Re: Free will: The Answer.

Omega (
Thu, 30 Jan 1997 16:05:14 -0800


A few quick comments, although I like the way you summarized the issue.

> 1) Everything we say about "free will" is an artifact of the way we
> view causality. Because people were talking about free will long before
> they knew anything about physics.

I agree totally. People have been pondering this for millenia, and
most certainly the way we view this is an artifact of our viewpoint
and/or our understanding.

> 2) Causality, in human intuition, is counterfactual.
> When we say "A caused B", we mean that, if A were not present, B would
> not have been present, and that in order to get B one should do A.
> (This is a cognitive, not an ontological, statement about "causality".)

The only fly in the ointment is whether reality, in fact, always obeys
this form of counterfactuality as we understand it (something very much
in doubt). If it doesn't always do so, then it would see that our cog-
nitive understanding of this may be in for an adjustment to say the least.

> 3) "Determinism" conflicts with "free will".
> "If reality is deterministic, than instead of your thoughts
> determining your actions, your actions are predetermined; therefore
> whatever you do isn't your fault."

This would be an accurate statement of what the ontology of a
deterministic reality would be like.

> 4) Determinism does not conflict with free will.
> If your thoughts were not present, you would not have committed your
> actions. Therefore your thoughts do cause your actions; *you* cause
> your actions; and there is no moral problem with blaming you for your
> actions.

Of course, if reality is deterministic, then our thoughts would be
predetermined too.

> There is no distinction between deterministic you and
> deterministic reality; even if reality is deterministic, you are still
> the source of what happens and what you do makes a difference. QED(*).

Totally true, but unfortunately, the phase leading up to the QED amounts
to nothing more than a tautology (as its application to a deterministic
reality makes obvious). The problem with defining our language around
tautologies or cognitive fads is that it can easily block insight into
ontological issues that might be more readily apparent if we at least
tried to define our language ontologically.

To me it seems very obvious that the structure of our language determines
our ability to appreciate and comprehend the myriad aspects of ontological
reality. I see no reason to gum up the works with tautologies.

> Right? Doesn't this cognitive analysis dovetail exactly with our
> intuitions on the subject? Our intuitive model of determinism
> conflicting with free will goes like this: If the outcome is prewritten
> in the Book of God, than what we do must "match" that outcome and isn't
> our fault. In other words, our thoughts are coerced to match the
> prewritten outcome, and the prewritten outcome is the causal source of
> our misdeeds. As if the outcome of your decision were *explicitly*
> written in your brain, and your thoughts tuned to match. Were this the
> case, the explicitly prewritten outcome would indeed be the source of
> your misdeeds and you couldn't be blamed for them.

Well stated.

> This model of deterministic reality is incorrect; what we will do is not
> explicitly written within our brains. We, ourselves, still reach the
> decision of our own free will. That which produces the outcome is
> identical with our thoughts and ourselves; hence free will.

Actually, it doesn't have to be written in our brains so much as in the
totality of reality itself. The interface between our brains and reality
at large is quite open. In fact the nature of the interface itself is a
very open issue cognitively, this is why I keep harping about the modern
definitions of free will and consciousness that reduce to tautologies.

NOTE: I'm not in anyway disputing the moral issues that are involved here,
but we have to realize is that refusing to look at the determinstic
components of reality as we discover them because of our moral
distaste is to engage in the creation of religious dogma.

Just like the deterministic principles of Netwonian and Darwinain
science led to immense conflicts with the older religions and the
creation of such dubious concepts as Cartesian dualism to try and
paper over the conflicts, so too are the new deterministic prin-
ciples of advanced-action bringing history around to repeat itself
by creating conflicts with the newer religions of strong AI theory
and quantum mysticism that are so prevalent today.

> Epigrammatic snap summary:
> The outcome may be pre-written in our brains, but WE are the writing.

Very true, but who is the writer, and what does the writing say?! Very
old questions to say the least.

In the Ecstatic Service of Life -- Omega