Free Will Is Un-Natural

Free Will Is Un-Natural September 23, 2012

As you’ve probably guessed, I am interested in all things free will. Recently, I was reading a chapter from “Are We Free?” entitled Free Will Is Un-Natural by John A. Bargh.

Bargh sets out the obvious issues:

The psychological issue of whether free will exists thus boils down to whether undetermined choices of action exist and occur. No one today would deny that people have preferences, motivations, desires, goals, and so on, and that these at least influence what we do. This is after all the very subject matter of psychological science. But the doctrine of free will within psychology holds as axiomatic (see Locke & Kristof, 1996) that the choices made on the basis of these influences are free, made by a consciousness that is the source of original intentionality” (Searle, 1983). Now we have distilled the essence of the question of free will, in the psychological domain: Are behaviors, judgments, and other higher mental processes the product of free conscious choices, as influenced by internal psychological states (motives, preferences, etc.), or are those higher mental processes determined by those states? The influence model can be likened to an executive officer who takes suggestions from subordinates as to what to do but nonetheless makes the decisions; the determination model has those subordinates directly in charge with no need of an independent Decider.

Yet any scientific—as opposed to philosophic—approach to the question of free will cannot rely upon extraphysical explanatory concepts, as Searle (1983) did with the concept of original intentionality, and as John Locke did before him with his mind-first cosmology (see Dennett, 1991). Locke had argued that mind was the originator of thought and action, but that nothing (save one’s own past personal experience) caused mind. Similarly, for Searle, only humans (not other living things) are said to have original intentionality, by which he meant that intentions (the will) originate in the mind and are not themselves the causal product of any physical or mechanical forces. As Konrad Lorenz (1962, p. 23) admonished us, “it is the duty of the natural scientist to attempt a natural explanation before he contents himself with drawing upon factors extraneous to nature.” Treating free will as a force outside the laws of nature in the Locke/Searle manner is similar to how intuition and creativity have long been popularly viewed as being due to some kind of mysterious “spark” or quasi-magical process. In all three cases, the argument that the phenomenon is an originator and not itself caused by some other process is actually just an admission that we don’t know what causes it; as Spinoza (1677/1951, p. 134) put it, “men believe themselves to be free, simply because they are conscious of their actions, and unconscious of the causes whereby those actions are determined.”

It is interesting that this chapter, since the book itself is dealing with these issues from a psychological perspective, looks at work involving how we perceive notions of free will within our mind, psychologically:

The philosopher Harry Frankfurt (1971) has noted that we tend to invoke the notions of choice or free will only when describing our own behavior, not that of other people. And more recently, Pronin and Kugler (in press) have documented this attributional difference experimentally; choice or deliberation does not come up in accounts of why others did what they did, only for one’s own behaviors. When we are accounting for other people’s behavior we are like scientists, because the perceived and experienced behavior of others is in the past; but only we as individuals have privileged access to our own phenomenal state prior to acting. Arendt (1978) makes the following comments:

In the perspective of memory, that is, looked at retrospectively, a freely performed act loses its air of contingency under the impact of now being an accomplished fact, of having become part and parcel of the reality in which we live. The impact of reality is overwhelming to the point that we are unable to “think it away”; the act appears to us now in the guise of necessity. . . .

Once things have happened, and have receded into the past, they become part of the world of facts, of causes, and we just naturally, even inescapably feel that they were determined, caused, and that nothing else could have happened. We may not be able to predict what will happen but once it does, we feel we “knew it all along,” and believe what happened was inevitable. This fundamental difference between our subjective certainty and confidence about the past, versus our uncertainty and trepidation about the future, manifests itself in many judgment biases that have been documented by decision researchers.

Free will, it seems, is an illusion, but a psychologically useful, if not necessary, one:

We have also learned that feelings of being in control are far more beneficial to our functioning than are feelings of helplessness; thus these subjective feelings of free will are one of the “positive illusions” (Taylor, 1989) we hold dear. Yet this benefit is irrelevant to the scientific status or truth value regarding the actual existence of free will; however positive and adaptive the feeling, it is still an illusion.

Where the essay starts going is looking at the biological and evolutionary usage of the will:

Because natural selection processes, through gene mutations, operate over vast units of time, they cannot in any way adapt in real time to changes or events in the environment. Thus, genetic controls over behavior are relatively inflexible and can’t adapt quickly to sudden changes in the environment. (This is largely why 99% of the species that ever existed are now extinct.) All they can do is to instantiate the few specific principles most likely to be adaptive even far into the future—such as strong motives to survive, to eat, to reproduce—along with those general principles or strategies that give the organism some adaptive advantage that increases the gene’s chances of being passed down to the next generation.

Bargh goes on to spell out three different areas of determinism: genetic, cultural and psychological.

Thus, evolution gives us the general motives and strategies for survival, culture gives us the general rules and knowledge of how to live in the particular part of the world and the particular group of people into which we happen to have been born, and learning from our own direct experience gives us even finer-grained understanding and predictive anticipations. Note, however, that these are not independent influences; as Dawkins (1976, p. 193) points out, our ability to absorb culture depends on phenotypic plasticity (the openness of the evolved system). This in turn depends on genetic variation—that is, we as humans acquired the ability to acquire culture through natural selection. Similarly, in the case of learning, for it to be adaptive we must be predisposed (through natural selection processes) to learn about only certain aspects of the environment over others, because of the overwhelming amount and variety of
information that constantly impinges upon us (Lorenz, 1962; see also Campbell, 1960; Norretranders, 1998; Plotkin & Odling-Smee, 1982).

An interesting section follows regarding preferences of all sorts, including some interesting points:

Immediate, unconsciously produced evaluations can produce even more powerful and abstract behavioral effects than simple arm movements. In a recent study by Todorov et al. (2005), ratings of competence of U.S. congressional election candidates, based solely on facial appearance with the faces presented for just 1 second each, predicted the outcomes of the 2004 U.S. congressional elections better than chance—for example, 68.8% of the Senate races in 2004 were successfully predicted from these immediate, intuitive inferences. Voting choices, of course, are important decisions and widely assumed to be based on deliberate, conscious, and rational processes, yet these findings suggest that even important decisions are influenced and predicted by immediate unconscious evaluative processes.

Here is another example that most people find surprising, again because it involves important life decisions. It has long been known that we have a strong preference and liking for people who are similar to ourselves in appearance, attitudes, and beliefs, and this plays a significant role in interpersonal attraction (Byrne, 1971). Recent research has shown that this similarity-liking effect extends to new people who resemble significant others such as our parents (Andersen & Chen, 2002), although people are not aware of and do not report any such resemblance as a factor in their liking. The similarity effect is so strong, in fact, that it extends even to preferences for places to live and occupational choices that are similar to ourselves in merely superficial ways.

For example, compared to what you’d expect by chance alone, there are more people named Ken who moved to live in Kentucky, Florences who moved to Florida, and more named Louis who moved to St. Louis; there are more Dennises and Denises who become dentists and Lauras and Lawrences who become lawyers, compared to people with names that do not share letters with these occupations. If your first or last name begins with “H,” you are more likely than chance to own a hardware store, and if one of your names begin with “R,” you are more likely to own a roofing company, with “C” a computer company, and with “T” a travel business (for 20 such studies, see Jones, Pelham, Carvallo, & Mirenberg, 2004; Mirenberg, 2004; Pelham, Mirenberg, & Jones, 2002). This is not at all to say that name-letter similarity is the only basis for our choice of domiciles and professions, but that it is a statistically significant influence on those choices. Most people find this, well, surprising, and it is clearly an unconscious influence as no one would claim name-letter overlap as a reason for making these important life choices.

And other fascinating examples follow, which is in turn followed by a section on how our actions are primed so very often:

It is by reference to these same internal representations, then, that the adult human being is wide open to external influences, and even control, over his or her behavior. Fifty years ago, B. F. Skinner (1957) attempted to show that all behavior was under the direct control of the stimulus environment, but as single reflex acts, without reference to any internal mental representations. The transparent failure of this attempt was one reason for the cognitive revolution in psychology (Chomsky, 1959; Koestler, 1967; Neisser, 1967). However, by theoretically extending the reach of external stimuli to the internal representations of the environment that they automatically activate (e.g., types of behavior, goals, social groups, specific other people), much of what Skinner (1957) claimed in terms of direct environmental control over the higher mental processes has now been validated in contemporary research on priming effects across a variety of psychological phenomena (see Bargh & Ferguson, 2000). Yes, the internal mechanisms are cognitive, they are “mental,” but they are not dependent on a homuncular “ghost in the machine” (Ryle, 1949) as they can operate entirely unconsciously.

One particular nugget which chimes with something I mention in my book to do with the use of free will within co-operative societies is as follows:

Note in regard to this finding of unconscious motivation to cooperate that Tomasello et al. (2005) have identified cooperation and helping as an evolved motive, one that they argue is the key difference between humans and other primates. Tetlock (2002) has similarly argued, with supportive evidence, for evolved social motives of accountability to the others in one’s social group (the intuitive politician mind-set) and of enforcing group standards on others (the prosecutorial mind-set). This is important regarding the present argument against the existence of free will (at the psychological level), because many would take from the nonexistence of free will that people have no responsibility for their actions and therefore can act entirely selfishly and without regard to the consequences of their actions for others. Thus even if behavior is (multiply) determined and “free will” does not exist at a psychological level, part of the determination of behavior includes motivations to be responsible to others and to be vigilant about and act against their own potential irresponsibilities.

Lots of evidence is given to show how are minds are primed, both internally, and externally. As Bargh sums up:

Again, given as well the field of psychology’s meta-assumption of the primacy of conscious will, the extensive documentation of unconscious controls from our distant and recent past and our present seem surprising and controversial. But reversing the causal assumption and recognizing the substantial role played by unconscious forces of evolutionary design, cultural assimilation in early childhood, and our minds as wide open to environmental priming influences, makes these and other similar findings much less controversial and more understandable. The lines of priming research described above show how action and motivational tendencies can be put into motion and cause us to behave in a certain way, without our being aware of the source of those tendencies.

Bargh continues this excellent summation of the relevant fields until he files his conclusion:

CONCLUSIONS
I have argued here for a new way of looking at the issue of free will, one that begins with the assumption of mainly unconscious instead of conscious causation of action and phenomenal experience, and that is better aligned with our knowledge of the rest of nature, in which examples of amazing, complex yet unconsciously

operating design (in animals and plants) are plentiful (see Dawkins, 1976; Dennett, 1995). As has often been noted (e.g., Blackmore, 1999; Dawkins, 1976, p. 67), the value of a new perspective can be seen in terms of what phenomena it can readily explain that were previously difficult to account for. Among such phenomena that were surprising from the starting assumption of conscious choice and free will, but which make sense within the present perspective of the primacy of unconscious forces, are (1) the automatic evaluation of novel objects, (2) the immediate connection between automatic evaluation and behavioral (motoric) tendencies, (3) the name-letter and birth-date effect on important life decisions, (4) the unconscious mimicry of others’ behavior, (5) unconscious goal pursuit over time in the absence of ability to accurately self-report on one’s intentions, (6) the very recent and rapid acquisition of language abilities in evolutionary history, (7) that unconsciously made decisions involving integration of relevant features are superior in quality to consciously made ones, (8) the misattribution of free will, (9), that brain-wave impulses to act precede conscious awareness of the intention to act, and (10) the scarcity of conscious self-regulatory capacity. To me, this is rather impressive evidence for the value of the new perspective, in which
unconscious, not conscious, causes are primary, and unconscious, not conscious, processes are assumed at the outset of any new line of inquiry. Regarding the psychological concept of free will, the evidence reviewed above, along with the substantial banks of knowledge already gained in the other natural sciences, leads to the conclusion that there is no need to posit the existence of free will in order to explain the generation of behavioral impulses, and there is no need to posit free will in order to explain how those (unconscious) impulses are sorted out and integrated to produce human behavior and the other higher mental processes. The phenomenological feeling of free will is very real, just as real for those scientists who argue against its actual existence as for everyone else, but this strong feeling is an illusion, just as much as we experience the sun moving through the sky, when in fact it is we who are doing the moving. Each of us lives in a difficult to predict present and near future, which includes our own behavior in it, and which therefore makes our behavior feel spontaneous and undetermined—but what we don’t experience, yet which are just as real, are the multitude of unconscious influences and determinants of what we think, act, and feel. Finally, as psychologists who are also natural scientists, we need to keep in mind that the “unconscious mind” is the rule in nature, not the exception. It is, perhaps, time for us to stop being so surprised.

All told, an excellent chapter in a fascinating field, and well worth reading in full.


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  • pboyfloyd

    So, um, you think maybe you like this guy’s stuff more ‘cos his name is John?

  • pboyfloyd

    Pretty sure I like you guys’ stuff ‘cos my name is the Scottish version of John!

    LOL

  • JohnM

    There’s no doubt, that people allow themselves to be influenced by all sorts of things, especially when in doubt. But the jump from that, to “And so there is no free will”.. Well that’s just too far fetched.

    Think about it. If there’s no free will, then there’s no such thing as “free thinkers”. And no such thing as skeptics. How could anyone engage in such activity, if every chemical reaction in the brain, is a result of outside forces, that we have no control over?

    As for free will being an illusion.. One could easy turn that on it’s head, and claim that people advocating no free will, are engaged in wishful thinking, because they don’t want to be responsible or held accountable, for their own actions.

    • pboyfloyd

      Okay, last thing first John(love that name btw, lol), you don’t ‘get to’ not be responsible or not held accountable, free will or no.

      Did you imagine that that’s the purpose of believing hard determinism? Really?

      Simple example:-

      Murderer:- But your Honour, I had no option but to murder, there is no free will!

      Judge:- Sure, fine, the jury had no option but to find you guilty and I have no option but to put your ass in prison for 15 to 20!

      Of course there are options and choices galore every day, trivial ones that no one would take seriously. For example you might wake up and choose to skip or hop everywhere ‘today’.

      This question really is, is the environment which you grew up in, sufficient to cause you to believe you have free will and at the same time sufficient for others to know when you’re acting like ‘you’ and when you’re not?

      Let’s just take you and your wife(supposing you’re married), you choose to cultivate an english accent(or an American accent, if you’re already English), you have free will and you’re exercising it, you tell her! Man, you are dicing with divorce if it irritates her!

      It’s a silly example to be sure, but you’re constrained to be the you other people know too, not just the you that you know yourself to be, don’t you think?

      • JohnM

        Actually, our legal system relies heavily on the concept of free will, to justify punishment.

        And it’s illustrated by, how the legal system sentences those who are deemed mentally ill, or otherwise deemed incapable of controlling their own action. “Look judge. I was temp insane, Mkay?! “

        If there’s no free will, then this applies to everyone. Because everyone would be incapable of resisting, what they were either born to do or raised to do.

        Putting a person in jail for a crime, in a no free will -world… Is equal to picking on a kid sitting in a wheel-chair. In both cases you are punishing them for something they had no say or do in.

        • Jonathan MS Pearce

          1) Legal system does primarily rely on free will
          2) legal system is not necessarily philosophically true
          3) the illusion of free will, I argue, is a useful illusion for an easier running of society
          4) the legal system is becoming more deterministic, allowing for mitigating factors, and always has done to an extent
          5) neurocriminology is now a growing discipline

          The case of Abdelmayek Bayout is just the tip of the iceberg:
          http://www.nature.com/news/2009/091030/full/news.2009.1050.html

          We already know psychopaths have an interesting array of dysfunctions and gene sequences (see my recent post detailing the connection to their poor sense of smell).

    • Jonathan MS Pearce

      Far fetched is interesting. I wonder, with all due respect (and I mean this without offence) whether you have done much reading around the subject of free will.

      Some 86% of professional and qualified philosophers deny Libertarian free will. Now, I would not want to make an Argumentum ad Populum but that stat needs explaining. I have written a book (Free Will? over there on the right~) outlining the case, and it has been raging for some time. the 14% left who do believe in LFW roughly correlates to the proportion of theistic philosophers there are. Theism, aside from Calvinism, requires free will to exist.

      Outside of that, most people, scientists and philosophers alike, deny free will or redefine it into existence (compatibilism is essentially a redefinition of contra-causal free will into something which fits with determinism – hence the label soft determinism).

      The massive plethora of evidence to counter free will is staggering – from genetics to social science, from neurology and psychology to physics, the research is phenomenal. But more fundamental work is to be done in philosophy. One cannot, it seems, account for free will within a causal framework. For an action that is not defended by reason, it is merely random. And for an action defended by reason, that causal chain needs origination. If there is a reason, it is determined by that reason; if not, it is random. Which is why Dan Dennett declared that free will NEEDS determinism, since without it, it makes no sense.

      Do you want me to provide scientific evidence or philosophical evidence, or both?

      If you believe in LFW, can you provide an account of how it can work?

      • JohnM

        Just a side question.. Do you believe that we can “rebel against our genes”?

        I myself, don’t see any evidence, that we have no free will. I only see a lot of people trying to explain, the choices I make, and what they think, could be the reasons behind my choices.

        At the same time, I see a lot of things in society, that simply do not stack up with the idea of us having no free will.

        Who do some criminals turn to straight path while others die criminals? If we are all born criminals or breed criminals by the environment, wouldn’t all people die criminals? If correction and punishment worked wonders, would there be any serial-offenders at all?

        Why do some over-weight people lose weight, while others stay over-weight till their death? If it’s not a personal choice, then what causes people to lose weight? Lack of money to buy food? Nation-wide hunger? What? And why do some people go into a Pizza Hut and pick a random pizza, not the same pizza every time?

        We have all seen multiple cases of the same issue, turn out differently, despite relative similar conditions. Something that wouldn’t happen, if it the result were only depending upon the genetic / cultural conditions.

        So no, I’m not denying that we can be influenced in our choices. I’m just questioning the explanatory power of genetic / cultural conditions. I don’t see it as a sufficient explanation of the data available to all of us, in our daily lives.

        • Jonathan MS Pearce

          Just a side question.. Do you believe that we can “rebel against our genes”?

          Our causal circumstance is our genes, biology, environment, entire learning up until that point – everything in the entire universe. This is causality and this is what causes you to do X and not Y. Rewind after 10 minutes to that same time and the exact same causal circumstance down to the very molecule and you will do the same thing.

          Who do some criminals turn to straight path while others die criminals? If we are all born criminals or breed criminals by the environment, wouldn’t all people die criminals? If correction and punishment worked wonders, would there be any serial-offenders at all?

          This is what I mean by needing to read a little more about it since you seem to think Person A who chooses to do X over B who chooses to do Y is devoid of a different causal circumstance and that he is doing a different choice ‘just because’. There will clearly be a reason. No 2 people are identical and so their causal circumstances will be different.

          Galen Strawson “argues that the notion of free will leads to an infinite regress and is therefore senseless. According to Strawson, if one is responsible for what one does in a given situation, then one must be responsible for the way one is in certain mental respects. But it is impossible for one to be responsible for the way one is in any respect. This is because to be responsible in some situation “S”, one must have been responsible for the way one was at “S−1”. To be responsible for the way one was at “S−1”, one must have been responsible for the way one was at “S−2”, and so on. At some point in the chain, there must have been an act of origination of a new causal chain. But this is impossible. Man cannot create himself or his mental states ex nihilo. This argument entails that free will itself is absurd, but not that it is incompatible with determinism.”

          Look, take the work of Gao et al who found that “Poor fear conditioning at age 3 predisposes to crime at age 23. Poor fear conditioning early in life implicates amygdala and ventral prefrontal cortex dysfunction and a lack of fear of socializing punishments in children who grow up to become criminals. These findings are consistent with a neurodevelopmental contribution to crime causation.”

          Or Mishel who found that poor delayed gratification in 3 year olds predicted poor SATs results and achievements later in life.

          Or Haruno et al who predicted kind prosocial behaviour in people with the COMT gene variant. And so on and so forth. Stacks of evidence. But genes are only half of it – the environment does the rest..

          Why do some over-weight people lose weight, while others stay over-weight till their death?

          This is obvious – because some are different from others, genetically, environmentally and historico-experientially. If they were identical in every way – genes, biology and environment (parallel universes) then they would choose the same. Think about it, why would they choose differently? What causal reason could make someone whose differently from themselves unless random was part of the equation?

          If it’s not a personal choice, then what causes people to lose weight? Lack of money to buy food? Nation-wide hunger? What? And why do some people go into a Pizza Hut and pick a random pizza, not the same pizza every time?

          Jeez, where do you want me to start? Genetics, biology, environment, experience and learning.

          We have all seen multiple cases of the same issue, turn out differently, despite relative similar conditions.

          This is your problem – where you are wrong. They are not the same issue. The only time you can have a controlled identical experiment is in a parallel universe. Otherwise you factor for changes. This is why twin studies are VITAL. You can control for genes and environment. It is why identical twins separated at birth are GOLD DUST. It is also why twin studies are powerful defences of determinism. Look at Jedward! Two identical twins with almost identical environments. With your worldview, they should turn out differently due to free will. The reality? Almost identical existences.

          So no, I’m not denying that we can be influenced in our choices. I’m just questioning the explanatory power of genetic / cultural conditions. I don’t see it as a sufficient explanation of the data available to all of us, in our daily lives.

          Please do some reading. Start with the philosophical difficulties of contra-causal free will (how it makes no sense philosophically). You can read my book, or any other, or for free, check out a talk I gave: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQeDYYQd0Vw

          Your very first issue is to explain how the agent can be the originator of a causal chain. This means that the causal chain cannot be further derived – “Jim did X because…”. The buck has to stop with Jim. The problem you have is that you then have to offer a reason that Jim did X without there being a reason! In simple terms, this is why LFW is impossible.

          • JohnM

            “Our causal circumstance is our genes, biology, environment, entire learning up until that point – everything in the entire universe. This is causality and this is what causes you to do X and not Y. Rewind after 10 minutes to that same time and the exact same causal circumstance down to the very molecule and you will do the same thing…”

            ..if materialism is true, yes.

            “This is what I mean by needing to read a little more about it since you seem to think Person A who chooses to do X over B who chooses to do Y is devoid of a different causal circumstance and that he is doing a different choice ‘just because’. There will clearly be a reason.”

            It’s perfectly fine, that you think, that I need to read more on the subject of determinism / free will. I’ll make sure to return the favour, the next time you talk about christianity. Hehe ;)

            Joke aside, all I’m doing, is to ask some simple questions, to see if you have an answer. And I do find it a bit surprising, that you’re more or less, just putting forward your word-view.. If I wanted to be rude, I guess I could say that… So far, all that you have offered me in terms of answers, is dogmatic rhetoric and blind faith in there being a material explanation, somewhere.

            “According to Strawson, if one is responsible for what one does in a given situation, then one must be responsible for the way one is in certain mental respects. But it is impossible for one to be responsible for the way one is in any respect.”

            We are all dealt a hand of cards in life. To me, the debate is about, whether we play the cards, or the cards play us.

            Furthermore, I don’t think that one would evaluate the player skill of a poker player, by what cards that he is handed from the dealer. The way to evaluate his skills, is to look at how he make use of the cards that he is dealt.

            “This is because to be responsible in some situation “S”, one must have been responsible for the way one was at “S−1″. To be responsible for the way one was at “S−1″, one must have been responsible for the way one was at “S−2″, and so on. At some point in the chain, there must have been an act of origination of a new causal chain. But this is impossible…”

            …if materialism is true, yes.

            “Man cannot create himself or his mental states ex nihilo. This argument entails that free will itself is absurd, but not that it is incompatible with determinism.”

            …if materialism is true, then free will is absurd, yes. I completely agree. I just don’t share your world-view.

            Now let me ask you another question.. Imagine that one of your friends, who is over-weight, came up to you, and asked, if you thought it to be a good idea, for him to exercise more, in order to lose some weight. What would you tell him? Something like “Don’t bother, you have no such choice, it has already been determined by forces outside your control” or ?

            “Your very first issue is to explain how the agent can be the originator of a causal chain. This means that the causal chain cannot be further derived – “Jim did X because…”. The buck has to stop with Jim. The problem you have is that you then have to offer a reason that Jim did X without there being a reason! In simple terms, this is why LFW is impossible.”

            Jim went in that direction, because he found it to be the right thing to do, in the given situation.
            Now of course there were a reason for that. It is after all, called reasoning. He probably had plenty of reason to go either way, yet freely picked one above the other.

            The real issue facing free will, is “How can something immaterial affect something material?” And when it comes to that question, I agree, that it is something, that is hard for us to understand. But I don’t see it as a show-stopper. It just means that there is something for us to investigate further.

            And I don’t think that we have reached a stage, where we humans no longer can become smarter. I do think that it’s possible for us to increasing our understanding of such concepts. And I have heard philosophers like WLC, attack the issue head on, on several occasions. Or John Lennox, when he commented on, what Richard Dawkins has said about our ability to “rebel against our genes”.

            Anyway, thanks for sharing the link to your talk. I’ll give it a listen.

            Maybe I can return the favour, by liking to a relevant debate, on my favourite radio program.
            http://www.premierradio.org.uk/listen/ondemand.aspx?mediaid={20C0C33D-2442-4C61-804D-89BDBC3434D0}

          • Jonathan MS Pearce

            ..if materialism is true, yes.

            Actually, exactly the same causal issue persists whether naturalism of supernaturalism is true. By positing, say, the soul as the originator of free will, one has EXACTLY the same causal issues. A decision is either reasoned or random. If it is reasoned, then it is determined.

            Joke aside, all I’m doing, is to ask some simple questions, to see if you have an answer. And I do find it a bit surprising, that you’re more or less, just putting forward your word-view.. If I wanted to be rude, I guess I could say that…

            Don’t get me wrong, I am not being rude at all. Sorry if you have misconstrued me here. However, the best philosophers in the world have been mulling this over for millennia, and roughly speaking (give or take), the one who adhere to LFW are theists who can offer no philosophical justification for free will other than punting to something like the soul, but without logically accounting for how it can give free will. And 86% of them adhere to some form of determinism.

            So far, all that you have offered me in terms of answers, is dogmatic rhetoric and blind faith in there being a material explanation, somewhere.

            I have to pull you up on this. I am sorry, but that is not fair and a little disingenuous. I have explained how free will is causally untenable. I have also cited some (the tip of a massive iceberg) scientific and legal citations as evidence for my position. I am afraid you have neither offered philosophy and logic, of scientific evidence, as to how contra-causal free will either makes sense or is evidenced. I have also written a book on it!

            We are all dealt a hand of cards in life. To me, the debate is about, whether we play the cards, or the cards play us.
            Furthermore,

            Hang on, you say this as if the first sentence was an argument. It is not, it is a soundbite.

            I don’t think that one would evaluate the player skill of a poker player, by what cards that he is handed from the dealer. The way to evaluate his skills, is to look at how he make use of the cards that he is dealt.

            Again, you misunderstand. It is the player skill which is as equally determined as the cards. Where else does his reasoning come from if not the biology of his brain, the learning of his past, the experiences of his past. When you make a decision, do you not access all of these things to help you reason? All of these things are outside of your control at the time of deciding.

            …if materialism is true, yes.

            HANG ON! You can’t keep saying this and then NOT positing anything in substitution. This is poor argumentation. What is the logical alternative. How does non-materialism help explain contra-causality?
            “Man cannot create himself or his mental states ex nihilo. This argument entails that free will itself is absurd, but not that it is incompatible with determinism.”
            …if materialism is true, then free will is absurd, yes. I completely agree. I just don’t share your world-view.

            You don’t get it. It is EXACTLY the same argument. The argument above is IRRESPECTIVE of materialism or non. The agent still has to be the originator of a causal chain. Please do not confuse causality with materialism. Causality is metaphysical – it is precisely NOT physical. It is a relational metaphysical concept. You are claiming, rather against the Kalam Cosmological Argument, that a human, possibly through the soul, can create EX NIHILO, a causal chain. IF you believe this, then you can never defend the KCA. Either way, you have to defend how a human can originate a causal chain without invoking reason. When I ask “why did this happen?” continually, eventually, to sidestep determinism, you have to have an origination – you cannot keep saying “because x”, “because y”, otherwise you end up at the Big Bang and determinism. However, in order not to say, “because” you must not have a reason. But for there to be no reason at the origination of a causal chain is to invoke random or irrationality.

            This is the basis of the logical and philosophical argument to which you have not yet made any claim of argument. It is not materialistic, but quite the opposite. It is metaphysical.

          • JohnM

            Ok. So why should we even bother doing anything?

            I mean.. I guess me writing this reply, has been decided somewhere else, by something else. So should I make the effort to write it? It’s going to end up here anyway, right? Oh I had no choice in writing it? Well you’re wrong. This is the second reply. I skipped the first one, to prove my point. Oh but that was also decided somewhere else, by something else, Right? Then tell me something, that I, according to my genes, biology, learning, experience, environment, cannot do. And ill see, if it checks out.

            So do see where I’m going with this? It’s a bit like an unclassifiable theses you got there.

            ——

            “Why did he think it was the right thing to do?”

            When Jim came to the cross-road, he sat down, looked at the options, and made his choice. Why did he make a choice? Because he had to, in order to move on. Why did he pick one road over the other? Because he found it to be the right thing to do, in the given situation.

            How did that happen? Well first he decided to walk in one direction. Soon after he came across a dead cow, an empty water well, and a sign saying “last water station for the next 100 miles, make sure to fill up your water bottles”. And so he ended up going back to the cross-road, and picking the other road instead, even though he could have continued in the direction that he was heading.

            ——

            “You can’t just throw in “he freely picked” since this is an assertion and gets you nowhere.”

            I don’t see why not. You keep asserting that he never picked freely, but was forced to do so, by forces outside his control. You don’t see that, as something you keep throwing around?

            ——

            “Why did he pick X over Y at time t=1?”

            Because he found it to be the right thing to do, in the given situation.

            And yes, that’s a perfectly good reason. What reasoning was behind this reason, well that’s a whole different matter.

            ——

            “The reasons will all be boiled down to what happened in his past, what his learning is, what his goals are, how his brain is wired, how his genes are wired etc.”

            Well, that’s what you keep asserting. But in reality, you don’t know, why he picked one road over the other. Maybe he just picked the one on his left, because he was left-handed? But of course, he could also have picked the one on the right, because he for some reason wanted to have the sun in his back. The possible reason are endless.

            And yes.. you can play your jedi-mindtricks / psychic scams ( :P ) and say: Oh yes!! He picked the one on his right, to have the sun in his back, ofcourse he did, because in 1945, when he was a young boy, his father was killed in a car accident, because he was driving with the sun in his face, and therefore couldn’t see the road.

            I just don’t see, why that would have played any role in his decision. And we don’t know, if it played a role. So to me, that’s just wishful thinking. A bit like looking at Mars, and seeing a face in the craters. And funny enough, it tends to be people who believe in aliens living on Mars, seeing those craters.

            ——

            “Don’t get me wrong, I am not being rude at all. Sorry if you have misconstrued me here. However, the best philosophers in the world have been mulling this over for millennia, and roughly speaking (give or take), the one who adhere to LFW are theists who can offer no philosophical justification for free will other than punting to something like the soul, but without logically accounting for how it can give free will. And 86% of them adhere to some form of determinism.”

            I too believe, that we are affected or allow ourselves to be affected by forces outside of ourselves. I just don’t think, that they control us, to a point where we have no choice.

            And I find the arguments for the soul, to be very coherent, and in tune with the reality that we experience on a daily basis.

            Secondly, it’s the old debate about, whether the glass is half full or half empty. And yes, I’m familiar with the numbers that you yourself presented in your video ;)

            ——

            “I am sorry, but that is not fair and a little disingenuous.”

            You’re right. You’re not in the business of dogmatic rhetoric and blind faith. But you do seem to rely a lot on your world-view, in order to deal with certain issues. So do I, but at least I accept that.

            ——

            “I have also cited some (the tip of a massive iceberg) scientific and legal citations as evidence for my position.”

            You have cited a lot of things to account for your position. I just don’t see, what you have brought forward, as very convincing. It could easily fit into another framework.

            ——

            “HANG ON! You can’t keep saying this and then NOT positing anything in substitution. This is poor argumentation.”

            It’s not an argument. I’m just pointing out, that the things you say, relies on your world-view being true.

            ——

            “Please do not confuse causality with materialism.”

            You version of Causality is not a product of materialism?

            ——

            “Causality is metaphysical – it is precisely NOT physical.”

            Does your world-view allow non-physical causes?

            ——

            “You are claiming, rather against the Kalam Cosmological Argument, that a human, possibly through the soul, can create EX NIHILO, a causal chain.”

            Regardless of what view one has, the universe were created out of “nothing”. There were nothing physical / material. And then there were something. The Kalam Cosmological Argument is about agency. How something, can come out of “nothing”, though the intervention of a non-physical cause.

            And so the argument goes… If an immaterial mind, can create the universe. Then why couldn’t less powerful immaterial minds, affect the universe?

            ——

            “I am afraid you have neither offered philosophy and logic, of scientific evidence, as to how contra-causal free will either makes sense or is evidenced.”

            Well I can cite WLC, if you want. But you are probably already familiar with his work. So I just asked a few questions, to see how you would answer those.

          • Jonathan MS Pearce

            Now let me ask you another question.. Imagine that one of your friends, who is over-weight, came up to you, and asked, if you thought it to be a good idea, for him to exercise more, in order to lose some weight. What would you tell him? Something like “Don’t bother, you have no such choice, it has already been determined by forces outside your control” or ?

            Again, you misunderstand. Whatever I say will be part of the causal circumstance that determines what he decides. However, whatever I decide is itself determined by my causal circumstance (CS). My CS is my genes, biology, learning, experience, environment – in short, it is the whole universe up to that point.

            This comes down to whether you adhere to the Principle of Alternate Possibilities (PAP). Look, as Colin McGinn points out:

            “The argument is exceedingly familiar, and runs as follows. Either determinism is true or it is not. If it is true, then all our chosen actions are uniquely necessitated by prior states of the world, just like every other event. But then it cannot be the case that we could have acted otherwise, since this would require a possibility determinism rules out. Once the initial conditions are set and the laws fixed, causality excludes genuine freedom.
            On the other hand, if indeterminism is true, then, though things could have happened otherwise, it is not the case that we could have chosen otherwise, since a merely random event is no kind of free choice. That some events occur causelessly, or are not subject to law, or only to probabilistic law, is not sufficient for those events to be free choices.
            Thus one horn of the dilemma represents choices as predetermined happenings in a predictable causal sequence, while the other construes them as inexplicable lurches to which the universe is randomly prone. Neither alternative supplies what the notion of free will requires, and no other alternative suggests itself. Therefore freedom is not possible in any kind of possible world. The concept contains the seeds of its own destruction.

            “Your very first issue is to explain how the agent can be the originator of a causal chain. This means that the causal chain cannot be further derived – “Jim did X because…”. The buck has to stop with Jim. The problem you have is that you then have to offer a reason that Jim did X without there being a reason! In simple terms, this is why LFW is impossible.”
            Jim went in that direction, because he found it to be the right thing to do, in the given situation.

            Again, a misunderstanding, or very prima facie understanding. Why did he think it was the right thing to do? You make the CLASSIC error that LFWers do in not pursuing the causal questions far enough. Why? And then why again? Keep going until there is no determining factor.

            Now of course there were a reason for that. It is after all, called reasoning. He probably had plenty of reason to go either way, yet freely picked one above the other.

            But why? You can’t just throw in “he freely picked” since this is an assertion and gets you nowhere. Why did he pick X over Y at time t=1? The reasons will all be boiled down to what happened in his past, what his learning is, what his goals are, how his brain is wired, how his genes are wired etc. Now, take this decision. Carry on for 20 minutes. Now rewind to t=1. Imagine the entire universe is the same, down to every molecule, the entire past. So, his CS is IDENTICAL. What would make his choose differently?

            On your logic, he is able to choose differently (adhering to the PAP). But is all casual factor are identical, he would have no DIFFERENT reason to choose differently! This is fundamental causality! What could possibly be the case to make him choose any different than he did previously at t=0? He would either have to be a different person or have a different environment.

            The real issue facing free will, is “How can something immaterial affect something material?”

            Not at all. The real issue is logical causality. This issue plays second fiddle, as interesting as it may be. This is known as interactionism and is fraught with problems (see the section in my book).

            And when it comes to that question, I agree, that it is something, that is hard for us to understand. But I don’t see it as a show-stopper. It just means that there is something for us to investigate further.

            The flipside is that a supernatural LFWer merely posits the soul of the gaps argument which has little epistemological integrity.

            And I don’t think that we have reached a stage, where we humans no longer can become smarter. I do think that it’s possible for us to increasing our understanding of such concepts. And I have heard philosophers like WLC, attack the issue head on, on several occasions. Or John Lennox, when he commented on, what Richard Dawkins has said about our ability to “rebel against our genes”.

            I have seen both Lennox and Craig live and my next book is on Craig’s use of the KCA, dealing at length with causality.

            Anyway, thanks for sharing the link to your talk. I’ll give it a listen.
            Maybe I can return the favour, by liking to a relevant debate, on my favourite radio program.
            http://www.premierradio.org.uk/listen/ondemand.aspx?mediaid={20C0C33D-2442-4C61-804D-89BDBC3434D0}

            If that is unbelievable, then I often listen. Although Brierley gets on my nerves these days – he needs to be more forceful, and waste less time. He needs to give theists a harder time too! I’ll try to find time!

            Cheers again, John.

  • Jonathan MS Pearce

    Ok. So why should we even bother doing anything?
    I mean.. I guess me writing this reply, has been decided somewhere else, by something else. So should I make the effort to write it? It’s going to end up here anyway, right? Oh I had no choice in writing it? Well you’re wrong. This is the second reply. I skipped the first one, to prove my point. Oh but that was also decided somewhere else, by something else, Right? Then tell me something, that I, according to my genes, biology, learning, experience, environment, cannot do. And ill see, if it checks out.

    Whichever ‘decision’ you make will be determined by your CS. You cannot do that which you will not do. You cannot do that which is not what you did in your first CS at t=0 when rewinding to that exact same CS.

    When Jim came to the cross-road, he sat down, looked at the options, and made his choice. Why did he make a choice? Because he had to, in order to move on. Why did he pick one road over the other? Because he found it to be the right thing to do, in the given situation.
    How did that happen? Well first he decided to walk in one direction. Soon after he came across a dead cow, an empty water well, and a sign saying “last water station for the next 100 miles, make sure to fill up your water bottles”. And so he ended up going back to the cross-road, and picking the other road instead, even though he could have continued in the direction that he was heading.

    How could he have gone in the other direction? What would it have taken? You are still missing the point. At each of those decision points you have to ask why. But not just once. You have to continue asking until you get to the origination of the causal chain. On your thesis that will end up with him, on mine, the BB> However, on your thesis, there is logical incoherence since to have an origination of a causal chain within an individual it will necessarily be without reason. There can be no because, because that further regresses the chain. Thus LFW has, at its base origination, a lack of reason, which means ownership over a decision is either random or irrational, and thus not free will as rational ownership for a decision.

    “You can’t just throw in “he freely picked” since this is an assertion and gets you nowhere.”
    I don’t see why not. You keep asserting that he never picked freely, but was forced to do so, by forces outside his control. You don’t see that, as something you keep throwing around?

    That is precisely what I am not doing. I am providing you with a philosophical analysis of causality and the causal chain here. You are ignoring it and it inherent problems.

    “Why did he pick X over Y at time t=1?”
    Because he found it to be the right thing to do, in the given situation.

    Why did he find it the right thing to do? You are giving up here at the first hurdle. Please stop doing this. The whole notion of determinism is that these reasons are themselves determined, else they are in a causal vacuum and thus random. WHY DID HE FIND IT THE RIGHT THING TO DO? Was this based on his life up to that point? His religion? His moral teaching from his parent? His logical brain enforced by his amygdala and neural networks? All of this is outside of his control at the decision.

    And yes, that’s a perfectly good reason. What reasoning was behind this reason, well that’s a whole different matter.

    NO IT’S NOT – IT IS ENTIRELY THE POINT.

    “The reasons will all be boiled down to what happened in his past, what his learning is, what his goals are, how his brain is wired, how his genes are wired etc.”
    Well, that’s what you keep asserting. But in reality, you don’t know, why he picked one road over the other. Maybe he just picked the one on his left, because he was left-handed? But of course, he could also have picked the one on the right, because he for some reason wanted to have the sun in his back. The possible reason are endless.

    *sigh* Ok, I say there is a reason for his reason. You say not. You, then, are positing a reason in a vacuum. Reasoning without rational defence is meaningless and must be random. If I can’t tell you why I decided something, then the decision is irrational or random.
    And yes.. you can play your jedi-mindtricks / psychic scams ( )

    These are not the reasons you are looking for *hand-wave*

    and say: Oh yes!! He picked the one on his right, to have the sun in his back, ofcourse he did, because in 1945, when he was a young boy, his father was killed in a car accident, because he was driving with the sun in his face, and therefore couldn’t see the road.
    I just don’t see, why that would have played any role in his decision. And we don’t know, if it played a role. So to me, that’s just wishful thinking. A bit like looking at Mars, and seeing a face in the craters. And funny enough, it tends to be people who believe in aliens living on Mars, seeing those craters.

    Not just one or two things play a role. Everything in the universe up until that point plays a role.

    I too believe, that we are affected or allow ourselves to be affected by forces outside of ourselves. I just don’t think, that they control us, to a point where we have no choice.

    You need, however, to provide a causal explanation of free will otherwise it is metaphysically impossible. Let me provide some other thinkers’ opinions here:

    Sam Harris: “Either our wills are determined by prior causes and we are not responsible for them, or they are the product of chance and we are not responsible for them. If a man’s choice to shoot the president is determined by a certain pattern of neural activity, which is in turn the product of prior causes-perhaps an unfortunate coincidence of bad genes, an unhappy childhood, lost sleep, and a cosmic-ray bombardment-what can it possibly mean to say that his will is “free”? No one has ever described a way in which mental and physical processes could arise that would attest to the existence of such freedom.”

    Paul Russel: “the well-known dilemma of determinism. One horn of this dilemma is the argument that if an action was caused or necessitated, then it could not have been done freely, and hence the agent is not responsible for it. The other horn is the argument that if the action was not caused, then it is inexplicable and random, and thus it cannot be attributed to the agent, and hence, again, the agent cannot be responsible for it. In other words, if our actions are caused, then we cannot be responsible for them; if they are not caused, we cannot be responsible for them. Whether we affirm or deny necessity and determinism, it is impossible to make any coherent sense of moral freedom and responsibility.”

    JJC Smart: “Dl. I shall state the view that there is “unbroken causal continuity” in the universe as follows. It is in principle possible to make a sufficiently precise determination of the state of a sufficiently wide region of the universe at time to, and sufficient laws of nature are in principle ascertainable to enable a superhuman calculator to be able to predict any event occurring within that region at an already given time t’.
    D2. I shall define the view that “pure chance” reigns to some extent within the universe as follows. There are some events that even a superhuman calculator could not predict, however precise his knowledge of however wide a region of the universe at some previous time.
    For the believer in free will holds that no theory of a deterministic sort or of a pure chance sort will apply to everything in the universe: he must therefore envisage a theory of a type which is neither deterministic nor indeterministic in the senses of these words which I have specified by the two definitions DI and D2; and I shall argue that no such theory is possible.“

    And I find the arguments for the soul, to be very coherent, and in tune with the reality that we experience on a daily basis.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynPIPE1ZGhA

    “I am sorry, but that is not fair and a little disingenuous.”
    You’re right. You’re not in the business of dogmatic rhetoric and blind faith. But you do seem to rely a lot on your world-view, in order to deal with certain issues. So do I, but at least I accept that.

    Look, I am at fault here for being frustrated at something I have argued countless times and then having to go back to the beginning to establish. I am sorry about that because this is exactly the sort of area and level this blog is aimed at.

    You have cited a lot of things to account for your position. I just don’t see, what you have brought forward, as very convincing. It could easily fit into another framework.

    How? How does a genetic predisposition manifested at age 3 successfully predict behaviour at age 23 on a free will worldview? How does a genetic predisposition for kindness exemplified by empirical experiments become explicable on free will?

    “Please do not confuse causality with materialism.”
    You version of Causality is not a product of materialism?

    Causality is metaphysical. IT is the philosophical basis of the Kalam, of ANY first mover argument. It is entirely non physical, though has obvious implications on the physical world too.

    “Causality is metaphysical – it is precisely NOT physical.”
    Does your world-view allow non-physical causes?

    You would have to define non-physical.

    Regardless of what view one has, the universe were created out of “nothing”. There were nothing physical / material. And then there were something. The Kalam Cosmological Argument is about agency. How something, can come out of “nothing”, though the intervention of a non-physical cause.

    Which is what you claim in every freely willed action, but which is what you deny can happen outside of God. God is the only uncaused causer, apparently. And yet now you claim every freely willed decision is somehow uncaused.

  • John Grove

    I don’t mean to sound arrogant or insensitive but it is rather difficult for me to take the questions posed by JohnM serious. Perhaps I am wrong but he seems to misunderstand determinism to a large degree.

    Determinism simply means that everything is predictable, including the process of making decisions, and that a decision does not occur as a first cause but rather as a result of the predetermined criteria for a specific decision to be made having been met. The ’cause’ of a person’s actions stems from the biological processes in their brain. These biological processes themselves have causes, namely their earlier states as well as earlier input from the outside world. In other words, the primary cause of a brain state is earlier brain states.

    I find JohnM’s statement basically just a clear denial of the facts hidden behind his supernatualism which of course has absolutely zero evidence at all. He seems to think that thoughts arise without any prior brain states.

    Saying “If materialism is true” is simply a cop-out. A way to hide behind unfalsifiability and remain invincibly ignorant. Can’t we ever discuss reality apart from people’s wishful thinking and religion. Faith and facts are two different things.

  • JohnM

    You have to continue asking until you get to the origination of the causal chain.

    I did :)

    Humans are created in the image of God. We are not simple animals who just follow our instincts. We have the ability to choose freely and create something out of nothing.

    You need, however, to provide a causal explanation of free will otherwise it is metaphysically impossible.

    If there’s a direct cause that determines the outcome of the reasoning, then it’s not free will.

    As for giving you an explanation… Let’s assume I can’t. Does that prove, that it’s metaphysically impossible? If you answered yes, then you have just committed a fallacy.

    Whether or not I can explain it, says nothing about, whether or not it is possible. You may as well have asked someone 1000 years ago, if they could explain how machines can fly though the air. Their inability to do so, says nothing about what is possible and impossible, for machines to fly.

    Let me provide some other thinkers’ opinions here: Sam Harris

    Oh yeah! Bring out the 4 horseman. We are only missing Christopher now. Or did I miss it? :P

    How does a genetic predisposition manifested at age 3 successfully predict behaviour at age 23 on a free will worldview?

    A free world view, would predict, that far from all of them turned out to be criminals. So how many did? And how many died as criminals? And how many people have never been engaged in criminal activity?

    And even though every single one of them turned out to be a nasty criminal, there’s still a way “out of it”, as a free will advocate… How? Well one could simply say, that they just never used their free will to act differently, than was expected from them. That they allowed themselves to be ruled by outside causes. Free will includes that option, you see. And I don’t think that it would cause much of an uprising, if I said, that most people simple follow the water downstream.

    Which is what you claim in every freely willed action, but which is what you deny can happen outside of God. God is the only uncaused causer, apparently. And yet now you claim every freely willed decision is somehow uncaused.

    God is the uncaused causer.
    We are the caused, causers.

    I move my arm. It is caused by my will, to move my arm. What caused that? My reasoning for it being time to drink some tea. What caused that? Nothing, other than my will, if I have free will.

    So even though we ourselves are caused by God, we have the ability to cause some things, such as thoughs, without outside causes. Aka.. the ability to think and choose freely. Thereby being responsible for our own actions. Aka. Created in the image of God.

    Is that a completely new position to you?

  • JohnM

    “You have to continue asking until you get to the origination of the causal chain.”

    I did :)

    Humans are created in the image of God. We are not simple animals who just follow our instincts. We have the ability to choose freely and create something out of nothing.

    ——

    “You need, however, to provide a causal explanation of free will otherwise it is metaphysically impossible.”

    If there’s a direct cause that determines the outcome of the reasoning, then it’s not free will.

    As for giving you an explanation… Let’s assume I can’t. Does that prove, that it’s metaphysically impossible? If you answered yes, then you have just committed a fallacy.

    Whether or not I can explain it, says nothing about, whether or not it is possible. You may as well have asked someone 1000 years ago, if they could explain how machines can fly though the air. Their inability to do so, says nothing about what is possible and impossible, for machines to fly.

    ——

    “Let me provide some other thinkers’ opinions here: Sam Harris”

    Oh yeah! Bring out the 4 horseman. We are only missing Christopher now. Or did I miss it? :P

    ——

    “How does a genetic predisposition manifested at age 3 successfully predict behaviour at age 23 on a free will worldview?”

    A free world view, would predict, that far from all of them turned out to be criminals. So how many did? And how many died as criminals? And how many people have never been engaged in criminal activity?

    And even though every single one of them turned out to be a nasty criminal, there’s still a way “out of it”, as a free will advocate… How? Well one could simply say, that they just never used their free will to act differently, than was expected from them. That they allowed themselves to be ruled by outside causes. Free will includes that option, you see. And I don’t think that it would cause much of an uprising, if I said, that most people simple follow the water downstream.

    ——

    “Which is what you claim in every freely willed action, but which is what you deny can happen outside of God. God is the only uncaused causer, apparently. And yet now you claim every freely willed decision is somehow uncaused.”

    God is the uncaused causer.
    We are the caused, causers.

    I move my arm. It is caused by my will, to move my arm. What caused that? My reasoning for it being time to drink some tea. What caused that? Nothing, other than my will, if I have free will.

    So even though we ourselves are caused by God, we have the ability to cause some things, such as thoughs, without outside causes. Aka.. the ability to think and choose freely. Thereby being responsible for our own actions. Aka. Created in the image of God.

    Is that a completely new position to you?

    • JohnM

      Ups! Sorry for double post:(

      • John Grove

        Jonathan Pearce asked “You have to continue asking until you get to the origination of the causal chain.”

        You respond, “I did”.

        No you didn’t.

        “Humans are created in the image of God.”

        Evidence? None. Humans are ‘not’ created but rather an evolved species. But even just the notion of a god who “makes children” through a long, agonizing, bloody and inefficient (not to even mention relentlessly BLIND) process is in such stark contrast to the vision of a creator presented in Genesis that I don’t see how it can squared. Or perhaps more accurately, I can’t see how having once squared those two things there are any two things that one could NOT then square.

        “As for giving you an explanation… Let’s assume I can’t. Does that prove, that it’s metaphysically impossible? If you answered yes, then you have just committed a fallacy. ”

        Actually the fallacy lies with your argument from ignorance response, and you have NOT provided how free will can work.

        “Whether or not I can explain it, says nothing about, whether or not it is possible.”

        To say something is ‘possible’ answers nothing. There may be green pigs with wings on some remote planet in some far off solar system. Is it possible? This is just a coy way to say, “I can’t give you a reasoned way in which free will can work”. So in other words, you fail to meet the challenge Johnny asked of you and you and hide behind an unfalsifiable remark.

        “Oh yeah! Bring out the 4 horseman. We are only missing Christopher now. Or did I miss it?”

        Sam Harris is a doctor in neuroscience and a prolific writer. Why don’t you respond to the Sam Harris quote rather than dodging it? This is simply ignoble on your part. A fallacy known as “Ignoring the question”

        “A free world view, would predict, that far from all of them turned out to be criminals”

        How can it make any predictions when you haven’t even explained how it can even work?

        “And even though every single one of them turned out to be a nasty criminal, there’s still a way “out of it”, as a free will advocate”

        What you are saying in no uncertain terms is that free will is true no matter what the evidence is. You are making statements that ‘assume’ it is true a priori. That is committing the circulus in probando. You are assuming what you have yet to prove, using a conclusion as the premise in the argument, thus going around the proof.

        “God is the uncaused causer.”

        Evidence for this blind assertion? None

        “I move my arm. It is caused by my will, to move my arm. What caused that? My reasoning for it being time to drink some tea. What caused that? Nothing, other than my will, if I have free will.”

        Wrong. What caused you to drink tea? Because you were thirsty. Why were you thirsty? Why did you choose tea and not water? Why not beer? Why not milk? You STOP when there is more to it.

        “So even though we ourselves are caused by God”

        Evidence? None. Again, circulus inprobando, assuming what you set out to prove.

        “we have the ability to cause some things, such as thoughs, without outside causes. Aka.. the ability to think and choose freely.”

        How can you cause thoughts without outside causes? Did you not learn English as a language for communication? So even your ability to communicate was an outside influence. Joanthan has said this before but I will state it again. A person’s present acts are determined by his/her present will, his/her present will is determined by his/her present nature filtered by his/her present beliefs which, in turn, are determined by his/her present mental capacity (over which s/he has no control) and his/her entire life experience prior to that moment (over which s/he has no present control). This lack of control of our nature and nurture means a lack of control of our beliefs which means a lack of control of what we will.

        “Is that a completely new position to you? ”

        It’s an old position that has no evidence either philosophically or scientifically.

        • JohnM

          “Actually the fallacy lies with your argument from ignorance response, and you have NOT provided how free will can work.”

          I never asserted, that my proposition was true, until proven false. At least know your logic fallacies, when accusing people of such.

          ———

          “This is simply ignoble on your part. A fallacy known as “Ignoring the question”

          You can’t be serious. Do you want me to go though the debate, and count the things that people have ignored?

          People only comment on the things they themselves find relevant. That’s a basic rule of the internet. I can’t expect Jonathan to sit around and comment on all of what I write, he’s got other things to do. I’m just grateful that he wants to ping-pong a bit with me. So why do you expect me to comment on every single thing that he says?

          ———

          “How can it make any predictions when you haven’t even explained how it can even work?”

          The fact that you don’t know how it works, does not prevent it from making predictions.

          ———

          “What caused you to drink tea? Because you were thirsty.”

          You drink Tea for thirst? I drink it for the taste. So what caused me to drink tea? Well I wanted to taste my tea.

          ———

          “Why did you choose tea and not water? Why not beer? Why not milk?”

          If I wanted to drink water, beer or milk, I would just go get it.

          ———

          “Did you not learn English as a language for communication?”

          I’m really sorry if my English isn’t good enough for you. I’m Danish. I speak 7 languages. I program around 12 computer-languages. And I have to divide my time between them, so my English isn’t top notch. But at least I’m working on it, right?

  • John Grove

    “I never asserted, that my proposition was true, until proven false. At least know your logic fallacies, when accusing people of such.”

    Actually you do, you are assuming you have free will despite what you are being showed. It seems you have confirmation bias/disconfirmation bias at whatever is being shown to you conveniently explaining away anything you find uncongenial.

    [[So why do you expect me to comment on every single thing that he says?]]

    I expect valid points to be addressed and not conveniently ignored. That is ignoble. Johnny seems to make a valid retorts and you simply ignore him and move on rather than address the response. In a way reminds me of this:

    http://godlesspaladin.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/debate-flow-chart.jpg

    [[The fact that you don’t know how it works, does not prevent it from making predictions.]]

    Yea, ok, I predict flying genies can move mountains with their wands. If you don’t have a clue or an explanation or a theory than you are just twiddling your fingers and wasting our time.

    [[You drink Tea for thirst? I drink it for the taste.]]

    The issue of free will goes deeper than just whether or not you can make a decision to drink tea. Theoretically, based on determinism, free will can’t exist because every chemical and electrical signal that happens in your brain, including those that control conscious movement, is the inevitable result of the event that came before it. The concept of “choice” is a human invention that has no bearing on the molecular and chemical world, and since our brains are, in the end, composed of chemicals, logically, we should assume that any sense of free will is an illusion.

    Let’s suppose your will were free. This would mean that your actions were not determined by causal laws. If no causal laws governed your actions, then it would be impossible to predict what you are going to do. But in fact people who know you can predict what you will do, with a fair amount of accuracy. And if they couldn’t, if your actions were completely unpredictable – they’d probably say NOT that you were free, but that you were crazy. So your actions must be controlled by causal law. Again, just suppose your will were free. This means your actions are freely chosen, and you’re morally responsible for them. How then do you make your choices? Either it’s an accident that you choose as you do or it’s not. If it’s an accident, i.e., if you choose randomly or by chance, then it’s just a matter of chance that you didn’t choose otherwise. So how can you be held morally responsible for choosing as you did? On the other hand, if you didn’t choose by accident, then that means there’s a causal explanation for your choice, and this confirms hard determinism.

    “I’m really sorry if my English isn’t good enough for you. I’m Danish. I speak 7 languages. I program around 12 computer-languages. And I have to divide my time between them, so my English isn’t top notch. But at least I’m working on it, right? ”

    Brother, I was not attacking your English, it is quite good, I was merely saying that even your ability to communicate is because of an outside influence. You can’t escape this as you seem to think.

    • Jonathan MS Pearce

      Thanks for your valuable input John Grove – repeating what I was saying but in a clearer manner!

      Danish John, you English is superb. If I didn’t pay attention to my hit map, I wouldn’t have known. However, Grove did not mean that as you took it, but in a causal manner.

  • John Grove

    I apologize if I sounded harsh, I didn’t mean it to be at all my friend. You were making a point that you make decisions without any outside influence and I was saying that is not true, that even your ability to communicate itself is an influence because you are constrained by what and how you say it.

    I encourage your comments and apologize if I come across as anything other than responding to your comments. My apologies for my own lack of communication.

  • JohnM

    Oki thanks guys, ill continue to write my gibberish then :p

    ——-

    “You were making a point that you make decisions without any outside influence and I was saying that is not true, that even your ability to communicate itself is an influence because you are constrained by what and how you say it.”

    Well.. Is what I say, defined by language? Or is language simply a tool to communicate, the thoughts that I have already formulated in my head? Sure, language can be a barrier in communication. But does it actually affect my thoughts about what I’m trying to communicate?

    I don’t really see language as an outside influence on how I behave and think. But I can think of several other outside influences, such as what one listen to and and what books one reads.

    ——

    “The concept of “choice” is a human invention that has no bearing on the molecular and chemical world, and since our brains are, in the end, composed of chemicals, logically, we should assume that any sense of free will is an illusion.”

    Well thanks for sharing your view. But I just don’t accept that explanation of reality, on the basis that it does not match my every day experience of life.

    ——-

    “Let’s suppose your will were free. This would mean that your actions were not determined by causal laws. If no causal laws governed your actions, then it would be impossible to predict what you are going to do. But in fact people who know you can predict what you will do, with a fair amount of accuracy.”

    I can follow to some extent, given that I have noticed some patterns in how people behave. Now what causes these pattens in their behaviour, is in my mind, up for debate. Could it not also be a case of them just choosing the same, given the same choices?

    Would we really expect a man to cheat on his wife, and be faithful the next time the chance arises, in a free will scenario? Wouldn’t it be more likely, that he either cheated when he had the chance or stayed faithful? Would his will change that fast?

    On the basis of that, i don’t see, that patterns in human behaviour points to determinism. I would expect to see that with free will, as well.

    ——-

    “And if they couldn’t, if your actions were completely unpredictable – they’d probably say NOT that you were free, but that you were crazy.”

    I’m often in doubt how my close friends will behave in certain situations. “Is he going to be happy or sad, when I tell him this news?” “will he think it’s a good idea to.. ?”“I wonder if she is up for a movie tonight”.

    Other times, I know from their body language, how their mood is, and because of that, I’m able to predict it a lot better. But then again, they sorta communicated it to me, indirectly. On the other hand, I wouldn’t deny, that their mood can affect their decisions. I just don’t see it as taking away their ability to choose.

    ——-

    “Again, just suppose your will were free. This means your actions are freely chosen, and you’re morally responsible for them. How then do you make your choices?”

    Classic dualism explanation of body and mind.

    ——-

    Either it’s an accident that you choose as you do or it’s not. If it’s an accident, i.e., if you choose randomly or by chance, then it’s just a matter of chance that you didn’t choose otherwise.

    How can there be any accidents, if everything is governed by outside forces?

    Either its governed, and it’s decided for you. Or it’s not governed, and you have free will.

    Where does accidents and randomness enter the picture?

    ——-

    “So how can you be held morally responsible for choosing as you did?”

    If nobody has free will, then nobody is responsible for their own actions.. Which I believe to be a huge problem for our legal system and so on.. But according to Jonathan, he’s got something up his sleeve, to transform the legal system, without the entire country running amok. So I guess we just have to see how it goes..

    But how do you guys actually live, with the view of reality that you have??!

    What if your girlfriend came home, drunk and smelling of male perfume. Would you blame her? Or would you just accepted, that you had caused her to do it, though your behaviour towards her, that you had no control over?

    If you say, that you wouldn’t blame her, then I don’t believe you for a second.

    If you say, that you would blame her, then you have a serious problem with your world-view, don’t you?

  • Jonathan MS Pearce

    What if your girlfriend came home, drunk and smelling of male perfume. Would you blame her? Or would you just accepted, that you had caused her to do it, though your behaviour towards her, that you had no control over?

    If you say, that you wouldn’t blame her, then I don’t believe you for a second.

    If you say, that you would blame her, then you have a serious problem with your world-view, don’t you?

    Now these are good, meaty questions. I find that almost always one acts as if there is free will – we are conditioned to do so, and there are reasons we do. However, it can be very useful to bear determinism in mind. I find I am far less retributive in my outlook; far less angry. I look far more often for reasons for behaviour (as a teacher, this is vital) rather than concentrating on blame. This allows me to concentrate on changing the causal circumstances so that future behaviour is influenced or avoided.

  • James

    It took 3 years to comment cause I had no choice.
    Im thoroughly convinced that it is atheism alone that causes such blatent denial of what we are certain is true.
    We don’t think, we Know, absolutely, that we have free will but we also know it is impossible under atheism. Fine Tuning, Design, Morality, Beauty, Love, DNA Code, Consciousness, Infinite Regress, Creation out of Nothing, Teleological and Contingency arguments, plus Properly Basic beliefs all demolish atheism to the point that they’re walking around like clowns denying they are even Real people at this point.

    This is why atheism has only a17% retention rate. The cost of absurdity is just too high. So if you’re one… There is a 83% chance you will abandon this nonsense by your own free will

    • Funny, because studying people who study philosophy of religion, there is a net move towards atheism. So amongst the people who study the real core of belief, the very best arguments, there is a net move away from atheism.

      On free will, it fails logic. The God argument SUPERVENES ON the free will debate (unless you are a Calvinist). So I would reconsider your rather hasty assertion.