I thought it's time to create a separate post for this interesting discusion we've been having with Kirk (and other commenters) in the comments section to this unrelated post.
So here goes my reply to him turned blog post :)
"My point would be that current reasoning may be insufficient to understand the nature of free will, i.e. the 100% correct "either it is causal or acausal" view of the world may not actually be true. Epistemology is an interesting topic and not unimportant."
And my point is that your point undermines every other position you might hold that is based on logic, which I assume is pretty much every view of yours, including antinatalism, ethical animal treatment, perhaps atheism etc etc. 'Setting cats on fire hurts the cats. Therefore, I shall not set cats on fire' - is nothing but a logical conclusion, would you like to speculate how in parallel Universe under a different angle with another reason this might be untrue or what's the point of this sidetracking to epistemology.
Religious people say we should believe in god because even though we can't understand how he is the only cause that didn't need a prior cause, we must accept it as a possibility because our reason is limited. But then, why not accept every illogical idea on that basis? Why not say that our reason is insufficient to understand the meaning of life which therefore might exist and therefore we must continue breeding. This epistemology topic is interesting, indeed, but I don't see why people need to bring it into discussion of other topics. All other topics depend on us agreeing that this reality we experience is the true reality, that logic and reason is the fit instrument and science is the best method we've got. Without agreeing on that it's impossible to hold a coherent discussion. You're saying in your previous comment:
...with Objectivism, the basic and honest kind, the fundamental assumption is that sentient beings *do" have free will, it is an axiomatic belief that equates to something we don't yet completely understand but currently accept. I wondered, when reading, when and if Slattery would honestly admit *his* axiomatic belief, and if so, where in his book. I knew *what* it should be.
I kept reading and waiting, reading and waiting, and then it appeared on page 258, a little late IMO, but finally there. "Brains in jars are useful thought experiments. They are not a reason to dismiss reason. We need to accept some axioms about the universe we experience if we are to navigate within it. And that includes the acceptance of logical consistency."
So his unprovable belief is in the truthfulness and value of logic, which very much could be an illusion, as well. A trick, so to speak, of our minds, making us think that reason is a way, or the only way, to understand the world we are led to believe we live in. So to me, his step is to accept logic as a given, and for others, the quality of free will. I really think this is the crux of the two views.
What 'Trick admits he accepts as axioms are the most basic principles that I suppose most everybody accepts, except those who choose to 'explore new realms' or whatever, or except those who went nuts from trying. However, we don't have to just posit free will or god to have a debate, those are not necessary, how come are those necessary? If we don't accept the logical consistency, we can not even begin a discussion on free will. But not the other way around. People in a deterministic universe still are capable of holding a logically consistent debate. FW is not needed to explain anything and thus is just a 5th wheel, just like god is not needed to explain anything and can not just be axiomatically accepted. Those are very similar concept in my opinion that's why I keep making references to both.
We require the person making a positive claim i.e. "A exists" to provide evidence for it, not for the rest of us to have to disprove it. So to the best of our knowledge today, based on the available to us logic and reason, the idea of free will as described as '...what exactly?...humans being the only species independent of natural laws? or?' is illogical. Just like square triangles. One day, we might develop new reasoning skills in which square triangles will make sense. But then we might not. Question is, what do we do in the meantime: say we're undecided on pretty much everything because of epistemological uncertainty? But we don't, do we, it's just impractical, we simply say parallels do not cross and there are no square triangles. Humans do not posess a soul. Because nobody has proven their positive claim that we do. When and if they do, we will act in accordance with that fact.
See, that's why I love Richard Oerton's book, which puts in much simpler terms the problem of free will. He simply states:
For me, the practical implications of recognizing that humans - as Oerton likes to put it - act the way they do because of the people they are, and they did not make themselves - is the same as when realizing that a shark bites because it's a shark and it didn't have a choice to not be a shark. It doesn't mean I won't kill it if necessary to protect myself but it means I will not be torturing it in retribution for all the harm it has done.
I carry no grievances due to somebody mistreating me nor guilt feelings (or much less of them anyway) for any ills I might have done. I generally treat people kinder because I understand they couldn't have chosen to be born to different parents, in different times, and a whole set of other events that were character shaping.
Why would psychologists even ask this important question about our childhood if we had this free will that could override any traumas we'd had? And if our free will unit still depends on what happened to us, then how free is it?I know a lot of psychologists still insist we do have free will, that once we are grown up we can somehow master up some courage and power and wisdom sufficient enough to turn our lives around if we only choose to do so. So it's like, while we're 6 it is still immature this FW (free-will) unit? But once we're 18 we're all equipped to stop being what we were and re-create ourselves? Or just enough free will and wisdom comes along that will allow people like Jeffrey Dahmer to see the error of his ways and institutionalize himself?
If we were truly free at any given moment of our lives to choose any decision available to us, no matter the circumstances, we would be living in a completely different world where everybody's actions were unpredictable and often unexplainable. "Why did he do it? Idunno, must have been his free will!"
And then, there would've been no need for child-rearing books with parenting advice because no matter how you treat a child he/she will use his superior over-riding FW unit and become whoever he/she wants to become, because free! But no, a dog that you raise in cruelty will become one sort of a dog, and a dog raised in love - another one. And people don't exhibit much more freedom from the circumstances they're put in than the dogs. We do recognize this, don't we, yet we want to still claim we have some sort of a 'rise above it' section in our brains. Because we find this idea appealing, that's why. It's one of those easy sells, like the existence of an immortal soul and an afterlife.
This is the difference between believing in FW and not. We as a society sometimes act as though we do not, and sometimes - as though we do. Explaining somebody's actions by thir past - is determinism, but in the same time, retributive justice is based on the assumption that the criminal could have chosen not to become a criminal.
Although, I suppose, the need for retributive justice could be argued even acknowledging the deterministic nature of our actions. One could say, if people don't feel they can get back at the offender, the wider masses of people who as of today believe we alone bear all the responsibility for our actions, they'll turn to lynching. A least, the way society is today.
And nobody in their right mind would argue against lockng up criminals, free will or not, because if we don't there will be much more pain and surrow, so we are forced to sacrifice the lives of the few for the good of the most law-abiding citizens. Also, there needs to be a deterrant because it is a factor in itself that will sway people one way or the other: lift all bans and eliminate punitive system - much more people who otherwise wouldn've been stopped by the fear of punishment will go ahead and harm others. So of course nobody's arguing that we make life easy for the criminals. Just maybe put a little more emphasis on trying to rehabilitate as opposed to make them pay and work for a bowl of soup, where possible, of course, because some cases, unfortunately, are beyond help, you just isolate them from the society for good.
To be frank though, I see both pluses and minuses of abolishing the FW illusion. The disadvantages are that people don't find the idea of having been a product of the environment, genes and other external circumstances with no say in the matter depressing. If every choice I make is pre-determined by the whole human history before my birth, I can't take any credit for what I am either, right? It's great that I don't have to be burdened with guilt for not being the person I wish I'd have been, but what about my little achievements and discoveries and good deeds that I was sort of proud of?
I think 'Trick touches upon this in his book. And I believe he argues that if the only reason you were going to act ethically was to be able to put a label of a 'good person' on yourself, not to actually make a positive difference in the world or help somebody out, then tough luck, sucker! :D Paraphrasing is all mine and very loose, lol :P
Suppose it is sort of similar to the response religious people get when they argue you can't be good if you don't afraid of god. 'So you're only being a good person to please a strict daddy?'
It's just better for everyone if we act in an ethical way, it's beneficial for me to live in a society where I can expect people to treat me well, irrespective of what motivates us to be nice and fair and supportive to one another. On the other hand.... 'Muhahahahaha'! [evil laughter]
P.S. If there's any logical mistake in my arguments above I blame it on the hottest day in Kyiv in the last 80 years and no air conditioning. :D :D
5 August 2015. I thought I'd update the post with the link to this artice I came across. Consciousness has less control than believed, according to new theory ("Passive Frame Theory")
Now, don't ask me any questions about that "Passive Frame Theory", I'm just posting a link to it because of my confirmation bias thank you very much, I'm off to watch a movie or whatever else my subconscious impulse dictates
19 August 2015. Oh, look what I've found on my own blog: a relevant quote by a famous psychologist Abraham Maslow:
Sorry, busy with the move.
Yeah, I see, there we have some academic paper on the subject I understand not much about - physics, esecially quantum physics. So the paper can not be evaluated by me with the limited knowledge I posess on the subject. Similarly, if somebody sent me an academic paper on carbon dating or fossil records evaluation, I'd have to say 'I'll side with the mejority of scientists' opinion on the topic'. I won't be reading that or any other paper that's meant for the professionals, I'll just trust the scientific consensus on the subject. I know that there are tons of papers being published, but that alone doesn't prove anything. A paper only has weight if it is being widely cited in other papers, by other scientists.
Having watched a lot of Atheist Experience, I know how religious people like to sometimes bring up some physics facts or quantum physics phenomena in support of their views. It can even sound convincing once in a while. But we are (I am) laymen in this subject so we're easily fooled. For me, whet is more important, is that the majority of physicists do not believe in god. Guess they would, if those facts would have really been a testimony to a supernatural, the way some religious people see them.
So when there is a consensus of scientists - I'm on board, I wouldn't mind free will)))
Not quite, I was busy with that, now it's this: