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Is Denying Free Will Unreasonable?

Rational_Thinker9119
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1/8/2014 6:25:31 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
I have heard the argument that if you deny free will, then your denial of free will came from a bunch of prior determining causes. Thus, since it is not based on reason, but determinism, then it is unreasonable to deny free will. However, a calculator can "reason" that 1+1=2 and come up with right answers all of the time even though everything is determined.

Is the argument that you cannot have reason if you deny free will stand?
Illegalcombatant
Posts: 4,008
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1/8/2014 7:01:37 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/8/2014 6:25:31 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
I have heard the argument that if you deny free will, then your denial of free will came from a bunch of prior determining causes. Thus, since it is not based on reason, but determinism, then it is unreasonable to deny free will. However, a calculator can "reason" that 1+1=2 and come up with right answers all of the time even though everything is determined.

Is the argument that you cannot have reason if you deny free will stand?

No, well not that argument anyway.
"Seems like another attempt to insert God into areas our knowledge has yet to penetrate. You figure God would be bigger than the gaps of our ignorance." Drafterman 19/5/12
philochristos
Posts: 2,614
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1/8/2014 7:39:25 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/8/2014 6:25:31 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
I have heard the argument that if you deny free will, then your denial of free will came from a bunch of prior determining causes. Thus, since it is not based on reason, but determinism, then it is unreasonable to deny free will. However, a calculator can "reason" that 1+1=2 and come up with right answers all of the time even though everything is determined.

Is the argument that you cannot have reason if you deny free will stand?

Calculators don't really reason, though. They aren't rational thinking machines that see the logical connection between numbers. They just spit out output deterministically according to their programming, structure, and input.

C.S. Lewis, who I think came up with this argument, originally argued that physicalism (the view that we are purely physical beings with no immaterial aspect to our nature, like a soul or spirit) rendered rational belief impossible. His argument was that given physicalism, hard determinism is true, and given hard determinism, our beliefs are the inevitable outcome of non-rational processes.

A lot of people in recent years have sloppily ignored the subtlties in Lewis' argument and simply argued that determinism renders rationality impossible, and that denying free will is self-refuting for that reason.

But I think that is a mistake. I think it matters whether your beliefs are the direct result of blind mechanistic causes or whether your beliefs are the result of reasons and rationally grasping logical connections between propositions. In either case, your beliefs are determined, but in one, your beliefs are non-rational, and the other, they are rational.

Think about this for a minute. The better an argument is, or the stronger some piece of evidence is, the more difficult it is to deny the conclusion. That means the stronger the evidence and arguments, the closer they are to determining your beliefs. If they are strong enough, then they CAN determine your beliefs by making it impossible for you to really and honestly deny the conclusion.

If having your beliefs determined renders your beliefs non-rational, then that would mean the better your reasons for holding a belief, the less rational that belief is, and the less reason you have for holding your belief, the more rational you are. It would follow that your beliefs are the most rational when you have no reason to believe them at all.

But that's absurd. Obviously, the more hand reason and evidence have in forming your beliefs, the more rational those beliefs are. And it follows that your beliefs are most rational when they have everything to do with reason, argument, and evidence. And it follows that your beliefs are most rational when they are determined by reason, argument, and evidence.

So it matters very much what is determining your reasons. I agree with C.S. Lewis that if your beliefs are all determined by mechanist physical causes, then that undermines rationality. But if our beliefs are determined by reason, argument, and evidence, then that establishes their rationality.

I think the idea that beliefs are only rational when they are freely chosen is fraught with difficulties. I don't not think anybody's beliefs are the direct result of choice. If they were, then it seems to me THAT would undermine their rationality. Just think of any belief you currently hold for what seem to you to be good reason. And imagine simply exerting your will and believing the opposite. Imagine that if you did so, you would honestly think your new point of view is true, and the other one is false, in spite of the evidence. I don't see how such a thing could be rational. We can only be rational to the degree that reason, argument, and evidence have a hand in bringing about our beliefs. If our beliefs are the direct result of choice, then they could be anything so long as we chose those beliefs, whether there are good reasons for them or not.
"Not to know of what things one should demand demonstration, and of what one should not, argues want of education." ~Aristotle

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." ~Aristotle
philochristos
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1/8/2014 7:42:07 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/8/2014 7:39:25 PM, philochristos wrote:

So it matters very much what is determining your reasons.

Woops! I meant to say, "So it matters very much what is determining your beliefs."
"Not to know of what things one should demand demonstration, and of what one should not, argues want of education." ~Aristotle

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." ~Aristotle
Rational_Thinker9119
Posts: 9,054
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1/8/2014 8:00:21 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/8/2014 7:39:25 PM, philochristos wrote:
At 1/8/2014 6:25:31 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
I have heard the argument that if you deny free will, then your denial of free will came from a bunch of prior determining causes. Thus, since it is not based on reason, but determinism, then it is unreasonable to deny free will. However, a calculator can "reason" that 1+1=2 and come up with right answers all of the time even though everything is determined.

Is the argument that you cannot have reason if you deny free will stand?

Calculators don't really reason, though. They aren't rational thinking machines that see the logical connection between numbers. They just spit out output deterministically according to their programming, structure, and input.

C.S. Lewis, who I think came up with this argument, originally argued that physicalism (the view that we are purely physical beings with no immaterial aspect to our nature, like a soul or spirit) rendered rational belief impossible. His argument was that given physicalism, hard determinism is true, and given hard determinism, our beliefs are the inevitable outcome of non-rational processes.

A lot of people in recent years have sloppily ignored the subtlties in Lewis' argument and simply argued that determinism renders rationality impossible, and that denying free will is self-refuting for that reason.

But I think that is a mistake. I think it matters whether your beliefs are the direct result of blind mechanistic causes or whether your beliefs are the result of reasons and rationally grasping logical connections between propositions. In either case, your beliefs are determined, but in one, your beliefs are non-rational, and the other, they are rational.

Think about this for a minute. The better an argument is, or the stronger some piece of evidence is, the more difficult it is to deny the conclusion. That means the stronger the evidence and arguments, the closer they are to determining your beliefs. If they are strong enough, then they CAN determine your beliefs by making it impossible for you to really and honestly deny the conclusion.

If having your beliefs determined renders your beliefs non-rational, then that would mean the better your reasons for holding a belief, the less rational that belief is, and the less reason you have for holding your belief, the more rational you are. It would follow that your beliefs are the most rational when you have no reason to believe them at all.

But that's absurd. Obviously, the more hand reason and evidence have in forming your beliefs, the more rational those beliefs are. And it follows that your beliefs are most rational when they have everything to do with reason, argument, and evidence. And it follows that your beliefs are most rational when they are determined by reason, argument, and evidence.

So it matters very much what is determining your reasons. I agree with C.S. Lewis that if your beliefs are all determined by mechanist physical causes, then that undermines rationality. But if our beliefs are determined by reason, argument, and evidence, then that establishes their rationality.

I think the idea that beliefs are only rational when they are freely chosen is fraught with difficulties. I don't not think anybody's beliefs are the direct result of choice. If they were, then it seems to me THAT would undermine their rationality. Just think of any belief you currently hold for what seem to you to be good reason. And imagine simply exerting your will and believing the opposite. Imagine that if you did so, you would honestly think your new point of view is true, and the other one is false, in spite of the evidence. I don't see how such a thing could be rational. We can only be rational to the degree that reason, argument, and evidence have a hand in bringing about our beliefs. If our beliefs are the direct result of choice, then they could be anything so long as we chose those beliefs, whether there are good reasons for them or not.

Fair enough. Personally, I think physicalism is false because you could know everything about every physical component and its position and still not know what it is like to experience something like redness. Also, I would say determinism is false because I think indeterministic interpretations of quantum mechanics are more plausible.
philochristos
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1/8/2014 8:02:12 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/8/2014 8:00:21 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:

Fair enough. Personally, I think physicalism is false because you could know everything about every physical component and its position and still not know what it is like to experience something like redness. Also, I would say determinism is false because I think indeterministic interpretations of quantum mechanics are more plausible.

Do you think indeterminism has any bearing on whether we are rational or not?
"Not to know of what things one should demand demonstration, and of what one should not, argues want of education." ~Aristotle

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." ~Aristotle
Rational_Thinker9119
Posts: 9,054
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1/8/2014 8:06:40 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/8/2014 8:02:12 PM, philochristos wrote:
At 1/8/2014 8:00:21 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:

Fair enough. Personally, I think physicalism is false because you could know everything about every physical component and its position and still not know what it is like to experience something like redness. Also, I would say determinism is false because I think indeterministic interpretations of quantum mechanics are more plausible.

Do you think indeterminism has any bearing on whether we are rational or not?

It could, at least according to some theories of quantum mind.
Sidewalker
Posts: 3,713
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1/9/2014 5:22:10 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/8/2014 6:25:31 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
I have heard the argument that if you deny free will, then your denial of free will came from a bunch of prior determining causes. Thus, since it is not based on reason, but determinism, then it is unreasonable to deny free will. However, a calculator can "reason" that 1+1=2 and come up with right answers all of the time even though everything is determined.

Is the argument that you cannot have reason if you deny free will stand?

Yes.

Denial of free will is self-refuting; it necessarily refutes the volitional ability to deny free will.

It"s an argument that denies the existence of arguments; it entails a proposition that denies the truth value of propositions and attempts to reason that reasoning doesn"t exist.
"It is one of the commonest of mistakes to consider that the limit of our power of perception is also the limit of all there is to perceive." " C. W. Leadbeater
Juan_Pablo
Posts: 2,052
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1/9/2014 6:24:22 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
Rational Thinker, but quantum mechanics doesn't perceive the world in the cold deterministic world view you're proposing. The effect of a cause is provided in terms of probability rather than in terms of a numerical certainty.

However, there are clear examples even in arithmetic where more than one possible answer can be provided to solve a problem. What, for example, is the square root of 9?

3 would be an obvious answer, but there is also another solution:

- 3.

And if a computer was forced to provide only one solution without knowing any other details, you get a probability that one of these will be provided.

(There's actually more solutions if the answer isn't forced to be a whole-integer number).
Juan_Pablo
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1/9/2014 6:30:30 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
Anyway, remember that even simple arithmetic has auxillary ( un-clarified ) conditions attached, such as "provide a whole-integer answer to this problem". You get many, many more solutions ( an infinite in number theory, in fact ) when conditions for the answer are allowed to be provided as irrational and rational numbers.
Juan_Pablo
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1/9/2014 6:37:01 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
. . . Oh . . . and when answers are also allowed to be provided as mathematical functions with operators, such as:

1 + 1 = 6 - 4

Now you may be looking at this and exclaim that this is ridiculous, but there are examples in math were a restriction ( or a lack of them ) would allow 6 - 4 to be a solution to the problem.
Juan_Pablo
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1/9/2014 7:10:21 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
Okay. I see that you've taken an unsure position on the existence of indeterminism.

Anyway, my point with these posts was to demonstrate that with your problem it's still possible to get at a required value but in a way that offers more than one of many materializations for that value. So even though 1 + 1 must equal the value 2, that 2 can still materialize in many different ways, that would look eccentric to us.

It's my belief that this is the origin of indetermism in nature. The universe operates mathematically but even so there is some freedom in the answers it can provide. This is what I think we are observing with quantum mechanics.
Juan_Pablo
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1/9/2014 8:01:39 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
Okay. I looked up Set Theory on wikipedia ( I read about it more than a decade ago ) and it doesn't fall under Number Theory; my mistake. However, both Number Theory and Set Theory can be used to show that there can be many, many formulations of an answer to a particular problem, so I'm still right!

Booyah!
Pareidolic-Dreamer
Posts: 84
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1/13/2014 2:42:53 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 1/8/2014 6:25:31 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
I have heard the argument that if you deny free will, then your denial of free will came from a bunch of prior determining causes. Thus, since it is not based on reason, but determinism, then it is unreasonable to deny free will. However, a calculator can "reason" that 1+1=2 and come up with right answers all of the time even though everything is determined.

Is the argument that you cannot have reason if you deny free will stand?

I'd like to answer this by telling a short story about a neuroscientist that I saw in a Ted talks video.

The man explained in quite reasonable tones that the brain has no center. It has nothing there that is capable of making a choice.
Instead of a center, each of the many varied parts of the brain performs a given function.
Each part performs it's function at the same time as all the others are performing theirs, thus giving the impression of unity. (At just about this time in the speech I was beginning to experience what would have been, if I had allowed it to continue, some new and crippling evolution of cognitive dissonance, and it had an odor. )

The guy goes on into metaphor, and says that all the parts of the brain are like each of the instruments in a symphony. Only when the instruments all play together, giving the impression of unity, (Theres that phrase again. Smell it?) only then do we hear the song the symphony plays.

First he defines unity. At least that's how Us non-neuro-scientists define unity.
The many parts of a system working together all at once to produce a desired end.

Then that bulbous, air filled thing atop his neck wobbled sideways and expelled that noxious phrase "the impression (gag) of unity." and ruined the whole talk. Mothers were hiding their first born sons. People shaped holes appeared in the walls of the assembly room.

The moral of the story is that science alone is supremely inequipped to understand the nature of the mind. They just can't quite turn the corner and see that the song is the soul of the symphony.
Free will does not arise from the center.
Free will creates the center.
Free will is the song of the soul.

Of course, I could be wrong. I only have harmony.
They have that peer review thingy, and all.

Oh and btw..... I refuse to believe that calculators can reason until they can quote and explain Descartes.
Pareidolic-Dreamer
I see wall people.

When I argue against someone's truths, I always feel like I am arguing just as strongly against my own.
Wocambs
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1/13/2014 3:08:36 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
Well, if you accept that conscious decisions are subject to some kind of rational evaluation in order to determine whether it is the 'right' action or not, then we're certainly responsible for our actions. Not sure about 'free will', but we can certainly decide on what is the right course of action and follow it.