Talk:Free will/Archive 16

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Version of sub-subsection under discussion

Subjective-objective dichotomy

An undecided question is whether the world of science and the universe are coextensive.

We consciously experience many different things, and we can think about the things that we experience. But it is not so easy to experience or think about consciousness itself...Does the world have an observer-independent existence (realism) or does its existence depend in some way on the operation of own minds (idealism)? Is knowledge of the world ‘public’ and ‘objective’, and knowledge of our own experience ‘private’ and ‘subjective’?[C 1]

— Max Velmans, Understanding Consciousness p. 3

There is a common philosophical conceive of the realm of belief and attitude as clearly distinct from the world of objects and events. This separation is typically presented in terms of a distinction between subjective and objective ...[C 2]

— J. E. Malpas, Donald Davidson and the Mirror of Meaning: Holism, Truth, Interpretation p. 192

The objective aspects of experience often are considered to lie within the domain of science. Science has practical impact upon technology and our understanding of interconnections. However, there are areas where science so far has had little impact. So there exists a difference in optimism about science, with one view opining that science will gradually extend to everything,[C 3] and the opposite view opining that won't happen. For example, the statement is found in many books:

"...consciousness is a biological process that will eventually be explained in terms of molecular signaling pathways used by interacting populations of nerve cells.."[C 4]

— Eric R. Kandel, In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind

On the other hand, a contrary view is described by Northoff:

"Epistemically, the mind is determined by mental states, which are accessible in First-Person Perspective. In contrast, the brain, as characterized by neuronal states, can be accessed in Third-Person Perspective. The Third-Person Perspective focuses on other persons and thus on the neuronal states of others' brain while excluding the own brain. In contrast, the First-Person Perspective could potentially provide epistemic access to own brain...However, the First-Person Perspective provides access only to the own mental states but not to the own brain and its neuronal states." [C 5]

— Georg Northoff, Philosophy of the Brain: The Brain Problem, p. 5

Free will is a topic that contrasts these viewpoints. Free will is a widely shared intuition that appears to be at variance with the scientific approach (for example, see mental causation), and one has to ask whether science can say anything useful about this intuition, or does it fall under the hard problem of consciousness? Free will stands at the nexus between subjective and objective realities.

Free will, as discussed in the Introduction of this article, often is contrasted with determinism. In considering a statement involving determinism, like All events p are determined by other events P , in order to be consistent with science today, and avoid oversimplification, one has to be very clear about how the events (p,P) are defined. One also has to replace "determined" by something like "logically imply".

"a theory is deterministic if, and only if, given its state variables for some initial period, the theory logically determines a unique set of values for those variables for any other period."[C 6]

— Ernest Nagel, Alternative descriptions of physical state

The need for great care in defining "events" and "determined" involves detailed descriptions of what constitutes an "event" and how one is said to "determine" another. These developments take the subjective-objective distinction to a more general level than arguments over the prospects of success in bringing certain areas of experience within the grasp of science. A Popper-like view emerges with an "event" as some kind of formalized "state" and the relationship "determines" phrased as a "logical implication" of connection between states, all combined as parts of one or another abstract theory. That formalization puts a lot of emphasis upon mental constructions.[C 7] From the stance of a Duhem, or a Popper, or a Hawking, the use of an intermediary, elaborate mental construction is a meld of the subjective and objective. It is used to determine connections about objective events, but the form of the theoretical construct is a product of subjective activities, and its particular form may well be more about the brain than anything else. Just like a computer algorithm can be expressed in assembly language instructions peculiar to a particular computer by translating the algorithm into steps that particular computer can handle, some aspects of the universe's operation can be expressed in terms of mental constructs.

Lest this apparatus be thought of as an entirely formal understanding, some among us actually do have an intuitive grasp of these creative abstractions, perhaps analogous to the fact that some among us hear music in ambient sounds. Quoting Feynman about his creative process:

It is impossible to differentiate the symbols from the thing; but it is very visual. It is hard to believe it, but I see these things not as mathematical expressions but a mixture of a mathematical expression wrapped into and around, in a vague way, around the object. So I see all the time visual things associated with what I am trying to do."[C 8]

— Richard P. Feyman, As quoted by Schweber: QED and the men who made it: Dyson, Feynman, Schwinger, and Tomonaga

This comment could be paralleled by others about the intuitions of musicians and mathematicians.[C 9] The point is that the creation of scientific theories is subjective, and the very concepts of determinism are themselves subjective and mutable creations of the human mind. What is in charge here: the intuition conceiving the theory, or the theory that results; or is it an unending back-and-forth spiral from one to the other? Using such theory to assess mental activity itself, including free will, is something of a bootstrapping process that might never converge. The question of whether an intuitive free will submits to a critique by some deterministic theory has aspects of an infinite regress. Did a rat "decide" to run a maze, or was it "instinct"? Did the biologist in the laboratory "decide" to build the maze, or was it the zeitgeist of the field? Did the corporation "decide" to build the laboratory, or was it a fad?[C 10]

When stated at a general level, the subjective/objective dichotomy is recognized by most social scientists as one of the enduring metatheoretical dilemmas in the social sciences...[C 11]

— David Swartz, Culture and Power: The Sociology of Pierre Bourdieu, p. 55

It is not possible to resolve which of the subjective or physical universes ultimately contains the other.[C 12]

— Alec Rogers, Cognitive Set Theory, p.85


  1. ^ Max Velmans (2009). Understanding Consciousness (2nd ed.). Taylor & Francis. p. 3. ISBN 0415425158. 
  2. ^ J. E. Malpas (1992). Donald Davidson and the Mirror of Meaning: Holism, Truth, Interpretation. Cambridge University Press Archive. pp. 191 ff. ISBN 052141721X. 
  3. ^ This idea is a generalization of the claim of completeness of physical theory, the notion that the physical sciences provide sufficient causes for all events. See for example, Jens Harbecke (2008). Mental Causation: Investigating the Mind's Powers in a Natural World. Ontos Verlag. p. 214. ISBN 3938793945. 
  4. ^ This quote is from: Eric R. Kandel (2007). In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind. WW Norton. pp. p. 9. ISBN 0393329372.  However, the same language can be found in dozens of sources. Some philosophers object to the unsupported statement of such conjectures, for example, observing that consciousness has yet to be shown to be a process at all, never mind a biological process. See Oswald Hanfling (2002). Wittgenstein and the Human Form of Life. Psychology Press. pp. pp. 108–109. ISBN 0415256453. 
  5. ^ A rather extended discussion is provided in Georg Northoff (2004). Philosophy of the Brain: The Brain Problem (Volume 52 of Advances in Consciousness Research ed.). John Benjamins Publishing. ISBN 1588114171. 
  6. ^ Ernest Nagel (1999). "§V: Alternative descriptions of physical state". The Structure of Science: Problems in the Logic of Scientific Explanation (2nd ed.). Hackett. pp. 285–292. ISBN 0915144719. 
  7. ^ For example, Stephen Hawking has proposed that reality is a patchwork of overlapping theoretical models each representing a different slice of experience with its own concepts and supporting observations, a model-dependent realism, in his book with Leonard Mlodinow: Leonard Mlodinow, Stephen Hawking (2010). "Chapter 1: The mystery of being". [[The Grand Design (book)|The grand design]]. ISBN 0553805371.  Text "Bantam Books " ignored (help); Text "page 9" ignored (help); URL–wikilink conflict (help)
  8. ^ Silvan S. Schweber (1994). QED and the men who made it: Dyson, Feynman, Schwinger, and Tomonaga. Princeton University Press. p. p. 465. ISBN 0691033277.  A more technical description is provided by Adrian Wüthrich (2010). The Genesis of Feynman Diagrams. Springer. p. p. 9. ISBN 9048192277. 
  9. ^ Aaron Copland (1980). "The Charles Elliot Norton lectures, 1951-52". Music and Imagination. Harvard University Press. p. 10. ISBN 0674589157. It [music] is at the same time outside and away from us and inside and part of us. 
  10. ^ Eileen C. Shapiro (1996). "The high stakes thrill of fad surfing in the boardroom". Fad Surfing in the Boardroom: Managing in the Age of Instant Answers. Basic Books. p. xiii. ISBN 0201441950. 
  11. ^ David Swartz (1998). "The subjective/objective antimony". Culture and Power: The Sociology of Pierre Bourdieu (2nd ed.). University of Chicago Press. p. 55. ISBN 0226785955. 
  12. ^ Alec Rogers (2012). "The division between subjective and objective defines life". Cognitive Set Theory. ArborRhythms. p. 85. ISBN 0983037604. 


The above is a revised version of the earlier proposal for further discussion. Brews ohare (talk) 14:16, 28 December 2012 (UTC)

I've taken this material to Subject–object problem. Brews ohare (talk) 15:20, 31 December 2012 (UTC)

This material now is at Subject–object problem in a revised and extended form with additional references in two subsections: Subjective-objective dichotomy and Subjective-objective correlations. You all may have some interest in commenting upon it. Brews ohare (talk) 16:16, 4 January 2013 (UTC)

What about revisions?

Seemingly, interest expressed earlier by Pfhorrest and Richardbrucebaxter in revision of Free will has evaporated. Are we to understand all is now well here?

There have indeed been changes from the August 20 version. The section on mind-body problem was introduced and subsequently demoted to a nearly invisible subsection, despite what I'd say is the fact that this topic underlies everything of importance about free will, both currently and historically. Strawson's table was introduced as a scheme for organizing the myriad technicalities of Free will, but no longer serves that purpose, being buried in the subsection on Free will#Incompatibilism. An introductory few paragraphs for the section In Western philosophy was added to provide some perspective, but now has become Free will#In Western philosophy, an opaque presentation of the issues in keeping with the turgid jargon-laced prose found throughout Free will.

So changes have been made. Their purpose largely has been lost in subsequent revision and rearrangement. As indicated by the proliferation of untold separate articles on every facet of determinism, it is easier to start a new article than to modify an existing one. Brews ohare (talk) 14:17, 5 January 2013 (UTC)

Blaming and justification knocks out free will.

Most psychologists appear to believe that free will is an illusion and after-justification, but metastudies by Kurt Fischer, Christina Hinton and others at "Mind, Brain and Education" have linked the prevalence of extreme recoveries after brain damage (that are unexplainable by established neurological and psychological theories) to unusually tolerant social environments. This can be explained by the model that social pressure to justify one's actions leads to justifications that paralyze an underlying ability of practically unlimited self-correction. This is explained in greater detail on the pages "Moderating the free will debate" and "Brain" on Pure science Wiki, a wiki devoted to the scientific method unaffected by academic prestige. (talk) 09:33, 8 January 2013 (UTC)Martin J Sallberg

Untitled comment

This article was clearly written by a determinist.

It is a bit unfair to have the article on Free Will (agency) written by a determinist - especially one of the "compatiblist" sort. Would determinists approve of me writing the article on determinism? Pretending that determinism is compatible with agency (free will) is like pretending that wet is dry. Either we make choices or we do not. Either humans are beings (agents) or we are not. That is the free will position - and it is not too much to ask that an article on free will explains that. As for claiming Aristotle for "compatiblism"...... (talk) 18:17, 25 January 2013 (UTC)

Compatibilists are not necessarily determinists (and if you mean "hard determinists", then they definitely are not), and while I'm not going to defend the current state of the lede as I have problems with it too, your apparently libertarian position is but one of several equally disputed positions; the article should not be written as though determinism was true, sure, or compatibilism either, but neither should be it written as though metaphysical libertarianism was true. To do any of those would be biased. Merely allowing the possibility of a compatibilist definition of free will, which seems to be your objection, is not biased, unless it excludes the possibility of incompatibilism. What you seem to want would be the biased position, excluding compatibilism. --Pfhorrest (talk) 20:18, 25 January 2013 (UTC)

Rearrangement of introduction

I've re-arranged the material in the Introduction without much change. My objective is to present free will as a stand alone subject, rather than the antonym of determinism. I've retained the position that determinism is a "constraint of dominant concern" but made that the third paragraph. That allows a more open view of free will, which I believe is more in keeping with the breadth of this topic and more compatible with the broader aspects treated in this article.

The first sentence of the article is now:

Free will is the ability of agents to make choices.

The extra words "free from certain kinds of constraints" seem unnecessary to me given the definition of choice on the page Choice. I believe these words are there primarily to make a segue to the discussion of constraints, viewing determinism as the ultimate constraint, but the proposed re-arrangement does not need such a segue. Brews ohare (talk) 00:00, 12 January 2013 (UTC)

I hope that this re-write will be given careful consideration and not be summarily reverted without detailed comment. Brews ohare (talk) 17:18, 13 January 2013 (UTC)

Wolfdog has undertaken to return "free from certain kinds of constraints" in this edit and this edit without comment. As I have explained here, these extra words do not add to the meaning unless one wishes to emphasize by redundancy the compatibilist position. Brews ohare (talk) 23:11, 14 January 2013 (UTC)
I just want to comment that I am very unhappy with many of the changes being made recently for reasons already explained in excruciating length over the past several pages of archives, but I simply do not have the time to sit here and continually tell you over and over again why they are wrong and revert every edit you make. But let the record show that these changes did not happen without contest. --Pfhorrest (talk) 04:20, 16 January 2013 (UTC)
Sorry to hear all this. I do appreciate the time you have spent on this Talk page, and it has been helpful. However, this reaction of yours is not based upon what has been done in these recent edits, and these changes do not contradict positions you have advanced here. Frankly, the only changes that I have made that seem to me to have been objected to by yourself on this Talk page is avoidance of making free will the antonym of nomological determinism, which is a very narrow view of the subject of free will. The difference in the revised version is that free will now is a topic on its own, and not nailed to determinism.
I suspect that your reaction is not based on a reading of what was done (too long, did not read), but simply upon the fact that you have seen many edits are listed on the history page. Most of these edits are very, very minor.
I do not think there is anything in the revised introduction that you would seriously object to, and every major point has been sourced. The revision benefits from our prior discussion here, and IMO does not require you to "tell [me] over and over again why they are wrong and revert every edit". Brews ohare (talk) 06:28, 16 January 2013 (UTC)
I have commented further on Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Philosophy following your remarks there. Brews ohare (talk) 07:08, 16 January 2013 (UTC)
I really don't have the time to get into yet another protracted argument here, but I want to say that the article as it stood before did not, and I would never intend it to, depict free will as the antonym of nomological determinism, and the fact that you think that it did before and that I intended it to just shows that you continue to completely misunderstand everything I have said. Furthermore my objections are not based on seeing a lot of edits in the edit history (no time to make a careful examination of every one), but on reading through the final product of them, which now wanders in an essay-like fashion and makes the various positions on the definition of free will much less clear than before. It also demonstrates the same clear lack of understanding of what "determinism" simpliciter as used in discussions of free will (or nomological determinism specifically, which qualifier was only added to try to eliminate the possibility of such confusion) is at all; it is not possible by definition for some things to be (nomologically) determined and other things not to be, as (nomological) determinism is a claim about how states of the entire universe relate to each other, the claim that everything that will happen is determined (by the laws of nature or whatever); if some things are not determined, then not everything is determined, and (nomological) determinism is false. I already went over this at great length before so I'm going to stop myself from belaboring the point again now; suffice it to say you do not understand the things you're talking about, you even misinterpret the sources you try to bring in to support your argument, and you are making the article much less clear, not more clear. --Pfhorrest (talk) 08:11, 16 January 2013 (UTC)
I am glad you took the time to read the actual text, Pfhorrest. That text says exactly what you say is the meaning of nomological determinism, and uses exactly your words: "the philosophical position of nomological determinism, which holds that future events are determined completely by preceding events." and the same source referred to before my changes. The second paragraph does not say nomological determinism is common sense, which is your remark at Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Philosophy. What it does say is that if "future events are determined completely by preceding events" applies to all events, then common sense says "if all events are determined, so are our choices" and this position is logically incompatible with free will, a view called incompatibilism.
The limitation of the statement that "future events are determined completely by preceding events" to only a subset of events, and not all events is referred to as an open question in the third paragraph, and I believe it is apparent that a modification of nominological determinism is implied by this discussion.
The remaining parts of the introduction are almost identical with what was there before.
My reaction is that you have let your resistance to change dominate your reaction to what was done. It is possible to tweak the wording to make things suit you better without castigating my understanding or wholesale reversion of these changes.
Perhaps the appeal at Wikipedia talk:WikiProject Philosophy will accomplish that end. Brews ohare (talk) 15:17, 16 January 2013 (UTC)
To make the matter clearer, I've rewritten the lead sentence of the third paragraph as follows:
"One might note that it is open to discussion whether the assertion of nominological determinism, "that future events are determined completely by preceding events", does in fact apply to the entire universe."
That spells out very clearly that a modification of nominological determinism is under discussion. Brews ohare (talk) 16:20, 16 January 2013 (UTC)
It's still analogous to asking whether "all swans are white" really applies to all swans. Yes, it does; that's what it says. Maybe not all swans are white (in fact they're not), but that just means that "all swans are white" is simply false. Likewise, nomological (not "nominological") determinism claims that everything is completely determined; if some things are not completely determined, then nomological determinism is simply false, it doesn't just "apply less". --Pfhorrest (talk) 21:37, 16 January 2013 (UTC)
Pfhorrest: I am pretty confident you understand what I am aiming at. So you could try to reword it. Presently what is said is:
One might note that it is open to discussion whether the assertion of nomological determinism, "that future events are determined completely by preceding events", does in fact apply to the entire universe. The position of indeterminism is either that empirical limitations upon the scope of nomological determinism exist, or that at least such limitations are still a matter requiring exploration.
Perhaps the following would suit you better?
One might note that it is open to discussion whether the assertion of nomological determinism, "that future events are determined completely by preceding events", goes too far in extending its claims to the entire universe. The position of indeterminism is either that only some future events are determined in whole or in part by preceding events, or that at least some limitations upon scope are a matter requiring exploration.
Not a big change, but the "'all' swans are white" criticism is avoided, eh? Brews ohare (talk) 22:45, 16 January 2013 (UTC)
I am, as of now, unconvinced about your argument for avoiding the phrase "free from certain kinds of constraints." Choice refers to the ability to make judgments as done by any functioning system; however, in any definition of free will (that of compatibilists, of hard determinists, etc.), the term necessarily implies not just the ability to make judgments (which even machines can be said to do), but the ability to make judgments that are in some way or another unrestricted. I have found no dictionary definition that excludes this necessary component. Online, Merriam-Webster gives two definitions, the first of which implies "voluntary choice" and the second "choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention"[1]; Oxford Dictionaries says the power to act "without the constraint of necessity or fate"[2]; also includes the words independent, voluntary, and free in its definition[3]. Although all may not agree as to what the lack of restrictions is, all agree that there is a lack of restrictions understood from the phrase free will. I don't believe, for example, that hard determinists are arguing that no one has the ability to make choices; they are arguing that no one has the ability to make unrestricted choices. Libertarians, on the other hand, are not arguing that agents can make choices, but that agents can make certain types of unrestricted choices. If you believe that the definition of choice is itself up for debate, then it is still better to add (what you consider) the redundancy in the article's definition of free will, since it is specifying the definition of choice we are all agreeing on as well. As it stands now in the first sentence, the definition of free will is not really distinct from will. Wolfdog (talk) 15:53, 24 January 2013 (UTC)
I agree with Wolfdog. --Pfhorrest (talk) 07:40, 25 January 2013 (UTC)
I also agree. The central question here should be freedom of the will. And more generally about these changes: there is no coherent structure to the lead any more. I don't follow any thread from one paragraph to the next. Also, it is worth recalling that compatibilism is the dominant position on among philosophers. It should not be relegated to the end of the lead, but needs to be very prominently represented. Vesal (talk) 23:01, 25 January 2013 (UTC)
I also agree with Vesal's more general comments here. Substantial issues aside (accuracy, notability, etc), the style of Brews' edits is an wandering, conversational, essay-like tone throughout.
Though I'd want to call citation needed that compatibilism is still the dominant position among philosophers (certainly it was for a long time, but I was under the impression Van Inwagen had thoroughly rehabilitated support for incompatibilism these days), that aside, I still think we need to state very clearly at the very beginning of the article that we will be discussing free will in all the different senses used by compatibilists and incompatibilists alike, otherwise we get uses like the anon in the section below thinking we're assuming one definition or another (and said anon perceives the bias now present accurately: Brews' is indeed a compatibilist and I believe a determinist as well). We had a nicely-structured way of putting that before (ala "Free will is f(x) for some x, frequently taken to be a, but sometimes also b, c, or d") which have been thoroughly destroyed by Brews' edits.
I would really like to roll back the article to its old stable state and let Brews convince the rest of us which of his edits deserve integration, which was the status quo we had for a while before, but I just don't have the time to stay here and argue forever anymore, and nobody else has been around, so all I could do would be just revert with no argument which seems uncivil. If you, Vesal, and Wolfdog, would be in favor of the rollback-and-argue approach, and will be around enough to help argue, I would appreciate hearing so. --Pfhorrest (talk) 01:35, 26 January 2013 (UTC)
Vesal: Your comment that free will is about freedom to will rather than to choose is one formulation mentioned as a compatibilist position in the second paragraph of Free_will#In_Western_philosophy. Perhaps you have a different idea of the source of this distinction than expressed in the article and its associated footnote? As for stressing the compatibilist position in the lead, Pfhorrest and Richardbrucebaxter have adamantly opposed that notion as violating the requirement for a NPOV. The present leading paragraph with its two quotations demonstrates a wide range of views and cannot be accused of parochialism. Following the quotes, the old presentation is followed almost exactly in spirit, and with much of the same wording. Perhaps you could articulate what is causing the present formulation to appear incoherent? Brews ohare (talk) 06:30, 29 January 2013 (UTC)
Pfhorrest: As for stating at the outset that the compatibilist and incompatibilist positions all will be treated, there are problems. First, it is difficult to explain all these technicalities in a leading paragraph. The original leading paragraph didn't accomplish this feat either. Second, plunging immediately into technical jargon is a total turn off for any but those who know this terminology before beginning. Third, there are aspects to free will that are not encompassed by these old chestnuts, which are largely a boring rehash of outmoded technicalities like "hard determinism" that are not only no longer pertinent if defined as done in the introduction, but are trivially shown to be inapplicable to any world outside of pure imagination, views described as excruciatingly boring in an eloquent quotation somewhere above in this Talk page. Brews ohare (talk) 06:30, 29 January 2013 (UTC)

Pfhorrest, I do think it would be better to roll back and then incorporate some of Brews' ideas. I agree with him that some of the previous discussion is outdated. For example, nobody actively advocates hard determinism in this quantum age, do they? While I'm not entirely opposed to what Brews is doing, this article was already very mature. It used to be a featured article, so this kind of heavy rewriting is not warranted. In fact, this is the single thing that annoys me most about Wikipedia: the assumption that a bunch of local improvements, made in good faith, will lead to a better article. Vesal (talk) 12:58, 29 January 2013 (UTC)

Versal: I'm sure that Free will could be improved. I do not think a "roll back" will be an improvement. Instead, what we need is to identify specific objectives, and meet them. So far that has not happened. One of these objectives should be a modernization of approach and one that expresses the issues without plunging immediately into jargon. The first lines of the present introduction make that effort. The rest of the introduction is simply a modestly more coherent presentation of the same-old same-old that was there before. Brews ohare (talk) 15:57, 29 January 2013 (UTC)
Hard determinism is probably not seriously promulgated by any notable contemporary academics, what with the success of indeterministic quantum theories as you note, but the position is still important in the contemporary discourse because contemporary metaphysical libertarians and contemporary hard incompatibilists are still very vehemently arguing that the nature of free will is such that if the universe were deterministic then hard determinism would be true. In contrast, contemporary compatibilists argue against them that it doesn't matter at all whether the universe is deterministic and that their concept of free will must be mistaken if they think determinism would be a threat to it.
That aside, I really don't think the last version of the lede as I left it framed free will entirely in terms of determinism not did it go quickly into any technical jargon. The first paragraph as of my last edit was:

Free will is the ability of agents to make choices free from certain kinds of constraints. Historically, the constraint of dominant concern in philosophy has been that of determinism. However, many others define free will without reference to determinism, and posit that freedom from other constraints is more relevant, such as physical constraints (e.g. chains or imprisonment), social constraints (e.g. threat of punishment or censure), or mental constraints (e.g. compulsions or phobias, neurological disorders, or genetic predispositions).

This is just definitional at this point, just saying what is this free will thing we're about to talk about in a way that doesn't leave us with a bunch of people (like the anon below) coming here going "OMFG that's not what free will is you biased biaser you!" It says free will is freedom from something, and then lists some prominent somethings that notable sources have proposed, leaving open which of them is the correct one for defining free will, and without claiming to be a definitive list. This should satisfy all varieties of incompatibilist and compatibilist alike.
Then there was another paragraph that described and named the incompatibilist positions, because historically they are very notable positions, and among laypeople the debate you are most likely to see is still metaphysical libertarians vs hard determinists, even if neither side knows to call themselves those things. Seriously, just read anon comments to this talk page in the archives, visit any popular philosophy forum on the internet, or drop by any freshman philosophy club at any college, and look at the positions that uneducated people are arguing. It's still frames as free will vs determinism. I've argued here vehemently against calling that the "common sense" view of free will, but I will agree with everyone who's tried to push that POV before that it is at least a very common view.
Anyway, that paragraph and the one contrasting and naming compatibilism used to follow that first definitional paragraph, but I have said before that I am absolutely fine with them coming later after a paragraph or two describing the importance and history of the question, which I invited Brews to write. Instead he's torn up the few tight and substantial paragraphs we had and strewn their remains about into a wandering conversational essay.
I think we need to roll it all back, and invite Brews to fit the material he thinks is most important into a second and/or third paragraph of the lede, between the tight, accurate definitional paragraph we had before, and the tight, accurate two paragraphs on the prominent positions in the debate. Since Vessal has voiced his agreement, I'm going to go ahead and go that now. --Pfhorrest (talk) 22:52, 29 January 2013 (UTC)
Hi Pfhorrest: I don't find your invitation to participate here very convincing in the light of reverting my efforts, including its sources, without discussion. In the new version, you've backed off using the definition of nomological determinism, and linked determinism instead. That article defines determinism as "stating that for everything that happens there are conditions such that, given those conditions, nothing else could happen." That is different than the definition used before, but has many of the same problems when it comes to trying to establish whether it actually applies, or not. Of course, its assertion about everything is beyond any kind of test, and so is nonsense from a scientific standpoint. The phrasing "that there are conditions such that nothing else could happen" also is not testable, as any failure would simply be explained away as the "conditions" not having been met. These awkward problems of using what amounts to a nonsense formulation are readily avoided if we state free will as a position about choice, and leave determinism out of the discussion until later. Brews ohare (talk) 11:39, 30 January 2013 (UTC)
Perhaps you might state your objections to my proposed beginning using the quotes of the dramatically different stances of Sartre and of Dawkins? Brews ohare (talk) 11:47, 30 January 2013 (UTC)
Here they are again:

"Man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world - and defines himself afterwords...he will be what he makes of himself...there is no determinism: man is free, man is freedom."[1]

— Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism and Humanism, pp. 29, 32

"We are survival machines - robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes."[2]

— Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, p. xxi


  1. ^ Jean-Paul Sartre (2001). "Existentialism and Humanism,". In Stephen Priest, ed. Jean-Paul Sartre: Basic Writings. Psychology Press. pp. 29, 32. ISBN 0415213681. 
  2. ^ Richard Dawkins (2006). The Selfish Gene (30th anniversary ed.). Oxford University Press. p. xxi. ISBN 0199291152. 
Brews ohare (talk) 23:11, 14 January 2013 (UTC)
Lest one quibble over Sartre's use of the words "there is no determinism", one could argue that this is not meant as a technical term but as common English. Or, one could find a different quotation altogether. Brews ohare (talk) 12:05, 30 January 2013 (UTC)
The quotes are fine for illustrative purposes here or there, I just don't think the lede should be centered entirely around them, for one part because that's just bad style, but for a larger part because at least the Sarte quote seems to assume incompatibilism (man being free and there being no determinism are spoken of as though equivalent states), and the Dawkins quote doesn't say anything about free will per se and could be representative of pretty much any view besides metaphysical libertarianism.
I will probably write more on this in another response below, but it seems strange to me that you complain about the article going into too much depth about the technical details of determinism, and yet you seem to want to insert all these quotes and elaborate qualifications about what exactly kind of determinism is being talked about and whether or not it applies to this that or the other thing. I just want to say that, among the many ways of defining free will, a popular one is in reference to determinism, and people using that definition polarize around two main opposing camps; but that a lot of other people define free will in other ways, with a list of examples, and an explanation of why all those other ways commonly get lumped together under one name.
I want all material on the details of determinism to stay out of the lede, and go down in the body section on incompatibilism where it's relevant, and even there to be a summary of material which should be first fleshed out at determinism. When I have time again I would be happy to move on to that article once we're done here and make sure that it is accurate and well-organized, but for now I'm just trying to keep the lede from showing any bias on the issue of compatibilism vs incompatibilism, or from going on and on and on about details which are only relevant to one or the other. --Pfhorrest (talk) 22:37, 30 January 2013 (UTC)

Free will more basic than determinism

I happened to read Carl Hoefer, "Causal Determinism" which persuades me that my reservations about determinism are not mine alone, that many more objections have been raised, and this entire topic is debatable from many directions. Why must it be placed in tight connection to free will, which is a cleaner subject? Brews ohare (talk) 16:56, 30 January 2013 (UTC)

I thought I was going to write more about this here, but I went into pretty good detail above: I don't see that this article is attempting to tie free will and determinism together, and it is in fact my intent to ensure that it does not, as that would be biased against compatibilists (which I am); but at the same time I recognize that there is both a large history of academic literature and a widespread popular intuition regarding incompatibilism, which holds that determinism and free will are tightly connected, and the article needs to respect that opinion (i.e. not be biased against it) or else we're going to get an endless stream of incompatibilists coming through complaining that the article was "obviously written by determinists" and the like.

Reading Kadri Vihvelin, "Arguments for Incompatibilism", I see that a large portion of philosophical discussion is based on the reverse approach to free will and determinism from the present article, treating free will as the more basic and understandable conception and determinism as better discussed in its relation to free will. That seems to me to be absolutely the right way to go. Brews ohare (talk) 17:13, 30 January 2013 (UTC)

I just re-read the beginning of that article and I don't see determinism being defined in reference to free will anywhere. In fact the opening sentence is a definition of determinism which makes no reference to free will, followed by definitions of a positions on free will in reference to determinism. Can you quote the passage you think supports your claim?
Also, something helpful from that article to my purposes of not fussing too much in the lede over exactly what kind of determinism we mean: "In the literature, “determinism” is sometimes used as an umbrella term for a variety of different claims which have traditionally been regarded as threats to free will." It then lists nomological, logical, and theological determinism as items under that umbrella (but notably not biological, psychological, or cultural determinism, which I've been emphasizing are not even the same category of claim which incompatibilists hold to be contrary to free will). I think, for the purposes of the lede, we are fine to just say "determinism" and leave it at that. The section on incompatibilism can go into further detail if needed. We don't need to belabor it in the lede. --Pfhorrest (talk) 22:50, 30 January 2013 (UTC)
Absolutely right, we don't need to belabor determinism in the lead - -we can leave it out altogether, with great benefit to both the article on determinism (which could be fixed to use free will as the basis of its discussion) and the article on free will which would benefit from the divorce from muddy waters. I'll chase down the part of the articles you seem unable to locate yourself. Brews ohare (talk) 00:23, 31 January 2013 (UTC)

Using the term "free"

Pfhorrest, the issue wasn't with "certain kinds of constraints", it was using the term "free" in defining "free will". I think that he liked that the next sentence defined the constraint of dominant concern as determinism. If you happen to have a e-book or book (I was listening to audio), his comments were toward the end (approx 80% into) chapter 9. Morphh (talk) 00:44, 31 January 2013 (UTC)

I understand that that's what he was saying, and I'm arguing that it's not the problem he seems to take it to be. "Free will is the ability to will free from ____" would not be circular, so long as something filled in that blank: the content of the blank is what makes it non-circular. Replacing "to will" with a synonymous phrase like "to make choices", and replacing the blank with a placeholder phrase like "certain constraints" to be elaborated in the next sentence doesn't change that. If it helps to stem confusion though, I would be fine with finding a synonym for "free from" just like we have "to make choices" instead of "to will". Everything that comes to mind sounds needlessly tortured though: "unhindered by" is the best that comes to mind. Perhaps mix it up with the "constraints" noun and say "unconstrained by certain factors" or the like. I'm open to alternatives to the word "factors" there.
TL;DR: Maybe "'Free will is the ability of agents to make choices unconstrained by certain factors. Historically, the constraint of dominant concern has been..."? --Pfhorrest (talk) 04:21, 1 February 2013 (UTC)

Peter van Inwagen

I looked up this author and found his article How to think about free will. He provides this convenient list of definitions:

  • Determinism is the thesis that the past and the laws of nature together determine, at every moment, a unique future (The denial of determinism is indeterminism).
  • Compatibilism is the thesis that determinism and the free-will thesis could both be true (And incompatibilism is the denial of compatibilism).3
  • Libertarianism is the conjunction of the free-will thesis and incompatibilism (Libertarianism thus entails indeterminism).
  • Hard determinism is the conjunction of determinism and incompatibilism (Hard determinism thus entails the denial of the free-will thesis).
  • Soft determinism is the conjunction of determinism and the free-will thesis (Soft determinism thus entails compatibilism).

Although the definition of soft determinism above could be construed in various ways, van Inwagen makes clear that he shares the perspective of David Lewis Are we free to break the laws?, namely, that although we are 'free' to break the laws of nature, that never happens: "Soft determinism is the doctrine that sometimes one freely does what one is predetermined to do, and that in such a case one is able to act otherwise though past history and the laws of nature determine that one will not act otherwise."

As Pfhorrest has pointed out, this paper is evidence that there are still those that beat the dead horses connected to the outmoded concept of nomological determinism.

My own position is that these debates, assuming they have some importance to the article Free will as quaint historical dead-ends, should be relegated to a section of Free will called, for example: Debates about nomological determinism, in which section a preamble would present the published demonstrations that these arguments, however entertaining, and however interesting as exercises in preparation for real mental activity, in fact have no bearing whatsoever upon the universe as we know it, and are of no practical importance. Brews ohare (talk) 17:00, 2 February 2013 (UTC)

This position will be viewed as extreme, I imagine, as there are many still involved in this 'academic' exercise, and it may be argued that they cannot all be living in a bubble. There is no dispute that one can, if so inclined, argue over definitions and their consequences (that might be a description of the entire subject of mathematics). However, that is different from asserting their applicability to the universe as we know it. Reality is not a matter just of definitions. I doubt that it is possible to find a published argument explicitly supporting nomological determinism as a better description of reality than is physical determinism. Nomological determinism is a red herring. Brews ohare (talk) 19:12, 2 February 2013 (UTC)

Circular logic

I'm reading "How to Create a Mind" by Ray Kurzweil and he mentions this article in his book. While he thought the definition was better than other references he quoted (if I recall, he liked that it stated "certain kinds of constraints"), he did mention the circular logic of "free" being in the definition of "free will". Is this something we could improve? Here is a definition from Wiktionary that we could pull ideas from: "1 A person's natural inclination; unforced choice. 2 (philosophy) The ability to choose one's actions, or determine what reasons are acceptable motivation for actions, without predestination, fate etc."[4] Morphh (talk) 14:58, 30 January 2013 (UTC)

I do support some such change, and these suggestions seem worthwhile. Free will is then placed in a clear light as a topic in its own right and the murky waters of determinism can be explained later, so far as that appears useful to Free will. In fact, it is debatable that extended discussion of determinism belongs in the article on Free will at all, being more about trying to clarify determinism than trying to illuminate free will. However, bringing about any such change will be an uphill battle here. Brews ohare (talk) 17:22, 30 January 2013 (UTC)
Interesting to hear that Kurzweil mentions this article; could you by any chance quote the passage where he does so? (Just for my personal interest).
I don't think there is circular logic at play here so much as tautology in absence of consensus on a more substantial definition. Will is the ability to make choices, free will is such an ability which is free from... something. And there, different parties part ways and propose different ways of completing that sentence. If we just said "free will is the ability to make choices without constraint", that would be almost circular, or more accurately vacuous; "make choices without constraint" is just a longer way of saying "will freely". But we say "certain kinds of constraints", implying that there are details going unsaid, and then immediately elaborate that those details are contested by different parties. --Pfhorrest (talk) 22:56, 30 January 2013 (UTC)
Pfhorrest: Because this is philosophy discussion and nit-picking is a popular pass-time, let me point out that will is the desire to act and is separate from the ability to act. It strikes me as a bit cute to say that you can make choices but cannot execute them. It is more straightforward to say you can decide to do something, but whether you'll actually do it is something else. Choice involves decision and action. Everyday life agrees emphatically. The constraints on free will have as much (or more) to do with intervention between the decision to do something and putting that decision into action. Such is the case with being tied to a chair so you can't stand up, and failing to break addiction because your dopamine production in your brain is screwed up. Brews ohare (talk) 00:19, 31 January 2013 (UTC)
I added this distinction to the introduction. Brews ohare (talk) 18:16, 31 January 2013 (UTC)
The problem is that everything you just said is all one point of view and will be contested by various parties. The nits you are picking would only be picked by some and would be denied by others.
For example, Frankfurt, a modern compatibilist, would disagree that will is identical to desire; according to him will is a special subset of desire, specifically the desire which is effective in actually moving you to act, and freedom of the will to him is identified with the effectiveness of second-order desires to will something in particular, in short, the ability to will what you want to will, which is different from both the ability to do what you want to do, and from merely wanting something.
Incompatibilists, on the other hand, are concerned with the possibility that, regardless of your ability to do whatever you want, it might have been metaphysically impossible that you would ever want anything other than you did.
Neither of them are talking about the ability to do what you want to do. They're both talking about some possibility to want something else, whether a person's functional ability to change what they want, or the metaphysical possibility that they could have wanted something else even if the same history had lead up to that. So what you added is, once again, going into needless detail "clarifying" something that is only a clarification of one point of view and belongs with an elaboration of that point of view later, not first thing in the lede.
NB however that there are still other, classical compatibilists like Hobbes who say that the ability to act on your desires is what's important, so all the above is not to say that anything you wrote is wrong, just that it is biased to one point of view. It would be equally biased to say the opposite, and the cleanest way to stay neutral is just to not say anything either way there, and elaborate on the different contentious views later in their respective sections.
Which is what I keep saying about just about everything you want to add here, and is getting kind of tiring. We need to say less first thing in the lede, because either we say more in a biased way, or we say a whole lot more to clarify all the different views neutrally and basically replicate the entire body in the lede. --Pfhorrest (talk) 04:21, 1 February 2013 (UTC)
I am impressed, Pfhorrest, that no matter what tack is taken to do differently, the end result is your insistence upon introducing determinism in the second sentence of the lead. That is not necessary. It is also not desirable. And it is not done by a large percentage of published treatments of free will.
We are back with determinism claimed to be an example of a constraint, which is a stretch all by itself. It is a very special view of a constraint to make it a consequence of a debatable understanding of the laws of nature. Brews ohare (talk) 06:23, 1 February 2013 (UTC)
And I am impressed with your implacable distaste for neutrally mentioning, as merely the first of a list of many different things, something which many, many people (not including myself -- I'm being neutral for my opponents' sake here) consider a potential limit to freedom of the will. That is all that is intended by "constraint": a limiting factor, something which in some way restricts freedom. You certainly cannot deny that there is a very large camp of people (again, not including myself) who think that determinism, if true, would limit our freedom of will; it would restrain it; it would constrain it. I don't know what more specialized sense of "constraint" you are thinking of (or where it comes from) where that (the existence of such an opinion) is not evident from many sources already present on this article including those you quote and cite yourself. I'm not especially attached to the word "constraint" -- I would consider other synonyms like the two I've been using in this paragraph -- but it should be noted that this discussion section was started with a comment that a notable author specifically said, in a published book, that he liked the phrasing "certain kinds of constraints" in this article. So your objection to that phrase is far from universal, and while I'd be the last to argue from authority, if I were to do so Kurzweil's would outweigh yours. --Pfhorrest (talk) 06:57, 1 February 2013 (UTC)
Pfhorrest: We are having a cat fight, eh? My distaste is not a distaste for mentioning any and all proposals suggesting limits upon free will, whatever their merits, although those merits should be appraised. But I don't see it as a NPOV to place one of these proposals (conflict with determinism) prominently in the second sentence of the lead when (i) it is an historically murky idea, and in many forms is arguably absurd, and (ii) it artificially restricts the concept of free will by suggesting it is best seen as a conflict with the laws of nature - a bit prejudicial I'd say. Brews ohare (talk) 15:38, 1 February 2013 (UTC)
If I understand you correctly, your concern here is just that determinism is being given undue weight by having its own sentence, and putting all the other things which compatibilists are more concerned with listed in a separate sentence. I think your (i) is not a valid objection as it's not our place to say how good a widespread idea is or isn't, and (ii) is simply untrue as it doesn't suggest that it is best understood that way, just that it is commonly understood that way.
However, in the interest of compromise, what do you think of the following proposal. I doubt it will be fully satisfactory to you, but would you at least think it a step in the right direction? The proposal is: roll the first sentence into a beginning of the second sentence, seamlessly transitioning into the rest of it, as "Factors of historical concern have included metaphysical constraints (e.g. logical, nomological, or theological determinism), physical constraints (e.g. ...". I'm fairly certain that you will consider this at least a small improvement, and I actually kind of like it independent of that now that I think about it, so I'm going to go ahead and implement it now, but I'm happy to revert if you think it makes things worse. --Pfhorrest (talk) 03:16, 2 February 2013 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Pfhorrest: Yes, this is an advance because it takes determinism out of its position of prominence in the lead. Brews ohare (talk) 15:17, 2 February 2013 (UTC)

That's great! Some progress at last. I actually like this version better than what was there before as it closely tracks my own personal analysis of the situation (identifying four kinds of freedom: metaphysical, physical, social, and mental, and identifying freedom of will with the last). I'm too busy to check the history right now but I think at one point a long while ago it was very similar to this, and determinism got broken out into its own sentence because others were concerned about making sure it got the weight it was due. I can still see the argument for that position -- there's no way I could honestly argue that few people are concerned with "metaphysical freedom" or identify it with free will, even though I'm not and I don't -- but if it helps put a stop to this merry-go-round we've been on I'm happy to wait until someone who agrees with that position comes along to argue for it themselves. --Pfhorrest (talk) 03:41, 3 February 2013 (UTC)

Remarks from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Causal determinism:

Why should we start so globally, speaking of the world, with all its myriad events, as deterministic?...Nothing so global as states of the whole world need be invoked, nor even a complete determinism that claims all events to be causally determined...For a variety of reasons this approach is fraught with problems, and the reasons explain why philosophers of science mostly prefer to drop the word “causal” from their discussions of determinism. Generally, as John Earman quipped (1986), to go this route is to “… seek to explain a vague concept—determinism—in terms of a truly obscure one—causation.” More specifically, neither philosophers' nor laymen's conceptions of events have any correlate in any modern physical theory...By trying to define causal determination in terms of a set of prior sufficient conditions, we inevitably fall into the mess of an open-ended list of negative conditions required to achieve the desired sufficiency.

It appears to me that some of these criticisms apply to the outmoded views of determinism expressed in Free will.

Brews ohare (talk) 16:15, 31 January 2013 (UTC)

That might be the basis of an argument you could make against views of free will which hold its truth to be bound up with that of causal determinism, but this article does not (or at least should not) assume such views, it merely notes their existence, and it cannot make original arguments against them without violating NPOV. --Pfhorrest (talk) 07:41, 1 February 2013 (UTC)
Pfhorrest: My point here, as stated, is that the view of determinism adopted in the article Free will is outdated and any belief that it applies to the universe is no longer widely shared. It is simply an historically outgrown view. A modern view is that of physical determinism, which arguably has its own limitations that may disqualify its restricting free will. Brews ohare (talk) 16:21, 1 February 2013 (UTC)
You can say that over and over again but it's still just your opinion and out of line with what people are actually doing in the field today. I may agree completely that concerns about the kind of determinism that incompatibilists worry about are outmoded and irrelevant -- and for a long time so would most philosophers agree -- but people are still arguing, not that that kind of determinism is true, but that free will is such that if it were true free will would not exist. There is still a large contingent of people actively arguing today that that kind of determinism is very relevant to understanding what it is to have free will. Look up Peter Van Inwagen and everyone following in his tracks for the current batch of supporters.
My point here being, we may have good arguments to dismiss incompatibilism in our own arguments, but the article has to acknowledge that it is still a prominent position that notable people argue for, and it would be biased of us to make our own arguments in the article's voice.
And physical determinism is completely irrelevant because the only people worried about determinism, incompatibilists, are not worried about that kind of determinism (in fact dualist incompatibilists like Descartes widely accepted it as true, and simply located free will in the nondeterministic nonphysical realm of mental substances which they posited). Compatibilists aren't worried about determinism in the first place, and so aren't concerned with whether physical determinism is true, any more than whether theological determinism is true. So nobody really cares, for the purposes of free will, whether physical determinism is true, and it's a complete non-sequitur here in an article of free will. --Pfhorrest (talk) 04:01, 2 February 2013 (UTC)
Pfhorrest: Your position is that if there is some furor over outmoded versions of determinism, then that should be in the article. But why in the introduction? And why without published appraisal to show that it is a tempest in an old teapot? Brews ohare (talk) 16:02, 2 February 2013 (UTC)
Because there is a huge body of people who would scream "bias" if we didn't give their position fair mention and due weight; we would have no end of people coming by to scream "how can you possibly define free will without mentioning what it's all about!!! free will is about not being determined!! this article was obviously written by a bunch of determinists!". I feel weird being in the position of having to defend the inclusion of a position that I would just as soon have nobody hold, but in the interest of making the encyclopedia correct I can't ignore the teeming masses of incompatibilists who would be furious if the article dismissed them as, as you put it, "antediluvian", or the like. As I've written before, it would be like writing the article on God by dismissing deities as primitive mythological figures from the dark ages -- I might agree with that, but there's no way in hell there's anything like a consensus on that among people in general, so NPOV forbids it. --Pfhorrest (talk) 04:27, 3 February 2013 (UTC)
Physical determinism being the only kind of determinism that can be held to apply to real world with a straight face is highly relevant and has many supporters, probably including 99% of scientists. Incompatibilists largely may be antediluvian and insist on re-fighting old battles, but not all of them, and the real issues of incompatibilism rest in arguments about causal closure, don't you think? Compatibilists (in the sense of those who allow physical determinism but also free will) argue along the lines of Northoff or Popper or Freeman, or maybe Kim. They are not engaged in disproving nomological determinism, which is a done deal as far as they are concerned, completely demolished by Nagel and others.
So, I'd argue that the article Free will can go into the question of nomological determinism to describe the position and the brouhaha about it, but it is not an important aspect of the topic of free will, nor even of determinism. Brews ohare (talk) 16:02, 2 February 2013 (UTC)
Something is confused here, but I'm not sure exactly what. What I'm seeing is something very much like Descartes' position. Descartes held that physical determinism was true, and that free will existed, but he was not a compatibilist, because, as he was not a physicalist, physical determinism did not amount to the kind of universal determinism that divides compatibilists and incompatibilists. He believed the physical universe was not closed, but was influenced by indeterministic nonphysical mental substances, so the whole universe, including all its aspects both mental and physical, was not deterministic on his account; but if it had been, if mental substances had been determined, then he would have held free will not to exist. It's sounding to me (from your other comments below) that you hold basically the same kind of position as far as free will is concerned, your account of the mental and physical realms is simply different from Descartes. Causal closure is important (to free will) to incompatibilists only, because compatibilists per se don't care whether the physical universe is determined or not, or whether there is any nondeterministic mental realm that intervenes in it; either way makes no difference to a compatibilist view of free will.
Anyway, saying that physical determinism is "the only kind ... that can be held to apply to the real world with a straight face" is obviously biased and so unacceptable. (For that matter, your "probably 99% of scientists" line is very dubious; most scientists accept the findings of modern physics that the physical universe (regardless of any nonphysical real intervening in it or not) is not deterministic, but probablistic, and so would reject physical or nomological determinism regardless of the relation either has to free will). --Pfhorrest (talk) 04:27, 3 February 2013 (UTC)
Physical determinism à la Nagel is consistent with any probabilistic or indeterministic theories of science and in fact with any type of physical theory, now or in the future, because all it requires is a theory making logical connections between events that satisfy its own definition of an "event". The only reservations that can be entertained about physical determinism are those about causal closure and about the subjective heuristics that guide the development and selection of new theories, and, of course, the larger issues of whether there are blinkers imposed by scientists themselves, or the wider society, upon free exploration of alternative theories. So, while some scientists may have theological explanations for the scientific enterprise, even they probably view these kind of arguments as falling outside the scientific method itself. So the 99% estimate probably is conservative.
The claim that a Popper like epistemological pluralistic view is interesting only to incompatibilists seems to me to be your own definition of this category. There is interest to compatibilists as well, as any limitation upon the range of physical determinism suggests that in the range outside its applicability there may be room for free will. Of course, it doesn't establish free will, but leaves it a question worth exploring.
Maybe we could continue this discussion in the section #Peter_van_Inwagen? Brews ohare (talk) 16:39, 3 February 2013 (UTC)

Arguments for Incompatibilism:

Incompatibilism is a philosophical thesis about the relevance of determinism to free will...The compatibilist denies that determinism has the consequences the incompatibilist thinks it has....The philosophical problem of free will and determinism is the problem of understanding, how, if at all, the truth of determinism might be compatible with the truth of our belief that we have free will.
In the literature, “determinism” is sometimes used as an umbrella term for a variety of different claims which have traditionally been regarded as threats to free will. Given this usage, the thesis that I am calling “determinism” (nomological determinism) is just one of several different kinds of determinism, and the free will/determinism problem we will be discussing is one of a family of related problems.

I take this formulation as setting free will up as an independent idea and discussing determinism as a topic contrasted with free will; not the other way around as in Free will.

Brews ohare (talk) 16:15, 31 January 2013 (UTC)

This article does not (or at least should not) contrast or compare free will in its own voice, it merely notes the existence of positions which do. You seem dead-set on believing that I want this article to define free will in terms of determinism and that it already does, when all I want is for the article to say it is defined variously by different parties, and that a definition in terms of determinism is one very popular such view, among many others.
I'm also not clear what you mean by "the other way around" here, and your appeal to that article seems strange given the overall angle you're pushing, as that article is about arguments in favor of defining free will in terms of determinism. As such, of course it contrasts free will with determinism, as incompatibilism is defined by holding free will and determinism to be mutually exclusive (and thus very different, highly contrasting, states). In contrast (no pun intended), this article does (or at least should) not define free will in terms of determinism at all, either in contrast or "the other way around" (whatever that means); it merely notes that some people do, such as the people who wrote the arguments discussed in that article. --Pfhorrest (talk) 07:41, 1 February 2013 (UTC)
In explaining the concept of determinism, the concept of free will is useful because it is (at least in its definition) a reasonably clear and simple concept (if we avoid your approach, and use that of other writers). On the other hand, determinism is a very murky concept that must be pried loose from prediction and causality, two topics replaced today in the scientific arena by logical implications of a selected theory. If we accept these remarks, which you seem unlikely to do, then it makes more sense to define free will and use it to illuminate determinism than the other way around. Brews ohare (talk) 15:28, 1 February 2013 (UTC)
I don't see how you can possibly say that free will is a clear and simple concept in the sense of a widespread consensus on exactly what it is. Certainly, many people think that they have a clear and simple concept of what free will is... and that everybody else has the wrong clear and simple concept of it, resulting in an overall picture of complexity and confusion when trying to talk about it without taking sides. Both determinism and free will have their complicated difficulties, and those who think that one can be defined in terms of the other usually have their own partisan positions in both debates; and certainly, thinking that determinism could be defined in terms of free will would be just as clearly an incompatibilist position as vice versa, since compatibilists would say that determinism has nothing to do with free will, and vice versa.--Pfhorrest (talk) 04:01, 2 February 2013 (UTC)
Pfhorrest: The word choice has a simple everyday meaning. The arguments are not about the intuitively clear idea of choice, but about its scope and reality, which are not everyday concerns, but philosophical matters. The philosophical issues are not illuminated by dragging determinism into the discussion, especially nomological determinism, which is hokum. Brews ohare (talk) 16:02, 2 February 2013 (UTC)
We've already been over this before, but the academic concerns are not only about the scope and reality of choice, but about there being a difference between choice simpliciter and free choice. The SEP article you link to below even goes over that in some detail right in it's lede; some ask if there's even any sense in the concept of an unfree choice and whether there could even be such a thing as an unfree will, but "the majority view" (per that article) is that there are clearly examples of choices which are not made freely, and so "free will is the ability to make choices" does not suffice -- it's a certain sort of free ability to make choices. What exactly constitutes that sort of ability is where it gets hairy. It's pretty clear what it is to make a choice, but it's not at all clear what it is for a choice to be made "freely", and that's what the debate around free will is all about. --Pfhorrest (talk) 04:27, 3 February 2013 (UTC)
Pfhorrest: You fail to distinguish between definitions and their application to reality. One can define choice pretty simply as selection between alternatives, and then argue about whether we have choice, or have alternatives, or can select, or to what degree, or in what circumstances. Brews ohare (talk) 16:16, 3 February 2013 (UTC)
This is something that confuses me about you. On one hand you seem clearly to be a compatibilist holding that the notions of determinism incompatibilists are worried about are simply incoherent and irrelevant, and want determinism deemphasized from the lede, but on the other hand you talk at times like this as though free will and determinism were clearly and obviously related concepts and that there "common sense" view of free will acknowledges such. I'm starting to suspect maybe you're really just a metaphysical libertarian: you hate the talk about things like nomological determinism because it's such an obviously stupid and false idea that it's not even worth thinking about, but your concept of free will is such that if it were true, or even close enough to true, free will would be impeded.--Pfhorrest (talk) 04:01, 2 February 2013 (UTC)
My working position is that physical determinism applies to the physical world without doubt, but it involves physical theory, a creation of the mind adapted to third-person observations, and inherently iffy when applied to mental activity itself. At the moment, IMO, mental activities like imagination are beyond the grasp of physical theory, and there is no respectable argument to think that the third-person objective realm explains all of mental activity, although of course, mental activity can be screwed around with by neurological factors like drugs or concussion. So free will, apart from possibly some fairly trivial whims, is a higher-order long-term activity of the mind that works with the subconscious but is not controlled by it in every detail. Just to say where I am coming from, not to suggest that this is justification for my views. Brews ohare (talk) 16:02, 2 February 2013 (UTC)
Is that the case? If we could somehow know that the physical universe is at least macroscopically deterministic, and that there is nothing non-physical, and we had a complete causal explanation for how the human decision-making process works, such that we could program a robot to behave exactly like a human and in principle predict anybody's actions just as well as the robot's, would you conclude from that that free will did not exist? --Pfhorrest (talk) 04:01, 2 February 2013 (UTC)
I think that to the contrary we know already that there are things non-physical, so the supposition is a thought experiment without consequence. If the robot were assembled, it would prove to have autonomy just like a cat or a man. My opinion, of course, although I think there is published support for this view. See perhaps Artificial consciousness. Brews ohare (talk) 16:02, 2 February 2013 (UTC)

Free will:

“Free Will” is a philosophical term of art for a particular sort of capacity of rational agents to choose a course of action from among various alternatives. Which sort is the free will sort is what all the fuss is about...Most philosophers suppose that the concept of free will is very closely connected to the concept of moral responsibility. Acting with free will, on such views, is just to satisfy the metaphysical requirement on being responsible for one's action. (Clearly, there will also be epistemic conditions on responsibility as well, such as being aware—or failing that, being culpably unaware—of relevant alternatives to one's action and of the alternatives' moral significance.) But the significance of free will is not exhausted by its connection to moral responsibility. Free will also appears to be a condition on desert for one's accomplishments (why sustained effort and creative work are praiseworthy); on the autonomy and dignity of persons; and on the value we accord to love and friendship.

No mention of determinism here: free will is a topic that stands on its own.

Brews ohare (talk) 16:15, 31 January 2013 (UTC)

That article actually has a lot more in common with the structure of this article's lede than you seem to realize. The first two sentences are almost identical in content to the first paragraph we have here, except they don't list the different "sorts" proposed quite yet, while we do. Instead they first list why it's an important subject (which we we too, just in a different order), and then go on a tangent about whether it's even possible for any kind of will to not be free (which I think is detail best saved for later in the article). But when, slightly further down, they eventually get around to discussing "The majority view" that free will is some special "sort" of will or another, listing the different "sorts" of capacities which various parties propose constitute the capacity for free will, they write: "The main perceived threats to our freedom of will are various alleged determinisms: physical/causal; psychological; biological; theological." That is undeniably similar to the remainder of our current first paragraph. This article differs from that only in a matter of order of presentation, not of substantial content. --Pfhorrest (talk) 07:41, 1 February 2013 (UTC)
Your view of this paragraph ignores the very simple point that it does not refer to determinism, but instead to the capacity to choose. Brews ohare (talk) 15:28, 1 February 2013 (UTC)
Our first sentence also refers to the capacity to choose ("the ability of agents to make choices"), and my point was that the lede of that article does refer to determinism (I just quoted it!), in much the same way ours does (especially after my slight change tonight); it just has a digression between "some sort of ability to choose" and "determinism and other threats", whereas ours goes straight from one to the other and then comes back to the material they put second later. --Pfhorrest (talk) 04:01, 2 February 2013 (UTC)
Pfhorrest: I copied the paragraph that I quoted into the editor and a search shows no occurrence of the word determinism. The new first paragraph of Free will is an improvement. Brews ohare (talk) 16:02, 2 February 2013 (UTC)
The paragraph you copied didn't, but the lede of the same article does, a few paragraphs down. After the first paragraph you quoted, there is a short disgression on distinguishing freedom of will from freedom of action, another short disgression on whether there is such a thing as unfree will at all, and then a paragraph on the kinds of things that different positions hold to be threats to free will, part of which I quoted above.

--Pfhorrest (talk)

We were talking, I thought, about the first paragraph. Brews ohare (talk) 16:16, 3 February 2013 (UTC)

Nomination of Freedom of choice for deletion

A discussion is taking place as to whether the article Freedom of choice is suitable for inclusion in Wikipedia according to Wikipedia's policies and guidelines or whether it should be deleted.

The article will be discussed at Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Freedom of choice until a consensus is reached, and anyone is welcome to contribute to the discussion. The nomination will explain the policies and guidelines which are of concern. The discussion focuses on high-quality evidence and our policies and guidelines.

Users may edit the article during the discussion, including to improve the article to address concerns raised in the discussion. However, do not remove the article-for-deletion template from the top of the article. SPECIFICO talk 19:17, 10 February 2013 (UTC)

In Islamic philosophy

The section In Islamic philosophy uses Fi Zilal al-Quran as sole source, which is written by Sayyid Qutb notorious for declaring all muslims not agreeing to him being heretic non-muslims. Therefore I would propose finding more and better sources than the one provided. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 07:17, 7 March 2013 (UTC)

Some quotations

Some quotations on this topic: Woody "But anyone who turned to the academic experts in search of some clue to the resolution of all this strife would find them still embroiled in an endless parochial conflict about determinism and free will that seems to have no bearing upon the problems of the world at large." He suggests parallels with political disputes. van Kampen "Theoretical determinism, as it is usually ascribed to Laplace, is neither verifiable nor falsifiable, and has therefore no real content." Doyle "Academic philosophers today have developed an absurd number of niches from which to defend their often exotic positions on the free will problem."

Just a caution that the article Free will risks falling into the 'academic' trap.

O'Connor "English-language philosophy has often treated the debate about the implication of determinism for our freedom as if it were a debate about the semantics...But such conceptual arguments have not been found conclusive by the generality of philosophers...This raises the issue whether the power of freedom and its represented to us in experience. For if it were so represented, the free will debate would have to refer to that representation...and to determine whether it was veridical or delusory."

An indication that semantics (the consequence argument is named as an example) is not the way to go, and the question of applicability to the real world has significance. Brews ohare (talk) 20:01, 3 February 2013 (UTC)

I agree with that. Whole article is pure academic, semantic nonsense and goes over the top of head of general reader like me. Article should have explained free will by giving everyday examples in real life of common people. neo (talk) 15:29, 9 June 2013 (UTC)
Semantic nonsense? Well, let's assume the majority of professional philosophers and cognitive scientists are right: people do not have libertarian free will. So, what then? Are people not responsible for their actions? Are they not acting freely because our folk notions of free will are inaccurate? No, we need to figure out what it really means to act freely. Of course, by "we" I mean professional philosophers; we on Wikipedia need to give most weight to the philosophical theory that has most expert support, and right now that is compatibilism. Regards, Vesal (talk) 16:27, 9 June 2013 (UTC)

A reference issue

The reference #5 is misleading! It seems like it's recent (2012) and like the quote is from the author of that source. Actually this recent work is just citing source number 6! I'm new to wiki, so not sure how to go about fixing that, but it doesn't seem right as it is. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:04, 25 June 2013 (UTC)

Uploademo is Syamsu

I strongly suspect that new User:Uploademo is a sockpuppet of banned User:Syamsu. Compare the content of Uploademo's only contribution thus far with any and all of Syamsu's tendentious edits and I think it's pretty clear that Syamsu has been stewing since his ban and working on this one giant complete rewrite of the entire article.

How exactly does one report a suspected sockpuppet to an admin? --Pfhorrest (talk) 09:13, 26 March 2013 (UTC)

<Redacted see WP:NLT> (Syamsu) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Uploademo (talkcontribs) 11:56, 26 March 2013 (UTC)

Edit request on 18 June 2013

Could somebody please remove the comma from inside the brackets: "The connection between autonomy (self-determination,)" and add a "y" to "studing" in "Cognitive naturalism[120] is a physicalist approach to studing human consciousness". Thank you. Thudoro (talk) 22:26, 18 June 2013 (UTC)

Done. You're very welcome. Rivertorch (talk) 23:56, 18 June 2013 (UTC)

Highly misleading mistake

Libertarianism does not say that pshysical deteminism is false nor that "free will" in the sense meant here is possible.
Libertarisniam means that free will in sense of free of coercion can and should exist. That's all!
Please correct that picture and correct the article. (talk) 23:51, 12 July 2013 (UTC)

there are (at least) two different senses of 'libertarian'. One is the political sense you mention, and another completely different sense is used in discussions of free will and determinism. There is nothing to correct. --Pfhorrest (talk) 17:07, 13 July 2013 (UTC)

Libertarian sidebar is out of place

The Libertarianism sidebar's presence doesn't pass a sniff test for an average reader, nor does it make sense for a politically-neutral outline of free will. The scope of the article is clearly beyond just political philosophies. Although a related concept, I noticed the article on "Decision making" doesn't have a Libertarianism sidebar. Since a glance at this talk page doesn't reveal why the sidebar was added, I wanted to bring it up here before acting on it, i.e. removing it. I'm also not sure if the "highly misleading mistake" mentioned in the posts above was about this sidebar, or something else, so I'm posting this as a separate comment. -- (talk) 01:00, 1 September 2013 (UTC)
I agree. It's one of those templates that includes far too many links, including many I would think only tangentially related to Libertarianism. So it does not need to be included in every article that's linked. A narrower philosophy template would be better, and these are already in the article at the end of it. So I've removed the sidebar.--JohnBlackburnewordsdeeds 01:14, 1 September 2013 (UTC)