings differ from animals in that, whereas animals can initiate only physical actions, human beings can initiate mental actions. But in neither case does the fact that the action is initiated imply the ability to have initiated a different action under the same conditions.
(Intentions are not what matters, not at least if by them one has in mind deliberate selections of ends. If, however, intentions include conscious but not deliberate selections, then failures like blunders can be intentional; and the courts usually treat them as such. It is no excuse to say, "But your honor, I didn't intend to hit this child in the school zone." The answer is, "You ought to have paid closer attention, which we are all normally free but often fail to do."
Yes, "free" in the sense that had one realized the importance of paying closer attention, nothing would have prevented one from doing so, which is all the law is concerned with. The law doesn't care if one were even aware that one should have been paying closer attention. Even if one thought that paying closer attention wasn't warranted, and did not choose to do so for that reason, one will still be held legally liable. Legal liability does not require that the violator consider himself morally responsible for obeying the law; all it requires is that he be capable of obeying it (if he should decide to do so).

- Bill



Post 50

Sunday, March 11, 2007 - 4:58pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Bill:

I have been following these free will vs. determinism debates for many years now and truth be told, no matter how closely I have read and thought about the arguments that you and others put forth, at some point I become completely lost in my understanding. In some ways, the level that you drill down into this issue is analogous to a discussion of physics which revolves solely around the philosophical implications of the quantum state of matter without reference back to the macro world. You argue that men's actions are determined by their values. Then, when challenged on that point, you argue that their values are determined by their level of awareness that they bring to bear. Then, when challenged on that point, you argue that the act of focusing one's consciousness is determined by ...? And so on. The argument goes deeper and deeper until everyone is hypothesizing about internal states which cannot be directly observed and can only be inferred. It would be really helpful if you could bring the discussion back up to the real world of men's lives so that I might get a handle on your point.

As I said, I have followed these discussions for years, have had these thoughts before and have been tempted to write on the issue but decided not to get involved. This time I see no new relevant factors in play and it certainly seems to me that I had and have the free will to write or not write this note and contribute it to the discussion. In the past I decided not to do so and today I freely decide that I will. There is nothing in any argument that you have put forth that comes close to convincing me that I am necessitated to write today while also being necessitated to not write in the past. I am self-aware of my values, my interest in this topic, and of the inner analysis I have made concerning the value of my time taken to write this. And I am absolutely positive that I can choose to write this or to once again simply ignore this discussion. Since I am going to post this message, I realize that you, reading this at some point in the future, believe at this moment (*now*) that I "think" I could stop writing and simply delete this electronic file, but in fact, I really have/had no choice and I am necessitated to proceed. And the only circular proof you appear to offer is that I did actually post the message.

When Tibor and others talk about men having free will, the discussion revolves around actual events that effect our daily lives, such as the fact that our legal system is firmly based upon the notion that men have choices in the way that they act. So what I would like to ask you is to drop the deep discussion for a moment and tell me whether there is anything on the macro level of our lives that you see being different if we are, in fact, determined in the way you describe as opposed in having free will in the manner described by Tibor in post #48. If you could provide some insight as to the implications of your position, then I might have an easier time following your train of thought. Forgetting for the moment whether it is proved or not, are you suggesting that if we were to recognize that men are "determined" in the sense that you mean, that we would act differently in some way; that we would/should change the nature of our court system; that that recognition would effect our overall motivation towards goal-directed behavior; that mankind would launch itself in some completely new direction; etc. Thanks.
--
Jeff




Post 51

Sunday, March 11, 2007 - 4:59pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Machan,
Yes, the relevant form of determinism is the view that whenever a human being acts, the acts are the result of factors that produce that action and must produce only that action, none other. Free will, in contrast, is the view that some of the actions of human beings are produced by the agent, the individual person, who is the cause of those actions and who could have caused different actions without anything apart from his or her choice (or will) being different.
I see nothing that contradicts between determinism and free will in these statements. Where is the contradiction? Changing "his or her choice (or will) being" is changing the "factors that produce" an action. Free will views that some of the actions are produced by the agent, determinism views that some of the actions are produced by the agent.

Now this is where you loose me:
Free will assumes people initiate some of what they do, are the first cause of such conduct, so they could have done otherwise without qualification (as opposed to could have done otherwise had they had different values, different desires, different genetic makeup, different brain states).
What is a first cause? What do you mean by "without qualification"? Can you give me an example of such a thing?
(Edited by Dean Michael Gores
on 3/11, 5:00pm)




Post 52

Sunday, March 11, 2007 - 7:15pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Yes, as the previous post points out, when I choose to reply to your post, it is a first, an original choice, an initiative, a starting out that I did and didn't have to--there were other matters I might have attended to. And to say, well but then your choice or attention determined you to reply is to miss the point that that choice was up to me to make, I didn't have to make it--it is exactly whether I attend or not, whether I pay attention or not, that is the basic free choice not caused by anything else but by me. (Of course, some of us do--or do not--develop a habit to attend but here, too, we didn't have to.)




Post 53

Sunday, March 11, 2007 - 10:05pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
I said in an earlier post that freedom of the will is primarily of ethical and not of metaphysical importance. I'll repeat that now. Arguments about what might have happened or paths of causality are in a sense meaningless since we cannot replay the past. I repeat, we are our bodies, and we are the moral agents responsible for our actions. That is incontrovertible, or at least to deny it is to remove oneself from the realm of ethics. If you deny free will, then why complain if I punch you? If you say you are forced to complain, then I respond that your complaint is meaningless. No one accepts this.

According to Diogenes Laertius there was some skeptic philosopher who supposedly refused to believe the evidence of his senses, and whose friends had to refrain him from walking into ditches. One wonders why he didn't starve, and who wiped his bottom.

That our will is an interesting type of causation remains. That it is free matters only in an ethical context.

Ted Keer



Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Post 54

Sunday, March 11, 2007 - 10:32pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
In Post 21 Ed Thompson wrote:
What does "free will" mean again?
In a nutshell:  The capacity to choose among alternative means toward the achievement of the universal and ultimate end of happy living.

Isn't everyone selfish?

I have known people who shop for churches. One kid in my cohort went back and forth between nazism and communisml; he wasn't quite sure, but he was in the process of choosing.  In fact, many years later, at a numismatic convention -- the veritable cathedral of greed -- I was thoroughly surprised to have met a man who collected fascism because he was a fascist.  He had chosen.  Here is a link to about 300 people who chose martyrdom for Christ:
http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/Saints/bydate.asp
 Pope Gregory the Great delivered his 28th homily on the occasion of their feast. “These saints, before whom we are assembled, despised the world and trampled it under their feet when peace, riches and health gave it charms.”
That, too, is choice.

 Free will is the capacity to choose. (Period.)




Post 55

Sunday, March 11, 2007 - 11:21pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
So, "freedom of the will is primarily of ethical and not of metaphysical [ontological] importance. I'll repeat that now." OK, but saying this doesn't make it so. Free will has an ontological dimension in that it involves a conception of causation that presupposes that there are types of beings that can initiate their causal powers. This definitely is ontologically pregnant and cannot just be assumed. "Arguments about what might have happened or paths of causality are in a sense meaningless since we cannot replay the past." Well, we have such arguments in history and psychology all the time--what might have happened had the federal reserve board not done what it did before the Great Depression; what might have happened had Trotsky lived and Stalin died; what might have happened had Bush not invaded Iraq. Or what would have happened had someone been more pleasant to his wife instead of cheater on her. Such counterfactual issues are constantly being argued out.  So it is doubtful that they are in any sense meaningless.




Post 56

Sunday, March 11, 2007 - 11:24pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Actually, you didn't avoid them but chimed in.



Post 57

Sunday, March 11, 2007 - 11:44pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Yes, as the previous post points out, when I choose to reply to your post, it is a first, an original choice, an initiative, a starting out that I did and didn't have to--there were other matters I might have attended to. And to say, well but then your choice or attention determined you to reply is to miss the point that that choice was up to me to make, I didn't have to make it--it is exactly whether I attend or not, whether I pay attention or not, that is the basic free choice not caused by anything else but by me. (Of course, some of us do--or do not--develop a habit to attend but here, too, we didn't have to.)
Yes, your choice to reply was up to you, insofar as you decided to do it based on your values. No one else made the decision for you. The point I am making is that you cannot choose irrespective of your values. Every choice presupposes a value for the sake of which the choice is made. This is true of the choice to focus, just as well as for any other choice. You could have chosen differently only if your values were different. Granted, the choices you make are up to you, insofar as you must weigh the relevant alternatives, and decide which you value most. But having made your evaluation, you are not then free to choose a less valuable alternative. Choices are made for the sake of an end or goal that the moral agent desires to achieve. It is that end or goal that motivates the choice.

Does this conclusion bode ill for our code of ethics and our legal system. I don't think so. If human beings are determined in the way that I've indicated, they can still be held responsible for their actions -- insofar as those actions proceed from their value judgments; they can still be praised and blamed, rewarded and punished for the choices they make. The moral approbation and condemnation that we express are based on our own values, not on the values of the people toward whom it is directed. Even if they think their choices are perfectly legitimate, those choices will merit our condemnation and even perhaps our punishment, if we disapprove.

One possible implication of the view expressed here that may be different than for free will is that if you want people to act a certain way, you must motivate them, you must give them a good reason to do it. If you simply moralize on the premise that they "ought" to do it, even if they don't value the action, you'll get nowhere. People act on the basis of incentives. This is one of the virtues of capitalism; it inspires people to take appropriate action by rewarding them for it. It recognizes that people act for the sake of values, and that if you want their production or their business, you must offer them something in return. You must motivate them. Why? Because people's values determine their choices.

- Bill



Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Post 58

Monday, March 12, 2007 - 7:42amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

Here are some considerations pertinent to this topic, from my essay “Volitional Synapses” in Objectivity V2N2 (1995).

 

“Leibniz was right, I think, to emphasize hypothetical necessity in human freedom. The hypothetical in the phrase is what we need to focus on more than did Leibniz. ‘It is there that free will plays its game’ (T §147, emphasis added).

 

“When one rolls a die, it is true that the outcome is completely determined by the die’s initial conditions (its conditions upon leaving the hand) and the conditions it encounters along the way before coming to rest. Its motion between toss and coming to rest is lawful all along the way. Suppose the die collides with a busy housefly on the way down. The effects of that collision are lawful too. Given that die and fly are on a collision course, certain lawful results follow. But where is the lawful connection between this die and this fly being on such courses that will bring them to the same region at the same time? Nowhere. There is no such lawlike connection. We know that, and we know we should not invest in trying to find such a law. Existence is thicker in facts than laws.

 

“Similarly, when the die lands on the table, there will be lawful interaction. It will not be practical to predict the outcome (as opposed to guessing the outcome) because we shall not normally be able to know the die’s initial conditions with enough precision and because on impact the die’s edges and corners will act as pivots of unstable equilibria. Nevertheless, we have the usual mechanical laws governing the interaction. But where, oh where, is the lawful connection between this die and this table being on such courses that will bring them into contact? Nowhere. We control things by adjusting constraints. We cannot adjust the laws themselves.

 

“[Leibniz replies:] ‘But such a chance, such an absolute and actual fortuity, is a chimera which never occurs in nature. All wise men are agreed that chance is only an apparent thing, like fortune: only ignorance of causes gives rise to it’ (T §303; cf. Rand 1973, 28–29). We are, he says, admitting ‘something which happens without the existence of any cause or reason for it’ (T §362).

 

“No. Far be it from me to deny the principle of substantive propagation. That is the principle that says the way things are grew out of the ways things have been (Boydstun 1991b, 35–36). The die has its causal history and so does the fly, but the trajectory of die was independent of the flight path of fly. Causality and other nomic connection and real chance all coexist in perfect harmony.

 

“When we throw a die and call it, the lack of correlation, the chance, is as Leibniz says: a matter of ignorance. We do not know the initial and subsequent conditions finely enough to do anything but guess. When we throw two dice repeatedly and simply record their outcomes, we find there is no correlation between the two sequences. That is real chance, having nothing to do with our ignorance. . . .

 

“Leibniz took issue with Aristotle over real chance, and naturally enough, he also took issue over truth in future contingents. For now I shall leave open a miniscule possibility that Leibniz could be right concerning truth in future contingents for a case of two flies having a mid-air collision. To know for sure, we should have to examine how the concepts intention and accident, as well as representation and error, might apply to flies. And we should have to have a comparative look at their control circuitry. . . . Be the flies as they may, in our case of the collision of die with fly, which depends on a human free decision, I am even more confident that Leibniz was wrong and Aristotle right about truth in future contingents (cf. Rand 1973 25–29).

 

“Aristotle concluded: Yes, it is now true that tomorrow there will either be a sea battle or not be a sea battle, not both. It is not now true that the one that will be tomorrow is. That there will be a sea battle tomorrow is not now true nor false, because that reality is for now indeterminate (de Int. 9).”





Sanction: 4, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 4, No Sanction: 0
Post 59

Monday, March 12, 2007 - 10:58amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Bill,

You said,
"Yes, your choice to reply was up to you, insofar as you decided to do it based on your values. No one else made the decision for you. The point I am making is that you cannot choose irrespective of your values. Every choice presupposes a value for the sake of which the choice is made. This is true of the choice to focus, just as well as for any other choice. You could have chosen differently only if your values were different. Granted, the choices you make are up to you, insofar as you must weigh the relevant alternatives, and decide which you value most. But having made your evaluation, you are not then free to choose a less valuable alternative. Choices are made for the sake of an end or goal that the moral agent desires to achieve. It is that end or goal that motivates the choice."

It is a little more complex than that.  Take a look at your sentence where you say, "...insofar as you decided to do it based on your values."  I maintain that one can decide not to adhere to one's highest values in a context (e.g., I 'decide' to ignore my diet and have a piece of cake).  You might respond that by'choosing' to eat cake instead of dieting is just valuing the pleasure of the cake higher than the getting to the diet's goal faster.  I might not like the cake that much, but be feeling a little depressed and be having a subconscious urge to 'seek comfort' which many people do with some foods.  So, in this example, haven't I just substituted among values I already have?  Aren't I still choosing among values I have?  What if I come up with another value - create one on the spot?  What about rationalization, denial, repression, avoidance? 

To understand the complexity of that small instant in time, just imagine a situation where 'will power' is needed.  That situation dramatizes for us the struggle of how to focus.  It makes the choosing mechanism more conscious -  more 'visible'.  Do I make my focus one of clarity or let it go fuzzy?   Usually that is the real question - the one underlying the question of do I choose to pay the price reality asks or do I pretend that there is no price?  Or, do I change the priority of my two conflicting goals?  Am I making a valid exception to my 'no cake' rule or giving in to a subconscious urge?  These are the things that are behind that instant's decision of "cake or lose weight?"

This complexity tells us two things.  One is that, yes, choosing involves our values, but that doesn't help explain this issue because we hold an almost infinite number of values - especially when we have the capacity to create new ones on the fly, modify old ones, change prioroities between them, create exceptions, mediate with feeling states and subconscious urges, and engage in a number of volitional shift in the kind and intensity of focus.  Two, the complexity just makes it clear that an active agency is at work - controlling the values as much as being controlled by them.  Saying that our values drive decisions does nothing to nail down determinism in this area since we created, ordered, accepted or rejected and focused (or not) on the values.  Whatever that active, choosing agent is, it is a first cause of that cake being eaten or not eaten.

I see it like a computer program that automatically responds to each call for a choice by automatically creating the choice that corresponds to the existing value structure - totally determined.  BUT, before that choice is acted on it is examined and there is a tiny moment where the choice is evaluated and where the focus can be changed.   At that point, it is not a computer program, but rather the programmer that is in charge.  At that time it is possible to change the value's priority, or create a new value, or engage in some other process that effects the valuation results.  Then, after the change is made, the program is run again - giving the new results.  These are three different processes: The automated creation of a choice based upon standing orders and value structures, the current focus (both in intensity and type of focus) that is in the background monitoring what is going on, and last the intervention that can occur to change the structure or standing orders and restart the valuation.

Most of the problems in accepting a concept of free will has to do with imagining a first agent.  Things like billard balls don't get to initiate movement.  It appears that there are no other first agents in the universe.  I think that Dennett, et. al., are valiantly trying to reconcile the physical world's lack of a first agent with our obvious capacity to choose - but I don't think it can be done - not like they are doing it.  We need to accept that the nature of our awareness is such that it is an agent of first cause.  Once accepted, then we have a better chance of understanding it and integrating the resulting knowledge with physics.

Added this with 'Edit':  Going back and re-reading earlier posts I can see that Tibor addressed the first agent more eloquently,
"...the crucial difference between event-to-event causation and agent causation, namely, the former is supposedly but a daisy chain (or series) of events ineluctably moving ahead in time, while the latter depend on what the agent's capacities are"

(Edited by Steve Wolfer on 3/12, 11:09am)




Post to this threadBack one pagePage 0Page 1Page 2Page 3Page 4Page 5Page 6Page 7Forward one pageLast Page
[an error occurred while processing this directive]


User ID Password or create a free account.