Free Will

John K Clark (
Fri, 31 Jan 1997 20:42:45 -0800 (PST)


On Thu, 30 Jan 1997 Omega <> Wrote:

>It [Omega's definition of free will] is not in anyway circular,
>it only seems circular because I didn't make it clear that my
>definition of "free" means (and only means) "acausal".

To tell you the truth, the first time you used the word "acausal" I felt
really dumb, I thought I should know the meaning of the word. When I couldn't
find it in any dictionary I own I felt a little better. From your usage I
gather you want it to mean something that happens without a cause, if so
then it's a synonym for "random". If that's what you mean then I will grant
you that your definition is no longer circular and is no longer vague, but
it's boring, I wouldn't give a hoot in hell if I had free will or not.
My definition is not boring, because regardless of whether you call it free
will or something else, the inability to predict what we will do next is at
the very hart of our emotional life, no doubt about that.

If you want "acausal" it to mean something other than random then I need a
little help to figure out what you're talking about.

>>How do you distinguish between " additional constraints" and
>>"external circumstances"? It all seems like exactly the same thing
>>to me, even divine will is just part of the external circumstances,
>>just part of the problem to be solved.

>No vagueness was intended, because by "additional constraints",
>I meant ALL constraints that one can semantically define

In other words, all external circumstances. For the life of me I can't see
why ALL "additional constraints" are not the same thing as ALL " external

>as would be consistent with the meaning of acausal.

I can't think of any additional constraints or external circumstances or
for that matter anything else under heaven or earth that would be
INCONSISTENT with the meaning of acausal, because an acausal event doesn't
need a cause, it doesn't need anything for it to happen, so there is no way
it could be inconsistent with it (assuming my guess was right as to the
meaning of acausal).

>A further clarification here. By "acausal", I mean "acausal" in
>principle, not just "functionally acausal" because of

I understand, you want to emphasize that the actions that result from free
will have nothing to do with the information received from the senses,
the nature of the environment, chemicals in the brain, the structure of the
brain, the laws of Physics, or anything else. Free action are not caused by

If that's free then I want to be a slave, randomness sucks.

>If your definition of unpredictability includes acausality,

It does. Modern Physics makes a strong case that true randomness is possible.

>then our definitions are those of two partially overlapping sets.

If you said something had free will then I certainly would too, but there
are some things I would say had free will but you would say they do not.

>I agree that the self-referencing will ultimately be important, but
>I am not using it at this time because I feel that no ontological
>basis has yet been defined for the concept of self-referencing.

But you just did use self reference, you said "I" 3 times in the brief
sentence above, even " the concept of self-referencing" is self-referencing.
In spit of this, or rather because of it, I had no trouble extracting
meaning from your words. If "I" has no ontological basis then we might as
well give up on "free will".

I have no problem with self-reference and I think its meaning is clear, or
at least as clear as any human concept is. Godel used self-reference in his
proof, in fact it was his proof. He proved that for any system in formal
logic you can construct a grammatically correct sentence that in effect says
"I can not be proven in this logic system". A string of cold hard logical
statements, each as well defined as anything in human knowledge, can Jump out
of their skin turn around and look back at themselves, and that's what makes
Godel's work seem so magical.

OK, I got a little carried away, I'm guilty of poetic excess (Eliezer forgive
me), but I still think it's basically true.

>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

I don't think it's a good idea to invoke new science it we don't need to,
and I don't think we need to. If free will is the inability of a person
to predict his actions, then that explains the subjective feeling we have of
freedom and is not inconsistent with any objective behavior I know of, so
what's the problem?

>It is an analyis that I doubt will work if we broaden the meaning of
>the free-will to include the Turing style unpredictability,

It sure beats random style unpredictability.

>we would then be confusing mathematical semanitics with physical
>causal principles; a problem that would be analogous to dragging the
>subject of orbital chaos into a discussion of the principles of

What would be wrong with that? It sure doesn't take very long for orbital
chaos to show up, it only takes 3 bodies.

John K Clark

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