Gpuccio on compatibilism and moral responsibility

Gpuccio has written a couple of comments intended for the impressive RDFish.  RDF hasn’t responded – I suspect because he/she is concentrating on responding to StephenB on another thread.  I find it  disconcerting that GP, who is a nice chap, should get so emotional and dismissive of a respectable (and in my view correct) view of free will. So I am going to dive-in in RDF’s absence and hope GP sees this.It is over 1000 words and repeats some rather well known things about compatibilism. I wouldn’t waste your time reading it unless you think compatibilism is self-evident rubbish.

To see the strength of GP’s feelings on this here are a couple of quotes:

Compatibilism, for me, is not even a “position”. It is simply a gross trick. They take some dummy concept that has nothing to do with free will and which is perfectly compatible with determinism. Then they rename it as “free will”. And they brilliantly “demonstrate” that it is compatible with free will. My compliments to them all!

So I beg your pardon, I will not include compatibilism among legitimate positions. It is not. It does not deserve any further attention from me, or from anybody else.

……

But compatibilists play tricks. So they redefine morality and responsibility in the same way they have redefined free will and choice. Why not? Once you have discovered and learned a trick, it is worthwhile to use it again.

Who are they deceiving? Not me, certainly. But, if they have a minimum of inner honesty, they are certainly deceiving themselves.

……..

Clearly GP thinks that compatibilism is redefining free will. Obviously a compatibilist disagrees. But the problem can be sidestepped by temporarily omitting the terms “free will” and “choice” from the discussion.

I imagine we can all agree that some of things people do have a distinctive quality which I will call voluntary (without making any assumptions about free will, being able to do differently etc). Voluntary actions have these characteristics (among others):

  • The actor is aware of performing the action.
  • There are alternative actions available which the actor is not externally constrained from doing.
  • The actor can give reasons for taking the action.
  • The actor may precede the action with an internal or external discussion of alternatives.

None of these criteria preclude the possibility that the action is determined by a combination of internal and external conditions. Indeed the reasons are potentially an important part of those conditions. With the possible exception of the first criterion, all of these criteria could be applied to a sophisticated computer programme.

A simple example might be whether I use my lunch hour to give blood or have lunch.

The compatibilist claim could be phrased as:

  • Voluntary actions are caused by a combination of conditions and events which are partly internal to the body and partly external. These actions are in principle determined by these conditions and events (with a possible random element). These conditions and events are themselves determined by prior conditions and events (plus a possible random element) going back indefinitely.
  • The actor is in general morally responsible for voluntary actions (there can be mitigating circumstances)

(Of course the distinction between voluntary and involuntary is not clear cut – but some actions definitely count as voluntary). As I understand it GP’s claim is that for voluntary actions to count as instances of free will they must have an additional factor which we might label X which means the action is not neither fully determined or random. And that the actor cannot be morally responsible unless the factor X is present.

As a compatibilist I have two problems with this claim:

  • I don’t understand what X is. It seems to me that random and not-determined are synonymous.
  • Whatever X is, I don’t see how the actor (or indeed anyone) knows it is present. I perform voluntary actions and they have a distinctive feel but I don’t know anything about what causes me to take voluntary actions.

The bigger issue is that given this account of voluntary actions can the actor be morally responsible for them. GP writes:

In any deterministic model, including all forms of compatibilism, the “I”, defined as the perceiver of its representations, has no control at all. It is the passive slave of its representations, of its states, of determinism, of randomness. Therefore, the I cannot “change” his destiny in any way.

……

“In any non free will model, including all forms of compatibilism, we can do nothing to change our personal destiny. Morality and responsibility really have no meaning, except as personal delusions for the satisfied compatibilist.”

I think GP confuses controlled with caused or possibly predictable.The compatibilist model implies that the action has a cause and may be predictable – but that doesn’t mean the actor has no control.  A very important cause of my decision to eat lunch is my hunger. But acting to satisfy my hunger is not a lack of control over my actions. I would lack  control if for some reason I could not satisfy it despite wanting to. I am not sure what GP means by a “personal destiny” but if I eat lunch I am certainly acting and it will certainly have an effect on my future.

At the heart of this is the phrase “could have done otherwise”. GP has a very over-simple view of “could” in this sentence. “Could” implies “possible” and he only recognises one type of possibility. But actually possibilities come in all sorts of shades.   It is easier to explain through the converse – impossibility. It might be impossible for me to give blood instead of eating lunch because there was a physical restriction, there were rules against it, I hadn’t got  the time,  etc.   But you might also say “I was so hungry I couldn’t resist eating lunch instead of giving blood”. This is a different kind of impossibility.

People may or may not be morally responsible for their actions depending on the kind of impossibility. For example, they are not morally responsible if they didn’t know they were doing it (e.g. in their sleep), they couldn’t reasonably be expected to understand the consequences (e.g. they passed on an infection they didn’t know they had), there was physically no other thing they could have done (e.g. the child runs into the path of your car). However, to say “I was so hungry I couldn’t resist eating lunch instead of giving blood” does not relieve me of moral responsibility.   It might be a mitigating circumstance, but it doesn’t remove my moral accountability for not giving blood. However, my hunger is certainly a cause of my action.

I think that GP will claim I am simply playing a trick with the phrase “moral responsibility”. But all I am doing is describing how we ascribe moral responsibility in practice. It is a purely  empirical exercise that describes what people do. If wants to claim that moral responsibility requires factor X then he needs to make a case for it and not just claim it is obvious. At the very least he can take the alternative argument seriously.

40 thoughts on “Gpuccio on compatibilism and moral responsibility

  1. Lizzie said:
    ” The actor is aware of performing the action.
    There are alternative actions available which the actor is not externally constrained from doing.
    The actor can give reasons for taking the action.
    The actor may precede the action with an internal or external discussion of alternatives.

    With the possible exception of the first criterion, all of these criteria could be applied to a sophisticated computer programme.”

    You are very close to understand the compabilist problem, it is not ony the awarness it is also the “will” to perform that action that is impossible to found in the physical world.

    Lizzie:


    Voluntary actions are caused by a combination of conditions and events which are partly internal to the body and partly external. These actions are in principle determined by these conditions and events (with a possible random element). These conditions and events are themselves determined by prior conditions and events (plus a possible random element) going back indefinitely.
    The actor is in general morally responsible for voluntary actions (there can be mitigating circumstances)”

    Here is the way compabilist escape. The second sentences do not follows the first. On the contrary, if the first is true the second is false.
    When I chose betwenn eating lunch or give blood, in a materialistic view there are only two possibilities:

    1) All the data in my brain stored in form of energy or molecules computes and take the decision following the laws of physics, like an amoeba follows the light, then my chose is determined
    2) The same process of above has some ramdom point where the determined decision is altered ramdomly.

    In both cases we are not responsible. You are not better than me if the particularities of your chemistry make you go to give blood and me to eat breakfast. The same is if the differences are ramdom.
    Off course maybe a society could add data in order to promote better behaviors, rewarding who gives blood instead of eat breakfast. But that do not make us responsible or moral responsible. We are going to act according to our education by chance or determined.

  2. I think GP confuses controlled with caused or possibly predictable.The compatibilist model implies that the action has a cause and may be predictable – but that doesn’t mean the actor has no control.

    You speak about “the actor” and “control” as if the ongoing physical computation is something other than what you call “the actor” or “control”. Every aspect of what the actor is, and thinks, and decides, is caused to exist by the run-up to any particular point. To say the “actor” controls anything is to arbitrarily define one particular aspect of the computation as an “actor”, and to arbitrarily call what that actor does “control” or “choice”. The are all, essentially, the same thing; an ongoing physical computation of what has preceded into what will follow. At any given point in time X, at location B, Y will follow, depending on what came before.

    Calling any particular location in the computation an “actor”, and any point in time of the computation a “choice”, belies the fact that it is all fundamentally the same kind of thing occurring – a chaotic, complex, unpredictable computation of physical materials interacting however they happen to interact according to whatever “rules” guide their behavior, resulting in whatever they happen to result in, no different in any fundamental way than a rock rolling down a hill.

    The path and characteristics of the rock, and the human, are generated in exactly the same fundamental way: computations of physics. That the rock has no awareness, and the human does, is a computation of physics. That the human believes something, or chooses something, is ever bit as much a computation of physics as nature of the rock and its path rolling down the hill. All of it is entirely determined by the computation of physics as the universe unfolds.

    Under materialism, awareness and a sense of morality are simply computed characteristics, no different than the hardness of a rock or its shape. How the material basis for “morality” and “awareness” interact with other material forces and phenomena is no different, in principle, than how the “density” and “shape” of a rock interacts. “Choices” that humans make as interactions of events, awareness and morality are no different, in principle, than “choices” a rock makes rolling down a mountainside – they are all just how material phenomena happen to interact under chance and physical law.

    To the theist, these same terms = morality, choice, free will, awareness – are fundamentally different from the material interactions of a rock as it rolls down a mountainside. They are essentially different qualities. To materialist, they are essentially the same thing, but only differ in “how they look”. A human looks like something other than a rock; a human’s actions seem different than a rock rolling down a hill, but under materialism, this is all an illusion.

    Under materialism, humans and rocks do things for exactly the same fundamental reason: physics compels them to as the universe unfolds its ongoing computation.

    “Compatibalist” free will takes a set of terms that have a certain substantive meaning in one schema, then transfers those terms to an entirely different schema as if the terms substantively mean the same thing, apply convenient definitions and then – viola – they think the have a “free will” that is comparable to its meaning in the original schema.

    However, it’s possible that materialists simply do not understand the concept of free will in a non-materialist schema, and think their convenient definitions **actually** capture the essence of the meaning of the word as used by theists.

  3. Sorry, but I simply refuse to participate in philosophical issues that have divided people for thousands of years without a shred of progress.

    I don’t care about moral responsibility because it is an indefinable issue.

    We can hold agents accountable for actions because we can observe that consequences produce changes.

    The fiction of “moral responsibility” impedes progress toward a sane society in the same way that the fiction of faith healing impedes progress in medicine. In both cases, ancient and irresolvable constructs result in ineffectual and counterproductive social institutions.

  4. petrushka:
    Sorry, but I simply refuse to participate in philosophical issues that have divided people for thousands of years without a shred of progress.

    I don’t care about moral responsibility because it is an indefinable issue.

    We can hold agents accountable for actions because we can observe that consequences produce changes.

    The fiction of “moral responsibility” impedes progress toward a sane society in the same way that the fiction of faith healing impedes progress in medicine. In both cases, ancient and irresolvable constructs result in ineffectual and counterproductive social institutions.

    Marx, Lenin and Stalin agreed with you.

  5. Sorry, but I simply refuse to participate in philosophical issues that have divided people for thousands of years without a shred of progress.

    This is you “not participating” in philosophical issues?

  6. Yes. Why?

    I mean simply that I do not find tea parties where deep but insoluble issues very interesting.

    Blas accuses me of redefining terms, and I plead guilty. When I see an argument that is going nowhere and cannot ever go anywhere, I try to present terms that lend themselves to testing and evidence. Operational definitions.

    That should not come as a surprise, since most of the people here want to discuss science. One of the big issues under discussion is how science is taught in high school.

    I have no objection to philosophy and ethics — or even theology — being taught in public schools. But science requires operational definitions and evidence.

    On a purely personal basis, I am pained by counterproductive social institutions. From my point of view these are created and maintained by all political factions. That’s just my opinion, and in 68 years I have learned that my opinion doesn’t count for much in the world. Not even much in internet forums.

  7. But I don’t agree with them. Bad people and bad ideas are always sugar-coated.

    Scienc is effective, so everyone want to appear scientific. We have Christian Science, Scientology, Scientifi socialism w and more. Even Creation Science and Intelligent Design.

    Everyone wants to be perceived as scientific because science works.

  8. William J. Murray,

    William you write:

    To say the “actor” controls anything is to arbitrarily define one particular aspect of the computation as an “actor”, and to arbitrarily call what that actor does “control” or “choice”. The are all, essentially, the same thing; an ongoing physical computation of what has preceded into what will follow.

    My argument works perfectly well even if you are a dualist – all I am saying is that there is a causal chain which either determines or does not (and is therefore random) the actions of a person. It might be that part of the causal chain is some mysterious other mental world. I happen to believe that chain is all material but the argument is independent of that.

    To say that the part of that chain is arbitrary seems strange. It is the bit where humans make voluntary actions. That would appear to be a point in the chain which we all care about and is clearly distinguishable from other points in the chain.

  9. petrushka:

    Scienc is effective,so everyone want to appear scientific. We have Christian Science, Scientology,Scientifisocialism w and more. Even Creation Science and Intelligent Design.

    Everyone wants to be perceived as scientific because science works.

    And scientifically speaking wich of all that sciences is Science?
    Do you think Science exists?

  10. Science as “Science” is an ongoing dialog among people who do science. It’s a self-defining institution. The rest of us judge it by its fruit.

    You seem to think its fruit include Stalinism and Nazism, but scientists fled Nazi Germany and were persecuted by Stalin. So simple observation demonstrates that the great evils of the 20th century were totalitarianism cloaking themselves in the argot of science. As I say, everyone wants to be perceived as scientific.

    How do you distinguish the true from the false? the same way you judge people and institutions: by their fruit.

    I certainly don’t accept every trendy “science” proclamation that shows up in newspapers and magazines. Like art and music, new discoveries and new ideas need to prove themselves over time.

    Since this forum is primarily concerned with evolution, I will mention that Darwin’s evolution was subjected to intense criticism and review for well over 80 years before being generally accepted.

    I think it would be wonderful to have a history of science class available where these 80 years could be studied. The debate was certainly carried on at a level far surpassing anything mounted by today’s evolution critics.

  11. William, is there anything in your worldview that includes things caused by anticipated consequences? And if so, is there anything in your worldview that describes how the way one anticipates consequences may be changed by actual consequences?

  12. petrushka:
    Science as “Science” is an ongoing dialog among people who do science. It’s a self-defining institution. The rest of us judge it by its fruit.

    You seem to think its fruit include Stalinism and Nazism, but scientists fled Nazi Germany and were persecuted by Stalin. So simple observation demonstrates that the great evils of the 20th century were totalitarianism cloaking themselves in the argot of science. As I say, everyone wants to be perceived as scientific.

    How do you distinguish the true from the false? the same way you judge people and institutions: by their fruit.

    I certainly don’t accept every trendy “science” proclamation that shows up in newspapers and magazines. Like art and music, new discoveries and new ideas need to prove themselves over time.

    Since this forum is primarily concerned with evolution, I will mention that Darwin’s evolution was subjected to intense criticism and review for well over 80 years before being generally accepted.

    I think it would be wonderful to have a history of science class available where these 80 years could be studied. The debate was certainly carried on at a level far surpassing anything mounted by today’s evolution critics.

    That is a scientific definition? How science judge the fruits of science?

  13. Blas: That is a scientific definition? How science judge the fruits of science?

    Looking at the history of science from Galileo to the present time, how would you answer that question?

  14. petrushka: Looking at the history of science from Galileo to the present time, how would you answer that question?

    Yeah, don’t let Blas get away with xis pseudo-Socratic nonsense.

    Blas speaks enough English to be able to answer that question. Blas can step up to the plate for a change and state xis point of view then defend it with actual evidence.

  15. Oddly enough, I don’t remember what branches of science Hitler and Stalin specialized in or where they received their advanced degrees. Or what peer reviewed papers they published.

    But at least we can console ourselves that theists never led authoritarian governments, held slaves, committed genocide in the name of god, denied their children medical care because of their religious beliefs, held women as chattel, ordered their followers to feed cyanide to their children, and so forth. Only materialists do things like that.

  16. hotshoe: Yeah, don’t let Blas get away with xis pseudo-Socratic nonsense.

    Blas speaks enough English to be able to answer that question.Blas can step up to the plate for a change and state xis point of view then defend it with actual evidence.

    To me there is no scientific definiton of Science. It is illogical scientifically define science because without a definition of science you cannot know if your definition is scientific. Then you have to define science with one of that “philosophical issues that have divided people for thousands of years without a shred of progress” that Petruchka does not like. I do not understand how he can differentiate science from not science without going thru that, but seems she does.
    Also judging the fruits is a problem, because I think that she means judging the “utility” of the fruits, but then we fall again in “philosophical issues that have divided people for thousands of years without a shred of progress”, that she evade.

  17. petrushka:

    But at least we can console ourselves that theists never led authoritarian governments, held slaves, committed genocide in the name of god, denied their children medical care because of their religious beliefs, held women as chattel, ordered their followers to feed cyanide to their children, and so forth. Only materialists do things like that.

    I never said that theistic people do not do bad things, and did said that atheist are similar to Lenin, Stalin or Hitler (that you brougth in). I only pointed out that the way you reasoning is similar to their way of reasoning. From your scientific point of view there is no differences. No matter theistic people can do worst things than atheistic, from a theistic point of view is reasonable held that bad people responsible for what their are doing and judging their behavior good or bad.

  18. I never said that theistic people do not do bad things, and did said that atheist are similar to Lenin, Stalin or Hitler (that you brougth in). I only pointed out that the way you reasoning is similar to their way of reasoning.

    Reason doesn’t lie, but rationalizers can reason.

  19. When we talk about “free will”, we need to be clear about:

    • What that freedom entails
    • What we mean by will/volition.
    • Who/what it is whose will is alleged to be “free”.

    I would say that once those are properly unpacked, libertarian free will is revealed to be incoherent, while deterministic free will is the only kind of free will that makes any practical sense.

    But I don’t think it is a very good phrase. I’d rather call it something like: “the freedom possessed by an agent capable of evaluating the potential outcomes of its actions to choose something other than the most immediately rewarding course of action”.

    A bit of a mouthful though. I’ll work on it 🙂

  20. Ability to delay gratification? Something of a test of intelligence and sanity.

    But it does not require consciousness.

  21. petrushka:
    Ability to delay gratification?Something of a test of intelligence and sanity.

    But it does not require consciousness.

    I didn’t say it did 🙂 Nor did it say it didn’t – but again “require consciousness” is not a conceptualisation I find useful. But we can certainly automate inhibitory control – indeed it’s one of the things I’m aim trying to develop training packages for 🙂

  22. Again, pardon if I step on any toes who have already said this:

    What I see the dualists refusing to acknowledge is that despite their claim that in the “materialist”(as they define it) regime whether or not choices are predetermined organisms have to make choices in the face of a random environment. I made the statement earlier about free will being what happens when memory interacts with environment because I remember something Carl Sagan said in the ’70s; brains evolved as the interactions a living thing had to cope with became more complex or more sudden then our genes could deal with. When a cheetah suddenly lands in front of a Thompson’s gazelle the gazelle has a choice to make. A ‘will’ (conscious or not, I think that distinction is meaningless) makes it possible for the gazelle to act in the face of randomness. (As an aside, the cost of that ability is a necessary period of education while young.)

    The appearance of a bloodmobile is just such a random event requiring a decision.

    I would also like the dualists to answer the question: why if there is a soul in every human being is a brain necessary at all?
    A second question: If the brain is a necessary facilitator for the soul, then why do chimps have brains so similar to humans as makes no difference for the purposes of this discussion. Chimps don’t have souls, correct? Then why should they have such complex brains.

    Last question. Why are chimps capable of moral decision making? http://www.radiolab.org/2010/feb/19/kanzi/

  23. An obvious variation on your question is why do brains need anything more than connections to the muscles?

  24. Aardvark,

    I would also like the dualists to answer the question: why if there is a soul in every human being is a brain necessary at all?

    Or eyes and ears, for that matter. Many dualists claim near-death and out-of-body experiences as evidence for their view. During those experiences, people say they can see and hear what’s going on around them, even if they are far from their body. If the soul can see and hear without eyes and ears, why do we have them at all?

    And if the soul does all the thinking, why did the Designer give humans a brain that consumes 20% of our energy budget? What do we actually get in exchange for that 20%?

  25. And why do they need even that? Can’t a soul stimulate a muscle directly?

  26. The whole need for a body is difficult to understand. But apparently a body is necessary since most Christians recite a creed that says the body will be resurrected and live forever.

  27. There are plenty of theisms that claim that all living things have souls.

  28. tjpeeler added this comment to Gpuccio’s response:


    I think language (symbols and rules) pretty much settles the issue. What is required for the origination of any rational thought or information is the use of language. The laws of physics, which do a fine job of explaining sub-atomic particles in energy fields, are incapable of, in principle, of accounting for language (the symbols and rules) because the use of language requires both free will and intentionality. Neither concept is present in physics.

    This is so obviously circular I cannot understand how an intelligent person can write it and another intelligent person can praise it. The issue being debated is whether physics can in principle account for free will and intentionality. Tj’s argument assumes this is not the case and therefore that language cannot be accounted for by physics.

    I fear that none of this will be read by the appropriate people … but you never know.

  29. Blas

    I just noticed this (I was confused because you attributed the quotes to Lizzie when they were mine).

    Blas:
    Lizzie said:
    ”The actor is aware of performing the action. There are alternative actions available which the actor is not externally constrained from doing. The actor can give reasons for taking the action. The actor may precede the action with an internal or external discussion of alternatives.

    With the possible exception of the first criterion, all of these criteria could be applied to a sophisticated computer programme.”

    You are very close to understand the compabilist problem, it is not ony the awarness it is also the “will” to perform that action that is impossible to found in the physical world.

    I think your “will” is what I mean’t by X in the ensuing paragraphs. I tried to avoid the word “will” because I didn’t want to get entangled in disputes over definitions. You are asserting X exists. I assert I don’t know what it means or how you know it is present. Maybe you could answer the second question?

    Lizzie:

    ” Voluntary actions are caused by a combination of conditions and events which are partly internal to the body and partly external. These actions are in principle determined by these conditions and events (with a possible random element). These conditions and events are themselves determined by prior conditions and events (plus a possible random element) going back indefinitely. The actor is in general morally responsible for voluntary actions (there can be mitigating circumstances)”

    Here is the way compabilist escape. The second sentences do not follows the first. On the contrary, if the first is true the second is false.
    When I chose betwenn eating lunch or give blood, in a materialistic view there are only two possibilities:

    1) All the data in my brain stored in form of energy or molecules computes and take the decision following the laws of physics, like an amoeba follows the light, then my chose is determined
    2) The same process of above has some ramdom point where the determined decision is altered ramdomly.

    In both cases we are not responsible. You are not better than me if the particularities of your chemistry make you go to give blood and me to eat breakfast. The same is if the differences are ramdom.
    Off course maybe a society could add data in order to promote better behaviors, rewarding who gives blood instead of eat breakfast. But that do not make us responsible or moral responsible. We are going to act according to our education by chance or determined.

    I am arguing that we ascribe moral responsibility not on the basis of whether their actions are undetermined – they may well be completely determined by their enormous desire to do wrong and they would still be morally responsible – but whether they are free of certain types of constraint. You talk about the particularities of my chemistry but if that particularity is low sugar level (nothing dangerous) that makes me very hungry does that absolve me from the moral responsibility of choosing lunch rather than giving blood? I think not. It may be a mitigating circumstance but I am still morally responsible for my action. This is true even if the hunger is so strong any one who knows me can be utterly certain I will eat lunch.

  30. The notion of moral responsibility as distinct from accountability is an empty construct. Another ghost in the machine.

    The only non-vacious question regarding accountability is how we manage laws and rules an how we enforce them.

    That has been true of all societies, both atheistiic and theistic.

    The only difference is that theists claim that their priests have a privileged set of laws.

  31. On the one hand, I don’t think it is possible (or desirable) to completely separate “having a grasp of the concept of X” from “having a theory about the kind of thing that X is”, so that extent, theism/dualism and naturalism aren’t really talking about the same thing when they talk about “consciousness,” “free will,” etc.– the ontologies are different, so the concepts are different.

    On the other hand, I do think its possible to bracket or put in suspension the respective ontologies and examine the concepts by themselves, as long as we bear in mind that the concepts we’re examining with a suspended ontological commitment are ‘thinner’ or more ‘abstract’ than the full-blooded concepts we operate with all the time (even when our ontological commitments are tacit, in the background, not reflected upon as such, etc.)

    Given that delicate balance, though, it does make sense for a naturalist to say something like

    “of course I believe in free will, insofar as I employ the concept of ‘free will’ and make sense of it in terms of correlated notions, such as ‘responsibility’ or ‘accident’ — it’s just that I explain free will in terms of degrees of ventromedial prefrontal cortical modulation of limbic system activity and motor cortex”.

    If the theist/dualist insist that that’s not free will — not really — then she needs to show that, and not just assert that the theistic/dualistic conception of free will is the correct one. And that involves showing, I think, that there are “core” or “non-negotiable” aspects of the very concept of “free will” that cannot be made intelligible without presupposing the non-naturalistic ontology. I think that’s a very tall order, and that compatibilists from Hume to Harry Frankfurt and Patricia Churchland have given us pretty compelling reasons for doubting that that can be done.

  32. keiths:
    Aardvark,

    Or eyes and ears, for that matter.Many dualists claim near-death and out-of-body experiences as evidence for their view.During those experiences, people say they can see and hear what’s going on around them, even if they are far from their body.If the soul can see and hear without eyes and ears, why do we have them at all?

    And if the soul does all the thinking, why did the Designer givehumans a brain that consumes 20% of our energy budget?What do we actually get in exchange for that 20%?

    See and hear, but rarely touch. Obstructions don’t seem to obstruct. Proprioception seems intact though.

  33. As William’s questions demonstrate, people who have trouble accepting compatibilism hold the impression that there is no inherent difference between the properties of sodium and chloride, and sodium chloride. I just can’t take such folk’s thinking on this subject or similar subjects seriously then.

    I see William’s complaint concerning “the actor” as this. When William states:

    To say the “actor” controls anything is to arbitrarily define one particular aspect of the computation as an “actor”, and to arbitrarily call what that actor does “control” or “choice”.

    He is implying that the labeling of sodium chloride as a substance distinct from sodium and chloride is arbitrary for the materialist. Never mind that materialism does not imply such, such a concept alone completely invalidates any concept he has to offer in my book simply for its level of arrogance and absurdity.

    A more apt analogy to William’s strawman would be that according to his view of materialism, materialists must admit that the difference between a calm day and a hurricane is an arbitrary distinction, to which I can only shake my head.

  34. See and hear, but rarely touch. Obstructions don’t seem to obstruct. Proprioception seems intact though.

    Sounds like dreaming (or at least like my dreaming). I frequently fly in my dreams, and even when I am not flying, I tend to “feel” disembodied and flit from place to place without traversing the intervening region.

    I can’t recall much tasting or touching in my dreams.

    What about hallucination? I understand the most common are auditory. More rarely, visual. Are tactile hallucinations common when using LSD or other hallucinogens?

    I had something like an out of body experience under ether when I was ten years old. It was so “profound” that I still have a clear visual memory of it 58 years later.

  35. Using your analogy, what I am doing is pointing out that sodium, chloride, and sodium chloride are cases within the same category – chemical elements and compounds.

    Hurricane and a calm day are both cases within the same category – weather.

    Under materialism, human choice and the path of a rock rolling down a hill are both cases of the same category – the computation of the physics involved. Human choice is not, under materialism, categorically different from the path of the rock. It just has more bells and whistles attached.

  36. William, is there a difference between a junkyard and a Boeing 747?

    Can matter exhibit different properties depending on configuration?

    I guess my point is that before discussing where entity X has free will. one must develop an operational definition of free will so that it can bee applied to X and have everyone reach the same conclusion.

  37. William,

    Under materialism, human choice and the path of a rock rolling down a hill are both cases of the same category – the computation of the physics involved. Human choice is not, under materialism, categorically different from the path of the rock. It just has more bells and whistles attached.

    That’s as silly as saying that a computer plotting the Mandelbrot set and a random collection of silicon and metal atoms are “both cases of the same category” because both are following the laws of physics. It’s true, but it’s far from complete.

    Sure, both are following the laws of physics, but the computer is doing things that the random collection of atoms is not, just as the human is doing things that the rock is not.

    The computer is doing arithmetic and following instructions, and the human is evaluating information and making choices. The computer can make mistakes if the voltage drops or the temperature gets too high; in other words, the results of the computation can sometimes be influenced by irrelevancies. Likewise, the human can make bad choices when drunk or when running a fever; in other words, human choices can sometimes be influenced by irrelevancies.

    The preceding paragraph is true whether you are a materialist, a dualist, or an idealist. As I asked in the other thread:

    Can you defend your position, whatever it is, against your own criticisms, William?

  38. Using your analogy, what I am doing is pointing out that sodium, chloride, and sodium chloride are cases within the same category – chemical elements and compounds.

    Ironically, “chemical elements” and “chemical compounds” are considered two distinct categories by people who study such things. Maybe there’s a reason they recognize the uniqueness of those arrangements and you don’t…

    Hurricane and a calm day are both cases within the same category – weather.

    Clearly you’re not a meteorologist either…

    Just curious, but in your unique interpretation of this so-called “materialism”, can this “weather” and “chemical elements and compounds” be placed within a single category together? If so, is there any actual utility to this categorization system to your conceptual “materialists? 🙄

  39. keiths:
    William,

    That’s as silly as saying that a computer plotting the Mandelbrot set and a random collection of silicon and metal atoms are “both cases of the same category” because both are following the laws of physics.It’s true, but it’s far from complete.

    Oversimplification is one of the more important tools of crankery. They can’t handle a complex universe.

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