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Re: An argument against free will

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  • Xinbo
    For me, the simplest and most convincing argument against free will is the idea of causal closure, that is, only physical causes can cause physical effects. If
    Message 1 of 2 , Jan 24, 2012
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      For me, the simplest and most convincing argument against free will is the idea of causal closure, that is, only physical causes can cause physical effects. If you think about the law of conservation of energy for a minute, it's quite easy to arrive at "causal closure". Once you accept this, it follows that all our actions (which are physical) have physical causes. So if an action is caused by a thought process, the thought process is itself physical. Since physical things follow physical laws (deterministic or stochastic), this leaves no room for free will (using the traditional definition of free will).

      Xinbo

      --- In naturalismphilosophyforum@yahoogroups.com, "LyndonP" <luckylyndy7@...> wrote:
      >
      > This is the coalescing of my argument against free will, consciousness, and intentionality. Alex Rosenberg makes this argument, from what I take, in his book Atheist's Guide to Reality, though not quite so straightforwardly.
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      > Any comments appreciated about the structure, about the language, ambiguities and needed clarifications.
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      >
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      > A) Watson and Deep Blue (machines) process information (reason, intentionalize, choose courses of action) in a structurally and functionally similar way that their human opponents are processing information.
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      > B) Assuming that the human processing of information has conscious elements and the computers don't, whatever structures and functions consciousness grants human beings during this type of information processing (reasoning, intentionality, decisions) is not "special." That is, whatever properties or functions adhere to human consciousness in this decision making can be duplicated or outdone by non-conscious structures, as it has been outdone in these games.
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      > [[B-2: Other processing of information in different games or language use is of similar structure as that in these games.]]
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      > C) There is no reason to believe that the processing of information during moral and social decisions is of a different structure (or is benefitted by a different structure) than the processing of information (the use of reason) during Chess games or Jeopardy.
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      > D) Whatever properties and functions make up consciousness they are not "special,"* that is, they do not grant us moral capacities different than that of non-free-willed, non-conscious behaviorally determined entities that process information and make decisions based solely on whatever their internal state is at that time, the environmental inputs, and whatever algorithmic procedure incurs.
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      > Conclusion:
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      > Consciousness and free will play no useful, functional or structural role during Chess or Jeopardy decisions (that would not be better or equally structured non-consciously); consciousness and free will add nothing to moral and social decision making as well. In other words, free will does not exist.
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      > *Conscious creatures/thoughts may be "special" in the sense that there is "nothing else it is like to be that thing," but such "specialness" is probably blown out of proportion by our yearning to be special. That is, the things that truly make human beings special, our complex societies, projects, imagining of a great many worlds and how we can respond and build different ones, is not granted to us *because* of consciousness: those abilities could have been and can be produced through other non-conscious means. Though, evolutionarily speaking, that beings like us would be conscious may have been the best, most likely, or even only possible outcome.
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      > (We can, of course, take the compatibilist route and say that both Deep Blue and Deep Blue's opponent had "free will" and were making "free choices"; and that moral and social decisions are "freely chosen" in the same way. I am taking free will in the incompatibilist sense; but also hope to push the idea that the compatibilist notion makes us nothing better than complex computers, which hopefully drives a wedge into the multitude of connotations that compatibilists sneak in when they claim, baldly, that "free will" is real, which many times sneaks in the idea that we do something substantially different in decision making and choice making than Deep Blue or Watson or some other machine.)
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      > By intentionality here I mean the relational status between the processing between, say, thinking about "Paris" and the actual Paris. I follow Dennett and Rosenberg (among others) in saying that original intentionality never coheres and that the intentional state is a functional representational state that provides a brain or computer with appropriate structural formation and behavioral responses. The "appropriate structural formation" being that there is a correlation in the structure of say the real geographic relationship between Paris to Lyon or between two sides of a triangle and the brain/mind representation of the relationship between Paris and Lyon or between two sides of a triangle, that thus grants "appropriate" or shared behavioral repertoires. Human intentionality is of no more important structure or function than Watson's intentionality when both are thinking about "Paris." As was shown, consciousness does not grant us greater (more useful) intentional structures in this situation; in other instances of human intentionality, say about a moral decision, the intentional structures that adheres to human information processing (including consciousness's role) is of a similar intentional structure as to what Watson and humans do when they are processing information about "Paris."
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      > For more on intentionality see Rosenberg's book, pg. 172-193, or Dennett here http://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/papers/intentio.htm
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      > --------
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      > So whatever consciousness and qualia do for human beings it is not making us "free" in some valuable sense or allowing us to represent the world with "original intentionality" in a way that is superior to non-conscious "intentional" structures.
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