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Tom, I guess there are a number of great thinkers and writers who are "all wet" in my opinion on the block universe and eternalism. Some who come to mind besides those I mentioned are the members of the "New York Group" like David Alpert ("Time and Chance,", Quantum Mechanics and Experience"), Barry Loewer (who posts to the Garden occasionally), and Brian Greene. Sean Carroll discussed determinism and the block universe with David Alpert on Bloggingheads. Randy, Your idea that statements about the future can imply its fixity is the ancient Master Argument for determinism of Diodorus Cronus. Aristotle's famously discussed it as the truth value of statements about a future "sea battle." Diodorus argued from an assumed necessity of past truths (which is understandable, if a misapplication of logic to physical reality) that something is impossible that neither is or ever will be true. Aristotle reframed the argument as the truth or falsity of the statement that a sea battle will occur tomorrow. Despite the law of the excluded middle, which allows no third case, Aristotle concluded that the statement is neither true nor false, supporting an ambiguous future (which William James made the core of his two-stage argument for free will). Here is the Aristotle "What is, necessarily is, when it is; and what is not, necessarily is not, when it is not. But not everything that is, necessarily is; and not everything that is not, necessarily is not. For to say that everything that is, is of necessity, when it is, is not the same as saying unconditionally that it is of necessity. Similarly with what is not. And the same account holds for contradictories: everything necessarily is or is not, and will be or will not be; but one cannot divide and say that one or the other is necessary. "I mean, for example: it is necessary for there to be or not to be a sea-battle tomorrow; but it is not necessary for a sea-battle to take place tomorrow, nor for one not to take place — though it is necessary for one to take place or not to take place. So, since statements are true according to how the actual things are, it is clear that wherever these are such as to allow of contraries as chance has it, the same necessarily holds for the contradictories also. This happens with things that are not always so or are not always not so. With these it is necessary for one or the other of the contradictories to be true or false — not, however, this one or that one, but as chance has it; or for one to be true rather than the other, yet not already true or false." (De Interpretatione, IX, 19a23-39 ) 6 Aristotle never denied the law of the excluded middle, merely that the truth or falsity of statements about future events does not exist yet. Note that this implies at least some things in the past may be changed in the future, in particular, the truth values of statements about the future.
Randy, I would like to back up your chain of inferences. "The future is" is itself already making an untenable claim. The proper statement is "The future will be." "The future is" appears to me to assume the conclusion in the premise, don't you think? Tom, The "block universe" is not "accepted by many physicists," though virtually all physicists accept the special theory of relativity. Mathematical physicists, notably Hermann Minkowski in 1907, envisage a space-time diagram in which time is a fourth dimension already "in existence" in some (multiple dimensions) sense. This fits comfortably with a "God's eye" view in which all times are present to God. It is also similar to the modal thinking of David Lewis in which any imaginable alternate universe consistent with logic also exists - as do all times in those "many worlds." The normal interpretation of special relativity distinguishes "space-like" from "time-like" separations and describes events that have causal relations as in the "light-cone" of events in our future (or past). Block-universe thinking denies there are things we can cause (or be caused by). In a classical mechanical deterministic universe all motions are "reversible." Newton's laws of motion are same when time goes backwards. Causality simply disappears. Every event is already caused by something "outsisd space and time." This view is accepted by many philosophers of science - Michael Lockwood, J.M.E. McTaggart and J.J.C.Smart come to mind. Smart calls the view "tenseless" because past, present, and future are all the same in the block universe. It is also known as Eternalism. In 1966, C.W.Riedtijk published "A Rigorous Proof of Determinism Derived from the Special Theory of Relativity." The most famous philosopher to discuss this case is Hilary Putnam (1967), the most famous physicist is Roger Penrose (1989). Just last month, the experimental physicist Nicolas Gisin proposed the special relativistic paradoxes of simultaneity as related to the puzzles involved in the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen Paradox (Bell's Theorem and all that). References are below, for those who want a deeper understanding of the science (fiction) behind FlashForward. ___________________ Rietdijk, C.W. (1966) A Rigorous Proof of Determinism Derived from the Special Theory of Relativity, Philosophy of Science, 33 (1966) pp. 341-344 Putnam, H. (1967). Time and Physical Geometry, Journal of Philosophy, 64, (1967) pp.240-247 Being and Becoming in Modern Physics. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Penrose, R. 1989. The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and Laws of Physics. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp.191-201. Grünbaum, A 1963. Philosophical Problems of Space and Time, Knopf Lockwood, M. The Labyrinth of Time, Oxford, 2005, pp.56-61 Gisin, Nicolas, Science, 326, 4 December 2009, pp.1357-8
Hi Manuel, For the record, Sukekatsu Ushioda is a provocative and popular physics professor who studied at Dartmouth and Penn and spent 25 years in the U.S. He went back to Japan to shake up their university systems. He likes the "wild and crazy" ideas and attitudes of American scientists. He says being wild and crazy may be related to being creative. He's right. This is the essence of my free will model, as you know. Here is a link to an interview with Ushioda. ________________ As to determinism in physics, I assume you mean pre-determinism and not the adequate determinism we have for macroscopic objects. Astrophysicist Arthur Stanley Eddington claimed in 1928 that quantum indeterminacy marked the end of strict physical determinism. Writing up his Gifford Lectures of 1927, Eddington announced "It is a consequence of the advent of the quantum theory that physics is no longer pledged to a scheme of deterministic law." Determinism has been "expelled from present-day physics," he declared, so that "it is no longer necessary to suppose that human actions are completely predetermined." He went even farther and enthusiastically identified indeterminism with freedom of the will, but Eddington had no specific model and he was roundly criticized by his philosopher contemporaries who said that his indeterminism would made our actions random. ______________ The standard argument against libertarian free will claims that free will cannot be reconciled with (pre)determinism or with indeterminism. If the former, we are not free. If the latter, our actions are random and thus not willed by us. But David Hume successfully reconciled freedom (and liberty) with determinism to give us freedom of action. More importantly, R.E.Hobart reconciled free will with determination to give us freedom of the will. On the indeterminism side, twelve philosophers and scientists, starting with William James in 1884, have reconciled free will with indeterminism (and with an adequate determinism). We now have a model for the physics and biology of free will. It explains human creativity and the creativity of evolution. A similar cosmic process accounts for the creation of information structures in the universe, from galaxies to stars and planets. Indeterminism guarantees that the future is open. There are genuine ambiguous futures that you and I get to choose. Physics itself is open, and thus unlikely ever to be "complete," as the tongue in your cheek suggests you realize.
Bob Kane has asked me to post the following note to me clarifying his views on free will relative to those of Mark Balaguer and Peter van Inwagen. No doubt I have misstated some elements of Kane's position and/or Balaguer's or both. I hope that Balaguer will also clarify his views for the Garden. _____________ Dear Bob, In your recently posted review of Balaguer's Free Will as a Scientific Problem, you have the following paragraph: Balaguer notes that he again differs from Robert Kane, who says that if our reasons and motives even partially cause our decisions, then they are not free, unless the reasons in question were caused by prior undetermined L-free choices (SFAs). On the contrary, Balaguer says that if an agent is L-free, and makes many undetermined L-free decisions every day, then her decisions that are caused by her reasons can also be called L-free If this is an accurate account of what Balaguer says, it is misleading about my view in a number of ways that I would like to clarify for potential readers of his book or your review. (I should add that I agree with much that Balaguer says in his book, but not all.) How the paragraph is misleading is made clear by the following comments which I have expressed in a number of different ways in several papers concerning three kinds of "free acts" which I regularly distinguish: (1) acts done voluntarily, on purpose and for reasons that are not coerced, compelled or otherwise constrained or subject to control by other agents. (2) acts [free in sense 1 that are also] done “of our own free will” in the sense of a will that we are ultimately responsible (UR) for forming. (3) “self-forming” acts (SFAs) or “will-setting” acts by which we form the will from which we act in sense 2. Acts of type 1, as I understand them, are compatible with determinism. One can act freely, in the sense of voluntarily, on purpose and for reasons, without being coerced, compelled or otherwise constrained or controlled, even if determinism should be true and even if one’s act is determined. Type 1 freedom is thus a compatibilist freedom. (Aristotle generally called type 1 acts “voluntary” by which he meant acts that were done on purpose or willingly without being coerced or compelled.) Free acts of types 2 and 3 by contrast, as I understand them, are incompatibilist or libertarian free acts. They could not exist in a determined world. But only acts of type 3 have to be undetermined. Acts done “of our own free will” of type 2, on my view, may be determined (though they need not be) and may even be such that the agents could not have done otherwise. In what sense then are free acts of type 2 incompatibilist or libertarian free acts? The answer is that while acts of type 2 may themselves be determined, they could not exist in a determined world and hence their existence is incompatible with determinism because they presuppose other acts (of type 3) that are not determined. Often in everyday life we act of our own free will (type 2 free acts) in the sense of a will already formed. Our characters, motives and intentions are such that, we could not have done anything else then and there voluntarily and rationally. But on such occasions, the will (i.e., character, motives and purposes) from which we act is “our own free will,” to the extent that we had a role in forming it by earlier acts of type 3 that were not determined and with respect to which we could have voluntarily and rationally done otherwise. It is important to recognize that all three of the above acts, including type 1 acts, are legitimate kinds of freedom. The word “freedom” does not have a single meaning (no surprise there for such a much used term). And, though I am a libertarian about free will, I have always conceded that type 1 freedom of the compatibilist kind is a significant kind of freedom. I have merely insisted that there is an “additional freedom worth caring about that is not compatible with determinism,” and it is “what was traditionally called ‘free will.’” Freedoms of all three types are thus significant freedoms, as I see it. The difference is that freedom of type 1 is freedom of action, while freedom of types 2 and 3 is freedom of will. In addition, the three are related. Type 3 acts (“self-forming acts” or SFAs, as I call them) are also free in sense 2 (they are ultimately responsible acts of free will, albeit of a special kind). And acts of types 2 and 3 (acts of free will) are also free acts of type 1 (they must be voluntary, uncoerced, non-compelled, etc.). So freedom of will (of types 2 and 3) is a kind of freedom of action (of type 1), albeit a special kind. I also think free acts of all three kinds are common in everyday life (including type 3 SFAs). That is why I reject the term “restrictivism” for my view. The term “restrictivism” was first used by Fischer to describe a view put forward by van Inwagen in the late 1980s according to which only acts of type 3 were really “free” acts, though determined acts of type 2 could be morally responsible acts. I was the commentator on an earlier version of van Inwagen’s 1989 paper “When is the Will Free?” delivered at an APA meeting. At that session, I agreed with van Inwagen that a distinction between (what are here called) type 2 and type 3 acts was important for understanding libertarian free will. But I objected, first, that acts of type 2 could also be called libertarian “free” acts (acts of free will) as well as responsible acts and, second, that type three 3 acts were far more common in everyday life than his paper implied."
As Neil says, if free will is so important, why aren't there more books on it? The latest book on Free Will is just out from MIT Press. The title reinforces Manuel's observation and many of the comments here - "Free Will is an Open Scientific Question," by Mark Balaguer. Gardeners had a chance last spring to review an advance copy of chapter 2, posted by Neil Levy himself. But the meat of the book is in chapter 3, Mark's reworking of his Noûs article, where he describes his variations on Robert Kane's idea of a "torn decision." On my Information Philosopher website, gardeners can find summaries of the free will positions of over 100 philosophers, a third or so of them still alive. There is also an extensive history of the free will problem and a special page on free will in antiquity, so you can find how the arguments went in most of the last 25 centuries. The oldest arguments are still some of the best! I bought a copy of Mark's book for the I-Phi library and will submit a review to the Garden shortly.
Hi Kevin, One way to consider the Existence Question is to examine the Standard Argument against the Existence of Free Will. Either determinism is true or indeterminism is true. These exhaust the logical possibilities according to J. J. C. ("Jack") Smart. If determinism is true, we are not free. If indeterminism is true, our actions are random and our will lacks the control to be morally responsible. This is the standard argument against free will. How might we get around it? Traditional views have argued for a tertium quid, something that is neither chance (indeterminism) nor necessity (determinism). These are the agent-causal libertarians, some advocating a dualist non-physical substance, others that it is a mysterious gift of God, others that no cause at all is involved. We are simply free. Or, since William James in 1884, several philosophers and scientists have argued for an artful combination of chance and necessity. Those describing a "two-stage model of free will include Henri Poincaré, Arthur Holly Compton, Karl Popper, Daniel Dennett, Henry Margenau, Robert Kane, Alfred Mele, myself, and most recently Martin Heisenberg, son of Werner Heisenberg. I have written individual web pages with critical analysis of the work of each of these thinkers on Information Philosopher If we can regard a combination of indeterminism and determinism as the tertium quid, we can define a new "conservative libertarianism" view. Event-causal or "causal indeterminist" libertarians (Kane, Ekstrom, Balaguer, van Inwagen) should be called "radical libertarians" because they insist that chance is involved directly in the decision, which makes no sense except for "liberty of indifference" situations. Conservative libertarians limit chance to the generation of alternative possibilities for deliberation and evaluation. This is the "free" stage of free will. At this moment I am the only conservative libertarian - since Al Mele, who calls the two-stage model "modest libertarianism," is agnostic and Dennett, who calls it "Valerian," is a compatibilist. Since indeterminism is true (because of quantum indeterminacy), there is no strict causal determinism in the universe. So the second "will" stage in conservative libertarianism is an act of "determination." I think this model, which provides all the determination of the will that compatibilist philosophers really want and need, may prove acceptable to many thinkers. Just because our will is "determined" by our motives and reasons, our character and values, and our feelings and desires, that in no way implies or entails that it is predetermined by a causal chain going back to the beginning of the universe, as van Inwagen's Consequence Argument would have it. (Philippa Foot first pointed out this obvious fact in an article called "Free Will as Involving Determinism, Philosophical Review, vol LXVI, (1957), p.439) The famous article by R. E. Hobart in Mind 1934 with a similar title also advocated "determination," not determinism. To sum up, in Conservative (or "Adequate" or "Valerian" or "Modest") Libertarianism the will itself is not "free" in the sense of random, because it is "adequately" determined in selecting an action from the alternative possibilities generated in part by chance. But we are free from predetermination and forknowledge. Our thoughts come to us freely. Our actions come from us with determination.
Thanks for the kind words, Kip. The links in the post will take you to many more I-Phi resources - the thoughts on free will of over 125 philosophers and a few dozen scientists here, plus over 50 core concepts useful to understand the free will problem here, and a glossary of terms here. By the way, my guesses on the originators... The First Determinist was Democritus. The First Indeterminist and Incompatibilist was Aristotle. The First Agent-Causal Libertarian was Aristotle, followed by Epicurus, then Carneades. The First Event-Causal Libertarian was Epicurus, according to the untrustworthy accounts of the Epicurean Lucretius and the anti-Epicurean Sceptic Cicero. The First Compatibilist was Chrysippus. What do other Gardeners think?
Brian, You say " But QM puts a definite probability on those possible outcomes. Thus, if QM is true, and if free choices map to or control possible outcomes in the physical universe, then they too must be probabilistic. " In my model, the contribution of QM is to add the random generation of alternative possibilities for thought and action. As Mike says, they allow more than the one possible future of determinism. Despite the Kane and van Inwagen pictures of such mappings, (in van Inwagen's "Free wIll Still A Mystery,' for example) random possibilities do not "map to and control possible outcomes" of our actions. See Chance is Not a Direct Cause. In two-stage models an adequately determined will (one compatiblists could be happy with) then evaluates the possibilities and chooses the one most consistent with character and values, feelings and desires. See Two-Stage Models A mind manipulator who merely added absurd options could not expect an agent to go against her current established values. It would have to alter the character - and thus make her a different agent?
Mike, Glad you like the resources on philosophers and issues on my website. I hope to defend my physicalism against the need for any form of dualism or metaphysicalism. But I should perhaps call it biophysicalism and a naturalism. Your insight is correct that my model is similar to the role of random mutation, followed by selection, in evolutionary theory. Evolution is perfectly able to evolve creatures with free will that form their own characters and acquire moral responsibility as they mature. But evolution and my model both need chance to break the chain of strict causal determinism - and to provide new creative possibilities. Despite Sofia's concern, programmed robots are nowhere close to naturally evolved intelligences. Mental processes are not "mechanical selection processes." But they are simply biological processes that evaluate options based on their (self-formed) character and values, feelings and desires - a process that I think very well fits the requirements for Aristotle's and Epicurus' "up to us" (ἐφ’ ἡμίν). Aristotle Epicurus My Cogito Model
Mike, Two more things. You said: "In order to be free, an agent must understand what its options are, which presupposes cognitive development. So human beings may be undetermined at birth, but they are not free at birth." I disagree. To be "free" from determinism, which is the traditional goal, does not require reason. I call that the rational fallacy. Even primitive animals are "free" from strict causal physical determinism. What cognitive development gives us is moral responsibility. You also said: "Since you accept causa sui, why not just go ahead and accept agent causation?" The reason is because my model is purely physicalist and the "agent causation" that philosophers have sought since at least Carneades is metaphysical.
Sofia, You said "If indeterminism just meant that some thoughts first pop up at random my head, but from those I reason according to the "program" which is there in my genes and past environmental influences, I'd still just be a big biological robot and no real agent (according to Kane and similar philosophers)." I believe Kane and other "extreme" libertarians are simply mistaken. But from the compatibilists' perspective, the two-stage model still has adequate determinism for evaluations, deliberations, and decisions - plus genuine alternative possibilities. There is something new in my account. It is the specific way that quantum randomness enters the brain, so as not to hurt with the idea of responsibility (not moral, just accountability - "up to us.") To see how Kane and van Inwagen make any randomness a direct cause of action, see the fine van Inwagen vs. van Inwagen piece mentioned by Mike Robertson. Mike, I have discussed the same questions you raise about van Inwagen here: His randomness shows up in the 1000 "instant replays" idea. Van Inwagen's results after 1000 experiments are approximately 500 times when Alice lies and 500 times when Alice tells the truth. Robert Kane is well aware of the problem that chance reduces moral responsibility, especially in his sense of Ultimate Responsibility (UR). In order to keep some randomness but add rationality, Kane says perhaps only some small percentage of decisions will be random, thus breaking the deterministic causal chain, but keeping most decisions predictable. Laura Ekstrom and others follow Kane with some indeterminism in the decision. Let’s say randomness enters Kane’s decisions only ten percent of the time. The other ninety percent of the time, determinism is at work. In those cases, presumably Alice tells the truth. Then Alice’s 500 random lies in van Inwagen’s first example would become only 50. But this in no way explains moral responsibility for those few cases. Compare the Information Philosophy Cogito model, which agrees with compatibilism/determinism except in cases where something genuinely new and valuable emerges as a consequence of randomness. In our two-stage model, we have first “free” – random possibilities, then “will” – adequately determined evaluation of options and selection of the "best" option. Following van Inwagen, Alice’s random generation of alternative possibilities may include 50 percent of options that are truth-telling, and 50 percent lies. Alice’s adequately determined will evaluates these possibilities based on her character, values, and current desires. In the Cogito model, she will act in character and almost certainly tell the truth. So my model predicts almost the same outcome as a compatibilist/determinist model. The Cogito model is not identical, however, since it can generate new alternatives. It is possible that among the genuinely new alternative possibilities generated, there will be some that determinism could not have produced. It may be that Alice will find one of these options consistent with her character, values, desires, and the current situation she is in. One might include a pragmatic lie, to stay with van Inwagen’s example. In a more positive example, it may include a creative new idea that information-preserving determinism could not produce. Alice’s thinking might bring new information into the universe. And she can legitimately accept praise (or blame) for that new action or thought that originates with her. To summarize the results: ------------------------ Van Inwagen/Kane/Cogito/Compatiblism Alice tells truth------- 500 / 950 / 1000* / 1000 Alice lies-------------- 500 / 50 / 0* / 0 * (Alice tells the truth unless a good reason emerges from her free deliberations in the Cogito Model, in which case, to stay with van Inwagen's actions, she might tell a pragmatic lie.) We should also note the Moral Luck criticism of actions that have a random component in their source. Alfred Mele would perhaps object that the alternative possibilities depend on luck, and that this compromises moral responsibility. As Sofia says, thoughts do just "pop up at random." On the Cogito Model view, Mele is right with respect to moral responsibility. But Mele is wrong that luck compromises free will, since chance has always been at the heart of the "freedom" issue to break causal chains of determinism. The simplistic standard argument against free will has always denied any place for chance. Free will and creativity may very well depend on fortuitous circumstances, having the new idea "coming to mind" at the right time, as Mele says. In my solution, new ideas do not depend on chance "at the right time." Quantum noise generates ideas continuously. The universe we live in includes chance, and therefore luck, including moral luck, is very real, but it is not a valid objection to our libertarian free will model (or Mele's "modest libertarianism"). It is of course a problem for moral responsibility. But then I am trying to keep those two issues separate.
Hi Sofia, It is indeed a substantive theory of "free will." A dozen philosophers and scientists have proposed such a two-stage solution since William James in 1884, including Al Mele. I review them all here: models But this model also separates the "free" part - generating alternative possibilities, from the "will" - the adequate determination of our reasons-responsive decisions based on our character and values, feelings and desires, etc. Randomness or chance is negligible in the will part. The idea of separating "free" from "will" goes back to John Locke. Locke liked the idea of Freedom and Liberty but was disturbed by the debates about "free will". He thought it was inappropriate to describe the Will itself as Free. The Will is a Determination. It is the Man who is Free. "I think the question is not proper, whether the will be free, but whether a man be free." "This way of talking, nevertheless, has prevailed, and, as I guess, produced great confusion." (Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book II, Chapter XXI, Of Power ) As you say, this determination of the will should satisfy compatibilists. And the newly generated (non-pre-determined) options for action should make the libertarians happy, as both Mele and Dan Dennett suggest. As Philippa Foot said in her article "Free Will As Involving Determinism," the determination of our actions by the results of our careful deliberation in no way assumes determinism all the way back to the universe origin that some strict determinists look for.
Hi Neil, I cannot see the incompatibilism you find in Parfit, unless it is that suffering is incompatible with determinism? He seems to reject consequentialism, that it can be "fitting" for wrongdoers to suffer. Because he finds that all our actions are merely events in Kant's phenomenal time (like Jack Smart's block universe), he concludes we are never even justified in wishing ill for evil-doers, merely that we should cease to like them. And although it might make them feel bad if we have nothing more to do with them, he does not think such "moral dispraise" makes them suffer. Unless I am misreading him somehow? Parfit says: According to the argument we are now discussing: (J) If our acts were merely events in time, we could never deserve to suffer. (R) We can deserve to suffer. Therefore (S) Our acts are not merely events in time. We ought, I have claimed, to reject this argument’s conclusion. Our acts are merely events in time. Since this argument is valid, and we ought to reject its conclusion, we must reject one of its premises. Some people would reject (J). There are people who believe that, though our wrong acts are merely events in time, and causally inevitable, we could deserve to suffer in Hell. On such a view, to deserve to suffer, we don’t have to be free, or to be in any way responsible for being as we are. Rather than rejecting (J), we ought, I believe, to reject (R). Kant rightly claims that (J) if our acts were merely events in time, we could not deserve to suffer. We can add (T) Our acts are merely events in time. Therefore (U) We cannot deserve to suffer. Kant, I have said, came close to seeing the truth of (U). Kant believed that (V) we could not deserve to suffer if our acts were all causally inevitable, or were subject to blind chance, and we were not responsible for our own character. These things would be true, Kant believed, if our acts were merely events in time. If Kant had lost his belief in our noumenal freedom, and come to believe that our acts are merely events in time, he might have continued to believe (V), and drawn the conclusion that we cannot deserve to suffer. But he might instead have ceased to believe (V), concluding that we can deserve to suffer even if our acts are causally inevitable or subject to blind chance, and we are not responsible for our own character. I can merely hope that Kant would have continued to believe (V), and would have therefore concluded that we cannot deserve to suffer. We can deserve many things, such as gratitude, praise, and the kind of blame that is merely moral dispraise. But no one could ever deserve to suffer. When people treat us or others wrongly, we can justifiably be indignant. And we can have reasons to want these people to understand the wrongness of their acts, even though that would make them feel very badly about what they have done. But these reasons are like our reasons to want people to grieve when those whom they love die. We cannot justifiably have ill will towards these wrong-doers, wishing things to go badly for them. Nor can we justifiably cease to have good will towards them, by ceasing to wish things to go well for them. We could at most be justified in ceasing to like these people, and trying, in morally acceptable ways, to have nothing to do with them."
Brian, If I have not a shred of my own character left and my "adequately determined" will is selecting from among possibilities for action generated from "the same feelings, emotions, sensitivities, motivations, desires, beliefs and so on that were present in his mind at the time of the choice," I think you are very close to getting me to act like Madoff - and being responsible for my Madoff decisions. May I ask if you have replaced all my memories and experiences? If not, since my Cogito Model for the generation of alternative possibilities uses random combinations and variations on my past experiences, it is possible that I/Madoff will come up with alternatives that Madoff might never have produced. This does not guarantee that the new me/Madoff will choose any of these possibilities, given that I assume my character and values have all changed. So I need to know whether you have replaced all my memories and past experiences, and have you programmed in the new habits and preferences (the "fixation of beliefs" as Charles Sanders Peirce calls it, the "self-forming actions" of Bob Kane, etc.) that are consistent with the past me. If these are all changed, that is what I meant by changing me into (reducing me to) not the physical Madoff now in jail, but shall we say a Madoff clone? Anyway, the shred of character I referred to would be the character and values (beliefs), the habits and preferences that have developed from my past experiences. If all of these are gone, I think I must grant your manipulation is complete. Please see my Cogito Model of free will to understand how free generation of alternative possibilities does not reduce our agential control and responsibility that is the result of evaluation and selection from those partially random options. Cogito Model
George, Your short statement "The universe is either completely deterministic or completely indeterministic" is a succinct version of the simple and logical Standard Argument Against Free Will. Your view is shared by dozens of philosophers, as I showed in my original post above. But it is flawed because it assumes that even a little indeterminism would utterly destroy causality, reason, etc. And I am afraid your idea about the current state of physics is wrong (again a notion held by a sadly large number of philosophers). In the end, Bohm himself did not hold that his interpretation (developed because Einstein, Schrödinger, and other determinists asked him to work it out) was an improvement on standard quantum mechanics or even a testable hypothesis. "Hidden variables" just held out the dream of a deterministic world with no real chance that had been the hopeful idea of thinkers from the 18th and 19th centuries, especially the mathematicians like Abraham de Moivre and Pierre-Simon Laplace.
Mark and Tim, Can't we maybe say that Luther and Calvin were indeed Free Will skeptics, but Moral Responsibility advocates, as in John Fischer's Semicompatibilism and Randolph Clarke's Narrow Incompatiblism? I have argued that a clear conceptual analysis of the terms of the FW and MR debates would separate FW from MR. I propose we first separate "free" from "will." I would then go even farther and separate "moral" from "responsibility." I think FW gives us an everyday "responsibility" in the sense of accountability ("I did that") that may or may not be moral. Unlike Immanuel Kant, Bob Kane, and maybe even Aristotle, I don't hold that our free choices have to be moral choices and that we are slaves to ignorance ("virtue is knowledge") or our emotions and thus not free when we are immoral. What do you think? I have written about this conceptual analysis here:
Hi Brian, As long as the impossibility of your thought experiment does not prevent you from producing exactly the same circumstances, why not assume you have the power to turn me into Madoff (or a Madoff clone)? If I am not exactly Madoff, have you left even a shred of my character and values, habits and preferences, my current feelings and desires? If not, have you then not reduced me to Madoff? Assuming you leave even a tiny difference, I think I can show you how your 1,000,000 replays (a variation of Peter van Inwagen's Mind argument in his 2000 article "Free Will Still a Mystery") can be resisted. Your random outcomes (and van Inwagen's) are based on the radical and mistaken Libertarian view held by Bob Kane, Laura Ekstrom, Mark Balaguer, and others that there is random indeterminism directly in our decision. Randy Clarke calls this freedom in the decision "centered" and "directly free" in his Libertarian Accounts of Free Will My more "modest" libertarianism, like Dennett and Mele, uses indeterminism only in the generation of alternative possibilities. If I had that shred of character left, I would never do what Madoff did - certainly not for random reasons. And if I did, as you see I would not be responsible. Additionally, my free generator of ideas might come up with something creative and new whatever my prior life experience, so there is even hope for a real Madoff (too late now?). Your whole scenario is another example of the flawed Randomness Objection in the Standard Argument Against Free Will.
Hi Tim, I agree that all the ancients were trying to defend our agency. Some philosophers then and now misuse the ancients "straw" arguments against free will. Even Democritus and Leucippus, inventors of physical and logical determinism, were trying to liberate humans from the irrational gods. And Epicurus and his best student, Lucretius, were trying to defend our agency against the new determinism. Chrysippus too was very measured. He denied logical necessity - again to increase our agency - but retained fate out of Stoic respect for the rules laid down by God/Nature. So who can we point Kevin to as the earliest free will skeptics? Perhaps Augustine, who as you say was discussing our modern notion of free will? Augustine maintained that God's foreknowledge was compatible with human freedom, an illogical position still held today by many theologians. His more sensible contemporary, the British monk Pelagius (Morgan) held, with Cicero, that human freedom prohibited divine foreknowledge. The success of Augustine's ideas led the church to judge Pelagius a heretic. The Scholastics were medieval theologians who tried to use Reason to establish the Truth of Religion. Because they used Reason, instead of accepting traditional views based on faith and scripture alone, they were called moderns. Thomas Aquinas maintained that man was free but also held there was a divine necessity in God's omniscience, that God himself was ruled by laws of Reason. John Dun Scotus took the opposite view, that God's own freedom demanded that God's actions not be necessitated, even by Reason. Both argued that human freedom was compatible with divine foreknowledge, using sophisticated arguments originally proposed by Augustine, that God's knowing was outside of time, arguments used again later in the Renaissance and by Immanuel Kant in the Enlightenment. I like to see Dun Scotus as showing that God can not be simultaneously omniscient and omnipotent. Great Jewish thinkers like Maimonides in his Guide for the Perplexed and Chapters on Ethics argued for human freedom, especially against the idea of omniscience in the Christian God, though in his more popular commentaries he embraced a natural law and divine foreknowledge that controlled much human action. Islamic thinkers hotly debated God's will, with the Sunni generally determinist and the Shia inclined toward freedom. Asian religions like Buddhism, which do not have the paradox of an omniscient God, embrace human freedom in Karma, which includes a person's character and values that tend to shape one's behavior, but can always be changed by acts of will. Renaissance thinkers like Pico della Mirandola and Giordano Bruno questioned the teachings of the church and asserted a perfectibility of man that required the freedom to improve as well as to fail. Lorenzo Valla and Pietro Pomponazzi followed the Scholastics and argued that God's foreknowledge of human actions was outside of time. The Dutch humanist Erasmus and protestant reformer Martin Luther exchanged diatribes on free will. Luther's essay was frankly called "The Bondage of the Will." Shall we argue that Luther and the Calvinist protestants were the real original FW skeptics that Kevin is looking for? Or shall we jump a century later and give Hobbes the credit? He went back to a necessitarian position more determinist than the first compatibilist, Chrysippus. "That which I say necessitates and determinates every action is the sum of all those things which, being now existent, conduce and concur to the production of the action hereafter, whereof if any one one thing were wanting, the effect could not be produced. This concourse of causes, whereof every one is determined to be such as it is by a like concourse of former causes, may well be called the decree of God." (Of Liberty and Necessity, 1654, § 11) For Hobbes, the idea that one could ever do otherwise was a contradiction and nonsense. "I hold that ordinary definition of a free agent, namely that a free agent is that which, when all things are present which are needful to produce the effect, can nevertheless not produce it, implies a contradiction and is nonsense; being as much as to say the cause may be sufficient, that is necessary, and yet the effect shall not follow." (§ 32)
Paul, Your statement that "most compatibilists see a mild level of indeterminism as no problem" is most encouraging. Are there other compatibilist Gardeners out there who agree with Paul? If so, we may be able to reach a consensus on what we might call a modern "reconciling project" - following Hume's compatibilist goal in the Enquiry concerning Human Understanding, Section VIII, "Of Liberty and Necessity," p.95 (Selby-Bigge: "to proceed in this reconciling project with regard to the question of liberty and necessity; the most contentious question of metaphysics, the most contentious science; it will not require many words to prove, that all mankind have ever agreed in the doctrine of liberty as well as in that of necessity, and that the whole dispute, in this respect also, has been hitherto merely verbal." In my study of the history of reconciliation attempts, I think Dan Dennett and Al Mele both got it right when they "gave Libertarians what they want" and I would add, what they need. But Dan and Al could not see how "a quantum event in the brain" could be so perfectly timed and located and be amplified (perhaps by deterministic chaos) to be helpful with a decision. As Jack Smart put it recently: "Indeterminism does not confer freedom on us: I would feel that my freedom was impaired if I thought that a quantum mechanical trigger in my brain might cause me to leap into the garden and eat a slug." (Atheism and Theism, 2003, p.63) The Cogito Model provides the explanation - not single quantum events amplified by chaos, but billions of quantum events throughout the brain that show up as noise in information storage and retrieval. Please see the Cogito Model. I am hopeful that the Cogito Model, which builds on ten earlier two-stage models including Dennett's and Mele's, is something that Libertarians following Kane can also accept as a reconciling of "free" and "will." Two-Stage Models of Free Will The concept "will" has always been more or less clear. The concept "free" is complex and difficult. Hume wanted only enough liberty to not be constrained by external coercion, but today we need to include the imagined logical-physical-causal chain of PvI's Consequence argument, which in my opinion is just the determinist horn in the standard argument against free will with some extra logical window dressing. Hume made it abundantly clear that the liberty we need is not the libertine chance that would destroy all responsibility. "For what is meant by liberty, when applied to voluntary actions? We cannot surely mean that actions have so little connexion with motives, inclinations, and circumstances, that one does not follow with a certain degree of uniformity from the other, and that one affords no inference by which we can conclude the existence of the other. For these are plain and acknowledged matters of fact. By liberty, then, we can only mean a power of acting or not acting, according to the determinations of the will;" (p.95) The Cogito Model attempts to reconcile those two views of liberty (chance vs. spontaneity) and the conflicting views of Determinists and Libertarians. The Cogito Model goes beyond the standard compatibilism because it is doubly compatible. It is compatible with the adequate determinism we have in the real world. It is also compatible with an indeterminism that is limited to help and not harm as you put it nicely Paul - "chance is OK, maybe even good, in formulating options, but it's bad in evaluating options (unless neither option is better, in which case chance is still OK).
Hi Tim, I agree that the free will problem is already clear in Cicero's De Fato. I find it also in De Natura Deorum. Cicero defended human freedom against the determinism of the Stoics and Democritus (perhaps also the little-known Leucippus?). He also attacked the randomness implicit in the Epicurean swerve of the atoms. He put the attack into the mouth of his Academic philosopher Cotta, criticizing the Epicurean Velleius, in Book I, section XXV, paragraphs 69 and 70 of De Natura Deorum. (69) XXV. "This is a very common practice with your school. You advance a paradox, and then, when you want to escape censure, you adduce in support of it some absolute impossibility; so that you would have done better to abandon the point in dispute rather than to offer so shameless a defence. For instance, Epicurus saw that if the atoms travelled downwards by their own weight; we should have no freedom of the will, since the motion of the atoms would be determined by necessity. He therefore invented a device to escape from determinism (the point had apparently escaped the notice of Democritus): he said that the atom while travelling vertically downward by the force of gravity makes a very slight swerve to one side. (70) This defence discredits him more than if he had had to abandon his original position. (Loeb Classical Library translation, v.40, p.67) The Loeb translation as "freedom of the will" is a bit loose (nihil fore in nostra potestate). This appears to be the first appearance of the standard argument against free will that I reviewed in my recent post to the Garden. Notice that it already appears in the form of a logical proposition like Jack Smart in 1961. One or the other of determinism or randomness must be true. As to Susanne Bobzien's claim of a later date, I think her analysis of Chrysippus is terrific. But she may be biased toward her favorite centuries? I have written her work up here: Her analysis in the Phronesis article and in her book is as good as the best modern debates on free will. She identified several variations on the theme of human freedom that were important in antiquity. Three of them are indeterminist freedoms, by which she means the decision is partly or wholly a matter of chance, and does not involve the character and values of the agent: 1) freedom to do otherwise: I am free to do otherwise if, being the same agent, with the same desires and beliefs, and being in the same circumstances, it is possible for me to do or not to do something in the sense that it is not fully causally determined whether or not I do it. 2) freedom of decision: a subtype of freedom to do otherwise. I am free in my decision, if being the same agent, with the same desires and beliefs, and being in the same circumstances, it is possible for me to decide between altemative courses of action in the sense that it is not fully causally determined which way I decide. 1) differs from 2) in that it leaves it undecided in which way it is possible for the agent to do or not to do something. 3) freedom of the will: a subtype of freedom of decision. I act from free will, if I am in the possession of a will, i.e. a specific part or faculty of the soul by means of which I can decide between alternative courses of actions independently of my desires and beliefs, in the sense that it is not fully causally determined in which way I decide. 2) differs from 3) in that the latter postulates a specific causally independent faculty or part of the soul which functions as a "decision making faculty." (Phronesis, p.133) One is what she calls "un-predeterminist" freedom: 4) un-predeterminist freedom: I have un-predeterminist freedom of action/choice if there are no causes prior to my action/choice which determine whether or not I perform/choose a certain course of action, but in the same circumstances, if I have the same desires and beliefs, I would always do/choose the same thing. Un-predeterminist freedom guarantees the agents' autonomy in the sense that nothing except the agents themselves is causally responsible for whether they act, or for which way they decide. Un-predeterminist freedom requires a theory of causation that is not (just) a theory of event-causation (i.e. a theory which considers both causes and effects as events). For instance, un-predeterminist freedom would work with a concept of causality which considers things or objects (material or immaterial) as causes, and events, movements or changes as effects. Such a conception of causation is common in antiquity. (Phronesis, p.133) In Bobzien's "un-predeterminist" freedom, there is nothing that causally determines the agent's action, but the agent will always make the same decision in exactly the same circumstances, because the decision is completely consistent with the agent's desires and beliefs (and character and values). This is very close to my Cogito Model, except that exactly the same circumstances are impossible, and prior deliberations can generate alternative possibilities up to the 'moment of decision.' Finally, Bobzien lists three compatibilist freedoms, negative "freedoms from" rather than positive "freedoms to..." 5) freedom from force and compulsion: I am free in my actions/choices in this sense, if I am not externally or internally forced or compelled when I act/choose. This does not preclude that my actions/choices may be fully causally determined by extemal and internal factors. 6) freedom from determination by external causal factors: agents are free from external causal factors in their actions/choices if the same external situation or circumstances will not necessarily always elicit the same (re-)action or choice of different agents, or of the same agent but with different desires or beliefs. 7) freedom from determination by (external and) certain internal causal factors: I am in my actions/choices free from certain intemal factors (e.g. my desires), if having the same such internal factors will not necessarily always elicit in me the same action/choice. (Determinism and Freedom in Stoic Philosophy, p.278) Finally, as to Alexander of Aphrodisias, the most famous commentator on Aristotle (he wrote 500 years after Aristotle's death, at a time when Aristotle and Plato were rather forgotten minor philosophers in the age of Stoics, Epicureans, and Skeptics). I believe that Alexander defended a view of moral responsibility we would call libertarianism today. Greek philosophy had no precise term for "free will" as did Latin (liberum arbitrium or libera voluntas). The discussion was in terms of responsibility, what "depends on us" (in Greek ἐφ ἡμῖν). Alexander believed that Aristotle was not a strict determinist like the Stoics, and Alexander himself argued that some events do not have predetermined causes. In particular, man is responsible for self-caused decisions, and can choose to do or not to do something. Alexander also denied the foreknowledge of events that was part of the Stoic identification of God and Nature. For more, please check out my History of the Free Will Problem
Hi Justin, You are quite right that Leucippus' statement, being determinist, is consistent with calling him compatibilist. But that would be an anachronism. The first compatibilist was Chryssipus (280-207). Chryssipus' compatibilism was a rejection of the free will proposed by Aristotle and Epicurus, which depended on chance. It's ironic, perhaps, that Leucippus and Epicurus both proposed ideas to give humans more responsibility for their actions. Leucuppipus wanted humans to be determined by causal law and logical necessity - in order to liberate them from the arbitrary interventions of the gods. Epicurus wanted a "swerve" of the atoms occasionally to free man from Leucuppus' (and Democritus') determinism. Parenthetically, we now know that atoms do not occasionally swerve, they move unpredictably whenever they are in close contact with other atoms. Everything in the material universe is made of atoms in unstoppable perpetual motion. Deterministic paths are only the case for very large objects, where the statistical laws of atomic physics average to become nearly certain dynamical laws for billiard balls and planets. So Epicurus' intuition of a fundamental microscopic randomness was correct and an amazing anticipation of modern physics. We know Epicurus' work largely from the Roman Lucretius and his friend Cicero. Lucretius saw the randomness as enabling free will, even if he could not explain how. "If all motion is always one long chain, and new motion arises out of the old in order invariable, and if first-beginnings do not make by swerving a beginning of motion so as to break the decrees of fate, whence comes this free will?" Cicero unequivocally denies fate, strict causal determinism, and God's foreknowledge. "If there is free will, all things do not happen according to fate; if all things do not happen according to fate, there is not a certain order of causes; and if there is not a certain order of causes, neither is there a certain order of things foreknown by God." It was the Stoic school of philosophy that solidified the idea of natural laws controlling all things, including the mind. Their influence persists to this day, in philosophy and religion. Most of the extensive Stoic writings are lost, probably because their doctrine of fate, which identified God with Nature, was considered anathema to the Christian church. The church agreed that the laws of God were the laws of Nature, but that God and Nature were two different entities. In either case strict determinism follows by universal Reason (logos) from an omnipotent God. Stoic virtue called for men to resist futile passions like anger and envy. The fine Stoic morality that all men (including slaves and women) were equal children of God coincided with (or was adopted by) the church. Stoic logic and physics freed those fields from ancient superstitions, but strengthened the dogmas of determinism that dominate modern science and philosophy, especially when they explicitly denied Aristotle's chance as a cause. The major founder of Stoicism, Chrysippus, took the edge off strict logical (necessitated) determinism. Like Democritus, Aristotle, and Epicurus before him, he wanted to strengthen the argument for moral responsibility, in particular defending it from Aristotle's and Epicurus's indeterminate chance causes. Whereas the past is unchangeable, Chrysippus argued that some future events that are possible do not occur by necessity from past external factors alone, but might depend on us. We have a choice to assent or not to assent to an action. Chrysippus said our actions are determined (in part by ourselves as causes) and fated (because of God's foreknowledge), but he also said correctly that they are not necessitated. Chrysippus can be seen today as a compatibilist, as was the Stoic Epictetus.
Eddy, Nietzsche is both an enemy of free will (which he sees as a scheme for justifying punishment) and a strong supporter of our (especially his) free creative powers. I have quotes from Nietzsche supporting both views on his web page at Information Philosopher. Since you also mention Spinoza, you might like this quote from Nietzsche when he first read Spinoza (from his Letter to Overbeck, 1881) "I am utterly amazed, utterly enchanted. I have a precursor, and what a precursor! I hardly knew Spinoza: that I should have turned to him just now, was inspired by "instinct." Not only is his over-all tendency like mine — making knowledge the most powerful affect — but in five main points of his doctrine I recognize myself; this most unusual and loneliest thinker is closest to me precisely in these matters: he denies the freedom of the will, teleology, the moral world order, the unegoistic, and evil. Even though the divergencies are admittedly tremendous, they are due more to the difference in time, culture, and science. In summa: my lonesomeness, which, as on very high mountains, often made it hard for me to breathe and made my blood rush out, is now at least a twosomeness. Strange.
Hi Kevin, It's a bit long, but you might want to run through my web page on the History of the Free Will Problem. Here is the part of the page where determinism and indeterminism originate: The materialist philosophers Democritus and Leucippus, again with extraordinary prescience, claimed that all things, including humans, were made of atoms in a void, with individual atomic motions strictly controlled by causal laws. Democritus wanted to wrest control of man's fate from arbitrary gods and make us more responsible for our actions. But ironically, he and Leucippus originated two of the great dogmas of determinism, physical determinism and logical necessity, which lead directly to the modern problem of free will and determinism. Leucippus stated the first dogma, an absolute necessity which left no room in the cosmos for chance. "Nothing occurs at random, but everything for a reason and by necessity." (οὐδὲν χρῆμα μάτηω γίνεται, ἀλλὰ πάντα ἐκ λόγου τε καὶ ὑπ’ ἀνάγκης) The consequence is a world with but one possible future, completely determined by its past. Some even argued for a great cycle of events (an idea borrowed from Middle Eastern sources) repeating themselves over thousands of years. The Pythagoreans, Socrates, and Plato attempted to reconcile an element of human freedom with material determinism and causal law, in order to hold man responsible for his actions. The first major philosopher to argue convincingly for some indeterminism was probably Aristotle. First he described a causal chain back to a prime mover or first cause, and he elaborated the four possible causes (material, efficient, formal, and final). Then, in his Physics and Metaphysics, Aristotle also said there were "accidents" caused by "chance (τυχή)." 2 In his Physics, he clearly reckoned chance among the causes. Aristotle might have added chance as a fifth cause - an uncaused or self-caused cause - one he thought happens when two causal chains come together by accident (συμβεβεκός). He noted that the early physicists had found no place for chance among the causes. Aristotle opposed his accidental chance to necessity: Nor is there any definite cause for an accident, but only chance (τυχόν), namely an indefinite (ἀόριστον) cause. (Metaphysics, Book V, 1025a25)2a It is obvious that there are principles and causes which are generable and destructible apart from the actual processes of generation and destruction; for if this is not true, everything will be of necessity: that is, if there must necessarily be some cause, other than accidental, of that which is generated and destroyed. Will this be, or not? Yes, if this happens; otherwise not. (Metaphysics, Book VI, 1027a29) For Aristotle, a break in the causal chain allowed us to feel our actions "depend on us" (ἐφ' ἡμῖν). He knew that many of our decisions are quite predictable based on habit and character, but they are no less free nor we less responsible if our character itself and predictable habits were developed freely in the past and are changeable in the future. This is the view of some Eastern philosophies and religions. Our Karma (etymologically one's character) has been determined by past actions (even from past lives), and strongly influences our current actions, but we are free to improve our Karma by good actions. One generation after Aristotle, Epicurus argued that as atoms moved through the void, there were occasions when they would "swerve" from their otherwise determined paths, thus initiating new causal chains. Epicurus argued that these swerves would allow us to be responsible for our actions, something impossible if every action was deterministically caused.
Eddy, I very much agree with you that there will never be a "brain scanner" that can predict what we will do ahead of time. The deep reason is that even we do not know what we are going to do. That depends on (among other things like random external circumstances) the ideas that we creatively generate during our deliberations. Does that sound right to you? Can you agree that any of the random events above might have happened in your causal chain, with no significant effect on your current decisions?
Mark, I'm not sure I follow how chaos breaks logical determinism, but I agree that there is an algorithmic (computer logic?) problem that you identify. In any case, as a physicist I should back off to breaking the physical deterministic chain. Can you accept any of my seven suggested breaks?