Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Free Will is Analytically Impossible

So, the five answers: yes, no, I don't know, I don't care, and wrong question. Y/N/?/¯\_(ツ)_/¯/X
At first I found a strong sign of X on the libertarianism vs. determinism question when it turned out their consequences were identical. I've since found determinism isn't predictable and now it's time to show libertarianism is impossible. Mainly for perspective on how conflicted the original question was.

Either I can decide to pursue what I want, or I can't. Either I can choose what I want or I can't. These are mainly straightforward empirical questions - I would notice if I couldn't pursue the strategy I wanted, like I notice I don't control what I like or don't like. (Minimal control, anyway.) However, it doesn't matter, because either way free will is impossible.

Though I control my actions, my best action is determined/predicted by what I want. If it were not so determined, I would not be free - I would be doing something other than what I decide to do. Thus, I cannot be free either way.

In theory I could control what I want, but based on what? Look at the words - I would be able to want whatever I want. If I could fully control my wants, then how I arranged them would have to be determined by some not-me factor. The thing which I use to decide how I arrange things under my control is, by definition, my preferences. Having total control over my preferences is impossible, because there would be nothing to decide their disposition with.

Empirically, the 'want' part of the brain can be damaged, producing caricature vulcans. These folk don't make decisions, because there's no ought from is. Ultimately, to change what I want, I have to have some core value to use as a fulcrum to lever around the values lower in the hierarchy. (Or shallower in the onion.)

Hence, the desire for 'free will' is an evopsych thing, not a philosophy thing. It's about not being in physical chains. It's about my values not being overridden by someone else's. Not being in logical/causal chains is impossible.


Chent said...

I used to think like you ten years ago. If materialism is true, free will is obviously impossible. There are not uncaused causes in this Universe so there is no free will.

But materialism is not true and there are several proofs about that. Materialists (and the Establishment) want to sweep these proofs under the rug because the falsity of materialism has implications that they don't like.

If you have an open mind, you can start here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDV2EgVC8KI (from a Christian)

https://www.amazon.com/Why-Materialism-Baloney-Skeptics-Everything/dp/1782793623 (from a Eastern philosophy kind of guy)

https://www.amazon.com/Mind-Cosmos-Materialist-Neo-Darwinian-Conception/dp/0199919755 (from an atheist, but this is not an easy read)

You can also see the experiments described by Rupert Sheldrake. I disagree with the interpretations that Sheldrake attaches to these experiments, but the experiments are enlightening.

Finally, you could look for the scientific evidence about psi. One way to start is the chapter about psi of this book


But if you don't want to be challenged or if you like the implications of the materialist worldview, don't bother about that.

Alrenous said...

Looks like you read the title and then stopped. I'm not a materialist. I'm a straight-up Cartesian dualist.

Nick B Steves said...

So you take free will to mean completely free will? That's preposterous. I cannot force myself to believe apples are blue (nor would I wish to). I take free will to consist of any epsilon of freedom, i.e., not determinism. Obviously if a car goes over a cliff, the path is pretty much determined. Free will, vis-a-vis determinism, at least so far as I've ever imagined it, means merely the freedom to act within contraints. The slightest epsilon of freedom means that a choice was not determined in the initial conditions of the Big Bang, which proves determinism fraudulent.

Alrenous said...

The proof applies to what you call the slightest epsilon of freedom. All options are total constraint: the only question is whether the constraints are internal or external.

Richard Cocks said...


Richard Cocks said...

You claim we can do what we want but we can't choose what we want. With any counter-example suggested, you can say, well if you did it, you wanted to do it, no matter what it is. Thus, your position seems strong.

However, this is the self-sealing (no true, Scotsman) fallacy. Your position is a tautology, which you seem to partially recognize when you say free will is analytically impossible. You are not actually saying anything about the world but are making something true by definition and that's why no counter-example will be possible.

With actual empirical/factual claims about the world one can describe a hypothetical situation in which the claim is false. My car has four wheels. In what circumstances would that be false? If it instead it had some other number of wheels, say three or five.

Under what hypothetical situation would you agree that we are free to choose our wants? Or that free will is possible? If no such hypothetical situation exists, then you are not actually saying anything about any fact of the matter, you are just playing with words.

All bachelors are unmarried men admits of no exceptions, not because you have done research and discovered that this true. All bachelors are unmarried because that is what the word 'bachelor' means. It's a tautology. No exceptions are possible. If no counter-factual exceptions are possible even in principle, then one is not describing a state of affairs (free will is or is not actually possible), but merely making something true by definition. At most we might be describing a fact about the use of language, but we are not discovering a truth about the world per se.

Alrenous said...

With any counter-example suggested, you can say, well if you did it, you wanted to do it, no matter what it is.
From the outside (objectively) it's impossible to tell. From the inside (subjectively) it's quite easy. Did you in fact want to, or were you dragged along against your own will? You've never had the experience of intending to say one thing and having something else come out of your mouth?

Your position is a tautology
All true statements are tautologies. I had to redefine tautology to make it useful.
[A tautology is a statement with no consequences - a statement which contradicts nothing.] No counter-example is possible because I'm correct, not because of the definition. It's like looking for the counter-example where 2 + 2 = 5. Can't be found.

Under what hypothetical situation would you agree that we are free to choose our wants?
I'm proving precisely that no such hypothetical situation exists. I would agree such a hypothetical situation exists if you can define 'free will' such that it could meaningfully exist.