Free Will vs Group Think

Reilly Jones (70544.1227@CompuServe.COM)
Fri, 31 Jan 1997 13:40:20 -0500

A recap of some recent statements in this series:

Omega: <Where something is predictable, then free will does not exist.>

RJ: <Is an entity forced to make predictions in order to find out if the
entity has free will?>

Omega: <As predictions go, they only tell us where free will is not,
something I feel is essential not for finding out if we have free will, but
for better approaching the problem of effective self-transformation.>

After thinking about this, it seems that the search for the existence of
free will ends up at the same garbage dump that the search for the
existence of rationality ends up at. There is no "ground" to free will any
more than there is "ground" to rationality. We have here a method to see
where free will is not, but not to actually find out if we have it at all.
Likewise, we have a method to see where rationality is not, namely where
reasoning entities are selected out of existence, but not to actually find
out if we have rationality at all, because what is defined as rational can
only intelligibly be done a posteriori. It is not enough to say "I am
rational because I am doing something for a reason," the follow-up question
must be asked, "Did it work?" Likewise with free will, it is not enough to
say "I have free will because I choose to do something," the follow-up
question must be asked, "What choice did you really have?" The operation
of free will and rationality cannot be shown a priori, there is an
unavoidable information deficit.

In the "Free Will" post between John C. & Omega,

Omega wrote 1/30/97: < this time because I feel that no ontological
basis has yet been defined for the concept of self-referencing. I am not
nit-picking this issue just for the fun of it, but because I believe that
establishing the ontological basis for self-referencing requires us to
penetrate into an area of the ontologically unknown that we currently
perceive as acausal behind which we may find both a truer form of
acausality, and the ontological basis for self-referencing.>

Leibniz's monads were a stab in this direction, a very fruitful stab
considering that little or no metaphysical work worth the name has been
done since him. I have been pondering the nature of the link between the
hypothesis that life evolves in the direction of "the edge of chaos"
(actually defined more rigorously in the biophysics work coming out of the
Santa Fe Institue), and the acausal (or transcendental) realm that provides
the coherency to matter-energy structural systems, the source of existence,
if you will. You have stated the matter well.

You have covered the circularity of John C.'s Turing-related definition of
free will in this post, I will not get into it, other than to note how
circularity seems to creep into most discussions that approach within
striking distance of metaphysical presuppositions. I heartily approve of
the way you boiled the distinction down to:

<1. Classical: A self-referencing locus of the acausal.
2. Yours: The state of self-referenced unpredictability.>

Yup, that's it.

<Since the inevitableness of self-referenced Turing unpredictability is
really just another another way of saying that all systems suffer from
Godelian incompleteness with regard to the subject of their own behavior,
how can we turn around and then claim it to be some kind of causal
principle by which an entity would effect its "will" within the world?

I see two possible answers to this question:

a. Your definition of free will is so mutant that it no longer even claims
to be something that represents a causal principle by which an entity would
effect its "will" within the world, and thus amounts to a tautology that
expresses nothing more than the Godelian incompleteness of a
self-referencing entity regarding its own behavior. Tautology definitions:

1: Needless repetition of the same sense in different words.
2: A logical statement which can never be false.

b. Or you really are claiming that Godelian incompleteness is some kind of
causal principle by which an entity would effect its "will" within the
world, thus bringing Cartesian dualism back from the grave, in drag.>

Bravo! It's unfortunate that your best fencing thrusts are taking place in
a completely different Fourier space than your target is inhabiting, they
are hitting shadows.

<In any case, having an agreed upon meaning for words is already a
enough problem in our society without people going around redefining words
on the fly.>

It's a cryin' shame we can't spank these people any more, the doggone
peacenik slobs have ruined our ability to maintain societal semantic

Reilly Jones | Philosophy of Technology: | The rational, moral and political relations
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