Free will, still more

John K Clark (
Fri, 31 Jan 1997 23:33:12 -0800 (PST)


Reilly Jones quotes some comments from Omega I have not seen before, I've
been having trouble with mail the last few days and I did think one of his
posts ended a little abruptly

>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

Godel and Turing did different things. Godel proved that any logical system
is incomplete or inconsistent or both. Turing showed that you can't,
in general, prove that a statement is untrue or true but unprovable,
so you can never tell if the best thing to do is just give up looking for
a proof. Maybe you'll find a proof to prove it correct or a counterexample
to prove it wrong in 5 minutes, maybe 5 in 5 billion years, maybe never.

>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

Let's look at something a little less emotional than free will , pressure.
When I blow up a balloon pressure causes it to expand and eventually pop.
But what is this thing "pressure"? Is it a mysterious non material fifth
force that floats around in no particular place and causes things to expand?
No, pressure is just a higher level description, a description of the
collective motions of particles. The molecules don't know anything about
pressure, they just bounce around according to Newton's law's of motion.
Our tiny brains are not able to cope with the trillions of collisions of air
molecules against the side of the balloon so we must go to a higher level
description. In this example you lose a little accuracy but at a HUGE saving
in complexity, in some cases you may not lose any accuracy at all.
Although It is perfectly true that William Shakespeare made his living and
reputation by putting a subset of ASCII characters in a particular sequence
I think you would do better in a literature test if you thought about it at
a somewhat higher level.

Similarly it's usually not appropriate to talk about quantum jumps or even
neuron firings when trying to understand human behavior (although
Nanotechnology may change that) ; we use higher level concepts like reason,
judgment, belief, preference, emotion and free will.
Wow, all this talk about higher level meaning has made me hungry, I think
I'll go to a restaurant, look at the air pressure graph I made at the last
Beethoven Symphony and relax.

Of my own free will, I consciously decide to go to a restaurant.
Because I want to.
Because I want to eat.
Because I'm hungry?
Why ?
Because lack of food triggered nerve impulses in my stomach , my brain
interpreted these signals as pain, I can only stand so much before I try to
stop it.
Because I don't like pain.
Because that's the way my brain is constructed.
Because my body and the hardware of my brain were made from the information
in my genetic code (lets see, 6 billion base pairs 2 bits per base pair
8 bits per byte that comes out to about 1.5 geg, you could put it on a
700 meg hard disk with stacker) the programming of my brain came from the
environment, add a little quantum randomness perhaps and of my own free will
I consciously decide to go to a restaurant.

>and thus amounts to a tautology that expresses nothing more than
>the Godelian incompleteness of a self-referencing entity regarding
>its own behavior.

Yes, it's a tautology, in exactly the same way that all true equations are
tautologies, the same idea expressed in a different way.

>Tautology definitions:
>1: Needless repetition of the same sense in different words.

OK, if you want to play that game, please give me a non circular definition
of the word "definition".

>2: A logical statement which can never be false.

Say what you want about tautologies they do have one great virtue, they are

John K Clark

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