What is a decision in phoodoo world?

This is a thread to allow discussions about how those lucky enough to have free will make decisions.

As materialism doesn’t explain squat, this thread is a place for explanations from those that presumably have them.

And if they can’t provide them, well, this will be a short thread.

So do phoodoo, mung, WJM et al care to provide your explanations of how decisions are actually made?

2,199 thoughts on “What is a decision in phoodoo world?

  1. keiths: They cannot grok that a system capable of making complex decisions can be built out of components that do not decide at all.

    Throw enough goop together and magical things happen. I fail to see how any other explanation can possibly top that!

  2. Mung:

    Throw enough goop together and magical things happen.

    Fuel injectors and piston rings can’t transport you to work in the morning, but assemble them and a bunch of other parts in a certain configuration, and voila! You have a vehicle capable of carrying you to your job.

    It’s magic! Not.

  3. KN:

    …I think that what we should do is just allow each stance to have its own ontology, based on the salient and real patterns brought into view by adopting that stance, and not worry about whether we can integrate all the sciences into a single coherent metaphysics.

    keiths:

    That’s a mistake, because lower level descriptions are typically more accurate and more complete. The intentional stance doesn’t accurately model what happens when a brick falls on your head, for example, or when a brain tumor develops, or you have an LSD flashback. Or a conversation with Mung.

    The ability to change levels is valuable in such cases, and it depends on the fact that these levels map onto the same ontology. Besides going from higher levels to lower, It also works in the other direction, when accuracy can be traded off for tractability. Note that the level switching doesn’t imply upward or downward causation — these are just changes in the level of abstraction of our descriptions.

    KN:

    Keiths, I agree with pretty much everything you said there except for this:

    keiths:

    That’s a mistake, because lower level descriptions are typically more accurate and more complete.

    I think that design stance descriptions and explanations, and physical stance descriptions and explanations, often invoke measurements, hence quantification, and the intentional stance almost never does. That doesn’t make the former stances more “accurate” than the latter, as if the intentional stance is only a rough approximation.

    It isn’t just the lack of precision that makes the intentional stance less accurate. Its failure to model things like blows to the head, brain tumors, and LSD hits leads it to make false predictions.

    Example: Victoria is sober and industrious, conscientious and disciplined. She thinks gambling is a foolish waste of money. A tumor develops in her frontal cortex, and Victoria blows her retirement savings at the casino.

    The intentional stance can’t explain this behavior. Rational and disciplined people who think gambling is foolish don’t blow their life savings at casinos.

    The physical and design stances explain it. The tumor disrupts the function of a vital piece of neural circuitry. Victoria “isn’t herself” any more, instead behaving in bizarre and uncharacteristic ways.

    There are all sorts of counterfactually robust, predictively reliable patterns that can only be brought into view by adopting the intentional stance — beliefs, for example.

    It isn’t that they can’t be “brought into view” at the lower levels. If that were true, then downward causation would be required.

    “Belief” is just a label for a particular kind of cause that can be modeled to good effect at the intentional level. “Reason”, likewise.

    That’s why I objected to your statement:

    What is needed here is simply any version of naturalism which can accommodate the reasons/causes distinction.

    We don’t need such a distinction, because reasons are causes. Ditto for beliefs.

  4. Mung: Throw enough goop together and magical things happen. I fail to see how any other explanation can possibly top that!

    Why do you think it is magical? The parts interact, they have certain properties, in large aggregates their interactions have certain patterns provided those aggregates meet certain structural requirements. Very abstract I readily admit, but where’s the magic?

  5. keiths:
    Mung:

    Fuel injectors and piston rings can’t transport you to work in the morning, but assemble them and a bunch of other parts in a certain configuration, and voila!You have a vehicle capable of carrying you to your job.

    It’s magic!Not.

    Exactly!
    And you beat me to it!

  6. Mung,

    Throw enough goop together and magical things happen. I fail to see how any other explanation can possibly top that!

    And that’s your reason for not explaining how decisions really work? Ok. Thanks for the input anyway.
    Is your position a variety of what you say there insofar as you perhaps think you don’t need goop at all for magical things to happen?

    Throw enough goop together and magical things happen.

    This is not the thread for the failures or otherwise of goop/materialism. Talk about it if you like however. Do carry on.

    Do you know how decisions work in phoodoo world?

  7. petrushka:

    It seems consistent with quantum theory that every possible branching actually occurs.

    keiths:

    Yes, and that’s the “many worlds” interpretation of QM. But note that when you adopt the MWI, it no longer makes sense to say that you chose X versus Y, when the choice hinges on a quantum event. You chose both. In some worlds you chose X, and in some you chose Y. The you who is asking the question will find yourself in one or the other, but they both exist.

    It’s deterministic, because both choices happen, but it certainly isn’t anything like classical determinism, in which one choice happens, but it was determined.

    walto:

    What do you mean? In w1 does what happens have to happen?

    No. Prior to a quantum event, all possibilities are open. At the time of the event, the world splits into copies that are identical except for the result of the event.

    Taking the simplest possible case, let’s say you have an electron and you’re about to measure its spin. Spin has two values, up and down. Let’s call the world, as it exists before the measurement, w1. At the point where the measurement takes place, the world splits into two copies, w1up and w1down.

    The copy of you that finds itself in w1up will report that the electron has spin “up”. The copy of you in w1down will report the opposite. Neither of you has access to the other world.

    The event doesn’t appear deterministic to either of you, but it really is deterministic, because the new state of reality, in which there are two world-copies, w1up and w1down, follows inevitably from the previous state, in which only w1 exists and a measurement is about to take place.

  8. keiths:

    Alan,

    The idea that the “first uncaused cause” must be God is bogus, of course, but I don’t see a problem with the idea of a regress of causes in general, particularly when you’re considering the state of the universe as a whole.

    What precisely is your objection?

    Alan:

    The precision! I think determinism is outdated. Latest models involve fields rather than particles.

    Fields are just as compatible with determinism as particles are.

    I’m totally unconvinced that reversible models are going to have better explanatory power than those that take account of the irreversibility of time.

    Reversible models are deterministic, but deterministic models need not be reversible.

    keiths:

    When a line of dominoes topples, what is the problem with seeing things as follows?

    The nth domino toppled because the n-1th domino toppled,
    and the n-1th domino toppled because the n-2th domino toppled,

    and the 2nd domino toppled because the 1st domino toppled,
    and the 1st domino toppled because someone pushed it.

    It isn’t a complete causal account, of course, because it omits causal explanations of how the dominoes came to be set up that way and how the initial push came about. However, it is a correct explanation — the toppling of the j-1th domino really is a cause of the toppling of the jth (unless you doubt the existence of causality altogether).

    Alan:

    Can you model domino toppling?

    Yes.

    Can you reverse the model? Then it’s not a good model.

    Models can be good without being reversible, and again, determinism doesn’t require reversibility in the first place.

    keiths:

    The question is whether quantum effects are ever amplified so as to disrupt determinism at the macro level.The answer is clearly yes — every click of a Geiger counter is an instance of this.In terms of the free will debate, however, what matters is whether the macro-level neuronal determinism is ever disrupted by quantum events. Coyne seems to think that the answer might be no. I disagree, because neurons are nonlinear.If a neuron is already close to its threshold, quantum events should be able to push it over the top, thus amplifying themselves.

    Alan:

    In my indeterminate universe, I don’t need to find quantum effects to introduce the variability that permits** prevents “identical” events to produce** from producing identical results. In my universe it is impossible to step into the same river twice.

    Whether determinism is true is independent of whether the “tape” can be “rewound”.

    KN:

    What we specify as “the” cause of an event is what we are interested in controlling, predicting, or or preventing.

    Alan:

    Simplifying the model to facilitate testing is a sound approach.

    keiths:

    Focusing on a particular cause of interest is not the same as simplifying the model. You can do the former without the latter.

    Alan:

    Maps and territory. If you don’t simplify the model, you are looking at the territory.

    Not true, plus you’re missing the point. To focus on a particular cause of interest does not require that the model be simplified. It just means you’re focusing on one aspect of the model rather than another.

  9. walto,

    I thought FMM was a plain old Millian compatibalist like me, but after his last remark on the subject, I don’t know what his position is on freedom either.

    Calvinist compatibilists are in a precarious position. They want God to be absolutely sovereign, yet they don’t want him to be morally responsible for evil.

    Their usual “solution” is to argue that moral responsibility goes along with compatibilist free will, so that the responsibility for evil rests only with the perpetrators, and not with the God who created a universe in which evil was inevitable.

    It’s a ridiculous argument.

  10. At this point it’s pretty clear to me that none of the anti-materialists (“hylephobes,” as Dennett calls them) have any interest in providing their own explanation as to how immaterial minds detect immaterial reasons and make decisions based on them. Attacking the alleged deficiencies of materialism is all they have to offer, and all they ever will. Like idealists of all stripes, they prefer adoration of a mystery over explanation of a fact. I myself cannot imagine a more anti-intellectual attitude to take.

  11. KN,

    At this point it’s pretty clear to me that none of the anti-materialists (“hylephobes,” as Dennett calls them) have any interest in providing their own explanation as to how immaterial minds detect immaterial reasons and make decisions based on them.

    I think they’d be very interested in providing an explanation — if only they had one.

    They don’t, and they know it. They’ve lost the battle.

  12. Kantian Naturalist: At this point it’s pretty clear to me that none of the anti-materialists (“hylephobes,” as Dennett calls them) have any interest in providing their own explanation as to how immaterial minds detect immaterial reasons and make decisions based on them.

    keiths: I think they’d be very interested in providing an explanation — if only they had one.

    Wait. Before I decide….Which is worse?

  13. keiths: Their usual “solution” is to argue that moral responsibility goes along with compatibilist free will, so that the responsibility for evil rests only with the perpetrators, and not with the God who created a universe in which evil was inevitable.

    It’s a ridiculous argument.

    That’s not what I meant about not understanding where FMM is on freedom. I understand compatibalism, but I’m not sure that what FMM means by freedom is simply doing what one wants. He folds in God, somehow, and “fate” is irrelevant to the question of freedom, IMO.

    Re: the Leibnizian/Panglossian claim that this is the best of all possible worlds, it’s implausible, but I don’t think it’s ridiculous. Yes, you have to believe that an omniscient, omnipotent thing considered all the other possibilities and this one was best. It’s hard to believe, yes, but you pretty much HAVE to take that position to handle the problem of evil, I think. If a God of their desired type could have created a better world, it would have had to, based on its nature. In the face of obvious evils in the world, it’s simply the response that “the faithful” HAVE to make.

  14. OMagain,

    Its been answered. Why do you keep insisting it hasn’t been answered, how silly.

    I can refer you to some books, if you need a longer answer.

  15. phoodoo: Its been answered. Why do you keep insisting it hasn’t been answered, how silly.

    The mind decides. How? It just does. What more of an explanation could anyone want?

  16. Kantian Naturalist,

    You have some nerve huh KN. This question on this thread came out of my original question about what is a decision in a materialists world. You haven’t even come close to answering that question. O’Magian even went so far as to start this thread, in hopes that he could avoid having to come to grips with the problem of control over chemicals forcing actions.

    Your side is the one that has totally dodged that question. Well, I shouldn’t say totally dodged it, you have invoked magic to explain it. Nature does it! Feedback loops does it! Emergence does it!

    All of which means precisely nothing.

    A materialist has no reason to explain decisions, because the very nature of their believe is that there is an inherent intelligence within the universe. That’s the explanation! Why should they need to say anything more than this. You want empirical evidence? Why the hell should you demand that, when your only explanation for a thinking mind is emergence and magic. Where is your empirical evidence for anything?

    What a cheap shot you pull.

  17. phoodoo,

    Not my fault that you can’t tell the difference between bacteria and water balloons — after all, they’re both just bags of chemicals to you.

  18. Anyway, I’m not a materialist, for reasons already presented aplenty in this thread and many others.

    And I certainly don’t think that it makes any sense to explain decisions in terms of chemicals.

  19. This is probably a topic for a different thread, but I was thinking that in dealing with the problem of evil in the compatibalist manner I described above, it seems that one would have to concede that God’s “perfect goodness” does not make it above doing evil. Let’s say It creates the best of all possible worlds and sets into motion that which it knows will contain many awful things, because any alternative creation would have been worse. Still, it seems as though insofar as it is knowingly responsible for many horrible events, it does evil. It sets up the causal background of the world of people in such a way that Jones will kill the innocent 7-year-old Smith with a Bowie knife. Again, maybe any other creation would have been worse (in toto), but it seems like an evil has been perpetrated to little Smitty and his family.

    Now I suppose it could be thought that God will make it up to Smith et al. in some after-life, so that all will be fine. But there’s still that prior pain that could have been averted (though, by hypothesis, not in such a way that the world would have been better overall).

    Anyhow, it seems like a libertarian position like Plantinga’s or van Inwagen’s (or phoodoo’s?) makes it easier to defend God as something that NEVER does ANY evil. The problem, of course, is to make libertarian free will coherent–and I’m not sure that’s possible. So you have this dilemma:

    Compatibalist free will and God is bad sometimes.
    Libertarian free will and God is never bad but no one has any idea what they’re talking about.

    Sticky wicketsville.

  20. walto,

    I understand compatibalism, but I’m not sure that what FMM means by freedom is simply doing what one wants. He folds in God, somehow, and “fate” is irrelevant to the question of freedom, IMO.

    It’s because as a Calvinist, he wants God to be absolutely sovereign, meaning that God determines everything that happens. The Calvinist argument I described above attempts to get God off the hook, not by arguing that he doesn’t determine everything, but by arguing that the compatibilist free will of the sinner shifts the moral responsibility for his sins to his own shoulders from God’s immaterial ones.

    keiths:

    Calvinist compatibilists are in a precarious position. They want God to be absolutely sovereign, yet they don’t want him to be morally responsible for evil.

    Their usual “solution” is to argue that moral responsibility goes along with compatibilist free will, so that the responsibility for evil rests only with the perpetrators, and not with the God who created a universe in which evil was inevitable.

    It’s a ridiculous argument.

    walto:

    Re: the Leibnizian/Panglossian claim that this is the best of all possible worlds, it’s implausible, but I don’t think it’s ridiculous. Yes, you have to believe that an omniscient, omnipotent thing considered all the other possibilities and this one was best. It’s hard to believe, yes, but you pretty much HAVE to take that position to handle the problem of evil, I think. If a God of their desired type could have created a better world, it would have had to, based on its nature. In the face of obvious evils in the world, it’s simply the response that “the faithful” HAVE to make.

    You’re conflating two separate but related arguments.

    Both arguments are trying to get God off the moral hook, but via different strategies. In the one I described above, the Calvinist is arguing that God evades moral responsibility for evil not because he hasn’t preordained its existence, but rather because the responsibility shifts to the sinner through the exercise of compatibilist free will.

    In the Leibnizian/Panglossian argument, God retains at least some responsibility for moral evil, but this is justified by the fact that the world is, overall, the best of all possible worlds. And if the will being exercised by the sinner is libertarian free will, then God is merely allowing the evil, not preordaining it.

    So according to the first argument, God preordains evil, but isn’t morally responsible for it, while according to the second argument, God bears at least some responsibility, but this is excused by his pursuit of the greater good.

  21. keiths: God bears at least some responsibility, but this is excused by his pursuit of the greater good.

    Right, that’s the awkward position for Xtian compatibalism I described in my last post.

  22. walto,

    Anyhow, it seems like a libertarian position like Plantinga’s or van Inwagen’s (or phoodoo’s?) makes it easier to defend God as something that NEVER does ANY evil.

    It’s certainly a better argument (if you neglect the incoherence of libertarian free will), but it still fails.

    God may not perpetrate the evil, but he allows it despite being able to prevent it easily without depriving anyone of free will.

  23. keiths: the Calvinist is arguing that God evades moral responsibility for evil not because he hasn’t preordained its existence, but rather because the responsibility shifts to the sinner through the exercise of compatibilist free will.

    I think the apologist needs that shift in either case. “It was freely willed by Jones! You can’t blame God for it just because He knew it would happen.” But, as indicated above, the compatibalist has God setting the table in a deterministic way which, if I were an apologist, is a situation I’d like less. If God made us libertarian, there’s only the natural disasters to try to explain away…..

  24. keiths: God may not perpetrate the evil, but he allows it despite being able to prevent it easily without depriving anyone of free will.

    How does he manage that? Not creating those people at all?

  25. Kantian Naturalist:
    phoodoo,

    Not my fault that you can’t tell the difference between bacteria and water balloons — after all, they’re both just bags of chemicals to you.

    Its not my fault that our explanation for the difference is a divine intelligence, and yours is “magical Emergence somehow!”.

    Tell Walto that’s the name of your God.

  26. keiths:

    God bears at least some responsibility, but this is excused by his pursuit of the greater good.

    walto:

    Right, that’s the awkward position for Xtian compatibalism I described in my last post.

    And in the argument I presented, the Calvinist attempts to avoid that awkwardness by linking compatibilist free will to moral responsibility and arguing that God is entirely off the moral hook for that reason, despite preordaining every evil that ever occurs.

    I think that’s ridiculous.

  27. walto,

    You want a world where nothing bad ever happens? I think I already know how this path goes. Well, some bad is Ok. A little bad. Not so bad. Well, no not that bad, less bad. No less. Death, loss? No, less. Boredom? No less, less…

  28. phoodoo: Its not my fault that our explanation for the difference is a divine intelligence, and yours is “magical Emergence somehow!”.

    I personally have no explanation. As I’ve said before I think that humility on difficult matters on which I admittedly have no explanation is preferable to making silly stuff up. I could certainly give an “explanation” by saying “Lord Farquar did it. All Hail Lord Farquar!”

  29. phoodoo: my fault that our explanation for the difference is a divine intelligence,

    Chemicals + magic = life

    How very scientific of you.

  30. phoodoo: You want a world where nothing bad ever happens? I think I already know how this path goes. Well, some bad is Ok. A little bad. Not so bad. Well, no not that bad, less bad. No less. Death, loss? No, less. Boredom? No less, less…

    I want a world where nothing bad ever happens to innocent five-year-olds. If bad stuff happens to me, I’m not in a position to complain, really.

  31. walto: Yes, you have to believe that an omniscient, omnipotent thing considered all the other possibilities and this one was best. It’s hard to believe, yes, but you pretty much HAVE to take that position to handle the problem of evil

    I don’t think this is correct, To handle the problem of evil you just have to hold that it’s better that this universe exists than if it did not. There is no reason to make the perfect the enemy of the good AFAIKT

    I think the best possible world is a pretty squishy concept. Best according to who?

    peace

  32. keiths:

    God may not perpetrate the evil, but he allows it despite being able to prevent it easily without depriving anyone of free will.

    walto:

    How does he manage that? Not creating those people at all?

    Right. He employs his omniscience and refrains from creating anyone whom he knows will do evil.

  33. fifthmonarchyman: I don’t think this is correct, To handle the problem of evil you just have to hold that it’s better that this universe exists than if it did not.

    Interesting. You don’t think omnipotence, omniscience and benevolence requires that no better universe was possible?

  34. keiths:
    keiths:

    walto:

    Yes.He employs his omniscience and refrains from creating anyone whom he knows will do evil.

    Actually, I was thinking that he could create the bad people but whisk the innocent to safety, any time anything bad was going to happen to them.

    But I take it that the general response to all this has to be “The world would have been worse given any other sort of arrangement than the one we have.” It seems utterly implausible to me, but WTHDIK?

    ETA: I mean, it’d be tough to be really bad if you couldn’t hurt anybody no matter how hard you tried.

    But, again, the claim must be that such a world would be overall worse.

  35. walto,

    Actually, I was thinking that he could create the bad people but whisk the innocent to safety, any time anything bad was going to happen to them.

    But then the apologist can argue that the bad guys’ free will is being thwarted. They want to hurt the innocents, but God intervenes and prevents them from causing any actual harm.

    My scheme avoids that problem. The intervention happens before birth, so that no intended acts need to be thwarted in order to prevent evil.

  36. walto: Anyhow, it seems like a libertarian position like Plantinga’s or van Inwagen’s (or phoodoo’s?) makes it easier to defend God as something that NEVER does ANY evil

    Again I believe you misread Plantinga’s free will defense.
    All it holds is that allowing evil can be acceptable if it brings about a greater good.

    For the Calvinist the greater good is obvious

    Quote:
    but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,
    (Rom 5:20b)
    end quote:

    peace

  37. fifthmonarchyman: Again I believe you misread Plantinga’s free will defense.
    All it holds is that evil can be acceptable if it brings about a greater good.

    For the Calvinist the greater good is obvious

    Quote:but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,
    (Rom 5:20b)
    end quote:

    peace

    I agree with that position myself. The best world is that which contains the most good.

  38. walto,

    FMM and I are in agreement on these: compatibalism and consequentialism.

    Who says there can’t be meetings of the minds between theists and atheists?

  39. walto,

    Maybe that WOULD be best. Movies would be so shitty though.

    We could still make movies depicting evil, as long as no evil actually occurred. Judging from the Bible, the Christian God certainly doesn’t consider the depiction of evil to be evil.

  40. keiths: We could still make movies depicting evil, as long as no evil actually occurred

    They’d be really unrealistic and shitty.

  41. walto: Interesting. You don’t think omnipotence, omniscience and benevolence requires that no better universe was possible?

    Not at all, There is no reason to demand that the universe be perfect only that it be better for it to exist than not exist.

    I don’t think anyone would argue that it would be better if the universe did not exist.

    peace

  42. fifthmonarchyman: Not at all, There is no reason to demand that the universe be perfect only that it be better for it to exist than not exist.

    I don’t think anyone would argue that it would be better if the universe did not exist.

    That’s not responsive. The question was “Why not a better universe?” not “Why any universe at all?” I take it this one has to be best, or a better one would have to have been made, given God’s nature.

  43. Kantian Naturalist: Chemicals + magic = life

    How very scientific of you.

    What a joke. THAT is precisely your explanation. Except you get to call it naturalism. Or emergence, or whatever other dumb ambiguous thing you can think of, to hide what you really mean.

  44. phoodoo: What ajoke.THAT is precisely your explanation.Except you get to call it naturalism.Or emergence, or whatever other dumb ambiguous thing you can think of, to hide what you really mean.

    If he called it “God” you’d be fine with it though.

  45. walto,

    They’d be really unrealistic and shitty.

    They’d be unrealistic from the point of view of the do-gooders who would populate the birth-filtered world, but that doesn’t mean that they’d be shitty.

  46. walto: FMM and I are in agreement on these: compatibalism and consequentialism.

    I always thought of myself as a holding to virtue ethics but consequentialism is not so bad 😉

    peace

  47. walto,

    So immortality for kids. Fuck the old people, let them die of starvation lying in the street, this you won’t mind?

    Ok, interesting.

  48. fifthmonarchyman: I always thought of myself as a holding to virtue ethics but consequentialism is not so bad 😉

    peace

    I don’t know much about virtue ethics, actually. The last time I taught a ethics course, I spent half of one class on it. I don’t think the chairman was pleased: when he teaches ethics it’s ENTIRELY virtue ethics–and the kids love him.

    So if you were actually a proponent of virtue ethics and you fell on my head, I probably wouldn’t recognize you.

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