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On the definition of free will!


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#1 Doctordick

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Posted 26 September 2009 - 10:22 PM

I have a question to ask all you brilliant thinkers: does the fact that my car automatically opens the throttle of the carburetor whenever it is close to stalling imply my auto engine has free will? That question is much deeper than most of you will comprehend.

Have fun -- Dick

PS I have had a little liqueur so I beg your indulgence.

#2 Turtle

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Posted 27 September 2009 - 12:13 AM

:doh: always happy to be the first to respond to one of your challenging insights Doc. :D i'm not drunk but i wish i were and will reply as if i were.

Q: does the fact that my car automatically opens the throttle of the carburetor whenever it is close to stalling imply my auto engine has free will?

A: no; it only implies that the carburetor has free will. :eek: :clue:

#3 Jway

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Posted 27 September 2009 - 12:49 AM

Turtle, your use of emoticons is very good IMO.

DD - I zoomed right on in the word "automatically" in inquiry you raised. With that in mind, I would say it does imply the engine is demonstrating free will.

If - the car does NOT automatically open the throttle of the carburetor whenever it is close to stalling - then this too would be demonstration of free will.

And IMO, this response is much deeper than most of will comprehend.

#4 lawcat

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Posted 27 September 2009 - 01:42 AM

Proceed with abundance of caution. Throtling valve is operated by the driver, and therefore is not subject to its own free will, but the will of the driver. This is not to say that it does not have free will, but in this situation all we can say is that the valve is not expected to operate under its own free will, even if it had one.

So, I say, whether the throttling valve has free will is irrelevant. The question is whether the valve operates as expected--in accordance with the will of the driver. If it does not, we open the hood and adjust it to do as expected.

I would call this failure a malfunction, or a mechanical error, but not a failure of valve's will to comport with the will of the driver. Nonetheless, DD you are free to view it as a failure of the free will. But if you are to impose your will on this free wheeling entity, proceed with abuundance of caution, because most free will entities do not respond well to duress.

#5 Buffy

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Posted 27 September 2009 - 02:35 PM

I think the example only obfuscates the core question: What *is* the definition of "free will?"

I know that my last car's engine had free will: it worked whenever it felt like it. If that means it had "intent" or even simply a "stochastic optimizing algorithm" I'm not sure whether that qualifies as "free will."

So, define your terms, Doctor.

Correctamundo! A word I've never used before, and hopefully never will again, :turtle:
Buffy

#6 lemit

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Posted 27 September 2009 - 07:01 PM

In the spirit of the "Can robots make ethical decisions?" thread, if an SUV were approaching from behind and your throttle could escape by accelerating, but there are two pedestrians in a crosswalk in front of it who would be killed if it did, what would it do?

Would its decision-making ability be affected if it were using ethanol?

--lemit

#7 DFINITLYDISTRUBD

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Posted 27 September 2009 - 07:56 PM

*name omitted to protect the guilty*-
PS I have had a little liqueur so I beg your indulgence.

Sissy!:fan: If you had managed to slurp up just a bit more before posting you might have found yer answer....sheesh!...gettin all philosophic after only a lil liqueur....personaly I don't git so without much liquor (over-proof rum in my case);)

Your car has a carb?!?! wow! a livin' fossil!!

Automajicly opens ?!?!?

Your car is possessed!!!!:turtle:.....sooooooooo....the demon has freewill and it amuses him to keep your engine running.......for the moment....I recommend an exorcism before he changes his mind:eek:

#8 Doctordick

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Posted 27 September 2009 - 08:20 PM

So, define your terms, Doctor.

As I said, I was somewhat inebriated when I made that post, but you centered in on exactly the issue I was talking about. Exactly how does one define “free will” so that it becomes something which can be logically identified and not just a impression one has.

You know, I really don't understand why you don't comment on my posts more often. I have never seen you make a post which didn't make sense to me.

Nice to hear from you -- Dick

#9 Rade

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Posted 30 September 2009 - 05:13 PM

.....Exactly how does one define “free will” so that it becomes something which can be logically identified and not just a impression one has.....

and the answer is ......:)

#10 jedaisoul

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Posted 01 October 2009 - 05:31 AM

does the fact that my car automatically opens the throttle of the carburetor whenever it is close to stalling imply my auto engine has free will? That question is much deeper than most of you will comprehend.


Perhaps I lack imagination, but I don't see any free will in this. It would seem that your car has an engine management system that prevents stalling. If so, the system neither has nor requires free will. It simply responds to the commands given to it by the the designer(s) of the system (who, presumably, have free will).

Am I missing something?

Is this a question about the ability of systems without free will to appear to exercise free will, due to the nature of their programming? If so, I'm not sure that an automobile engine management system is a good example.

It is an example of entities without self awareness and free will showing awareness of their surroundings, and reacting accordingly? Such entities include plants and computer systems. Even our own autonomic reflexes (e.g. knee jerk) fall into that category. If so, I still don't see the relevance to free will, unless you are suggesting that such responses exhibit free will?

:phones:

#11 REASON

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Posted 01 October 2009 - 10:23 AM

Exactly how does one define “free will” so that it becomes something which can be logically identified and not just a impression one has.


Hi, Doc. I've always felt that the key element inherent in free will is *choice*. The ability to choose among various courses of action are what give a being free will. This is a typical Libertarian position.

But Determinism suggests that our ability to choose is essentially limited by our past experiences and that we cannot exhibit free will beyond what we know to be true or false about the world. Therefore our paths are not actually chosen, but essentially played out based on what we know and free will does not actually exist.

Compatiblism suggests that both of these elements exist simultaneously and are working together. This is the position I currently subscribe to.

In my opinion, the basic test you are looking for is one of choice. Did the carberator's choke mechanism actually choose to open or close, or was is simply reacting to external conditions as it was designed to do? But of course, even this is likely to open a huge can of worms as this philosophical discussion has for centuries.

#12 jedaisoul

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Posted 02 October 2009 - 06:14 AM

In my opinion, the basic test you are looking for is one of choice. Did the carberator's choke mechanism actually choose to open or close, or was is simply reacting to external conditions as it was designed to do? But of course, even this is likely to open a huge can of worms as this philosophical discussion has for centuries.


In my opinion, the beliefs that free will is compatible/incompatible with determinism (and eternalism) is based on a different definition of the terms. Hence the protagonists are simply arguing at cross purposes.

I.e. If you define free will according to the libertarian view that free will is an un-forced choice amongst a number of genuinely realizable alternatives, I suggest that you must come to the conclusion that it is incompatible with determinism and eternalism. For under both determinism and eternalism there are no genuinely REALIZABLE alternatives. In both cases, what you will chose is fixed before you chose it. Hence you cannot chose otherwise.

The compatabilist will respond that free will depends on who makes the choice, not on whether they have any realizable alternatives to chose amongst. This seems to be the position taken by REASON.

Both views seem to me to be valid, in their own context. Hence I suggest the use of the terms "libertarian free will" and "compatibilistic free will", as the term "free will" is too ambiguous to support a meaningful discussion.

#13 REASON

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Posted 02 October 2009 - 10:31 AM

In my opinion, the beliefs that free will is compatible/incompatible with determinism (and eternalism) is based on a different definition of the terms. Hence the protagonists are simply arguing at cross purposes.

I.e. If you define free will according to the libertarian view that free will is an un-forced choice amongst a number of genuinely realizable alternatives, I suggest that you must come to the conclusion that it is incompatible with determinism and eternalism. For under both determinism and eternalism there are no genuinely REALIZABLE alternatives. In both cases, what you will chose is fixed before you chose it. Hence you cannot chose otherwise.

I agree that it is important to understand the various points of view. For me, the bolded statement is where I run into problems with a purely deterministic position. While it may be true to someonewho holds a Theological Determinism position, I don't tend to believe our choices are limited other than by physical constraints or ignorance of the alternatives available. It's the ignorance of choice that helps to fuel the argument for determinism in that one's choices are limited by what they know. But having the ability to choose at all, even within the constraints of one's own knowledge, is what defines free will as I see it.


The compatabilist will respond that free will depends on who makes the choice, not on whether they have any realizable alternatives to chose amongst. This seems to be the position taken by REASON.

I agree that this can be true as well, but it isn't exactly how I perceive compatibilism. I tend to think that we are primarily deterministic in the way we make decisions, but determinism mearly acts as a guide to our choices as opposed to a constraint. In other words, just because I use my knowledge and experience to help me make decisions doesn't mean I'm forced to do so. For example, let's say I'm driving along a mountain pass with my children in the car. My knowledge and experience tells me that to steer the car off the cliff killing us all is a bad idea, so I make the decision to use particular caution to stay on the road. Determinism has guided my thought process, and my actions may seem predictable. But even as such, my ability to drive off the cliff has not been eliminated in reality. I still possess the ability to make such a choice no matter how irrational it may be.

Generally speaking, I see having the ability to choose as the source of my free will that is guided by determinism in the form of my knowledge and experience. This is how I interpret compatibilism. Of course, I am always open to an alternative understanding. :naughty:


Both views seem to me to be valid, in their own context. Hence I suggest the use of the terms "libertarian free will" and "compatibilistic free will", as the term "free will" is too ambiguous to support a meaningful discussion.

I tend to agree with you here.

#14 jedaisoul

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Posted 02 October 2009 - 11:27 AM

I agree that it is important to understand the various points of view. For me, the bolded statement is where I run into problems with a purely deterministic position. While it may be true to someone who holds a Theological Determinism position, I don't tend to believe our choices are limited other than by physical constraints or ignorance of the alternatives available. It's the ignorance of choice that helps to fuel the argument for determinism in that one's choices are limited by what they know. But having the ability to choose at all, even within the constraints of one's own knowledge, is what defines free will as I see it.

Then you are not a determinist, nor a compatibilist, (in my understanding of the accepted meanings of those terms). A compatibilist defines free will such that, although you make a choice, you actually have no alternative but to chose the option that you do. It seems that you are defining free will in a libertarian way, albeit without explicitly making the point about realizable alternatives.

I agree that this can be true as well, but it isn't exactly how I perceive compatibilism. I tend to think that we are primarily deterministic in the way we make decisions, but determinism merely acts as a guide to our choices as opposed to a constraint. In other words, just because I use my knowledge and experience to help me make decisions doesn't mean I'm forced to do so. For example, let's say I'm driving along a mountain pass with my children in the car. My knowledge and experience tells me that to steer the car off the cliff killing us all is a bad idea, so I make the decision to use particular caution to stay on the road. Determinism has guided my thought process, and my actions may seem predictable. But even as such, my ability to drive off the cliff has not been eliminated in reality. I still possess the ability to make such a choice no matter how irrational it may be.

Then your definition of compatibilism does not accord with my understanding of the accepted meaning of the term. See above.

Generally speaking, I see having the ability to choose as the source of my free will that is guided by determinism in the form of my knowledge and experience. This is how I interpret compatibilism. Of course, I am always open to an alternative understanding. :naughty:

That our decisions are not totally unfettered is accepted by the libertarian definition of free will. You are describing libertarian free will (in my understanding of the term), not compatibilism.

#15 REASON

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Posted 02 October 2009 - 01:31 PM

Then you are not a determinist, nor a compatibilist, (in my understanding of the accepted meanings of those terms). A compatibilist defines free will such that, although you make a choice, you actually have no alternative but to chose the option that you do. It seems that you are defining free will in a libertarian way, albeit without explicitly making the point about realizable alternatives.

I'm not sure I agree with you here. Generally speaking, a compatibilist believes that both free will and determinism exist and are in fact compatible with one another. What I attempted to describe is an example of how I see each of them functioning together in the way we make decisions.

Consider the position of David Hume, a noted compatibilist, as described in the Wiki article on Compatibilism:

.....according to Hume, free will should not be understood as an absolute ability to have chosen differently under exactly the same inner and outer circumstances. Rather, it is a hypothetical ability to have chosen differently if one had been differently psychologically disposed by some different beliefs or desires. That is, when one says that one could either continue to read this page or to delete it, one doesn't really mean that both choices are compatible with the complete state of the world right now, but rather that if one had desired to delete it one would have, even though as a matter of fact one actually desires to continue reading it, and therefore that is what will actually happen.

I interpret these comments as similar to the example I described with the car on the mountain pass. It is clear that presented with the same set of circumstances I will continue to choose to stay on the road, but hypothetically, with a different set of beliefs and desires, could have chosen differently. What I didn't clarify was the different set of beliefs and desires required to make a different decision in any given circumstance.


That our decisions are not totally unfettered is accepted by the libertarian definition of free will. You are describing libertarian free will (in my understanding of the term), not compatibilism.

I may not have been very clear in my statements or understanding of the terms. Essentially, I believe that both determinism and free will exist, and I find it difficult to separate the two. But I conceed that my understanding may be more in line with a libertarian point of view even as I intepret it as compatibilism. I will study it further.

#16 jedaisoul

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Posted 03 October 2009 - 01:48 AM

I may not have been very clear in my statements or understanding of the terms. Essentially, I believe that both determinism and free will exist, and I find it difficult to separate the two. But I conceed that my understanding may be more in line with a libertarian point of view even as I intepret it as compatibilism. I will study it further.

You might find this worth looking at...

In the introduction, Swartz presents the libertarian definition of free will:
"What does it mean to have free will? To have free will at least two conditions must obtain. We must have two or more possibilities 'genuinely open' to us when we face a choice; and our choice must not be 'forced'."

The important point is not only that our choice must not be 'forced', but there must be more than one possibility 'genuinely open'. With determinism that is not the case. You can only chose that which the circumstances determine that you will chose. So any other possibilities are not 'genuinely open'.

Hence 'compatibilistic free will' also lacks the element of multiple genuinely realizable alternatives, as it is compatible with determinism.

Anyway, I hope that you find it interesting...

#17 Boerseun

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Posted 03 October 2009 - 02:41 AM

does the fact that my car automatically opens the throttle of the carburetor whenever it is close to stalling imply my auto engine has free will?

No. The engine management system was designed to act in a certain way if certain parameters are met. If the engine is close to stalling, a low rpm readout might just be one of those parameters. I think this is a perfect example of your car not having free will.