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Quantum indeterminism and free-will

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  • Ajita Kamal
    I know this subject has come up before, but I was wondering if anyone has read this interesting paper?
    Message 1 of 8 , Jul 5, 2009
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      I know this subject has come up before, but I was wondering if anyone has read this interesting paper?

      http://www.unil.ch/webdav/site/philo/shared/DocsPerso/EsfeldMichael/2000/Phil_Nat_00.pdf

      What I took away from the article even assuming that quantum events are influential in brain function (which is still scientifically unverified), is that since the probabilities of quantum events are determined by probabilities of previous quantum events, our choices are determined by natural causes, even if the probabilities of those causes may be incalculable. I.e, there is no need to suppose that a quantum brain event implies "free-will".

      I'd like to know what anyone else here might think.

      Ajita
    • JRS .
      Hi Ajita, I don t think we really need to refer to science when it comes to free will. I think it is useful to give to people as real world examples but
      Message 2 of 8 , Jul 5, 2009
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        Hi Ajita,

        I don't think we really need to refer to science when it comes to free will. I think it is useful to give to people as real world examples but ultimately free will as it is commonly understood is logically impossible.

        It's like a collision between an unmovable wall and an unstoppable object. There is no scientific experiment we can do to prove that such an event is impossible but we have no need as logic is quite adequate achieving that. We know that either the object is going to stop, the wall is going to move or both objects will have a change in their velocity. There can be no outcome that can sustain the premise that the object is unstoppable and the wall unmovable.

        The same is true of free will. It is logically flawed on many levels.

        Here are two examples I like:

        1
        Any event is either caused or random
        Neither random or caused events can support the notion we freely choose our position in life.
        Therefore there is no free will

        2
        Conscious actions are always preceded and determined by desires.
        Choice is a conscious action.
        A prior event cannot be determined by a future event
        (viewing time as an abstract linear concept rather than what we refer to in the physical world)
        Therefore you cannot choose that which determines your choices.
        If you cannot choose that which determines your choices you cannot have free will

        -James




        To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
        From: evolvender@...
        Date: Mon, 6 Jul 2009 03:24:34 +0000
        Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Quantum indeterminism and free-will



        I know this subject has come up before, but I was wondering if anyone has read this interesting paper?

        http://www.unil. ch/webdav/ site/philo/ shared/DocsPerso /EsfeldMichael/ 2000/Phil_ Nat_00.pdf

        What I took away from the article even assuming that quantum events are influential in brain function (which is still scientifically unverified), is that since the probabilities of quantum events are determined by probabilities of previous quantum events, our choices are determined by natural causes, even if the probabilities of those causes may be incalculable. I.e, there is no need to suppose that a quantum brain event implies "free-will".

        I'd like to know what anyone else here might think.

        Ajita




        Find your next place with Ninemsn property Looking for a place to rent, share or buy this winter?
      • stephnlawrnce@aol.com
        Hi Ajita, I think the way to think about this is to try to imagine what extra freedom of choice indeterminism could give you. I can t imagine it and it
        Message 3 of 8 , Jul 5, 2009
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          Hi Ajita,

          I think the way to think about this is to try to imagine what extra freedom of choice indeterminism could give you. I can't imagine it and it shouldn't be so difficult to do so. If we had this free will thingy, you'd think we'd be fully aware of what it was!

          Another way is to imagine programming a choice making machine like a chess computer and think how you could give it freedom by enabling it to pick any one of the options it evaluates in the circumstances. Too much indeterminism would render it useless as a choice making machine. A little indeterminism, would not be so unhelpful but neither does it appear to give it freedom.

          I'm sure indeterminism is a red herring. The things one needs to understand to understand what freedom we have are causality, counterfactuals, options and will. Tom posted this link http://www.forbes.com/2009/06/18/computers-free-will-opinions-contributors-artificial-intelligence-09-judea-pearl.html  Judea Pearl seems to be an interesting source of knowledge on these subjects here is his web site. http://bayes.cs.ucla.edu/jp_home.html

          Stephen

           


          -----Original Message-----
          From: Ajita Kamal <evolvender@...>
          To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
          Sent: Mon, 6 Jul 2009 4:24
          Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Quantum indeterminism and free-will



          I know this subject has come up before, but I was wondering if anyone has read this interesting paper?

          http://www.unil. ch/webdav/ site/philo/ shared/DocsPerso /EsfeldMichael/ 2000/Phil_ Nat_00.pdf

          What I took away from the article even assuming that quantum events are influential in brain function (which is still scientifically unverified), is that since the probabilities of quantum events are determined by probabilities of previous quantum events, our choices are determined by natural causes, even if the probabilities of those causes may be incalculable. I.e, there is no need to suppose that a quantum brain event implies "free-will".

          I'd like to know what anyone else here might think.

          Ajita

        • Ajita Kamal
          Hi James, Thank you for your reply. I certainly agree with you that free-will as is commonly understood is logically inconsistent. The quantum indeterminism
          Message 4 of 8 , Jul 6, 2009
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            Hi James,

            Thank you for your reply. I certainly agree with you that free-will as is commonly understood is logically inconsistent. The quantum indeterminism argument has become popular in the apologists' arsenal. It is tied in with the ideas of quantum mystics who propose that consciousness arises form quantum level events.

            I would like to understand the scientific refutations of these mystical arguments, because the arguments themselves are misusing science. I like your 1st example:

            > 1
            > Any event is either caused or random
            > Neither random or caused events can support the notion we freely choose our position in life.
            > Therefore there is no free will

            I notice how this actually applies to the quantum argument as well. If a quantum event has closed probabilities, the outcome of that event will be random. Therefore that is not a possible explanation for free-will. Alternatively, the quantum events in the brain can have incomplete probabilities. In this case, the probability of an event is determined by the probabilities of previous events. This probability may be incalculable, but since it is caused it does not validate the idea of free-will.

            I agree with you that the logical arguments are alone sufficient, but when someone brings up a (bad) science-based argument, I would like to be able to understand the reason why that argument is true or flawed. But beginning the argument from the logical premises you have stated will certainly be a good idea. If your logical argument is presented before the scientific argument is, it might actually be more convincing!

            Thanks,
            Ajita.



            --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, "JRS ." <jrs300@...> wrote:
            >
            >
            > Hi Ajita,
            >
            > I don't think we really need to refer to science when it comes to free will. I think it is useful to give to people as real world examples but ultimately free will as it is commonly understood is logically impossible.
            >
            > It's like a collision between an unmovable wall and an unstoppable object. There is no scientific experiment we can do to prove that such an event is impossible but we have no need as logic is quite adequate achieving that. We know that either the object is going to stop, the wall is going to move or both objects will have a change in their velocity. There can be no outcome that can sustain the premise that the object is unstoppable and the wall unmovable.
            >
            > The same is true of free will. It is logically flawed on many levels.
            >
            > Here are two examples I like:
            >
            > 1
            > Any event is either caused or random
            > Neither random or caused events can support the notion we freely choose our position in life.
            > Therefore there is no free will
            >
            > 2
            > Conscious actions are always preceded and determined by desires.
            > Choice is a conscious action.
            > A prior event cannot be determined by a future event
            > (viewing time as an abstract linear concept rather than what we refer to in the physical world)
            > Therefore you cannot choose that which determines your choices.
            > If you cannot choose that which determines your choices you cannot have free will
            >
            > -James
            >
            >
            >
            > To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
            > From: evolvender@...
            > Date: Mon, 6 Jul 2009 03:24:34 +0000
            > Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Quantum indeterminism and free-will
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            > I know this subject has come up before, but I was wondering if anyone has read this interesting paper?
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            > http://www.unil.ch/webdav/site/philo/shared/DocsPerso/EsfeldMichael/2000/Phil_Nat_00.pdf
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            > What I took away from the article even assuming that quantum events are influential in brain function (which is still scientifically unverified), is that since the probabilities of quantum events are determined by probabilities of previous quantum events, our choices are determined by natural causes, even if the probabilities of those causes may be incalculable. I.e, there is no need to suppose that a quantum brain event implies "free-will".
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            > _________________________________________________________________
            > Looking for a place to rent, share or buy this winter? Find your next place with Ninemsn property
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          • Tom Clark
            This raises the question of what precisely people suppose having contra-causal free will means for human agency. It seems what they want is to have the power
            Message 5 of 8 , Jul 6, 2009
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              This raises the question of what precisely people suppose having contra-causal free will means for human agency.  It seems what they want is to have the power to cause things to happen without themselves being fully caused in their choices and actions.  So we have causation on the output side, but not the input.  The mystery then becomes how something that isn’t fully caused decides what to do without its actions being random in some respect.  The whole idea seems incoherent on the face of it, but that hasn’t prevented some philosophers and jurists from trying to rescue it. See for instance the work of Mark Balaguer on libertarianism and David Hodgson ’s A plain person’s free will.  There is nothing so absurd that people won’t defend if it sufficiently flatters our self-conception or is thought (usually unreflectively) to be essential for human flourishing.

               

              best,

               

              Tom

               


              From: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com [mailto: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com ] On Behalf Of stephnlawrnce@...
              Sent: Monday, July 06, 2009 2:50 AM
              To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
              Subject: Re: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Quantum indeterminism and free-will

               

              Hi Ajita,

              I think the way to think about this is to try to imagine what extra freedom of choice indeterminism could give you. I can't imagine it and it shouldn't be so difficult to do so. If we had this free will thingy, you'd think we'd be fully aware of what it was!

              Another way is to imagine programming a choice making machine like a chess computer and think how you could give it freedom by enabling it to pick any one of the options it evaluates in the circumstances. Too much indeterminism would render it useless as a choice making machine. A little indeterminism, would not be so unhelpful but neither does it appear to give it freedom.

              I'm sure indeterminism is a red herring. The things one needs to understand to understand what freedom we have are causality, counterfactuals, options and will. Tom posted this link http://www.forbes. com/2009/ 06/18/computers- free-will- opinions- contributors- artificial- intelligence- 09-judea- pearl.html  Judea Pearl seems to be an interesting source of knowledge on these subjects here is his web site. http://bayes. cs.ucla.edu/ jp_home.html

              Stephen

               
              -----Original Message-----
              From: Ajita Kamal <evolvender@yahoo. com>
              To: naturalismphilosoph yforum@yahoogrou ps.com
              Sent: Mon, 6 Jul 2009 4:24
              Subject: [naturalismphilosop hyforum] Quantum indeterminism and free-will

               

               

              I know this subject has come up before, but I was wondering if anyone has read this interesting paper?

              http://www.unil. ch/webdav/ site/philo/ shared/DocsPerso /EsfeldMichael/ 2000/Phil_ Nat_00.pdf

              What I took away from the article even assuming that quantum events are influential in brain function (which is still scientifically unverified), is that since the probabilities of quantum events are determined by probabilities of previous quantum events, our choices are determined by natural causes, even if the probabilities of those causes may be incalculable. I.e, there is no need to suppose that a quantum brain event implies "free-will".

              I'd like to know what anyone else here might think.

              Ajita

            • stephnlawrnce@aol.com
              Hi Tom, ?It seems what they want is to have the power to cause things to happen without themselves being fully caused in their choices and actions. ?So we have
              Message 6 of 8 , Jul 6, 2009
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                Hi Tom,
                 It seems what they want is to have the power to cause things to happen without themselves being fully caused in their choices and actions.  So we have causation on the output side, but not the input.

                It's hard to understand why they want this or why they and I think perhaps even we, sometimes think like this, when choice making. One reason put forward for our thinking like this is that we are not fully aware of the causes of our will, although often we do seem to be, we generally know, or at least think we know the reason we made a particular choice. I suspect there is no one answer but I've been wondering about another potential answer to where the belief in this uncaused will comes from having been reading Judea Pearl's website.

                http://bayes.cs.ucla.edu/IJCAI99/ijcai-99.pdf

                I use the term "INTERVENTION" here, instead of ACTION, to emphasize that the
                role of causality can best be understood if we view actions as external entities,
                originating from outside our theory, not as a mode of behavior within the theory.

                So my idea is that viewing our will as outside our theory or put another way, outside the system (deterministic or otherwise) that we are thinking about has a useful function when choice making and that's why we've evolved to see it that way.

                Stephen

                 


              • Ajita Kamal
                Thank you Stephen, that is definitely a better way of thinking about it. I guess a lot of this comes from the quantum mysticism popular in the New Age
                Message 7 of 8 , Jul 8, 2009
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                  Thank you Stephen, that is definitely a better way of thinking about it. I guess a lot of this comes from the quantum mysticism popular in the New Age movement. They ascribe consciousness to quantum indeterminism and if this works for them I guess the intuition of free-will also fits right in. Essentially they are looking for magic wherever there are gaps in our understanding of the material world.

                  Ajita

                  --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, stephnlawrnce@... wrote:
                  >
                  > Hi Ajita,
                  >
                  > I think the way to think about this is to try to imagine what extra freedom of choice indeterminism could give you. I can't imagine it and it shouldn't be so difficult to do so. If we had this free will thingy, you'd think we'd be fully aware of what it was!
                  >
                  > Another way is to imagine programming a choice making machine like a chess computer and think how you could give it freedom?by enabling it to pick any one of the options it evaluates in the circumstances. Too much indeterminism would render it useless as a choice making machine. A little indeterminism,?would not be so unhelpful?but neither does it appear to?give it freedom.
                  >
                  > I'm sure indeterminism is a red herring. The things one needs to understand to understand what freedom we have are causality, counterfactuals, options and will. Tom posted this link http://www.forbes.com/2009/06/18/computers-free-will-opinions-contributors-artificial-intelligence-09-judea-pearl.html? Judea Pearl seems to be an interesting source of knowledge on these subjects here is his web site. http://bayes.cs.ucla.edu/jp_home.html
                  >
                  > Stephen
                  >
                  > ?
                  >
                  >
                  > -----Original Message-----
                  > From: Ajita Kamal <evolvender@...>
                  > To: naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com
                  > Sent: Mon, 6 Jul 2009 4:24
                  > Subject: [naturalismphilosophyforum] Quantum indeterminism and free-will
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > I know this subject has come up before, but I was wondering if anyone has read this interesting paper?
                  >
                  > http://www.unil.ch/webdav/site/philo/shared/DocsPerso/EsfeldMichael/2000/Phil_Nat_00.pdf
                  >
                  > What I took away from the article even assuming that quantum events are influential in brain function (which is still scientifically unverified), is that since the probabilities of quantum events are determined by probabilities of previous quantum events, our choices are determined by natural causes, even if the probabilities of those causes may be incalculable. I.e, there is no need to suppose that a quantum brain event implies "free-will".
                  >
                  > I'd like to know what anyone else here might think.
                  >
                  > Ajita
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > ________________________________________________________________________
                  > AOL Email goes Mobile! You can now read your AOL Emails whilst on the move. Sign up for a free AOL Email account with unlimited storage today.
                  >
                • stephnlawrnce@aol.com
                  Ajita, Thank you Stephen, that is definitely a better way of thinking about it. I guess a lot of this comes from the quantum mysticism popular in the New Age
                  Message 8 of 8 , Jul 9, 2009
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                    Ajita,
                    Thank you Stephen, that is definitely a better way of thinking about it. I guess a lot of this comes from the quantum mysticism popular in the New Age movement. They ascribe consciousness to quantum indeterminism and if this works for them I guess the intuition of free-will also fits right in. Essentially they are looking for magic wherever there are gaps in our understanding of the material world.



                    Yes, people believe they have a freedom incompatible with determinism and go looking for the indeterminism that gives them this freedom. I guess a good sceptic needs to be on the fence about indeterminism or even (gulp) say the scientific evidence points that way, at least for the moment. But none of this has anything to do with freedom of choice or freedom of the will, in any case.

                    I think one reason people think freedom of choice is incompatible with determinism is simply that they don't understand how they could have options, if determinism is true.
                     
                    I think we know that when we freely choose to take a course of action, it is our will to take that course of action. This assumes we have will but no will, no free will, so it's an assumption that any one who believes in free will should be able to agree on.  

                    I think we can then logically move to the position that options, in the context of choice, are things we consider that we can do (perhaps will do is better)  if it becomes our will to do so.

                    Once at this point we can see this is the same type of cause and effect language we use all the time. Like the grass will get wet if it rains. Or the grass would not be wet if it had not been raining.

                    The amazing thing about us is that our knowledge of cause and effect and what the effect would be if we had a particular will produces our will for the effect to take place and so the effect occurs. It's hard to imagine a greater power over our futures than this and even if one did, I suspect it would not fit with our experience of the world we live in.

                    Stephen
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