"On what basis do you make an exception for the human brain?"
I'm not making an exception. This is where I think we're talking past each other. There are certainly elements of this world which are deterministic, I'm not arguing that point, but there are also parts of it that are random and not directly caused by anything (to the best of our knowledge, of course; science is never 100% certain about anything). The thing is, you might be able to prod the brain with stimuli and predict the outcome, but everybody always has at least a limited choice, and the way the brain reasons - to the best of our knowledge - won't always come up with the same result. Free will does exist in a limited state - you can't do whatever you want whenever you want - but you can act on your own desires and motivations. Obviously the actions you take are influenced by your surroundings, but you still have a choice as to whether or not you act on those desires. As I said; I'm kind of a compatibilist. Whilst the world is very deterministic (though not entirely), that does not infringe on free will, again here meaning "The ability to act on desires and motivations." Nothing is forcing us to do anything. We do it because we make the decision internally to do it. Yes, there are external factors, but it is still - in the end - our choice. "I think the challenge you face with this position is that to do so you have to set the brain up to be a unique thing that stands pretty much alone in the world of science."
No I don't. It is subject to the same laws as everything else, but that does not remove free will (again, here meaning the ability to act on our desires and motivations). Determinism has its influences on the human brain, yes, but that doesn't stop us from coming to a conclusion that we're happy with and then acting on it."In every other "hard" science branch it is taken pretty much as read that determinism is true"
That's a pretty big assertion to make. I can guarantee you that there are scientists that don't agree that determinism is completely true. Nothing is universally agreed upon within science. If there are "scientists" that can still deny evolution, there will certainly be scientists that disagree with a philosophically controversial position like determinism. "The brain is physical. There is no natural reason it shouldn't act the same way as everything else... and everything else is deterministic."
And even if I accepted that - I still think there are certain things that are not deterministic - why does that remove the possibility of free will (which I have defined several times)?"So what does the concept of "free will" cover and how does it come about?"
I've already said. Free Will is the ability to act on your own desires and motivations, without extreme hindrance by external stimuli. Free Will simply comes about from having desires and being able to act on them. It's an abstract construct.If it is a product of natural elements then why is it not deterministic when everything else is?"
The processes might be deterministic, but that does not infringe on Free Will as I have defined it, since the brain is still using those processes to come up with a decision that is right for it. Yes, with perfect knowledge you could probably provoke predictable responses. So what? The brain is still reasoning through it and making its decision, and those processes can be changed and altered. The brain is a very powerful organ, but it is still an organ. So I concede that most - if not everything - is deterministic...but how does that do anything to infringe on free will? If you can act on your desires and motivations, then you have free will. If you cannot, you do not. I fail to see how determinism requires a soul to fill in for free will."If it isn't natural then there must seemingly be a supernatural cause... and if there is a supernatural cause then what separates it from the "soul"."
Except you haven't demonstrated that there ISN'T a natural cause. In fact, everything we have suggests that the brain is purely physical and there is no supernatural agency to it whatsoever. You want to posit a supernatural cause for free will - here meaning the ability to act on your desires and motivations - well...prove it. I've asked this before and nobody has answered. How do we test your hypothesis?
Without evidence to say that you are correct, why should we believe this thing exists? That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence."Assuming we mean "external" to mean outside ourselves, then surely your own example falls apart as a case of free will because it is rife with external interferences; the fact that bacon and bread are available as foodstuffs is an example of something external directly interfering with your "choice".
And that doesn't effect it whatsoever. You don't have bread? You will act
on your desire to have a sandwich by going to buy the bread, or you will act
on your desire not to get dressed and stay at home eating Pringles instead. Determinism doesn't remove free will from the equation."Beyond that I'm not sure this actually deals with the deterministic objection. A determinist view would simply look at the conditions which applied; your mental state, your level of hunger, your liking for bacon sandwiches, the availability of the things needed to make a bacon sandwich and countless more and say that your decision to make a bacon sandwich wasn't a "choice" at all, it was merely a reaction to the conditions at the time. Thus while you may like the term "free will" to cover it, in reality you were no more free not to have a bacon sandwich then water is not to boil when subjected to enough heat."
Except that I was free to act on those desires and motivations. THAT is what Free Will is; the ability to have a desire and act on it. So what if various stimuli interacted to make me want the sandwich? I was still "free" to act on that desire, and my brain made the choice that it was going to act on it. So what if the brain would make the same decision a second time under the same circumstances? A choice is simply deciding a course of action based on the current information and stimuli. It doesn't matter if the choice was predictable or not, it was still a choice. Until the choice was made, it was possible - no matter how vanishingly small that possibility was - that the brain would come to a different conclusion. So again, I fail to see how determinism removes free will as I have defined it."Again, my point is more that if one discounts anything other than the physical then I struggle to see how one doesn't then have to follow determinism."
Well, I obviously think we always have a choice. And even if we "had" to follow determinism, that doesn't remove free will."Which is the simpler view... that earthquakes are the result of a god laughing as the ancient Egyptian's believed or that it is the result of force of moving blocks finally overcoming the friction of the jagged edges of a fault and then unsticking, with all that stored up energy being released. The energy radiates outward from the fault in all directions in the form of seismic waves like ripples on a pond. The seismic waves shake the earth as they move through it, and when the waves reach the earth’s surface, they shake the ground and anything on it (to give a simple description)."
So...which is more complicated: a supernatural entity that cannot be tested or proven that somehow has omnipotence over an entire universe that is supposed to have existed before the universe and created it, and has no explainable origin....or a series of natural stimuli that can be measured, tested and predicted. I'd say God is the more complicated there. But I fail to see your point here; our world is complex, and painting it with a broad brush and not allowing for shades of grey is a mistake, in my opinion."Determinism views "free will" and "choice" as being the direct result of near countless natural conditions all interacting together to produce a single outcome. A non-deterministic view inserts something on top of that which has the ultimate say. That "something" can't be seen, detected or tested. That second position seems the one that oversimplifies things to me."
Except I'm not inserting anything in at the top, and I obviously have problems with determinism. But again, I'm a compatibilist; determinism doesn't remove the ability to have free will, or to make choices. The fact that you can predict those choices with the right information doesn't make it any less of a choice; there is always the possibility, no matter how vanishingly small, that the opposite choice will be made. I might even agree with Tainted in that in some situations, you only have an illusion of choice, but once again, that doesn't infringe on free will.Morality:
Except that conclusion is flawed, and here's why:
- So what if we're deterministic beings? Taking the literal deterministic way of thinking, if somebodies brain reasons through the information and comes to a conclusion that hurts others, that brain is responsible for making that conclusion because that is how that brain
reasoned through things. So in the interest of society - and the other brains that live in that society - the brain that broke the other brains rules should be punished, to (ideally) alter its internal deterministic processes to therefore make it make better decisions later.
- Secondly, morality isn't an outcome. Morality is one of the "cogs" that goes into making our decisions. If your morality is - basically - "do as much good and as little harm," then your decisions will reflect that. And who cares if it's a deterministic decision? A human is judged by their actions, not their intent or processes. The simple fact that your brain has the processes with which to make decisions that positively influence society should in itself be applauded, because there are brains that don't
The question you are, by proxy, asking is "Why Be Moral?" And the simple answer is this:
I live in this world. Regardless of whether it's a deterministic world or not, I have to live here so I should try and make the world as fair and pleasant as it can be, since I don't want to live somewhere dangerous and unreasonably oppressive. That means applauding the people who have the processes to make good, fair, kind decisions and take good actions, and punishing - and trying to change the processes of - people who make bad, harmful decisions. Determinism doesn't remove the need or validity of morality. Why be moral? Because it's in your own best interests to be moral. Because doing good and avoiding harm is good not only for you, but the world you live in, which inevitably affects you. THAT'S why you're moral, and determinism doesn't get you off the hook for a crime. You still hurt people, so in the deterministic point of view, the brain that came to that conclusion should either be punished so that next time it is in that position, it remembers its punishment and chooses a different course of action, imprisoned so that it cannot hurt anybody else with its poor decision making processes, or removed from this world entirely for the safety of everybody else. So your premise that determinism = poor morality and anarchy is completely flawed. "As above, I'm not particularly arguing for the existence of a "soul" or any supernatural element that hangs above the physical. I'm simply pointing out the consequences of reducing things to the physical."
Which are flawed, simply because they ignore why people would want to be moral or decent without the sky-bully threatening them into it. The answer? Because you live in this world, so it benefits you to make it a good one. Would a world where rape, murder, theft, assault and discrimination were perfectly fine be a particularly safe or decent world for you to live in? No? Then we should probably try to avoid making that world, shouldn't we? And that's why we should be moral. There's no such thing as a wholly selfless act."Without a supernatural element that imposes itself above the physical then surely the laws of science that apply to everything else apply to us, the brain and thus our choices?"
Yes. Doesn't mean we don't have free will, it doesn't mean we can go around doing whatever we want and it doesn't mean that the supernatural is necessary, possible or even likely. As I keep saying...if you (royal you) want to claim the supernatural exists....prove it. How do we test it? How do we gather evidence? How can we tell if you're right, and until evidence is available that says that you're right....why believe it? As pretty as they are, logical arguments are not evidence. They can be internally consistent and make sense and still be wrong, after all.And, like I said before, I'm not arguing souls exist, merely that I want to believe in free will and thus believe the soul is the medium for that because without that, I can't conceive of how free will would be possible for the points listed.
See the rest of my post. Free Will and Morality are independent of souls. Free Will is just the ability to act on our desires or motivations, and Morality is simply what we use to try and make a safe and fair world to live in. It's like the Guardians of The Galaxy trailer (SO looking forward to seeing that!
"Why would YOU want to save the galaxy?"
"Because I'm one of the idiots who lives in it!"
A bit of a weird place to get a citation from, but c'est la vie. It illustrates the point quite nicely; why would you want to make reality a better place? Because you live in it! "Also, Mr. Tanner, you say that animals are distinct from plants because of reproduction methods and food consumption. So, are you positing that plants are sessile and animals mobile? Is a sponge, because it doesn't have sex and just sits there and filters food isn't an animal? What definition of animal are you using? I'm using a biology definition, do you mean vertebrates are different from non-vertebrates? That all animals are different from non-animals? Are clams and barnacles animals? Please, provide me what you mean?"
This seems suspiciously like trying to shift the question. There are plants that are mobile and animals that are mostly stationary. http://www.mcwdn.org/Plants/PlantsDiffer.html
Those are, generally speaking, the differences between the two Kingdoms. The biggest and universal differences (to the best of my knowledge) is the structure of the cells and the presence/complexity of the nervous system."And Laa, I am not refuting Descartes maxim. Well, I sort of am. I'm certainly not refuting that es, but rather that cogitas non. I'm stating that thought is an illusion of the complex electro-chemical processes of the brain. That's what I'm saying, that thought is an illusion of mechanical processes. And that all of our actions could be predicted 100% with perfect knowledge of genetic and environmental factors of the subject because there is no aspect of free will, of real choice, simply actions and reactions based on the electro-weak force, strong nuclear force, and gravitational force acting on matter/energy."
Whilst I don't necessarily agree with it, I wouldn't mind it if choices are only illusions of choice...but we still have free will, and we can still alter our thinking processes given the right stimuli. And we still have a vested interest - soul or no soul - to make sure that everybody adheres to at least a basic code of morality. Tainted And Dice:
Yhup. And remember, computers are just imperfect imitations of the human brain...brains can do a lot of things that current computers can't. But yhup, computers are able to generate completely random numbers now.
On a side note, is it obvious that I'm more comfortable debating morality than neuroscience?