Comment of the Day

We’ve got a nice thread going on free will and determinism around these parts.  Albert the Abstainer chimes in:

Real free will: An ability to choose alternatives such that the
possibility of an alternative action is real and not the product of a
particular history of preceding events.

Free will: A state wherein a person experiences the sense of
choosing to act. The state itself is real, (i.e. existent/emergent),
but the action is the product of a particular history of preceding
events. (In other words the actor does not have any degree of freedom.
) That requires that an act, other than the one which results, was a
possible outcome. This form of free will is subjective not actual.

State: A state is a discrete condition. A mental state is a discrete
state of mind. A machine state is a discrete state, (i.e. the switch is
on or the switch is off.)

” a place in the unfolding tapestry which is necessary and
contingent” – the universe unfolds moment to moment changing with the
passing of time. I am a member of the set and process that is the
universe. My existence is necessary by the fact that I exist. My existence is contingent in that it requires a particular history, (i.e. another history could have occurred such that I do not exist.)

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  • Scott M

    I haven’t followed the thread and probably won’t. However, from the two excerpts you’ve posted on the main page, the arguments appear to have the general shape and feel of scientific determinism. (If I’m wrong, forgive me. I just can’t muster sufficient interest in this particular discussion to read the entire thread.) Stephen Hawking pretty much captures most of what I would say about determinism in his lecture riffing off the famous Einstein quote.

  • Jim

    Albert, I really appreciate your precision, and your very helpful clarity in defining these terms. I do wonder, however, whether you are using them in their strict philosophical senses (which it seems we’re moving towards, I love conversational motion!). I understand (and anybody who knows better than me please correct me where I’m wrong), that there are generally two definitions of free will. There’s
    free will (1) – where a person could have done otherwise than they did
    and free will (2) – where a person could have done otherwise than they did, had they chosen to do so.
    Obviously, both a subtle and massive difference between the two.
    Also, Albert, you say that your existence is necessary by the fact that you exist. This is really interesting, I think Plantinga makes a similar argument, though he uses forms of complex modal logic I can’t understand. Could you explain why existence implies necessity for me? I know it’s not the traditional view, so I’d love to hear it (without the modal logic, if possible!).
    Thanks again for your insights.

  • Daniel King

    No truth can be proven with certainty (I can’t even provide proof that I exist or the preceding proposition is true). Of course, this is ridiculously academic and notsomuch useful to anything other than mental gymnastics. Whether or not ‘real free will’ is an idealized projection of something we experience and describe as ‘free will’ doesn’t really concern me. What I believe important is to recognize that, even with hard-determinism, actions still have consequences. In other words, a puppet on a string with a machine gun blazing does just as much damage as anyone else with a machine gun blazing.*
    In Re: Jim
    The proposition that existence is necessary by the fact that one exists is Infinitely Regressive. Reword the proposition and this is apparent, viz. that existence is by that existence(that existence is by that existence(that existence is by that existence that is by that existence( … ))) ad infinitum.
    *How one feels about the puppeteer is another conversation.