Old 07-26-2010, 11:07 PM   #286
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So, if we think we're free, we are?

"So many gods, so many creeds! So many paths that wind and wind, when just the art of being kind is all this sad world needs."
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Old 07-26-2010, 11:37 PM   #287
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This is a pretty cool username, melodious even.
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Jarferama wrote View Post
Okay, I've been pondering this whole question of free will virtually non-stop for over six months straight now and here is my take on it.

A conscious entity, or human, certainly exists (I'm guessing we all would agree that people are conscious creatures; I think therefore I am, etc.). This entity, while not completely responsible for its nature, at the very least feels in control of some, but not all, of its actions. If from the standpoint of the acting agent or conscious entity, there is no way for it to distinguish between being the initiator of its actions, and the actions happening to it, then those two things become synonymous.
We don't ultimately choose who we are, but we do acknowledge who we are, and then act (or don't act) accordingly. I think that's what important. Just because we can't in any ultimate sense choose who we are, doesn't mean we aren't the person who carries out the action that we carry out. I think it can be most certainly said that a thinking being, what we would call a human, exists, and is responsible for the behavior it does. It is still the one who acts, regardless of the circumstances which led it to be the person it is. We think and we act. That is free will.
The issue of responsibility for actions is secondary to the establishment or failure to establish free will.

Once we acknowledge who we are (regardless of how we came to be that way) we are constrained to act in direct accordance with that condition unless there is an intentional yet non-causal influence.

The key to free will is that intentional yet non-causal influence. Randomness would be a non-causal influence but we would not be responsible for random acts because it would not be intentional or deliberate.

Certainly the thinking being acts, but, if it acts according to a chain of direct causes, it is simply a complex mechanism behaving like a mere mechanism despite its imaginary feeling of free will.

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Old 07-26-2010, 11:38 PM   #288
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So, if we think we're free, we are?
We have to think we are free.

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Old 07-27-2010, 07:51 AM   #289
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Randomness would be a non-causal influence
So, are you saying that a random event is an uncaused cause?
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Old 07-27-2010, 10:39 AM   #290
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So, are you saying that a random event is an uncaused cause?
A particular class of random events disrupt the simple cause-event sequence but, being random they are not intentional or part of a plan so no responsibility can be assigned to their outcomes.

Most events that we call random are really just as caused as any other. Coin flips are the classic example. True randomness, as found at the Quantum level, is uncaused in principle. Even if it were caused, the cause would not be intelligent nor intentional (i.e. it would certainly not be the fabled Intelligent Designer).

So, yes, there are uncaused causes swirling around us all the time and, no, they do not show macro-level effects.

Whether truly random or ordinary random, the effect is unintentional and so it does not indicate responsibility.

If you had free will and you decided to base your next action on a coin flip, then you would be responsible for either outcome because that decision was intentional on your part.

If someone else flipped a coin and forced you, based on the outcome, to act in one of two ways, it would be his, not your responsibility because you had no free will in the matter. So, again, the random element does not impart free will; it just makes the causal sequence less (maybe zero) predictable.

The existence of uncaused causes deflates the theistic "logic" that anything that has a beginning must have a cause.

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Old 07-27-2010, 12:42 PM   #291
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A particular class of random events disrupt the simple cause-event sequence but, being random they are not intentional or part of a plan so no responsibility can be assigned to their outcomes.
I'm not so interested in assigning responsibility to these random events. Just interested to understand the extent to which you think events can be uncaused and what you mean by that.

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Most events that we call random are really just as caused as any other. Coin flips are the classic example.
I think, if I follow your argument for determinism, that you must say that coin flips are not at all random. The outcome of a coin-flip is absolutely pre-determined by the forces applied to the coin and the constitution of the coin. Only our ability to predict that outcome causes us to say it is random.

You might say a coin flip gives the illusion of being a random event because we can't accurately predict the determined outcome.

Anyway, as you say the outcome is a caused event.

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True randomness, as found at the Quantum level, is uncaused in principle. Even if it were caused, the cause would not be intelligent nor intentional (i.e. it would certainly not be the fabled Intelligent Designer).
I don't know a whole lot about quantum effects. What makes you say that the random quantum events are truly uncaused as opposed to just having some unknown or complex cause like the coin toss?


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So, yes, there are uncaused causes swirling around us all the time and, no, they do not show macro-level effects.
But your line of thinking does seem to leave the door open for the type of free-will you seem to deny. The fact that you think uncaused events can occur seems to rule out that you can look at a human and come to the conclusion that all the events it produces are caused. How can you be certain that some of those events are not uncaused?

Of course, I don't think there is such a thing as an uncaused event in naturalistic explanations. But, I'm interested to understand how your notion of such a thing impacts your ideas about determinism.

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Whether truly random or ordinary random, the effect is unintentional and so it does not indicate responsibility.

If you had free will and you decided to base your next action on a coin flip, then you would be responsible for either outcome because that decision was intentional on your part.

If someone else flipped a coin and forced you, based on the outcome, to act in one of two ways, it would be his, not your responsibility because you had no free will in the matter. So, again, the random element does not impart free will; it just makes the causal sequence less (maybe zero) predictable.
I'm uncertain that free-will has a direct bearing on responsibility. It seems to me that the cause is responsible for the outcome.

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The existence of uncaused causes deflates the theistic "logic" that anything that has a beginning must have a cause.
Which is why you understandably want to defend such an idea. But even if you could show beyond doubt that naturalistic systems have uncaused causes that would still not deny any non-naturalistic uncaused causes.
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Old 07-27-2010, 12:53 PM   #292
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What is a non-naturalistic uncaused cause? Has such a thing ever been verified? If so, by whom?

"So many gods, so many creeds! So many paths that wind and wind, when just the art of being kind is all this sad world needs."
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Old 07-27-2010, 01:52 PM   #293
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I think it can be most certainly said that a thinking being, what we would call a human, exists, and is responsible for the behavior it does. It is still the one who acts, regardless of the circumstances which led it to be the person it is. We think and we act. That is free will.
That line of thinking is mainly useful for proportioning blame where there is a need to isolate the differently willed. Are you sure the thinking is not a determined effort to self-appease for the act?

thank goodness he's on our side
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Old 07-27-2010, 02:27 PM   #294
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What is a non-naturalistic uncaused cause? Has such a thing ever been verified? If so, by whom?
Forget the non-naturalistic one for a moment. What about the naturalistic uncaused cause? Has that ever been verified? Stern seems to think so.
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Old 07-27-2010, 05:19 PM   #295
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Forget the non-naturalistic one for a moment. What about the naturalistic uncaused cause? Has that ever been verified?
I don't know. It's not anything I've ever personally investigated or even heard about before. So I'll leave that to the scientists who have.

Nor have I investigated non-naturalistic uncaused causes, but it sounded like you have or, at least, that you might know something about this phenomena based on the work of those who have, presumably, investigated it.

I thought you might tell us about what they they have uncovered following their rigorous inquiry.

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Old 07-27-2010, 05:41 PM   #296
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I'm not so interested in assigning responsibility to these random events. Just interested to understand the extent to which you think events can be uncaused and what you mean by that.
I explain more below.
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I think, if I follow your argument for determinism, that you must say that coin flips are not at all random. The outcome of a coin-flip is absolutely pre-determined by the forces applied to the coin and the constitution of the coin. Only our ability to predict that outcome causes us to say it is random.
Yes, right. Because we cannot predict it and testing shows it has useful statistical distribution, we can confidently and economically use it instead of the difficult and expensive detection and digitization of quantum events.
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You might say a coin flip gives the illusion of being a random event because we can't accurately predict the determined outcome.
Just so.
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Anyway, as you say the outcome is a caused event.

I don't know a whole lot about quantum effects. What makes you say that the random quantum events are truly uncaused as opposed to just having some unknown or complex cause like the coin toss?
There are several reasons, but perhaps the easiest to describe here is that, as you mentioned, the forces involved in a coin flip can be identified even if they cannot be measured on the fly, so to speak, accurately enough to reliably predict the outcome. At the quantum level the event is not the effect of a force. That possibility for a cause has been eliminated. Eliminating the other possible causes leaves the event uncaused.

It might just possibly be that some unknown force exists that produces random events. For now, the four forces that we know define what a cause is.
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But your line of thinking does seem to leave the door open for the type of free-will you seem to deny. The fact that you think uncaused events can occur seems to rule out that you can look at a human and come to the conclusion that all the events it produces are caused. How can you be certain that some of those events are not uncaused?
Uncaused causes, at the quantum level do not naturally have macro effects, like making a neuron fire. So, uncaused random effects at the quantum level can be considered to be caused for the determinism of macro, human behaviors.
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Of course, I don't think there is such a thing as an uncaused event in naturalistic explanations. But, I'm interested to understand how your notion of such a thing impacts your ideas about determinism.
I accept that you are not deeply familiar with Quantum Theory. So I am asking rhetorically only, what demonstrable cause is responsible for the decay timing of atomic nuclei?
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I'm uncertain that free-will has a direct bearing on responsibility. It seems to me that the cause is responsible for the outcome.
I mentioned responsibility because the first question I get from most theists is "If there is no free will because human behavior is deterministic, how can you hold anyone responsible for their acts?" My answer is that, it is unjust to hold someone responsible, to punish people, for acts they could not, through their effort of will, prevent. However, it is logical that they be subject to the natural consequences of those acts even though they could not avoid committing them. This puts a very different slant on, say, incarceration for convicted murderers. It is not punishment, it is protecting society from being harmed (further) by a haywire mechanism.
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Which is why you understandably want to defend such an idea. But even if you could show beyond doubt that naturalistic systems have uncaused causes that would still not deny any non-naturalistic uncaused causes.
I am not at all sure what you think a "non-naturalistic uncaused cause" might be since an uncaused cause would still be an uncaused cause whether what didn't cause it was natural or unnatural. You may imagine a non-natural non-cause if you want, but I don't think it gets you very far.

There, a nucleus just decayed and it was not caused by a lightning bolt. Another decay just happened and it was not caused by angels. Neither event is evidence for lightning bolts or angels.

Did I just see a flicker of triumph seep through your keyboard?

Oh, and how do I know that an angel didn't cause that second decay, you might ask, springing my own trap on me? It is due to another reason we say that the events are uncaused, they have been tested and shown to be truly random for as many decimal positions as you might want to test. From that we deduce that any cause of that particular kind of event is indistinguishable from no cause. It doesn't matter what didn't cause the event; it might as well be angels as lightning bolts that are not culprits.

Being random also means that events caused by it are not part of a plan or design. That is, unless you want to take credit for a plan that says "just sit back and see what happens".

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Old 07-27-2010, 05:46 PM   #297
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Forget the non-naturalistic one for a moment. What about the naturalistic uncaused cause? Has that ever been verified? Stern seems to think so.
Stern obviously and very clearly thinks so. A great deal of the lovely technology that you enjoy depends on it.

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Old 07-27-2010, 05:51 PM   #298
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I don't know. It's not anything I've ever personally investigated or even heard about before. So I'll leave that to the scientists who have.

Nor have I investigated non-naturalistic uncaused causes, but it sounded like you have or, at least, that you might know something about this phenomena based on the work of those who have, presumably, investigated it.

I thought you might tell us about what they they have uncovered following their rigorous inquiry.
What little I know of Thomas2 suggests that he would propose some god or other as the unnatural uncaused uncausing force.

I wouldn't mind if he did. I am as comfortable with no god at all as with some god that does nothing and has no effect on nature/reality.

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Old 07-27-2010, 10:49 PM   #299
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There are several reasons, but perhaps the easiest to describe here is that, as you mentioned, the forces involved in a coin flip can be identified even if they cannot be measured on the fly, so to speak, accurately enough to reliably predict the outcome. At the quantum level the event is not the effect of a force. That possibility for a cause has been eliminated. Eliminating the other possible causes leaves the event uncaused.

It might just possibly be that some unknown force exists that produces random events. For now, the four forces that we know define what a cause is.
So, to summarise, you think that if a cause cannot be identified then it is appropriate to determine that an event is uncaused?

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Uncaused causes, at the quantum level do not naturally have macro effects, like making a neuron fire. So, uncaused random effects at the quantum level can be considered to be caused for the determinism of macro, human behaviors.
I'm not saying that quantum effects are responsible for human behaviours. I'm just wondering if we can extend your argument that events whose causes cannot be identified can be called uncaused. If that's the case then there are many human behaviours related to the function of the brain and other biological systems that we can't accurately predict (much like the coin toss). By your argument shouldn't we be able to say they are "uncaused"?

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I accept that you are not deeply familiar with Quantum Theory. So I am asking rhetorically only, what demonstrable cause is responsible for the decay timing of atomic nuclei?
I guess it's an issue of philosophy. If we can't identify a cause for a given event is it acceptable to say that the event is definitely uncaused? It seems like a stretch to me.

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I mentioned responsibility because the first question I get from most theists is "If there is no free will because human behavior is deterministic, how can you hold anyone responsible for their acts?" My answer is that, it is unjust to hold someone responsible, to punish people, for acts they could not, through their effort of will, prevent. However, it is logical that they be subject to the natural consequences of those acts even though they could not avoid committing them. This puts a very different slant on, say, incarceration for convicted murderers. It is not punishment, it is protecting society from being harmed (further) by a haywire mechanism.
I simply think the cause is responsible for the outcome.

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I am not at all sure what you think a "non-naturalistic uncaused cause" might be since an uncaused cause would still be an uncaused cause whether what didn't cause it was natural or unnatural. You may imagine a non-natural non-cause if you want, but I don't think it gets you very far.

There, a nucleus just decayed and it was not caused by a lightning bolt. Another decay just happened and it was not caused by angels. Neither event is evidence for lightning bolts or angels.

Did I just see a flicker of triumph seep through your keyboard?

Oh, and how do I know that an angel didn't cause that second decay, you might ask, springing my own trap on me? It is due to another reason we say that the events are uncaused, they have been tested and shown to be truly random for as many decimal positions as you might want to test. From that we deduce that any cause of that particular kind of event is indistinguishable from no cause. It doesn't matter what didn't cause the event; it might as well be angels as lightning bolts that are not culprits.
I think your initial point was related to the origins of our universe. It seems to me that even if you can show that events in our universe can be uncaused, it would say nothing about the possibility that events outside our universe could initiate it in the first place. Could it?
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Old 07-27-2010, 10:51 PM   #300
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Stern obviously and very clearly thinks so. A great deal of the lovely technology that you enjoy depends on it.
The technology surely works regardless of there being a currently identified cause or not?

Or perhaps you have some argument or evidence that shows that a cause for these events can *never* be identified?
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