Talk:Dilemma of determinism/Archive 3

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Horns of a dilemma

The above discussion has evolved but is long and confusing. Here I have tried to summarize a reasonable position that avoids much of the tangle above, and hope it will prove acceptable. The introduction to the dilemma of determinism should be rewritten to include some pertinent sources and to carefully delimit the problem from its wider context.

Following a request for clarification and sourcing of the 'dilemma of determinism' it has been suggested that Paul Russell's Sorabji and the dilemma of determinism is a good choice. He speaks of two 'horns' of the dilemma proposed by Sorabji in Richard Sorabji (2006). Necessity, Cause and Blame: Perspectives on Aristotle's Theory (Paperback reprint ed.). University Of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226768244.  The 'horns of a dilemma' terminology appears to have caught on, with this Google search producing over 100,000 hits using this common phrase to describe the relation between between free will and determinism.

Apparently, despite this attention, there is confusion over just what the 'dilemma' is about, although the 'horns' of the dilemma appear clear. The 'horns' of any dilemma are the 'rock or a hard place' faced in a mandatory choice. In this case, Russell posits the horns as 'determinism' on one hand and 'randomness' on the other. (Although Fischer labels the two horns differently: "The deterministic horn" and "The indeterministic horn", as does the WP article.) The 'dilemma' is that by choosing either, an undesirable conflict is introduced with our intuitions of free will, threatening to wreck our 'ship of common-sense intuition' that we have free will. Of course, if there is doubt whether these supposed alternatives exist, or whether the choice of one or the other is mandatory, or whether we really have anything at stake in abandoning the idea of free will, there may be no dilemma: one can simply ignore Scylla and Charybdis as fear mongering.

A program to find a different course that evades the two 'horns', is sometimes termed the 'free will defense' and so is properly a topic under free will. However, this article about the dilemma of determinism is not concerned with whether the horns of the dilemma exist, nor whether the choice between them is mandatory, but is concerned primarily with simply describing the assumptions of the dilemma. In fact, the dilemma, as identified as a mandatory choice between 'determinism' or 'randomness', is rather easily disposed of, and one might ask if there is not a different formulation of the dilemma that would be more difficult to dismiss. However, that undertaking is left to the article free will.

With these remarks in mind, it is suggested that the intro be rewritten to incorporate something of this perspective upon the scope and purpose of the article, and the 'dilemma' be pried loose from its present confusing two if-then clauses to clearly state (i) the horns of the dilemma and (ii) the reason these horns force a dilemma. The combining of the terms 'determinism' and 'indeterminism' in the same single sentence with selected definitions of these words that are themselves debatable should be avoided. Then a number of sources about the dilemma should be cited, both supporting existence of the 'horns' and the mandatory nature of the choice between them, and also sources denying existence of the 'horns', or denying that a choice is mandatory. These sources should include the Russell paper and possibly some others from this Google search. Brews ohare (talk) 16:43, 26 September 2013 (UTC)

  • A better source than the Russell paper mentioned above, being more wide-ranging and having Google on-line access, is the book mentioned by Pfhorrest: Paul Russell (1995). Freedom and Moral Sentiment: Hume's Way of Naturalizing Responsibility. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198025548. one aspect of Hume's strategy is to reveal that the dilemma of determinism, presented as an alternative between horns A [chance] and C [metaphysical necessity] is a false dilemma...[based upon] confusion about the nature of necessity.  Brews ohare (talk) 17:17, 26 September 2013 (UTC)
I have some personal drama happening right now that may likely keep me from responding in depth for a while.
Most of this above is some of the more sensible statement of the problem I've heard from you thus far. However a few qualms:
You write "However, this article about the dilemma of determinism is not concerned with whether the horns of the dilemma exist, nor whether the choice between them is mandatory, but is concerned primarily with simply describing the assumptions of the dilemma."
Criticisms of the assumptions of the dilemma are welcome in this article, and should make up a large part of it. The article should feature both endorsements and criticisms of the dilemma in addition to a statement of what it is. But it should not misrepresent the problem in the first place in the lede, nor misrepresent arguments about tangential topics as criticisms of the dilemma specifically, which are my concerns with most of your suggestions so far.
You write "it is suggested that the intro be rewritten to incorporate something of this perspective upon the scope and purpose of the article, and the 'dilemma' be pried loose from its present confusing two if-then clauses to clearly state (i) the horns of the dilemma and (ii) the reason these horns force a dilemma".
The "if-then" clauses are stating the horns of the dilemma and why the choice between them is a dilemma. They are "if one thing, bad stuff; but if not that thing, also bad stuff". The "one thing" and "not that thing" are the horns, and the "bad stuff" is what makes the choice between them a dilemma.
You write: "The combining of the terms 'determinism' and 'indeterminism' in the same single sentence with selected definitions of these words that are themselves debatable should be avoided."
"Determinism" is in the title of the article, so complaining about the use of that word seems puerile. We can certainly elaborate early in the body what exactly is meant by "determinism", but for the lede, the word alone should suffice. Nobody but you would mistake it for talking about biological, cultural, psychological, or any of the more specific and inapplicable senses of "determinism", instead of one of the broader, stricter senses (causal, logical, even theological) which are intended; and if they did, they could get that cleared up in the first part of the body. We don't need to clutter up the lede with some circumlocution to satisfy your distaste for the word "determinism".--Pfhorrest (talk) 06:39, 27 September 2013 (UTC)
Pfhorrest: I think these remarks of yours are a mischaracterization of my position. The ifs are not as you describe them. The ifs specify definitions as in if determinism is true, our actions are controlled by preceding events and if indeterminism is true, our actions are pure chance . In my opinion these ifs are shoehorning abbreviated definitions into a sentence that in fact are the subjects of entire books and articles and cannot be summarized so easily. This issue of oversimplification of the terms mentioned in the dilemma is entirely separate from the 'horns' of the dilemma. Brews ohare (talk) 15:11, 28 September 2013 (UTC)


I will restate (and refine) my suggestion from the above section as a starting point here:

The dilemma of determinism or standard argument against free will is an argument that there exists a dilemma between determinism and its negation, indeterminism, in that both are purported to undermine the possibility of free will. The argument for the dilemma combines the traditional incompatibilist argument that if determinism were true, all our actions would be necessitated by past events beyond our present control, and thus undermine the possibility of free will; and other arguments that indeterminism, identified as randomness, would leave our actions beyond any control, and so also undermine the possibility of free will. The dilemma is not itself a stance on the issue of determinism, but rather the argument that no matter which stance on that issue is correct, the possibility of free will faces challenges either way.
Responses to the challenge posed by the dilemma vary. The dilemma is accepted by hard incompatibilists, who conclude that free will is therefore impossible in any case. The dilemma is also compatible with, but does not entail, hard determinism, which holds that determinism is true and incompatible with free will and that free will is therefore impossible. The dilemma is rejected by metaphysical libertarians, who hold that free will exists and is incompatible with determinism, thus seeking refuge for free will in indeterminism. And the dilemma is rejected by compatibilists, who hold that free will is possible even if determinism is true, and some of whom reject that the issue of determinism vs indeterminism is even relevant to the possibility of free will at all.

This states what the two horns are (determinism and indeterminism), and why the choice between them is supposed to be a dilemma. It then states more thoroughly why each horn of the dilemma is supposed to be a problem. It states what the dilemma is not: namely, a stance on which horn is the right one. Then it says broadly who accepts the dilemma and why, and who rejects the dilemma and why.

All of these issues should then be elaborated in the body: statements of the problem by various notable sources (elaborating here on what "determinism" and "indeterminism" are taken to mean, and more thoroughly stating why they are each supposed to be a problem for free will); endorsement of the argument by notable sources that endorse it; and criticism of the argument by notable sources that criticize it (divided up into which parts of it they attack and thus what their resulting alternative to it is).

What do you think of that? --Pfhorrest (talk) 06:39, 27 September 2013 (UTC)

It is a start. There is already a re-direct from the standard argument to this article. The use of "standard argument" has the merit of indicating it is a hackneyed formulation that could use some polishing.
The lead sentence is good:
"The dilemma of determinism or standard argument against free will is an argument that there exists a dilemma between determinism and its negation, indeterminism, in that both are purported to undermine the possibility of free will."
I don't think the next step should be to introduce the technical term incompatibilist and so forth. The logical next step is some definitions, something like:
"The terms determinism and indeterminism are used in several possibly incommensurate ways. As used in the 'standard argument' determinism is often taken to mean that every event is a necessary consequence of previous events, and them alone.[1] That formulation is a bit antiquated,[2] but serves as a starting point here. In the 'standard argument' indeterminism is often taken to mean events occur by pure chance. Again, there are some difficulties with this formulation, among them the connection between the philosophical use of 'chance' and the application of chance as formulated in the theory of probability.[3] Likewise, the meaning of free will is much debated,[4] but for present purpose is taken to mean that individuals control their own decisions. The nuances of definition are discussed later in this article, but for now, with these approximate definitions, the dilemma pointed to by the standard argument is simply that our intuitive notions of free will are not compatible with either a present controlled entirely by the past, or a present that is just a roll of the dice. The situation is not improved if it is taken that events are split between those that are determined and others that are chance occurrences."
References [1],[2],[3],[4] to be provided. How's that? Brews ohare (talk) 14:22, 27 September 2013 (UTC)
Possible sources
[1] Hoefer Russell §25
[2] Sarkar Ernest Nagel
[3] Antony Eagle
[4] O'Connor
Brews ohare (talk) 15:13, 27 September 2013 (UTC)
I'm glad you like the first sentence. I didn't realize I was adding the "standard argument" part; this article used to be at that title, and I thought it still had that in the lede sentence.
I'm fine with avoiding technical terms like "incompatibilist" in the next sentence, but I think what you're written above goes into far much detail on too many diverging subjects for the very first paragraph of the article, and still has a very dismissive and unencyclopedic tone. How is this for a modification of the rest of my first paragraph, reworded to emphasize the intended meanings of "determinism" and "indeterminism" by those who put forth the argument:
The argument for the dilemma combines two arguments about the relationship between the concepts of free will and determinism. One argument claims that strict determination of our actions would mean they were completely necessitated by past events beyond our present control, and that this would be logically incompatible with the concept of free will. The other argument claims that any indetermination of our actions would merely mean they were at least partly random, offering no more control, and that this would also be logically incompatible with the concept of free will.
In particular I'm trying to emphasize the "concepts" and "would mean" angle here, to be clear that it's talking about the logical relation between two abstract ideas, not any kind of empirical claims.--Pfhorrest (talk) 23:56, 27 September 2013 (UTC)
Pfhorrest: This is Part I of three parts to my comments. I am breaking up your long response into easier to manage sections for comment. Your revised paragraph is an improvement in not suggesting that we have the whole story on 'determination' and 'indeterminism'. However, while not making that claim, it also is less than frank when it is not pointed out that these statements are not the universally accepted positions, because there aren't any. It also is unsourced. The other problem with this paragraph is that it says it deals with logical conflicts. Now a logical conflict requires a particular set of definitions, obviously, and then the logical conflict can be demonstrated for those definitions. If any of the definitions are altered, the conflict has to be proven anew. The paragraph is not clear bout this fact, which although obvious, needs stating because the next question is whether this 'logical conflict' pertains to each and every formulation, or to this particular one.
Now a key missing ingredient here is the formal definition of 'free will' engendering the logical conflict. And whatever definition is chosen for 'free will' there is the empirical question of whether that definition applies to 'free will', the intuition of real-world thinking. Without some such argument of connection to real experience, the 'logical' contradiction is simply an empty language structure being straightened out on an abstract level. It is like a mathematical exercise in geometry: until we know that Euclidean geometry is applicable to our problem, we cannot decide whether 'parallel lines never meet' or 'parallel lines cross' is the more practical choice for 'parallel lines'.
It is my guess that the demonstration of a logical contradiction has to proceed by saying something like: "Although there is no established definition of free will that has been proven superior to all others in describing what we experience intuitively as free will, the most widely accepted definition is ..." It is then possible to do likewise with 'determinism ' and 'indeterminism' and prove a logical inconsistency for these particular choices. Brews ohare (talk) 15:31, 28 September 2013 (UTC)
The problem with this is that those putting forth the dilemma of determinism assume a common understanding of what free will is, and "but that's only true for a wrong understanding of the concept of free will" is an argument raised against it by its opponents, which should thus be covered later under objections, not in the first paragraph. We cannot bake that entire argument into the statement of the problem. The problem as presented by its proponents treats "free will" as primitive, i.e. not needing elaboration. It is compatibilist opponents of it (myself included) who bring up the "your understanding of the concept of 'free will' is wrong" argument, and start arguing definitions. That is meant to be implied in the later passage mentioning that compatibilists deny that free will is incompatible with determinism. There is enough material for a whole other article (which already exists) on the subject of what different compatibilists take the definition of "free will" to mean and how it differs from the incompatibilist conception of free will implicitly employed by the dilemma of determinism, so we don't want to rehash that entire topic here, especially in the lede. In the body, when compatibilists offer their rebuttals of the dilemma, it could be fitting to summarize their individual objections to the conception of free will implied by proponents of the dilemma, and the alternative conception they offer, since that is the root of their rebuttals; but it needs to be a brief summary, just enough to get the point across, and defer to other articles for in depth discussion of the matter. --Pfhorrest (talk) 07:57, 2 October 2013 (UTC)
One other concern your comments bring to mind is a continuing concern of mine about your understanding of determinism and indeterminism that reaches back to our arguments at Free will. The two positions are not "everything is completely constrained by past events" and "nothing is at all constrained by past events". Your use of the phrase "pure chance" on several occasions suggests you think "indeterminism" is posited to mean the latter. It is not. It only means "not everything is completely constrained by past events"; in other words, at least some things are at least partly up to chance. The probablistic framework of modern quantum physics is an indeterministic model, but that doesn't mean that stuff just happens willy nilly with no discernible patterns: it just means that they are not the crisp patterns of strict laws, but rather the fuzzy patterns of weighted odds. You can't say ahead of time that something will definitely happen, but you can say what is more or less likely to happen. But in that case, to the extent that you can tell what will likely happen, it is like determination and faces the problems of that; but to the extent that you can't tell for sure what will happen, it is like randomness and faces the problems of that.
Your last suggested sentence suggests to me that maybe something clarifying this should be added. (I've already adjusted my earlier suggestions above to mesh with this). You talk about how "The situation is not improved if it is taken that events are split between those that are determined and others that are chance occurrences." Maybe we could add something expanding on that to the above. To expand my last sentence of my earlier first paragraph into a new paragraph combining with your last sentence here, on what the dilemma is not:
The dilemma does not posit that only total determination and total randomness would undermine free will, nor that those are the only possibilities; but rather, that both determination and randomness, in any measure or combination, each undermine free will to their own extent, and that to the extent that one does not apply (whether to some set of events or some part of the cause of a given event), the other applies instead. The dilemma is not itself a stance on any question of to what extent which things are determined or not, but rather the argument that no matter which stance on that issue is correct, the possibility of free will faces challenges either way.
Thoughts? --Pfhorrest (talk) 23:56, 27 September 2013 (UTC)
Pfhorrest: This is Part II of my three-part comments on your remarks. I have no quarrel with your observations about what is included in 'indeterminism'. In my opinion, 'determinism' and 'indeterminism' as you describe them can be lumped together under the notion that events are governed by laws governing the probability of occurrences with 'determinism' suggesting 100% certainty and 'indeterminism' suggesting a more flexible view. Beyond that, one must add that these two views suggest that these probabilities are set as a consequence of prior occurrences, and do not involve human agency. (The mindset underlying the 'laws of nature', that the Universe is a mechanism, is widely discussed and could be brought up as a topic here if that is sufficiently interesting.) The postulate that human agency has no role is (I'd say) inherent in either position, so it is no surprise if 'free will' as conceived of as human agency has no part in it. On the other hand, the postulate of there being no place for human agency is simply a caveat that limits the kind of events that are subsumed under these assumptions of 'probabilistic determinism', and is precisely why these kind of rules, from their very nature and as part of their entire formulation, cannot deal with 'free will'. I believe Fischer makes a clear case for this, as do others (Schrödinger, Bohr, Nordhoff, and on and on). Brews ohare (talk) 15:54, 28 September 2013 (UTC)
If there is any other kind of cause involved in the causation of events besides "natural" ones described by the "laws of nature", then that method of causation either operates deterministically (if you could deduce from the state of an immaterial soul, for instance, how that soul will influence the material body it's associated with) or not, just like natural causes. Neither determinism nor indeterminism make any stance either way on the question of naturalism vs supernaturalism. Theological determinism works just as well for the deterministic horn of the dilemma as causal determinism does: if there is an all-knowing God who knows in advance what we will do and cannot be wrong about it, how could we possibly do otherwise, and woe to free will then eh? And if there are nondeterministic souls which causally intervene in the material world, what does their nondeterminism amount to but randomness, and how does that make them free or in control of their own actions?
This looks to be you attempting to shoehorn in something about your peculiar view of science into an unrelated article again. --Pfhorrest (talk) 07:57, 2 October 2013 (UTC)
That brings us to the question of what comes next. Your lead sentence seems appropriate:
"Responses to the challenge posed by the dilemma vary."
I'd argue that although you then describe some traditional responses, the responses are in fact much wider ranging, and include those who do not accept any of the premises of the dilemma, but would formulate the issues entirely differently. You may not wish to include them here. I think some of your phrasing is aimed at forcing the discussion into the confines of a semantic debate with (unwarranted) implications that somehow definitions and their usage have a bearing upon the real world, even without any attempt at empirical test. Unfortunately, the concepts involved in the 'dilemma' are not concepts employed in scientific theories, so our intuition is the only test we have available, and it doesn't support the application of scientific methodology to this realm of experience. Brews ohare (talk) 15:53, 27 September 2013 (UTC)
I hope the above suggestions lessen the implications you read that any of this is meant to have any empirical import. However, I had already included in that text, in the closing remarks in fact, the set of responses which reject all the premises of the dilemma. The sources (like Pinker and Bok) who reject the entire dilemma, saying that the question of how deterministically which things are caused is not relevant to the question of free will, in doing so reject both the "determination implies no free will" premise and the "randomness implies no free will" premise. They still accept the implied, widespread understanding that non-determination means the introduction of some randomness, and if anyone disputes that, that might be a category we're missing, but I still haven't seen anyone you've put forth who disputes that. The closest is Van Inwagen, who says that indetermination doesn't mean total acausal randomness, and that some randomness within a non-necessaritarian causal framework is perfectly compatible with free will, but that doesn't reject the equation of indetermination with randomness, it just makes the point my suggested text in the thread above makes, and then rejects the second horn of the dilemma on the claim that a little randomness is fine and good for free will. --Pfhorrest (talk) 23:56, 27 September 2013 (UTC)
This is Part III of my comments on your comments of September 27. As pointed out in Part I of my comments, I believe more has to be said in pointing out the lack of empirical content in the 'logical' contradiction. I am not altogether sure, but I think your remarks about 'already including that' refers to this sentence of yours:
"The dilemma is rejected by metaphysical libertarians, who hold that free will exists and is incompatible with determinism, thus seeking refuge for free will in indeterminism. And the dilemma is rejected by compatibilists, who hold that free will is possible even if determinism is true, and some of whom reject that the issue of determinism vs indeterminism is even relevant to the possibility of free will at all."
These remarks (it seems to me) are mostly contained in the box of semantic arguments over definitions, and do not adequately deal with that semantic-box formulation as a Procrustean bed. I think that criticism also applies to van Inwagen. Maybe we agree about the content of Bok and Pinker? I think they have grasped the nettle here that free will is outside the laws of nature as presently conceived. Your remark "some of whom reject that the issue of determinism vs indeterminism is even relevant to the possibility of free will at all" is conceivably a bow toward this view, but it is not explicit enough for my taste. Brews ohare (talk) 16:10, 28 September 2013 (UTC)
As the entire point of the dilemma is about "semantic arguments over definitions", I don't think this is a valid objection. The thrust of the dilemma is "the concept of free will is logically contradictory -- it demands that determinism be both true and false at once -- therefore it's impossible for that concept to be instantiated in reality, like a square circle". Van Inwagen's rebuttal is tantamount to "the concept of free will doesn't demand that determinism be true, just something close enough to it", hence his proposal of a non-necessitarian concept of causation. The general compatibilist rebuttal is tantamount to "the concept of free will doesn't demand determinism be false", with various elaborations. Pinker and Bok's rebuttals are tantamount to "the concept of free will doesn't demand anything either way about determinism or indeterminism; you're barking up the wrong tree if you think those matter at all".
Also, I'm still concerned that you're horribly misinterpreting Pinker and Bok if you think they hold that "free will is outside the laws of nature as presently conceived". That sounds like you think they're saying "there is something inexplicable by modern science involved in the causation of human actions", when the passages you yourself have quoted from them clearly read to me as saying "the causes of human actions aren't important to the question of whether they were morally free; it doesn't matter what the answer to that question is, that's the wrong question to be asking". The former would simply be an assertion of metaphysical libertarianism and that by itself would not constitute a rebuttal to the dilemma. What they actually say is a very good rebuttal to the dilemma, but it doesn't mean what you seem to think it does. And as they are both professed compatibilists, it makes no sense to interpret them as just asserting metaphysical libertarianism, so the question of interpretation seems pretty open and shut here. --Pfhorrest (talk) 07:57, 2 October 2013 (UTC)
While not insisting that my formulation above is wonderful, I'd say it has these merits that should be shared by a successful introduction: (i) its statements are sourced, (ii) it is frank about its limitations as not expressing the complete and definitive statement of the issues, (iii) it clearly states all the definitions that are to be used to demonstrate the contradictions involved and (iv) it is very clear that there are empirical issues that have not been addressed and are very important if any significance is to be attached to the debate. Brews ohare (talk) 16:48, 28 September 2013 (UTC)
(i) Of course the final lede should have all of its statements sourced, I am just trying to get us on the same page about what the lede should even be talking about before we start dotting the is and crossing the ts with references. (I did however recently see an interesting opinion on another article's talk page that ledes should never contain sources, because they should be merely summaries of the bodies of their articles, and those bodies should contain the sources).
(ii) I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean. The lede very much should present a complete and definitive statement of the problem as framed by those who put it forth, or at least an accurate and definitive summary of it (followed by a more complete statement in the body). It should also include a summary of responses to the problem as it is put forth, including critiques. It very much should not present the problem and then immediately wander into weasely discussion of how it's a stupid problem and doesn't address a bunch of other tangential issues. The article is about this specific problem. Related issues can be mentioned in the body and linked to other articles for more discussion, they do not belong in the lede, and do not belong at much length in the body either.
(iii) See my response to your "part I" above for the issue with presenting definitions.
(iv) The empirical issues which have not been addressed are not the topic of this article, so mentioning that they have not been addressed in this article is completely irrelevant. If you think that makes this article about a trivial and worthless subject, that's your opinion, but dragging in highly tangential material to make the article more interesting to you is not good editing.
--Pfhorrest (talk) 07:57, 2 October 2013 (UTC)
It is conceivable to me that the significance of demonstrations like that of JJC Smart is to attempt to show rigorously that the laws of nature do not include free will, and so we are relieved of uncertainty about this point, and can proceed on this assumption. Their point in fact (though not the intention of their authors) is not to show that free will doesn't exist, but that it is not contained within the laws of nature. Fischer takes a more moderate stance: that we have a tendency to idealize the 'laws of nature' in a way that does not accord with how we actually use and verify them. So in fact these laws can accommodate human agency, even though that isn't part of their formulation. Brews ohare (talk) 17:25, 28 September 2013 (UTC)
See above for responses to all of these things. --Pfhorrest (talk) 07:57, 2 October 2013 (UTC)

Another attempt

The dilemma of determinism or the standard argument against free will refer to an apparent contradiction that arises when the 'laws of nature' are applied to our intuitions about human decision-making. It is often phrased by saying our intuition is on the 'horns of a dilemma'.[1]

One horn of this dilemma is he argument that if an action was caused or necessitated, then it could not have been done freely and hence the agent is not responsible for it. The other horn is the argument that if the action was not caused, then it is inexplicable and random, and thus it cannot be attributed to the agent and hence, again, the agent cannot be responsible for it.

— Paul Russell, Freedom and Moral Sentiment, p. 14

Whatever the specifics, the 'horns' of the dilemma are two ways of looking at at the laws of nature: determinism and indeterminism.[2] They differ in how much influence is allowed for chance, with determinism allowing little or none, and indeterminism more, but however much weight is placed upon chance or probability, the dilemma remains that, failing some way to find an exemption from these choices, application of either formulation rules out our intuitions about our autonomy in human decision-making. Apparently, within these choices, free will is rendered logically impossible.[3]


  1. ^ Paul Russell (1995). Freedom and Moral Sentiment: Hume's Way of Naturalizing Responsibility. Oxford University Press. p. 14. ISBN 0198025548. 
  2. ^ John Martin Fischer (2011). "Chapter 4: Indeterminism and control: An approach to the problem of luck". Law and Neuroscience: Current Legal Issues. Oxford University Press. pp. 41–60. ISBN 019959984X.  On-line version available from University of Oklahoma.
  3. ^ J. J. C. Smart (July 1961). "Free-Will, Praise and Blame". Mind. 70 (279): 293–4.  On-line version here. This article argues that our moral choices must be either determined or a matter of chance, and there is no third possibility. It is an argument against 'contra-causal freedom' as proposed by Charles Arthur Campbell.


  • These few lines are just the beginning of an intro, which would go on to discuss moral responsibility as is now the case, and different responses to the dilemma. Brews ohare (talk) 20:55, 28 September 2013 (UTC)
The quotation presents the horns of the dilemma according to a widely held view. A concrete explanation of the 'horns' of the dilemma is an aid to the reader's imagination, especially if it is not adorned with nuance and caveats. That there is more to be said on the matter is a point made immediately following the quote. An alternative is to paraphrase the same thing in the text proper, provide the source as a footnote, and present the caveat that it is not a complete or definitive statement. The use of this quote instead has this merit viz à viz WP: it is a sourced view rather than a WP editor's paraphrase that can be argued over indefinitely, and no special claims are made as to its status. Brews ohare (talk) 05:51, 29 September 2013 (UTC)
  • Starting an article with a quotation is never a good idea (as for that matter is stringing together quotes). Its not a good idea to take one specific source in this sort of subject either. This formulation fails to really situation the topic in the Philosophical tradition ----Snowded TALK 02:53, 29 September 2013 (UTC)
  • I do like this quotation and think it is an excellent source for a concise and accurate statement of the problem, but I concur with Snowded that starting the article with a quote, and using just a single source, is a bad idea.
More specific critiques of this:
  1. Use-mention distinction error in the first sentence. The dilemma of determinism is something, it does not refer to anything. "The dilemma of determinism" refers to something, namely, the dilemma of determinism, which is... something to be elaborated.
  2. Treats "on the horns of a dilemma" like a novel phrase that applies only to this problem. That's a standard idiom used to refer to any and all kinds of dilemmas. You don't seem very familiar with a lot of things to do with dilemmas in general, from this and earlier discourse.
  3. "Apparent" and "apparently" are weasely. Certainly the assertion of the dilemma needs to be qualified as an argument that someone has put forth, rather than stated as truth in the wiki's own voice, but calling it "apparent" is subtly biased both in that it suggest that the problem is one that most people would accept on face value (when some people reject it right off that bat), and in that it suggests that with further thought we will see how it is wrong (when some people continue to defend it). We need to state outright: the argument put forth is this, rebuttals to that argument are that and that. No weasels.
  4. Likewise "our intuition". Intuitions about the nature of free will vary drastically. The incompatibilist conception of free will that you seem to assume (and which the proponents of the dilemma assume as well) is not the universally intuitive one. This is dismissive to the intuitions of compatibilists, who look at the problem and scoff right off the bat because it rests on a screwy (in their opinion) misconception of what free will means.
  5. You're still importing a bunch of irrelevant baggage about the laws of nature into this. --Pfhorrest (talk) 08:09, 2 October 2013 (UTC)
Hi Pfhorrest:
1. My 'use-mention' distinction error has not been spelled out for me. IMO I have made no errors on this basis here.
2. I do recognize 'horns of a dilemma' as a common phrase, and I intend in no way to imply that has been coined by Russell. I linked the Between Scylla and Charybdis article at one point. More or less obviously, I don't know what pertinent knowledge I am lacking about dilemmas in general. Perhaps you can suggest a rephrasing?
3. The word 'apparent' suggests to me that there is some controversy over whether there is in fact a dilemma. Controversy is not an implication of idiocy, but of difference of opinion. There isn't any doubt that there is debate on this point. Perhaps you mean that there is no doubt that there is a form of words called 'the dilemma of determinism' whether there is in actual fact any dilemma? Still, who cares about the word apparent? It can be dropped with no impact upon the proposed paragraph. Would that make you happy?
4. I doubt very much that our 'intuitions' of free will vary drastically across individuals. "One of the strongest supports for the free choice thesis is the unmistakable intuition of virtually every human being that he is free to make the choices he does and that the deliberations leading to those choices are also free flowing.."[1] What varies is our intellectual reservations about its role and reliability. I'd say you are so anxious to get into the intellectual debate you're throwing raw intuition under the bus. That contradicts Caruso very clearly, and also similar remarks by Dennett, Harris, Kant, Williams, name one who doesn't think there is a raw intuition of free will. Would you reconsider this point?
5. Irrelevant baggage about the laws of nature. The common form of the dilemma of determinism (the form of words) is taken by Fischer, by van Inwagen and others (for example) to refer to causal determinism, which originated long ago, but has evolved to follow the notion of determinism in the sciences.[2] I have the impression that you wish to define determinism as mentioned in the dilemma (that is the actual theory referred to in the form of words referred to as 'the dilemma of determinism') as 'nonrandom', but that narrow choice actually is far more narrow and strictly defined that the usage of a large segment of the philosophical literature.[3] Otherwise, I think this remark of yours is a quibble, but perhaps you can flesh it out for me?
Pfhorrest, perhaps I misread you, but I don't find any of your complaints as fatal to this proposal. The use of the quote from Russell, to define the 'horns' when the phrase 'horns of a dilemma' is applied to the dilemma of determinism, seems to be as clear and as uncontroversial as any definition that a WP editor can come up with, so why not use it? The fact that there are more elaborate descriptions than the 'horns of a dilemma' is made clear in the immediately following sentence that introduces the terms 'determinism' and 'indeteriminism'. Brews ohare (talk) 16:31, 2 October 2013 (UTC)

Proposed addition to intro

As a last paragraph to the intro, the following is proposed:

As there is no doubt that many people entertain the notion that they do have the ability to make choices,[1] the dilemma can be avoided either by arguing that this intuition is illusory,[2] or by arguing that the 'either-or' of causal determinism or chance misrepresents the options, one argument being that perhaps it is a false dilemma,[3] and another that the 'will' lies outside nature.[4]


[1] Gregg D Caruso (2012). Free Will and Consciousness: A Determinist Account of the Illusion of Free Will. Lexington Books. p. 8. ISBN 0739171364. One of the strongest supports for the free choice thesis is the unmistakable intuition of virtually every human being that he is free to make the choices he does and that the deliberations leading to those choices are also free flowing.. 
[2] TW Clark (1999). "Fear of mechanism: A compatibilist critique of The Volitional Brain.". Journal of Consciousness Studies. 6 (8-9): 279–93. Feelings or intuitions per se never count as self-evident proof of anything.  Quoted by Shariff, Schooler & Vohs: The hazards of claiming to have solved the hard problem of free will For full text on line see this.
[3] That was Hume's view; see Paul Russell (1995). Freedom and Moral Sentiment : Hume's Way of Naturalizing Responsibility. Oxford University Press. p. 51. ISBN 0198025548. 
[4] This was the view of Kant, among others; see "The three pillars of Kantian ethics". Nietzsche's critiques : The Kantian foundations of his thought. Oxford University Press. 2003. p. 196. ISBN 0191555045. 


  • Lede is meant to summarise the article, not represent a particular editors view on the subject.[4] ----Snowded TALK 16:59, 1 October 2013
  • This paragraph presents to the reader the idea that the dilemma is not universally accepted as a valid framing of the options, and mentions Hume and Kant as two of the many philosophers with a different take on the topic. As the four citations indicate, this paragraph is far from 'a particular editor's view on the subject'. Brews ohare (talk) 18:34, 1 October 2013 (UTC)
See multiple comments before on what this article is about ----Snowded TALK 19:13, 1 October 2013 (UTC)
Snowded: I fail to see that this paragraph is off topic, if that is your meaning. They point out certain arguments that point around the dilemma. Brews ohare (talk) 00:10, 2 October 2013 (UTC)
"around" is the problem Brews ----Snowded TALK 01:21, 2 October 2013 (UTC)
By 'around' I meant that the dilemma is not a dilemma under the referred to conditions. Of course, you can suggest that 'flood prevention' doesn't pertain to floods, but that would be incorrect. Brews ohare (talk) 01:29, 2 October 2013 (UTC)
An article on flood prevention would not have an extended discussion of floods, water courses and creationist views of Noah and the Grand Canyon ----Snowded TALK 01:42, 2 October 2013 (UTC)
Snowded: The 'dilemma' has two parts. To avoid the dilemma one can challenge one part or the other part. That is hardly a detailed discussion. You just like objecting; it's fun for you. Brews ohare (talk) 02:52, 2 October 2013 (UTC)
No Brews its not fun, it is very very tedious to keep having to make more or less the same points to you on multiple articles and I have lost the patience for anything other than a short response.----Snowded TALK 03:59, 2 October 2013 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Snowded: you continue to amaze. Just how a reference to Hume's discussion of the dilemma of determinism can be taken to be a point raised in other articles is beyond understanding. Brews ohare (talk) 16:50, 2 October 2013 (UTC)

Responses to the dilemma

There are a number of classical responses to the dilemma labeled with terms like compatibilism, hard determinism, libertarianism and so on. However, a more matter-of-fact way of dividing the responses without relying on these somewhat arcane technical labels might be easier to understand. Here is such an approach.

Responses to the dilemma are varied. They all are aimed at resolving the dilemma, and there are three obvious broad categories of response, with many subdivisions.

(1) One position accepts that the mind is a creature of the brain, and the brain is a mechanism like everything else. So the choices posed in the dilemma have to be honored, and the way out of the dilemma is to explain why we have the illusion (delusion) of being able to make our own decisions. Our laws and mores have to adapt to the realization that individuals cannot control their decisions.[1]
(2) A second, diametrically opposed, position is that whatever the laws of science may be, the very postulates under which they operate to insure objectivity preclude subjective matters like our intuitions of free will.[2] That is, the methodology of science by its presuppositions simply excludes any application to this arena: "A moderately satisfying picture of the world has only been reached at the high price of taking ourselves out of the picture, stepping back into the role of a non-concerned observer."[3] So the choices of the dilemma need not be honored, and we are free to separate the domain of our intuitions about free will from the domain governed by the laws of nature, regardless of the choices they offer.[4][5] Although our understanding of how things work informs our decisions, thinking about the goals of mores and morality and their exercise is not and should not be limited by the constraints posed in the dilemma, which are only imagined to be imposed.
(3) A third, more conciliatory, approach adopts free will as a fact, and so the choices of the dilemma are necessarily wrongly posed. The way out of the dilemma is to revisit our idealizations of the 'laws of nature'. So, for example, perhaps the laws of nature either are already compatible (if properly interpreted) or will evolve to become compatible with free will. Until we have clarification, we are to carry on as we now do with our intuitions about free will. Two approaches within this category are:
(a) While there may be contradictions between our intuition about our autonomy and our idealization of the laws of nature, the way we actually use and verify these laws allows more latitude than these idealizations, and in practice there is room for our intuitions about free will.[6]
(b) An aggressive wording in this category says simply that free will is incontrovertible, so science should take this 'fact' into consideration and get on with the program.[7] Less dramatically, don't make the assumption that a future science of the mind will have all the same elements as do present scientific theories about other things. Wait and see. The mind is complicated and complicated systems often have features that are not apparent from examination of their minute fine-grained constituents (for example, neural networks). (One such school of thought is emergence.) Also, the mind is not a closed system — attempts so far to isolate the mind from its cultural and other environmental factors to allow a simplified analysis based upon the brain itself may prove to be oversimplifications: "The localization of the personality, of the conscious mind, inside the body is only symbolic, just an aid for practical use."[8]
[1] JJC Smart
[2] Northoff, Velmans
[3] Erwin Schrödinger
[4] Pinker
[5] Bok
[6] Fischer
[7] Dennett, Greene
[8] Erwin Schrödinger

Brews ohare (talk) 14:03, 29 September 2013 (UTC)

In this outline, these three responses to the dilemma are phrased as different conceptions about what is. They are not phrased as logical exercises about how various definitions of determinism, indeterminism and free will can be mixed and matched to try to find a semantic resolution of the dilemma. Brews ohare (talk) 14:18, 29 September 2013 (UTC)

I'd suggest that any of the three options above are tenable given our knowledge today, and no amount of argument over definitions can change that. The arguments, like those of van Inwagen and Frankfurt and Fischer, are useful in showing connections between various formulations, but the matter cannot be settled in this way regardless of the cogency of the arguments. There are matters of fact involved, and it is not all about semantics. Brews ohare (talk) 15:59, 29 September 2013 (UTC)

This whole proposal gets way off topic really quickly, and your continued objection to the use of established philosophical terms like compatibilists, incompatibilist, etc is tiresome. This is a philosophy article. Telling people how different camps of philosophers respond to the problem is completely appropriate.
The dilemma is made up of two implications. Responses to it are thus naturally categorized by how they respond to those two implications: those who accept both, those who reject one but not the other, and those who reject both. That, not surprisingly, runs closely along the lines of the categories you object to mentioning. --Pfhorrest (talk) 08:20, 2 October 2013 (UTC)
Pfhorrest: You malign me without trying to understand my purposes. I think the various philosophical camps you name have two drawbacks for the WP reader. The first is that they are only names to that reader, and so require explanation both as to what they are and as to how they apply to the dilemma. The second is that the usual descriptions of these camps make the whole thing sound like a high-school debate over terms and definitions and usage. That is, the usual explanations of these camps makes them out as irrelevant to any normal concern, and just a bunch of philosophical in-fighting. In contrast to this appearance, I want to present the logical alternatives that have actual real-world implications. To quote Richards on a related matter, "It is natural to assume that establishing whether free will exists or not will also be a matter of finding out about what the world is like..." As you point out, the matter-of-fact alternatives have parallels with the camps, but they are more easily seen to be statements about something and are not just rhetorical stances. Brews ohare (talk) 16:44, 2 October 2013 (UTC)
Exactly the problem, you don't want to present the problems as per the field and sources, but you want to write an essay to explain the dilemma as you see it. That has been the problem with your edits over many articles. Nearly every experienced editor on the Philosophy pages with whom you have engaged has made the point about your view/use of science and the attempt to bring it to these articles. That has got you a one month block already and the next would be three at least. Our role is not to write a guide to a subject from a particular non-philosophical perspective but the reflect the balance of sources within the field. If the sources contextual the problem in the way you suggest then we can look at it, but not if you do ----Snowded TALK 21:42, 2 October 2013 (UTC)
Snowded: To the contrary, my objective is not an "attempt to bring it [science] to these articles" but the exact opposite - to apply the concept that science has, at most, a limited role here. My objective with this article is to provide a sourced presentation of alternatives held by various philosophers: (i) free will exists and is outside science, so there is no dilemma, or (ii) science places limits on the subjective, but free will is possible to a degree and there is no dilemma, or (iii) science applies everywhere and is not consistent with free will, so again there is no dilemma (but debunk your naive notions of free will). Sources are provided for all three views. So the three possible positions are not only simple and sensible, but sourced. Your rants (by contrast) are (i) obscure (if attempted), (ii) not referred to any fact or source that you care to cite, (iii) an inflammatory casting of the whole matter as one of personalities and character deficiencies, instead of subject matter and sources.
It is unfortunate that you misread a position for its opposite, blinded, as it were, by a passion to rant and rave, in preference to a passion to create or to improve subject matter. Brews ohare (talk) 22:39, 2 October 2013 (UTC)
Odd definition of ranting and raving there. Sorry Brews I'm just resigned to the fact that you won't change here as you wouldn't change on the Physics articles. You are confusing sourcing something with synthesis and original research, again. If you were one of my students I would give you a good mark for effort but its not what writing an encyclopedia is about. Try and cool it, you'd improved but you are lapsing again. ----Snowded TALK 23:15, 2 October 2013 (UTC)
Snowded: Perhaps your subtlety of mind is greater than my own. Can you point out in this contribution where I am "confusing sourcing something with synthesis and original research". My own understanding of what I have done is to point out what certain sources say on the matter. If I have gone beyond the sources to make arguments of my own, perhaps you can point to those errors of mine specifically, thereby providing useful guidance? Brews ohare (talk) 18:25, 3 October 2013 (UTC)

Pertinence of Kant to the dilemma

Snowded has struck again, claiming the philosophy of Kant has no bearing upon the dilemma of determinism. He has done this despite published sources that disagree with him. The deleted material is:

A different approach was taken in the 1780's by Immanuel Kant, who had high confidence in the authority of intuition, and suggested that moral matters were to be analyzed as lying outside the rules governing material objects.[N 1] "There is a sharp difference between moral judgments and judgments of fact...Moral judgments ... must be a priori judgments."[N 2] Evidently, the dilemma of determinism is avoided under these conditions, as our moral decision processes lie outside the reach of everyday causality. "Unfortunately, not many philosophers..would be prepared today to follow Kant's way out of the dilemma of determinism."[N 3]
  1. ^ R Kevin Hill (2003). "Chapter 7: The critique of morality: The three pillars of Kantian ethics". Nietzsche's Critiques : The Kantian Foundations of His Thought (Paperback ed.). pp. 196–201. ISBN 0199285527. 
  2. ^ Herbert James Paton (1971). "§2 Moral judgements are a priori". The Categorical Imperative: A Study in Kant's Moral Philosophy. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 20. ISBN 0812210239. 
  3. ^ See the discussion of Kant's views in Patrick Suppes (1993). "§4 Irrelevance of physical determinism". Models and Methods in the Philosophy of Science: Selected Essays. Springer. pp. 479–480. ISBN 0792322118. 

To this one might add the following:

"Many people today agree with Kant. The philosopher/psychologist Steven Pinker, for example writes the following:
Science and morality are separate spheres of reasoning...[more of this quote is provided]"
Here Pinker is agreeing with Kant. ... So are we free or determined? Are we responsible agents or passive victims? Was Darrow right? Or was Sartre right? Or were both right as Kant and Pinker suggest?" see Velasquez

Perhaps Snowded does not agree with Suppes that this particular conflict is connected to the dilemma of determinism which is the forced choice between the Scylla and Charybdis of determinism and indeterminism. However, of course, as Suppes recognizes and as logic requires, if determinism and indeterminsm do not apply to the moral sphere, do not apply to our ability to make decisions about how we act, the dilemma vanishes. There is no forced choice. An argument that makes the dilemma vanish appears to be relevant to the topic of the 'dilemma'. Brews ohare (talk) 17:50, 3 October 2013 (UTC)


  • There seems to be little argument that Kant has placed human decisions outside the realm of causal determinism and so has defanged the dilemma. Brews ohare (talk) 17:54, 3 October 2013 (UTC)
  • I think the problem is that you are trying to extend the article into a general discussion of free will rather than keeping it to the Dillema. Many things can be connected, it is what should be and what should be elsewhere that is the disagreement. An article needs to be focused on its subject. It is not a starting point for the thread of quotes and material (all be it referenced) that leads from the subject. ----Snowded TALK 20:46, 3 October 2013 (UTC)
How much about free will is too much? I'd say that simply pointing out that Kant's position on moral choice defangs the dilemma is not going too far into the categorical imperative. Brews ohare (talk) 00:37, 4 October 2013 (UTC)

Pertinence of Kant today, as supplied by Pinker and Bok

And another blow against a more useful article made by Snowded. This time he has removed the following paragraph in the history section:

Some modern thinkers have come to share Kant's view that moral judgments lie outside the reach of determinism, so the dilemma of determinism does not apply to them.[1] The basic idea is that science and moral judgments are in separate spheres: "Science and morality are separate spheres of reasoning. Only by recognizing them as separate can we have them both."[2] "The claim that persons are free while objects are not must mean that there is some difference in kind between the causes of our choices and actions and those of the behavior of other objects...As long as we regard ourselves as objects of theoretical reasoning...we will be unable to resolve the problem of freedom of the will."[3]
[1] Manuel Velasquez (2012). "§3.7 Is freedom real". Philosophy (12th ed.). Cengage Learning. p. 211. ISBN 1133612105. 
[2] Steven Pinker (2009). How the Mind Works. WW Norton & Co. p. 55. ISBN 0393069737. 
[3] Hilary Bok (1998). Freedom and Responsibility. Princeton University Press. pp. 199–203. ISBN 1400822734. 

As is typical, Snowded ignores all published sources and suggests this material is objectionable because it digresses too far from the topic of dilemma of determinism. However, it is obvious that by removing free will from the grasp of determinism and indeterminism, the two horns of the dilemma, Kant has made the dilemma inapplicable, a point that seems quite pertinent to the subject. Snowded will not engage on this topic, it being rather difficult to contest the obvious. Brews ohare (talk) 12:24, 4 October 2013 (UTC)

A more extensive quote from Bok makes clear that the dilemma of determinism is exactly what Bok is talking about. On the subject of the dilemma: chance or determinism, she says (p. 201)

"The supposition that our choices are caused by nothing whatsoever would not show those choices to be free, since it implies that we did not cause ourselves to choose as we did. The supposition that we were caused to chose as we did by something other than ourselves implies that we are not free."

A clearer statement of the dilemma is hard to find.

Bok's discussion then goes on to resolve this dilemma by introducing a distinction between 'theoretical' (that is, causally related explanation) from 'practical' reason, just like the separation envisioned by Pinker and by Kant. Brews ohare (talk) 13:01, 4 October 2013 (UTC)

Disruptive editing

Brews the idea is not only that you use the talk page but you get agreement to changes. In the various threads above your changes have in general not been accepted. You now seem to be adopting a policy of making multiple edits to the article using an approach which has been rejected here. This is disruptive please stop it. Gain agreement here before making changes that you know are not accepted by other editors. ----Snowded TALK 21:13, 3 October 2013 (UTC)

Snowded: I have placed all my proposed changes on the Talk page, so why not address them instead of complaining about this after that has been done? Brews ohare (talk) 00:23, 4 October 2013 (UTC)
And then when they were not accepted you made them anyway - that is disruptive ----Snowded TALK 07:58, 4 October 2013 (UTC)
Snowded: Your pattern is simply to remove contributions without any effort to improve them or suggest how they might be improved. That is obstructive. In the present case, the relevance of Kant is indisputable, mentioned by several published sources, and an obvious matter anyway. But you simply revert all reference to him without talk page comment on the subject matter, but with plenty of diatribe about my horrible methods of editing. Can't you make an effort? Brews ohare (talk) 11:46, 4 October 2013 (UTC)
You never listen to any editor who disagrees with you Brews. I tried as have others to engage with you without success. Now I confine myself to stopping you converting articles into essays based on your understanding of the subject, strings of quotations etc. etc. ----Snowded TALK 01:23, 5 October 2013 (UTC)
You've clearly stated your policy, Snowded, and don't be so self-approving. It's an explicit statement of obstructionism based not on content but on the supposition that it isn't worth talking to me. You've made that clear with your non-substantive responses to the threads on this talk page, wherever you have deigned a reply.
Good-bye. Brews ohare (talk) 03:03, 5 October 2013 (UTC)

Noncontroversial changes to Intro

Snowded has reverted the Intro below as somehow controversial:

The dilemma of determinism or standard argument against free will[R 1] is the claim that if determinism is true, our actions are controlled by preceding events and thus we are not free; and that if indeterminism is true, our actions are pure chance and we are likewise not free; and that as determinism and indeterminism exhaust the logical possibilities,[R 2] free will is thus logically impossible. Many authors use the common phrase 'horns of a dilemma' to point up the two choices involved in the dilemma. In his discussion of the dilemma, Fischer calls them the 'deterministic horn' and the 'indeterministic horn',[R 3] and in his discussion, Russell frames them as the 'horn of necessity' and the 'horn of chance'.[R 4][R 5]

An important aspect of this dilemma is moral responsibility. The issue as formulated by William James[R 6] is as follows:[R 3]

1. Either causal determinism is true, or it is false.
2. If it is true, then I am compelled to act as I do, and am not morally responsible for my actions.
3. If it is false, then how I act is random, and I am again not morally responsible for my acts.


4. I am not morally responsible for my actions.

This syllogism is sometimes called the classical formulation of the free will problem.[R 7] As might be expected, the options set forth in the dilemma and the acceptance of the 'dilemma' as an actual dilemma are much discussed.[R 7] The discussion ranges from views that human decisions lie outside causality, so there is no dilemma;[R 8][R 9] to various attempts to argue whether the terms 'causality' and 'free will' actually do entail a dilemma.[R 10][R 11] Another aspect of the 'dilemma of determinism' is related to the psychological and social consequences of a belief in the force of the dilemma, for example, the possible paralysis of all purposive thought.[R 12]


  1. ^ A number of authors use this terminology. One is: Jesse Hobbs (1994). Religious explanation and scientific ideology (Toronto Studies in Religion, Book 17 ed.). Peter Lang Publishing. p. 144. ISBN 0820421979. , and another is Bob Doyle (2011). "Chapter 4: The standard argument against free will". Free Will: The Scandal in Philosophy. I-Phi Press. pp. 27–53. ISBN 098358026X. 
  2. ^ J. J. C. Smart (July 1961). "Free-Will, Praise and Blame". Mind. 70 (279): 293–4.  On-line version here. This article argues that our moral choices must be either determined or a matter of chance, and there is no third possibility. It is an argument against 'contra-causal freedom' as proposed by Charles Arthur Campbell.
  3. ^ a b As presented by John Martin Fischer (2011). "§4.1 The dilemma of determinism". In Michael Freeman, ed. Law and Neuroscience: Current Legal Issues. Oxford University Press. pp. 41 ff. ISBN 019959984X.  Also published in John Martin Fischer (2012). "Chapter 6: Indeterminism and control: An approach to the problem of luck". Deep Control: Essays on Free Will and Value. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199742987.  On-line version found here.
  4. ^ Paul Russell (Oct., 1984). "Sorabji and the dilemma of determinism". Analysis. 44 (4): 166–172.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. ^ Paul Russell (1995). Freedom and Moral Sentiment: Hume's Way of Naturalizing Responsibility. Oxford University Press. p. 17. ISBN 0198025548. these strategies have the common objective of showing that if we reject the horn of necessity we will not...thereby impale ourselves on the horn of chance. 
  6. ^ An address to Harvard Divinity School students in Divinity Hall on March 13, 1884: William James (1886). "The dilemma of determinism". The Will to Believe: And Other Essays in Popular Philosophy (Reprint ed.). Longmans, Green, and Company. pp. 145 ff.  On-line text here
  7. ^ a b McKenna, Michael (Oct 5, 2009). Edward N. Zalta, ed, ed. "Compatibilism: §1.5 The free will problem". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2009 Edition). 
  8. ^ See the discussion of Kant's views in Patrick Suppes (1993). "§4 Irrelevance of physical determinism". Models and Methods in the Philosophy of Science: Selected Essays. Springer. pp. 479–480. ISBN 0792322118. [Kant] was quite prepared to bite the bullet and remove psychology entirely from the domain of science... 
  9. ^ Steven Pinker (2009). How The Mind Works. W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 54–55. ISBN 0393069737. Science and morality are separate spheres of reasoning...A human being is simultaneously a machine and a sentient free agent, depending upon the purpose of the discussion... 
  10. ^ Vihvelin, Kadri (Mar 1, 2011). Edward N. Zalta, ed, ed. "Arguments for Incompatibilism"". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2011 Edition). 
  11. ^ McKenna, Michael (Oct 5, 2009). Edward N. Zalta, ed, ed. "Compatibilism". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2009 Edition). 
  12. ^ Galen Strawson (2010). "Phenomenology, commitment and what might happen". Freedom and belief (Revised ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 88. ISBN 0199247498.  and Galen Strawson (2012). "Chapter 5: On "Freedom and Resentment"". In Michael McKenna and Paul Russell. eds. Free will and reactive attitudes: perspectives on [[P. F. Strawson|PF Strawson's]] "Freedom and Resentment". Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. pp. 85 ff. ISBN 1409485870.  URL–wikilink conflict (help)

Here are a few points to note:

  • The phrase standard argument against free will is a redirect from Standard argument against free will, and has been adopted on this Talk page in discussion with Pfhorrest. Snowded offered no comment upon this point, which seems completely reasonable - a redirected reader would like to find the topic identified after being redirected.
  • The two sources in footnote [1] simply clarify that this phrase is in fact in use.
  • Reference to the 'horns of the dilemma' as defined by Russell was applauded by Pfhorrest on this Talk page. Snowded voiced no opinion.
  • The completion of William James [6] syllogism by adding the conclusion (item #4) to his syllogism is as it appears in the cited source [3] by Fischer, and clearly is preferable to leaving out the conclusion of the syllogism.
  • The term classical formulation for the syllogism is taken directly from McKenna, as sourced in [7], [11].
  • The existence of reservations about the formulation and pertinence of the 'dilemma' are well known and only a few of the sources are documented in this intro. To omit the status of the 'dilemma' from the introduction is preposterous.
  • The range of opinion about these aspects of the dilemma are discussed in the review articles by McKenna [7] and by Vihvelin [10] from the Stanford Encyclopedia.
  • The addition of references to Suppes [8] and to Pinker [9] have irked Snowded in the past, who claims they are irrelevant to the subject of the dilemma. However, they support one edge of the spectrum of opinion about the dilemma, namely, that there is no dilemma because causation does not apply. See above discussion for more detail.
  • The question of the psychological and social impact of the dilemma is the content of the philosophical discussion by the two Strawsons as cited.[12] These works are widely accepted as introducing an important development in the understanding of the dilemma. "As Strawson presents the issue, the problems that primarily concern the classical free will debate can be described in terms of the dilemma of determinism". McKenna & Russell

None of the above is at all controversial in the literature, nor has it come up on this Talk page. Even Snowded has no objection to it other than references to Suppes and Pinker. To revert all these changes, sources and all, under the supposed rubric that there is something on this Talk page against it, is just pique.

I have undone Snowded's reversion. I hope he might supply some rationale for his actions. Brews ohare (talk) 18:23, 10 October 2013 (UTC)

Snowded has reverted this intro again. Brews ohare (talk) 15:35, 11 October 2013 (UTC)
I still don't have a ton of time of energy to engage here, but I want to say that I am OK with all of this except for the last paragraph. I'm slightly uncertain about the weight of having Russell's point about moral responsibility right in the lede, but it's not clearly wrong so my objection is not strong there. The last paragraph strays too much into matters we've been discussing here and I can't countenance its inclusion until we've sorted that out (which I still lack the time for), but the rest would be OK. In particular, the "standard argument against free will" really does belong in the first sentence because of the redirect. --Pfhorrest (talk) 21:09, 10 October 2013 (UTC)
Putting in Pfhorrest's proposed paragraph is OK, but you added stuff as well which you know is not accepted (something confirmed above). I think you are seeking to over emphasis the moral responsibility issue so my objection is stronger and I have already talked about the Pinker reference. ----Snowded TALK 22:38, 10 October 2013 (UTC)
Pfhorrest: I also am pressed for time for the next few days, so I hope we can return to this discussion later. The last paragraph is the one that troubles you. I doubt that most of it really is a problem, as it simply points out that the 'dilemma of determinism' is still an active issue, as is evident from sources provided, both as to the precise meaning and choice of the words it employs, and as to its presumptions about the universality of causality/randomness, a point that predates Plutarch. You may share Snowded's lack of enthusiasm for Kant and Pinker, and that can be discussed further, as already begun in an earlier discussion. As for Strawson, his remarks are claimed by McKenna & Russell to be ably "described in terms of the dilemma of determinism". Brews ohare (talk) 06:21, 11 October 2013 (UTC)
I notice that Snowded has decided to remove the entire import of James' address on the Dilemma of determinism, which is the historical birth of the popularity of this terminology, Snowded has eliminated completely the mention of moral responsibility that we both agreed to earlier. Snowded's view appears to be that because moral responsibility has its own article, no mention of this topic is warranted here. Whether this preposterous view is really his is hard to say, because of course he will not provide any argument to support his actions, and has ignored entirely the nine asterisked explanations of my changes to the intro immediately above. However, the main reason for any interest in this 'dilemma' is its implication for moral responsibility, as James pointed out with great clarity, and as the two Strawsons have taken further. Brews ohare (talk) 06:33, 11 October 2013 (UTC)
In addition, the present version ignores the 'horns of a dilemma' formulation of Russell and Fischer among others. This formulation appears with many writers and should be in the intro.
Also, the final paragraph beginning "Responses to the challenge posed by the dilemma vary" hardly can be seen as a complete spectrum of responses. It frames the problem in a way that makes the moral dilemma inescapable, thereby ignoring entirely the views of James, of Kant, of Bok, of Pinker, of the two Strawsons, and on and on. Not that it's just a false dilemma as Hume suggested (also ignored here), but the view that the entire dilemma is a crock no matter how much philosophical effort is devoted to refining its verbiage. Condensing this view to the off-hand remark that "some of whom reject that the issue of determinism vs indeterminism is even relevant to the possibility of free will at all" does not address the issue at all adequately. Brews ohare (talk) 15:34, 11 October 2013 (UTC)

Overall discussion

Pfhorrest: A broader issue than the introduction is the article as a whole.

I've been rereading some of our earlier discussion, and I think our differences can be summarized like this: you wish to keep the 'dilemma of determinism' to a narrowly focused article about a choice between what Russell and others call the two horns of the dilemma. To go outside this formulation, you require a 'third horn', and suggest no-one has yet advanced some explanation for events other than causal determinism or chance. As an alternative to the two-horns formulation, a more accurate picture is that events are governed by probabilities and it is the probabilities that are determined, not the events themselves. These probabilities are not either random or 100%. An electron diffraction pattern, for example, shows that in some places it is very unlikely any electron will show up, while in others there is a high likelihood that one or another electron will show up, and in still other locations there is an in-between p% likelihood. In a more pedestrian example, the likelihood of a tornado occurring this year in Maine is low, but its likelihood in Kansas is high. (One might argue whether this probability could be made more precise with a better theory, or better input data, or better computers, or not, but that argument cannot be settled with today's understanding.) This probabilistic formulation, IMO, is closer to what is going on.

If this view is adopted, the 'horns' of the dilemma disappear, and there is a continuous range of choices ranging from certainty of occurrence to certainty of nonoccurrence and everywhere in between. No longer are there two horns to the dilemma. The result of this shift is a point we don't seem to agree upon, namely that the 'real' dilemma is the dilemma for morality: either causation (in some form) or morality.

A proponent of the 'two horned choice' as the interpretation of the 'dilemma' might be taken to be given by Fischer, for example. He says there is the 'deterministic horn' and the 'indeterministic horn'. But what he actually discusses is whether these two 'horns' preclude attribution of responsibility to an agent, regardless of one's choice between them. In other words, the interest in the 'horns' is not the choice between the two horns, the actual dilemma is not that of which horn to choose (which doesn't matter a whit), but the dilemma is that whichever horn is chosen it appears we must deny agent responsibility. His entire paper is about whether agency remains possible, and he goes to great length to suggest that the argument against allowance of agency has a similar structure regardless of which 'horn' is selected. There is no dilemma involved in choosing between them, but only in choosing either one, no matter which.

I think that in fact the topic discussed by William James in his Dilemma of determinism talk is the choice between any 'formulation of the mechanism connecting events' and 'morality'. That is, James' focus is the 'dilemma for morality', and it is not about the choice between two particular ideas of how events are connected: certainty and chance. We should discuss James more carefully. The Fischer syllogism for the dilemma of morality is based upon James. James does discuss the dilemma for morality, and I think the particular designation of certainty/chance is one side of the dilemma and morality is the other. Whether one describes the choice of the causal option as 'certainty/chance' or as 'certainty of particular probabilities' changes nothing at all.

Apart from all this, the much more basic point is that the 'dilemma' in any formulation, with any definitions of its wording may not be real, regardless of whether one takes the dilemma as a dilemma for morality or a dilemma over the choice between two archaic formulations of the mechanism connecting events. The dilemma in any form may not be real, not because there is some other explanation besides determinism/chance connecting events, but because the notion of what is an 'event' is limited unnecessarily to what science views as 'objectively verifiable' events. Your attitude to this is to say that such a discussion ranges too far afield, and is about matters more fundamental than the 'dilemma of determinism' and therefore should not be mentioned in this article. I don't understand why a fundamental objection to a particular view of the Universe that underlies the dilemma is off limits. It doesn't have to be gone into at great lengths, but it should be mentioned. I also am of the impression that you do not place Pinker and Bok and Kant in the camp that thinks the Universe is wider than the one containing only objective events.

So we have two points to consider: (i) are these basic arguments too far afield even to mention here, and (ii) just who falls into this camp, viewing the dilemma in any form as a non-issue? Kant, Pinker, Bok, etc? Brews ohare (talk) 18:26, 12 October 2013 (UTC)

For the avoidance of doubt, extending an article on a specific problem to a general discussion of one of the major current fields of philosophy is not acceptable. ----Snowded TALK 21:21, 12 October 2013 (UTC)
The notion that the 'dilemma of determinism' should not be placed in philosophical context in an article about it is a nonstarter. It's like talking about the Yankees without mentioning that they play baseball. That is not 'a general extension' to a larger topic, it is reporting its situation. Snowded's resistance to this obvious point, taking him to such extreme claims, is not understandable. Brews ohare (talk) 15:45, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
Sorry Brews but even by your loose standards this is taking essay writing too far. The mind-brain identity issue is a major one, it has contributions from cognitive archeology as well as anthropology before we even get to Philosophy. The article more than adequately sets the context as the 'baseball' level as it stands. You have an individual take on science and philosophy (with a small 's' and a small 'p'), if you want that material in wikipedia go and get it published in a reliable source. Until then stop wasting everyone's time. ----Snowded TALK 18:58, 13 October 2013 (UTC)
I've outlined the situation clearly above, and your remarks, Snowded, have nothing to do with them: totally off-topic Brews ohare (talk) 02:49, 14 October 2013 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I have written my idea of what this article should contain as a user page. Naturally, I do not expect that version to be accepted as it is there, as it does emphasizes certain interpretations over others preferred by you, Pfhorrest. However, I believe a good deal of what it contains should be incorporated in Dilemma of determinism as part of a NPOV. Brews ohare (talk) 16:19, 16 October 2013 (UTC)