Talk:Free will/Archive 7

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Still on physics (redux)

I'm not a physicist, so don't kill me. Why isn't Bell's theorem discussed? Bell's theorem puts a big hole in hidden variable theories (stating that no local hidden variable theory can exist). One would have to make a serious jump to non-local hidden variable theories in order to have ANY hidden variable theory. Am I right in saying that there's no evidence or theoretical proof that says information can move faster than the speed of light? How could one even consider hidden variable theories without making that jump to assume information can move faster than the speed of light? Even if the speed of light is beatable, how would we prove it? The bias in the physics section is leaning towards determinism because it says hidden variable theories could happen, it doesn't mention Bell's theorem, AND it makes a terrible counter-argument to hidden variable theories using that number genorator nonsense. As Gibbzmann said, this seems to put hidden variable deterministic theories on par with indeterministic theories by having Bell's theorem absent. Determinism and hidden variable theories may make people happy, but Bell's theorem says otherwise on the topic of local hidden variable theories. As Gibbzmann said, science has no grace with personal tastes. (WraithM (talk) 00:04, 23 October 2008 (UTC))

If you can find reputable secondary sources that discuss the relationship between Bell's theorem and free will, then it could be covered in the article. (See wp:source). I personally feel that the concept of free will is intrinsically and unavoidably dualistic, and therefore meaningless in the context of modern science, so I'm not going to touch this article myself. Looie496 (talk) 00:34, 23 October 2008 (UTC)
I agree. I don't know anywhere near enough physics to evaluate the claims about Bell's theorems and intervening variables, but unless you have a reliable source that makes the links between Bell's theorem and free will, then we will have to remove this on the grounds that this argument is original research. Personally, I would bet that someone has made this argument somewhere, and your addition is at the very least well-formatted, relevant and logical. I'm going to remove it for the time being, but as soon as you have a reference, please add it back in with the reference. Edhubbard (talk) 00:44, 23 October 2008 (UTC)
I have a few quantum physics text books where this argument is made. I'm fairly new to wikipedia, how would I format a reference to a book? (Page 423 of Introduction to Quantum Physics second edition by David J. Griffiths published by Pearson Prentice Hall from 2005 is the first book in my collection I found where this argument is made against determinism) Also, I'm only indirectly talking about free-will in that I'm posting a counter-argument to hidden variable theories which are a deterministic theory (hinting that either compatibilism or hard determinism are the only options). I personally take an agnostic stance on free-will and on the determinism/indeterminism of the universe. However, the experiments (Bell test experiments) and Bell's theorem explicitly say that local hidden variable theories cannot be true. Also, the no-communication theorem suggests that non-local theories cannot happen because non-local implies that there would have to be a super-luminal transfer of information, and the no-communication theorem says that cannot happen. Local AND non-local hidden variable theories cannot happen at our current understanding. The theorems say NOTHING about weither the world is deterministic or indeterministic. These only say that determinism by way of hidden variables cannot happen. The theorems would hint that (at our current understanding) the world is indeterministic, but there could be another way to prove that the world is deterministic without hidden variable theories. I could also try to find Bell's actual paper on this topic if you want a primary source. (WraithM (talk) 01:24, 23 October 2008 (UTC))
And if you want an unshameful argument from authority, pretty much >99.5% of physicists believe that hidden variable theories are flat out wrong, and only absolute nuts or the ignorant believe in hidden variable theories at this point. :D (WraithM (talk) 01:31, 23 October 2008 (UTC))
I added the edit with a reference to that book I mentioned. (WraithM (talk) 02:22, 23 October 2008 (UTC))

Here is from SEP on "Bohmian mechanics". I have no idea what it means, except I know it refutes some of what you say :)

The nonlocality of Bohmian mechanics has a remarkable feature: it is screened by quantum equilibrium. It is a consequence of the quantum equilibrium hypothesis that the nonlocal effects in Bohmian mechanics don't yield observable consequences that are also controllable — we can't use them to send instantaneous messages. This follows from the fact that, given the quantum equilibrium hypothesis, the observable consequences of Bohmian mechanics are the same as those of orthodox quantum theory, for which instantaneous communication based on quantum nonlocality is impossible (see Eberhard 1978). The importance of quantum equilibrium for obscuring the nonlocality of Bohmian mechanics has been stressed by Valentini (1991).

What I do know is that Bohmian mechanics is a minority view, but certainly not fringe. It is being researched by scientists at mainstream institutions, who publish in mainstream venues. Vesal (talk) 11:05, 2 November 2008 (UTC)

I actually have Bohm's book sitting on desk, and I've always intended to read it for this very topic of Bohmian mechanics. I could read it and try to rewrite what I originally said. From what I understand, Bohm's theories are now fringe (and are being researched in order to actually discover more about more Copenhageney things. I'm not partial to realist or Copenhagen points of view as I take an agnostic stance, but I'm fairly sure that at least realist points of view have been put down well.) because of new evidence on the contrary, but I may very well be wrong. I'll work on this. (WraithM (talk) 07:40, 11 November 2008 (UTC))
There is a definition of free will in the paper "Review of incursive, hyperincursive and anticipatory systems-foundation of anticipation in electromagnetism" (Dubois 2000). A fairly notable scientist. However, I propose not to include it, and instead to include the structure of common grammar that people use when they talk in terms of choosing. Particularly that in common grammar the alternatives are in the future in respect to the one choosing. That principle is basically in line with Dubois' theory of anticipation, but I think it is better to start out with common knowledge about free will as it is in grammar. After that you can have some philosophical / scientific articles, but really when somebody comes to a wikipedia page about free will they should come to know how the concept is commonly used on a practical basis. They should not come to some kind of predominantly "atheist" / "agnostic" page doubting free will when in everyday life everybody talks as though free will is real.Syamsu (talk) 13:02, 18 February 2009 (UTC)
A discussion of the "folk"/"common sense" understanding of free will would be a very valuable addition to this article, in my opinion, if you would like to contribute one. Much more valuable than all this weird physics stuff. Looie496 (talk) 17:37, 19 February 2009 (UTC)
common use
free will = the capability to create alternatives and choose them
alternatives = mutually exclusive possibilities in the future of the person choosing
choosing = to make the one alternative the present, and abandon the other alternative(s)
- distinguish (imprecise) descriptions of alternatives in the present, and actual alternatives themselves in the future
Syamsu (talk) 13:07, 20 February 2009 (UTC)
Well, coming up with suggestions is not so hard, but to improve the article you'll need to be able to attribute them to sources, which is the difficult part. Looie496 (talk) 02:07, 22 February 2009 (UTC)
Yes, and this article is primarily about The Problem of Free Will. It may be useful to elaborate on the process itself, although that might be more relevant to articles like volition (psychology), decision making and choice. Vesal (talk) 21:40, 22 February 2009 (UTC)
The wikipedia entries for volition, decisionmaking, choice, are also not in line with practical common use. They are philsophical, psychological uses etc. Common use is like so: 1 a thing has the property to create alternatives and decide them. 2 because the result is not forced, therefore the thing that does the job of deciding can't be measured, and is therefore categorized apart from the material as spiritual. So for instance "a person decides to do something out of love". Then love is the spiritual thing that did the job of making it turn out the way that it did, instead of the other way. And we can't measure this love, we can only decide by judgement if or not it was love. That is the practical use of free will. People generally 1 consider love and things such like that as doing the job of deciding, 2 consider them principally unmeasurable only knowable by choice. Also very commonly, the creationist religions, the universe begins with a choice (creation), ends with a choice (final judgement), and the person regards the owner of those choices through their own free will (faith). In my estimation by 10000 to 1 the spiritual use of free will is more common then all the philosphical / scientific / psychological free will ideas referred to on wikipedia put together. Anybody who has a different analysis of the practical use of free will should say so, and those who want to enter other ideas than practical use should give some argument why practical use falls short(Syamsu) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Syamsu (talkcontribs) 04:39, 30 December 2009 (UTC)

I give the full reference to Daniel M Dubois theory about free will mentioned previously. Dubois has the title Prof. Dr Ir, and is an awardwinning scientist. He chaired several conferences with many scientists attending, some of them kind of big names as far as I can tell. What's more relevant is that the main subject of these conferences was directly related to free will. The CASYS conferences are advertised with the description found at [1] The strong and weak anticipation mentioned correspond largely to the concepts of having an actual future of alternatives (strong), and having a model of alternatives (weak). Dubois' main work seems to be to try to find the mathematics that can be used to describe strong anticipation (including free will). In the paper "Review of incursive, hyperincursive and anticipatory systems-foundation of anticipation in electromagnetism" AIP Conf. Proc. / Volume 517 / Issue 1 Dubois relates a definition of free will. "... the brain may be considered as an anticipatory hyperincursive neural net which generates multiple potential future states which collapse to actual states by learning: the selection process of states to be actualized amongst the multiple potential states is independent of the fundamental dynamics of the brain, independent of initial conditions and so completely unpredictable (and computable). The selection by learning deals with inputs from the brain itself (via the genetic code and self-reflection) and from environment. These inputs are final causes at each time step. This creates a memory and at the same time a program, which give rise to the mind, what I called a computing memory. Each mind is unique in the sense that this is the subjective experience of each brain that actualized potential states.The free will means that we can choose a state amongst the multiple potential states emerging from the preceding already actualized states. ...." What I think should be included from Dubois in the wiki is the distinction between weak - and strong - anticipation, and then some reference to his work and the CASYS conferences. --Syamsu (talk) 01:02, 31 December 2009 (UTC)

Why can Heuristics not be mentioned

Why can no Heuristics link be added to the article? Please be clear since the subject is about human behaviour and the study of human behaviour. LoveMonkey (talk) 15:28, 6 October 2008 (UTC)

Can you explain what connection you see between heuristics and free will? I myself don't see any connection, and merely adding a link doesn't help me to understand. Looie496 (talk) 16:20, 6 October 2008 (UTC)

OK, I will post here what I posted on your talkpage.
Heuristics# Psychology

In psychology, heuristics are simple, efficient rules, hard-coded by evolutionary processes or learned, which have been proposed to explain how people make decisions, come to judgments, and solve problems, typically when facing complex problems or incomplete information. These rules work well under most circumstances, but in certain cases lead to systematic cognitive biases.

While much of the work of discovering heuristics in human decision-makers has been done by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman[3], the concept was originally introduced by Nobel laureate Herbert Simon . Gerd Gigerenzer focuses on how heuristics can be used to make judgments that are in principle accurate, rather than producing cognitive biases – heuristics that are "fast and frugal".

You would think that people would welcome into such a poorly sourced articule some more scientific research. Also current scientific research. Free will is about choice. Heuristic is the study of how human choices are made. Now please explain what you meant by "please look it up in the dictionary". Since the article I linked also contains that specific meaning and content I copied here.

LoveMonkey (talk) 16:58, 6 October 2008 (UTC)

Okay, we're making progress. I think you are using the words too loosely. Free will and heuristics both have something to do with choice, true. But free will is about free choice, and the central problem of free will is to figure out what the word "free" means in this context. Heuristics are rules of thumb used for making choices or solving problems. It isn't clear to me that whether or not a heuristic is being used has any impact on whether or not the choice would be called "free". Looie496 (talk) 17:26, 6 October 2008 (UTC)
Oh progress you say. So let me understand what you are saying. That the concept of free will does not fall under heuristics? That people involved in Heuristics don't address the concept of free will in the course of the study of heuristics and or human behaviour? You mean like this study [2]. Also again I will ask what did you mean by "please look it up in the dictionary". Again Please clarify.

LoveMonkey (talk) 18:11, 6 October 2008 (UTC)

Oh, you're back... <groan>. Again with the argumentative tone, and again with the add first, then act offended when someone asks you to justify the addition. So far, you have done nothing to justify the addition of heuristics, you have not addressed the criticism that Looie496 cogently raised, and the link you provide to justify your addition is most certainly not a relaible source. But, you must know all this already. We've been over this time and time again. Please, please, please, if you want to make additions to the article, justify them, in a coherent, cogent, sourced manner, and please, enough with the immediate argumentation. Edhubbard (talk) 18:40, 6 October 2008 (UTC)
Why am I not suprised. So much for getting heard. Still dont have to adher to Wikipedia rules and policies. Since when is Toky Tech not a reliable source. Since when does a link have to be sourced according to Wikipedia policy. If so then lets start sourcing links off of the article and all other articles here at wiki. But again policy doesnt matter to you. You still treat this article like you own it. WP:OWN

LoveMonkey (talk) 18:52, 6 October 2008 (UTC)

(ec) What I meant by "please look it up in the dictionary" is that you are using the word in a very unusual way, and that looking at the dictionary might help you see this. Yes, I am saying that the concept of free will does not fall under heuristics, as people ordinarily use the word.Looie496 (talk) 18:47, 6 October 2008 (UTC)

And I am saying that the ordinary use of the word heuristics in psychology covers the concept of free will. As the wikipedia article on heuristics clearly states. LoveMonkey (talk) 18:53, 6 October 2008 (UTC)

no-communication theorem

I really doubt no-communication theorem is violated by Bohmian mechanics. I think the sentence about no-communication should simply be removed, it has nothing to do with the issue. If needed, problems with non-local interpretation can be mentioned, e.g., quantum field theory, I don't know... but I doubt these non-local theories involve communication. Vesal (talk) 15:52, 1 November 2008 (UTC)

Hi Vesal, I just archived much of the older material on the talk page, so this will be a little clearer now... Just recently, WraithM mentioned that he felt that these topics needed to be discussed at more length (see "Still on physics (redux)" above). Neither Looie496 nor I have the expertise to evaluate these arguments, so we simply suggested that Wraith add references, since his additions were at least coherent and seemed to be on topic. By that I mean no disrespect, but merely indicate the low-threshold that was being used here since nobody who has worked on the page recently has the relevant expertise to evaluate these claims. Wraith is probably still around and would be willing to discuss this with you. In any case, let's try to keep this section of the article from growing much more; if anything it might be getting too long already (see undue weight and summary style). Any additions will need to be directly relevant to free will, since this is not the place to debate the merits of these difficult concepts from physics. Edhubbard (talk) 01:33, 2 November 2008 (UTC)
I wouldn't want this section to grow at all. I only felt compelled to add something, because contrary to folk wisdom, experts on this topic are not at all sure, whether modern physics points toward determinism or indeterminism. The sources I added are not about the details of the physical theory, but about the relevance of physics to the free will debate itself. The SEP article on "causal determinism" is about the main challenge to free will, and the New Scientist article is explicitly addressing determinism versus free will. Both are perfectly readable by non-physicist. Actually, the New Scientist article is even too shallow for non-physicists, but at least explicitly states that physics has little to say about free will. Vesal (talk) 10:53, 2 November 2008 (UTC)
I'd just like to reiterate that (as many philosophers have figured out, although the point never seems to sink in with the general public) in a non-dualistic worldview, the question of determinism or indeterminism has very little to do with free will. A decision made by rolling dice is not any more free than one made by clockwork. The basic intuitive concept of free will is that a decision is freely made if it is caused by the mind rather than the body or external world. I personally think this concept is so thoroughly dualistic that it cannot be made coherent in a non-dualistic framework -- but even if it can, it doesn't have anything to do with quantum determinism or indeterminism. I'm not going to edit this article because I'm well aware that I'm expressing non-mainstream views here, but, sorry, couldn't resist the urge. Looie496 (talk) 17:17, 2 November 2008 (UTC)

Tisk free will is no more a relative idea to rationalism as it is to irrationalism (a dualist idea stating dualism is a no no). Who are you reading making such reductionistic epistemologies? Your definition is strictly human thought, consciousness. (talk) 17:24, 6 November 2008 (UTC)

Whaaa?? I haven't yet understood enough about this topic to see how dualism can help resolve the issue, but I want to remove the irrelevant physics stuff from the physics section. I will be somewhat bold now, revert me, if I go too far. Vesal (talk) 20:02, 8 November 2008 (UTC)


An IP editor has just added a rather long passage about a paper by Velmans on "preconscious free will". I am going to revert these changes for basically two reasons: 1) I don't understand the passage, and at best it seems out of the mainstream; 2) the paper has received only 3 citations since it was published in 2003, and none of them seem centrally concerned with it, so it is not clear that the ideas are sufficiently notable to belong in a Wikipedia article. If somebody feels that they do, it would be very helpful to explain why here. Looie496 (talk) 04:15, 30 January 2009 (UTC)

I think the Velmans citation is relevant as a compatibilist view because it proposes reasons why "there is nothing within current psychological understanding of the mind which rules out a form of constrained free will." The text should be shortened but in my view Velmans is certainly as important as Dennett among modern compatibilist arguments (determinism doesn't rule out a constrained free will in self-organising, flexible, complex systems versus the future is ill-defined for finite beings and individuals can act differently from what anyone expects). --EPadmirateur (talk) 05:47, 30 January 2009 (UTC)
Seems reasonable, but maybe a more influential ref could be found too? Looie496 (talk) 05:57, 30 January 2009 (UTC)
Well, the Journal of Consciousness Studies is a top-notch peer-reviewed journal in this field. Velmans (2002) wrote a target article for a special issue of JCS “How could conscious experiences affect brains". The cited paper (2003) is the final reply by Velmans to the commentary from the original target article. This is clearly a reliable source in my view, part of a target article discussion, and Velmans is adding something significant to the debate about free will. --EPadmirateur (talk) 03:19, 31 January 2009 (UTC)
Hi EPadmirateur and Looie, Just a couple of thoughts... JCS is a peer-reviewed journal, and certainly constitutes a reliable source, but I'm less certain about the "top-notch" evaluation. I myself have two articles published in JCS, so I'm not saying this just to be mean, but JCS is not of the caliber of Science, Nature, Nature Neuroscience or Neuron other places where neuroscientific work on consciousness appears. Nor, in the behavioral realm, can it claim the same standards as Consciousness and Cognition, or in the philosophical realm, the cachet of Mind or Philosophical Psychology. What JCS is especially good at, and known for, is presenting interdisciplinary perspectives, and work, in a very open minded format (indeed, perhaps too open-minded for some people). Now, on the subject of Velmans more specifically, the target article that EP mentions is indeed an important contribution, and I think that, if anything, we should cite that, and find a way to cite the commentaries that go along with it. You see, part of the issue is that JCS publishes some articles that are intentionally, and emphatically not the mainstream views, and then publishes commentaries on them in order to foster scientific and philosophical debate. However, without some mention of the fact that Velmans' ideas here are not the mainstream (although they're a lot closer than some of the other things in JCS, like the Rupert Sheldrake target article), we run the risk of giving too much weight to this particular viewpoint. On the other hand, if we spend the time to include the commentaries, and the whole debate then we will certainly give the whole thing too much weight. So, we need to think carefully about how, and if, this should be integrated into the current article, which is intended to reflect the mainstream agreements and disagreements. Edhubbard (talk) 20:14, 31 January 2009 (UTC)
To me, "influence" is better measured by citations than by where an article has been published. The fact that an article published in 2003 has received only 3 citations means that either nobody has read it or nobody has cared about it. Velmans has written things that have been much more influential. His 1993 BBS article, for example, has received 248 citations according to Google Scholar. He has a 2002 JCS article that has 45. Looie496 (talk) 18:16, 1 February 2009 (UTC)

(unindent) Interesting about citations: Velmans makes much the same points about free will in the original target article (2002), which has 46 citations: "‘conscious mental control’ needs to be partly understood in terms of the voluntary operations of the preconscious mind, and that this allows an account of biological determinism that is compatible with experienced free will." His subsequent article (2003) was in response to the commentary on this 2002 article.

BTW, the Sheldrake article was deliberately accepted without peer review in JCS because Freeman knew it wouldn't pass. See his introduction: "it was clear to me before I even read Rupert Sheldrake’s submission that if I submitted it to peer review under the usual conditions, it would be rejected. Unless I deliberately picked unrepresentative referees (which would defeat the object of the exercise) some reviewer was bound to oppose publication on grounds that its whole approach undermined science.... So the only alternative to outright rejection was to publish his work with open peer commentary to provide balance and criticism.... JCS exists to provide a meeting place for consciousness researchers with a wide range of backgrounds and working assumptions, as shown by the presence—from the very start—of names such as Huston Smith and Roger Walsh alongside those of Daniel Dennett and Bernard Baars on our editorial advisory board. The editors value and need this breadth of support in order to carry out the journal’s unique role."

So JCS should not be faulted or downgraded in estimation, in my view, because of the Sheldrake target article.

The sentence that was added by the IP editor was noting a response to the incompatibilist view that "we may be mere 'automata responding in predictable ways to stimuli in our environment'. Therefore, all of our actions are controlled by forces outside ourselves, or by random chance."

In response, Max Velmans argues that studies of voluntary action in humans have made it clear that human information processing systems need to include inner needs and goals, a global knowledge store (based on previous interactions with the world), processes for modelling current inner and external states of affairs, alternative strategies for action, methods for assessing the likely success of alternative strategies in the light of existing physical and social constraints, and the ability to learn from experience. Although such systems follow deterministic principles, their operation can be partly self-organising and flexible, and their complexity can allow sufficient degrees of freedom to accurately model the ability to make choices and decisions, within the available alternatives, that humans actually experience. Given this, there is nothing within current psychological understanding of the mind, viewed as a complex system, which rules out a form of constrained free will.

Maybe this is too detailed a response to an objection for this article. Perhaps such distinctions would better be made in the main article on compatibilism which looks like it needs work. --EPadmirateur (talk) 19:54, 1 February 2009 (UTC)

Need for attention from expert

I have tagged this article as needing attention from an expert. This article doesn't talk adequately about the philosphical aspects of free will and its interralationn with the philsophy of mind. It doesn't talk about the fact that dealing with free will requires the treatment of a will as a separate entity which doesn't come under the purview of physics. I have read much about the subject but I still only have amatuer interest in the subject and I think it would be better if an expert does it. -- ReluctantPhilosopher (talk) 14:22, 9 February 2009 (UTC)

I'm not sure this tag is needed. All articles would benefit from experts review, but this one is certainly not in the more urgent category. The article discusses briefly this relation under Free_will#Libertarian_incompatibilism. On the other hand, I agree that the article should expand on how dualism magically solves the problem. Let us assume dualism about mind. What does it mean that the free will is a separate entity? Is it to be taken as a kind of unexplainable basic mystery? As you probably know, the fundamental problem remains: does this separate entity operate by some random fits and starts or is it governed by deterministic laws --- how is there any greater chance for free will over there than in the physical world?
I think many people wonder about the latter question, so if there are good answers, then please add to the article. I don't know of any good answer myself. Vesal (talk) 00:01, 20 February 2009 (UTC)
The intuitive concept of free will is simply that an action is freely willed if it is caused by a conscious decision, which is presumed to take place in the (nonphysical) mind without being caused by anything in the physical realm. Whether the nonphysical mind obeys any sort of laws is a separate question -- but regardless of the answer, if the physical realm is deterministic, then there is no way for the nonphysical mind to alter it, so there is no free will. I'm not going to try to put this into the article because it seems all wrong to me, but that's my best understanding of the underlying "reasoning". Looie496 (talk) 00:29, 20 February 2009 (UTC)
I think most people are willing to accept non-determinism about the physical world. It would be more interested to know how the (supernatural) libertarian responds to the common objection that shifting the problem to a non-physical realm does nothing to solve the problem. Vesal (talk) 21:55, 22 February 2009 (UTC)
"if the physical realm is deterministic, then there is no way for the nonphysical mind to alter it, so there is no free will" - this seems to have a flaw - for instance a sperm and an ovum combining - purely physical - give rise to a new consciousness - thereby affecting the nonphysical; so it may work the other way round also. Anyway my point (as correctly identified by Vesal was that this article doesn't deal adequaltely with how dualism (or dual-aspect theory) modifies the discussion. If you think the tag shouldn't be there, you may remove it, but I think an important part has not been adequately discussed. --ReluctantPhilosopher (talk) 13:51, 27 February 2009 (UTC)
I am not an expert on this however I think there are few reasons why dualism is seen to support the concept of "free will" [for which references could be found];
substance dualism:
- only under substance dualism can "will" in it's entirety be treated as a separate (non physical) entity
- why assume the mind is a separate non physical entity (and hence accept substance dualism) unless there is free will?
- substance dualism requires break downs in physical law, so it may as well allow at least some if not all of these break downs to be products of the free will of the separate non physical mind.
- Vesal I would agree with Looie in saying the 'fundamental problem' of free will is physical determinism, and not the conception of an indeterministic non physical being. I would say this because; once you define something as non physical, there is no longer any scientific discussion about it, and the recursive explanation argument does not apply. It has the philosophical equivalence of defining 'Baad' or 'another universe' as the creator of the universe, and then asking who made Baad or the other universe. Note however the recursive explanation argument is critical to science in the quest to find the simplest explanation of our observations.
property dualism / non reductive physicalism (NB free will is not necessarily supported under these assumptions):
- assuming mental states are casually reducible to physical states, if there is such thing as free will, it can only be referring to a subset of "will", ie that which cannot be assigned a deterministic scientific explanation. This rules out all deterministic mental processing (I would assume thought processing is one of these), and only leaves those mental processes which are indeterministic (if there are any). Note this requires the brain to be indeterministic (via either, break downs in deterministic physics, or, physical indeterminism).
- assuming mental states are casually reducible to physical states, why is there non physical (subjective) reality involving conflicting desire based upon these states if it doesn't have any control over these states - there may as well just be an objective reality that goes about its course without subjects. (Note, it might be worth clarifying that under property dualism a subject must be defined as an instance of awareness mapped directly to the physical model of awareness stored in the brain. And none of the above is designed to say zombies, a hypothetical being where there is no mapping, are possible under the initial assumption of non reductive physicalism). [very liable to dispute]
Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 06:52, 28 April 2009 (UTC)
I would be a lot more comfortable with arguments like this if the points could be attributed to specific writers. We have to work really hard to avoid letting our personal opinions steer this article. Looie496 (talk) 16:15, 28 April 2009 (UTC)
Agreed - sources would be required. There is no way you would use any of this stuff without references. Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 06:58, 1 May 2009 (UTC)

I only have an amateur interest in this topic myself, but this article was pushed to FA by an actual expert (as in, Ph.D in philosophy if I recall his claimed qualifications correctly, and seemed able to back it). It's pretty presumptuous to demand an expert again.

I'll try and check and see if the article has much deteriorated from the featured form, but I definitely think the tag should be removed. SnowFire (talk) 04:18, 12 March 2009 (UTC)

I'm not actually sure that there is such a thing as an expert on this topic -- the people who know most about it all seem to think the others are crazy. Anyway, I agree with the tag removal on principle -- I think tags like that are ugly and useless.
Presumably you know that the article had an FA review in June 2008? Looie496 (talk) 04:33, 12 March 2009 (UTC)
I respect the fact that this article was made FA by a PhD but it had NO SECTION on libertarianism until I pointed it out. There is always room for improvement. But, as I said, I have no problem with the tag being removed. --ReluctantPhilosopher (talk) 12:27, 23 March 2009 (UTC)

It also has no section on Scientology. Rick Norwood (talk) 18:48, 23 March 2009 (UTC)

I wasn't sure if you were being serious, but here I learned Scientology has indeed much to teach us about free will. Very enlightening. Vesal (talk) 21:26, 23 March 2009 (UTC)

HTML comment

This article had an invisible comment on top: If this is about the non-theological aspects of free will why does the article have three sections on theology? And why shouldn't it cover this aspect? Neither question makes sense to me, so I removed it. Maybe someone can explain the point of this? Vesal (talk) 17:11, 14 March 2009 (UTC)

I'm bored enough that I actually took the time to figure this out. The comment was added by Richard001 on 11 May 2007, and if you look at this version, you'll see that it made sense at the time. Which just goes to show why one ought not to add invisible comments to articles. Looie496 (talk) 00:09, 15 March 2009 (UTC)
Thanks for sorting this out! (I apologize for making you realize how bored you were. :P) Vesal (talk) 23:58, 15 March 2009 (UTC)

External links

I'd like to note that motivated by a tag added by Matisse, I have just removed a number of external links -- they've been building up over time and are pretty much out of control. I looked at all of them, and removed the ones that appeared to express personal opinions or idiosyncratic ideas, while leaving the ones that gave neutral overviews which add value to the article. Discussion is of course welcome. Looie496 (talk) 22:01, 15 March 2009 (UTC)

Very nice trimming! I added two links, but certainly won't mind if they are removed. On the contrary, I actually wonder about the Information Philosopher site. It looks extremely professional, but it seems completely self-published and the author is not an academic working in this field, see Bob Doyle for more details. I didn't remove it, though, because the history he gives seemed to have the right subtitles (I didn't read any of the body text). Vesal (talk) 23:56, 15 March 2009 (UTC)
My take is pretty much the same. I won't vouch for it, but in a quick scan I didn't see anything that looked bogus, so I didn't want to take the responsibility of yanking it. Looie496 (talk) 00:36, 16 March 2009 (UTC)

Hi, I would like to ask anybody to consider adding this link to my article: Thanks —Preceding unsigned comment added by KoheletSV (talkcontribs) 13:15, 26 August 2009 (UTC)

Sorry, but linking to that site would violate WP:EL. Basically we can only link to an external site if it constitutes a reliable source and goes into greater depth than the Wikipedia article about some aspect. To become a reliable source, your article would have to gain attention from other writers. Looie496 (talk) 16:32, 26 August 2009 (UTC)

Conspiracy theories

What do you call the belief, associated with conspiracy theories, that the government controls everything, that all free will is political in nature, and that the goverment is controlled by people who claim free will only for themselves, such as secret societies ? ADM (talk) 11:50, 3 April 2009 (UTC)

Paranoia? Looie496 (talk) 16:03, 3 April 2009 (UTC)
key word belief look up Gettier problem —Preceding unsigned comment added by Bobthefishmonger (talkcontribs) 12:30, 30 May 2009 (UTC)

Free will definition

I have made an important edit to the intro of Compatibilism, explicitly outlining differences in opinion regarding its definition (See Daniel Wegner on 'perception of control').

This wiki article should not be regarding the precise definition of "free will", it should be regarding people's different views on the level (of freedom) of hypothetical free will and how (if in any way at all) it operates in the physical (and non-physical) world. Therefore, and even though the taxonomy is very nice, free will cannot be implicitly redefined when skipping between Compatibilism and Incompatibilism. It must be clear when reading this article that ones different philosophical views may result in a slightly different definition of free will (or a newly proposed definition of free will, some may even like to change it to suite their philosophical positioning) - and not that this proposed definition is actually accepted by Wikipedia. If a particular definition of free will has been proposed with respect to a philosophical position, disambiguation should be used (ie, explaining what that word means from someone else's perspective - for example from hard incompatibilist point of view, a compatibilist definition of freewill is actually just a perception of freewill).

Can I check, is everyone OK with this?

Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 11:18, 13 April 2009 (UTC)

I'm actually not that sure that I am ok with this. First, I'm not sure that the page sets a precise definition of free will, now I am clear on this supposed implicit redifinition when skipping between compatibilism and incompatibilism. I guess I see your point that to people who believe in free will, it is "real" in some sense, so the goal is to explain how it is real, and to people who do not, we have to explain the "illusion" or "appearance" of free will, but I'm unclear how we would even go about starting to lay this out.
I'm also nervous about this project from more pragmatic standpoint, which is that this project is likely to be contentious, and to open us up to lots of edit wars, as some people think that wikipedia is a place to argue for their philosophical views rather than to cover and summarize published views (not saying you are doing this, RBB; I've seen your edits and they generally look good). But, once we start getting into definitions of what free will is, we start to get into even more contentious territory than some of the other aspects that are covered here. Perhaps the best thing to do is to have a few people (RBB, me, Looie, etc) work on this in a sandbox until we are pretty much in agreement, and then import it full-up to the main page. This way, we can work on it without having as many cooks to spoil the soup. I think that, given that this is an FA, we need to be sensitive to the fact that major changes like this could unravel the work that has been done here. By doing this in a sandbox first, we can perhaps make sure that this will improve the article without undoing all the other hard work that has gone into it. What do you think? Cheers, Edhubbard (talk) 15:20, 13 April 2009 (UTC)
As far as I can see, free will is easy to define in a dualistic framework, and very difficult to define coherently in a non-dualistic framework. That being the case, I have difficulty getting what Richard is saying at a fully concrete level. In short, I find it hard to comment without seeing specific proposed changes. Looie496 (talk) 17:16, 13 April 2009 (UTC)
One example, and one that I think would be important to include, can be found in Elbow Room, Dan Dennett's early book on free will (and in my opinion, the better of his two books on free will). What we would have to do is to include a summary of what the various "definitions" of free will are, who advocates for them, and (and this is the dangerous, unravel the whole article concern) how these relate to the positions described below. I think the SEP entry on Freewill [3] might be useful in helping to think concretely about this... however, as you can see, this is a completely different organization from the one we have here, and could require a massive (truly top-to-bottom comprehensive) rewrite to make work. This is why I refer to the risk as being an unraveling of what we already have here. The concrete question, then is how do we do this without making the article huge, or ruining an article that is at FA status? Ideas? Personally, I'm conservative, and would prefer minimal changes to the article. Edhubbard (talk) 20:40, 13 April 2009 (UTC)
I think I have agreed with pretty much everything you guys have said and I have undone the change. Note I think we should still consider this change however. Cheers, Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 13:24, 14 April 2009 (UTC)

Detailed free will taxonomy

What does everyone think of this summary? (A detailed taxonomy of the most important philosophical positions regarding free will)

Cheers, Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 13:42, 14 April 2009 (UTC)

Wow. I drew the original, and I'm not even sure I can follow this one! :-) I have a couple of quick reactions, but a more detailed reply would require that I read the text more carefully to see how it parallels the diagram (which was my original inspiration in making this figure). The first thing I wonder about is, what, exactly is "semi-indeterministic"? Is this quantum level indeterminacy? Is this chaos theory indeterminacy, even if quantum fluctuations are swamped in the hot, wet, messy brain (from the quantum standpoint, that is)? Note that neither of these is really a breakdown in the laws of physics, but rather reflect something about the limits of prediction based on current data. Especially the chaos theory interpretation is completely deterministic, but chaos theory simply limits the precision with which we can make predictions, given any arbitrarily precise knowledge of the current state of the world. Similarly, I'm uncomfortable with the use of the word "miracles" here. In the current conversation between Richard, Looie and me, I think we're all pretty clear what this would mean, but I am *sure* that some other wikipedians will interpret this in a radically different manner, and this would lead to some heated debates that are really tangential to our main goals of improving the article. Finally, the sub-comments under physicalism and dualism seem to suggest that a strong position on the question of zombies (which I've always thought of as an argument in relation to consciousness and qualia) is an entailment of the positions on physicalism and dualism. I'm not sure this is correct. Edhubbard (talk) 15:53, 14 April 2009 (UTC)
- Edhubbard, I am very glad you have provided a response, and so quickly.
- the detailed version has also been designed to parallel the text. There are probably a few assumptions made (counter arguments accepted) which restrict some of the categories, but I do not remember any in particular; basically I am of the view, most opinions are correct under their assumptions.
- By indeterministic, I mean intrinsic (quantum) indeterminism; and note I do not consider chaos as providing indeterminism (just very complex deterministic events which might be very difficult to reverse engineer).
- [that is right;] neither quantum or chaos imply a break down of physics [the world can be indeterministic without any break down in laws; in fact the current quantum theory is interpreted by most physicists as implying an indeterministic universe; and it is what most students get taught at university as far as I am aware].
- The word "Semi-indeterministic" has been chosen for a reason, however maybe this phrase needs to change - it basically means the body is indeterministic, but not so indeterministic such that normal brain operations on a daily basis are disturbed to the exent that otherwise deterministic decisions are prevented from being made.
- [this is fine;] we should drop "miracles" and replace it with the footnote; "temporary breakdowns in laws of physics".
- assuming one cannot accept that they themselves might be a zombie, whether or not zombies can exist (and arguably even conceived) is in fact a direct logical product of whether you assume physicalism or dualism; I have added some text to explain Dennett's position in the Philosophical_zombie section - basically dennett is right about the issue under his assumption of physicalism; however from what I have read he fails to provide a clear logical path behind his deduction.
Thanks guys,
Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 03:15, 15 April 2009 (UTC)
I have made some changes wrt some of Edhubbard's suggestions above;
- The phrase "Body is semi-indeterministic" has been changed to "Body is deterministic" with the follow on logic inverted accordingly. The meaning is still correct and is now less ambiguous.
- removed reference to "miracles" and replace it with it's footnote instead, "temporary breakdowns in laws of physics"
Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 11:11, 15 April 2009 (UTC)
I have updated this diagram to allow for epiphenomenalism and non reductive physicalism (property dualism) Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 05:01, 17 April 2009 (UTC)

Richard, I appreciate what you try to do in addressing the relationship between positions on free will and the philosophy of mind. The diagram is nearly ready for prime time, but it is still overly complicated and it needs to be accompanied with explanations in the text (thus moving out the citations from the diagram). As a first step, is it not possible to simplify the layout of the diagram? Why are some questions asked multiple times? Maybe that can be avoided by re-ordering the questions? There is also a deeper question, which I can't answer myself. The sources provided in this diagram show that paths in the decision diagram exist, but a decision diagram implicitly excludes other paths; most importantly, is the underlying assumption that there is a relationship between free will and the possibility of physical zombies backed up by scholarly sources? Vesal (talk) 09:28, 10 May 2009 (UTC)

Hi Vesal. I have updated the title to reflect that this is not purely a free will taxonomy, but rather "Philosophy of Mind and Free will - a taxonomy of various positions proposed". This allows the diagram to be non specific to the free will argument, and also makes clear that the references added to this diagram refer to positions that have been proposed, not to the exclusion to other positions that have been proposed by the authors. You are correct in saying that the zombie argument has nothing to do with free will, however in the context of communicating the positions described in the diagram to the average person I think it is very useful information (Eg what is the difference between substance and property dualism?) I personally cannot find a way of simplifying this diagram by re-ordering the questions, but if someone else can I would be happy to work on it. For everyone's information, note the SVG version of this file is available on wikipedia also, however I have not used this due to open office 3 SVG export issues; the auto generated svg file has already been manually hacked to make it look OK {eg at full size in firefox}, but it is still not perfect. As for your other point, which I think is critical as I agree I might currently be exercising some creative license here, note the diagram is designed to show all possible paths and as you say exclude alternate paths - however - the references added in the decision tree only refer to example arguments and are therefore not necessarily to the exclusion of other arguments made by the authors). What do you think of this? If people don't think this is useful we can take it down - but I think something like this is very useful for an average reader. If people don't think it is accurate, we can take it down also, but I would prefer it if people would let me know why so it can be modified accordingly. Thanks Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 13:43, 11 May 2009 (UTC)
I do think it is useful, as it is addressing an issue that was raised here before. My intention was not to suggest you take down the diagram; quite contrary, I'd rather see it improved and placed in its own subsection that explains it. Vesal (talk) 15:32, 11 May 2009 (UTC)
The multiple appearances of identical alternatives give me pause, as do the multiple routes. The chart is so complex as to be nearly useless; for most people it will sow more confusion than it lifts. Perhaps a simple table might serve better than a decision chart? hgilbert (talk) 20:15, 11 May 2009 (UTC)
Hmmm, a table does have the benefit of allowing wikilinks to all the concepts Richard has crammed into this diagram. I'm somewhat confused though about what exactly the diagram is doing: it doesn't even ask you about free will, you somehow end up in positions on free will based on where you are on the mind/body problem. As clarified above, the idea is probably more like what positions on free will are traditionally argued from which underlying assumptions. Is that right? (On a minor note, "QM / Bohm 1952" should be added as representing contemporary Physical Determinism.) Vesal (talk) 23:52, 11 May 2009 (UTC)
I think I agree with much of what you guys have said. However there are a few points;
- "you somehow end up in positions on free will based on where you are on the mind/body problem" - exactly - in line with the spirit of this wiki article the definition of free will is dependent upon the philosophical model of mind chosen [4]. Discounting traditional and some forms of volition free will, there is no question of whether free will exists or not, it either exists by definition or does not.
- I must say again that the diagram does not contain either redundant or unnecessary information as far as I am aware. I am not exactly sure what you mean by asking the same questions twice, possibly you are referring to the difference between 'physical determinism?' and 'body is deterministic?'. Both questions are equally as important. One is regarding physical indeterminism, and the other is regarding whether or not the human body is affected by this indeterminism in any measurable way. Both are critical questions (See Paul Davies, in the Fifth Miracle, as far as I remember), and neither can be seen as irrelevant to the issue of free will.
- "it doesn't even ask you about free will"; I have added an additional path (one which I noted but had forgotten about) where it actually should ask this question.
- "On a minor note, "QM / Bohm 1952" should be added as representing contemporary Physical Determinism." - Regarding Bohm, Vesal, I am surprised you picked that up. I thought about making an update to this myself in line with current wikipedia articles but did not. Basically I am not convinced the Bohm theory is equal to the copenhagen interpretation, and do not think it should not be presented as such on wikipedia. As far as I am aware hidden variable theorms are becoming less and less likely, as new experiments are being performed [5]. I have however replaced 'NM laplace' with 'QM hidden variable'; which probably is required to eliminate this bias of mine.
- "... complex ..." - if you can think of a way of simplifying the positions taken on the definition of free will please let me know or have a go at editing the svg version of this file.
- "table" - good idea, but I think this would reduce the amount of information being summarised here. I will think about this some more (maybe multiple tables).
Here are the references used in the article (most are referenced on wikipedia, as should be the case for a summary diagram);
(QM / Hidden Variables)
(QM / Copenhagen. 1927)
Davis, Paul. 1998 - Fifth Miracle? (I will verify this)
(Davidson, Donald.1970)
(Hume, David. 1739)
(Pereboom, Derk. 2001)
(Descartes. 1641) [6]
(Lewis, CS. 1947)
(Infidels. 2000)
(Chambers, David. 1995)
(Dennett, Daniel. 1995)
(Benditt, Theodore. 1998)
Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 13:38, 12 May 2009 (UTC)
And here is some explanation of the illustrated paths - do you guys get the logic? Havnt checked it, but you should all get the drift.
compatibilism - reductive physicalism and body is deterministic
will is by definition free, as it is controlled by the observer in every sense (/the observer in every sense serves a function in physical reality), where the observer is by definition [can be reduced entirely to] the physical which being deterministic, is behaving according to non random law allowing the possibility of 100% rational thought process. It is not meaningful to speak of freedom from deterministic physical reality because observers are by definition this physical reality and nothing more.
hard incompatibilism - reductive physicalism and body is indeterministic
will is by definition not free, as it is controlled by the observer in every sense (/the observer in every sense serves a function in physical reality), where the observer is by definition [can be reduced entirely to] the physical which being indeterministic, is subject to randomness preventing the possibility of 100% rational thought process. It is not meaningful to speak of freedom from indeterministic physical reality because observers are by definition this physical reality and nothing more.
hard incompatibilism - non-reductive physicalism, body is indeterministic
will is by definition not free, as it is not controlled by the observer in every sense (/the observer in the non physical sense does not serve a function in physical reality), where the observer is not by definition [cannot be reduced entirely to] the physical, however is dependent upon the physical, which being indeterministic, is subject to randomness preventing the possibility of 100% rational thought process. It is meaningful to speak of freedom from indeterministic physical reality because observers are by definition more than this physical reality in some sense - however in this case people are not free from indeterministic physical reality.
hard determinism - non-reductive physicalism, body is deterministic
will is by definition not free, as it is not controlled by the observer in every sense (/the observer in the non physical sense does not serve a function in physical reality), where the observer is not by definition [cannot be reduced entirely to] the physical, however is dependent upon the physical, which being deterministic, prevents any hypothetical freedom the observer in the non physical sense might have in affecting physical reality. It is meaningful to speak of freedom from deterministic physical reality because observers are by definition more than this physical reality in some sense - however in this case people are not free from deterministic physical reality.
libertarianism volition - non-reductive physicalism, body is deterministic, and there are break downs in physical law, and there is active agency
will is by definition free, as it is controlled by the observer in every sense (/the observer in the non physical sense serves a function in physical reality), where the observer is not by definition [cannot be reduced entirely to] the physical, and is coactive with the physical, which although deterministic is subject to law break down, therefore allowing any hypothetical freedom the observer in the non physical sense might have in affecting physical reality. It is meaningful to speak of freedom from deterministic physical reality because observers are by definition more than this physical reality in some sense - and in this case the observer in the non physical sense can play a part in physical reality if there is active agency.
libertarianism volition - non-reductive physicalism, body is indeterministic, and there is active agency
will is by definition free, as it is controlled by the observer in every sense (/the observer in the non physical sense serves a function in physical reality), where the observer is not by definition [cannot be reduced entirely to] the physical, and is coactive with the physical, which being indeterministic, allows any hypothetical freedom the observer in the non physical sense might have in affecting physical reality. It is meaningful to speak of freedom from indeterministic physical reality because observers are by definition more than this physical reality in some sense - and in this case the observer in the non physical sense can play a part in physical reality if there is active agency.
libertarianism traditional - substance dualism, break downs in physical law, active agency
will is by definition free, as it is controlled by the observer in every sense (/the observer in every sense serves a function in physical reality), where the observer is by definition non-physical, and interacts with the physical through physical law break down, allowing the observer to affect physical reality according to their "free" non physical will. It is meaningful to speak of freedom from physical reality because people are by definition not this physical reality - and in this case the observer plays a part in physical reality. Free will however in this model refers to whether the will of the non physical mind is free.
hard determinism / hard incompatibilism * - substance dualism, break downs in physical law
will is by definition not free, as it is controlled by the observer in every sense (/the observer in every sense serves a function in physical reality), where the observer is by definition non-physical, and interacts with the physical through physical law break down, allowing the observer to affect physical reality according to their deterministic non physical will. It is meaningful to speak of freedom from physical reality because people are by definition not this physical reality - and in this case the observer plays a part in physical reality. Free will however in this model refers to whether the will of the non physical mind is free.
Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 14:42, 20 May 2009 (UTC)
Interestingly, notice how the concept of free will in the substance dualist case is not well explained (it just pushes back the question of free will another layer). I am now re-considering Vesal's argument; "how is there any greater chance for free will over there than in the physical world?" [7]. In fact the only way to explain traditional/volition free will is with a two layered system, so it would make sense that one of these layers be physical reality (non reductive physicalism). Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 14:42, 20 May 2009 (UTC)

FWIW, I tried to come up with a table layout for this with positions on substance going horizontally from dualism to reductive materialism and the degrees of determinism going vertically from indeterminism to complete physical determinism (with psychological determinism in between), but I wasn't quite happy with the end result. Maybe I gave up too easily. Vesal (talk) 23:19, 16 May 2009 (UTC)

Thanks Vesal, I will have a go at this as well (I imagine the end result will be quite complex). Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 13:04, 17 May 2009 (UTC)
Substance Dualism Non-Reductive Physicalism Reductive Physicalism
Physical Body is Deterministic N/A (significant break downs in physical law required rendering deterministic neurological models invalid) EITHER
hard determinism
libertarianism volition (if break downs in physical law and active agency)
Physical Body is Indeterminstic EITHER
hard determinism / hard incompatibilism *
libertarianism traditional (if active agency)
hard incompatibilism
libertarianism volition (if active agency)
hard incompatibilism
* may be considered either hard determinism or hard incompatibilism or some other title which negates the possibility of free will (depending upon exact definitions)
Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 13:50, 17 May 2009 (UTC)
Above is another representation of this information, based upon the Philosophy Of Mind Causation Views diagram [8].
Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 00:14, 25 August 2009 (UTC)

Under all these assumptions

Richard, I think you are going a bit too far in correcting biases. In fact, we may have induced a bias against the compatibilist. Compare the before and after:

  1. Compatibilists argue, on the contrary, that determinism is a prerequisite for moral responsibility. Society cannot hold someone responsible unless his actions were determined by something.
  2. Under the assumption of naturalism a Compatibilist may argue, on the contrary, that physical determinism is a prerequisite for moral responsibility, and that society cannot hold someone responsible unless his actions were determined by something within the natural framework.

The first is easily recognizable as a compatibilist argument. Simon Blackburne makes such a case in Think, but he certainly doesn't explicitly assume naturalism. Is it the case that a compatibilist must make his case by first assuming naturalism? (I think that might have fairly disastrous consequences for Blackburne's argument!)

Also, this article now say "It is therefore argued under naturalism, a subset of physicalism, ..." This seems to imply that naturalism is a subset of physicalism, but our article on Michael Martin describes him as a "pluralist naturalist". This is not compatible. Vesal (talk) 21:22, 14 April 2009 (UTC)

Vesal - Point taken - it did sound like a bias had been induced against Compatibilism although this was not my purpose in making the change. I have undone the change, and created a new edit, removing in particular the assumption about naturalism. [NB however I am pretty sure that Compatibilism only holds under naturalism - noting that under the assumption of pluralism the world can be correctly described, although not in every way, by naturalism]. Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 05:24, 15 April 2009 (UTC)
I have updated this change after removing the assumption of physicalism also Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 04:57, 17 April 2009 (UTC)

"rational agent"

I feel that the opening line of this article uses loaded terminology unselfconsciously. First, how do we define rationality? Do we want to turn towards traditional political theorists a la Kenneth Arrow? Or are we to consider a bounded rationality based on imperfect information? What about a cultural rationality (Huntington et al.). Also, the term "agent" is not preferred to the term "actor" unless you mean to a priori imply agency, which doesn't seem to be the case considering the open discussion of determinacy that follows.

Tethros (talk) 21:00, 19 April 2009 (UTC)

What would you prefer? Looie496 (talk) 23:32, 19 April 2009 (UTC)

Possible link for free will ?

I'm copying this from my usertalk page:

Can this link be incorporated in the article on Free will —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:49, 26 April 2009 (UTC)
I do not think that this link meets the standard criteria for a reliable source. I similarly do not think that it adds something to the article that is verifiable, reliable and informative that goes beyond the scope of the article as it currently stands. Please see external links. Edhubbard (talk) 23:21, 26 April 2009 (UTC)

"Breakdown in Physical Law"

I have studied the diagram made by Richard and I must appreciate the effort he has put in and the knowledge he has brought to the table. The diagram seems to make sense at first glance, though it is true that it ought to be accompanied by explanations in texts. Now that explanation could get long and unwieldy but I think it will surely be worth it and will make the article more complete and thorough.

I have just one major suggestion - I believe the caption "breakdown in physical law" is misleading because at no point under the assumption made is physical law actually broken. Instead, what it really means is that the world is not supposed to be "closed under physics". What that means is, in a world that is not closed under physics, you can keep making all the physical measurements you want to make in the world and you will not find a single violation of physical law. However there is supposed to be a non-physical component to the world which describes the realm of things like mind, will and consciousness. What I mean is that even if dualism is true and libertarian free will exists, you can keep making all the measurements on the body and the brain and elsewhere and you will not find a single instance of physical law breaking down. Hence I suggest rewording the "breakdown in physical law" to something like "closure of world under physics/natural science". I'd like to add that breakdownd or otherwise of physical laws can only be tested with a scientific method, which the creation of human mid,not the other way round - so an "extraphysical" mind makes sense. My apologies if I have made any wrong assumptions - you may kindly correct me. Many thanks, looking forward to your response. --ReluctantPhilosopher (talk) 19:05, 13 May 2009 (UTC)

Hi. I am not an expert on this myself, and I appreciate your feedback. Based upon your text I have noted myself that a "break down of physical laws" could never be verified under science - basically in such circumstances one would conclude their physical theory is wrong (only an approximation to what we see going on in the world).
I don't mind changing "breakdown in physical law" to "closed under physics". Please note however that I must assert that a breakdown of (the approximate) physical law is required for a) substance dualism (regardless of whether or not there is free will) [9] and b) non reductive deterministic physicalism (only if there is free will). You might find the following example argument useful to explain a);
1. assume substance dualism
(ie mind is purely non physical; it is not mapped to brain activity [asserted in non-reductive physicalism], neither is it a product of brain activity [asserted in epiphenomenalism])
2. assume memories are stored in the brain (can be described as physical)
3. at a point in time, you are conscious of seeing an apple
(unfortunately this argument is best personalised to avoid any possibility of zombie arguments)
4. sometime later you remember being conscious of seeing the apple
5. physical memory (brain) has therefore been affected by non physical mind, so (assuming physical causality) one must explain this effect (such as a "break down in physical law") where physical theories are only approximations to truth.
Just for reference, I understand your argument that a non physical mind makes sense based upon the fact some philosophical assumptions must be required to conduct science and that these assumptions are first made in ones mind. However I would note that, alternatively, people maintain physicalism of some kind and assert these philosophical assumptions refer to non-physical abstract objects.
Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 12:55, 17 May 2009 (UTC)

freewill & Islam?

for the person who cares Mohammad Iqbar and the exact work is The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam )

Frankfurt-style case LINK(even though the explanation given is good)

+action theory LINK +action LINK

—Preceding unsigned comment added by Bobthefishmonger (talkcontribs) 12:39, 30 May 2009 (UTC)

Free will and the abortion debate

It would interesting if we could have material somewhere about the relationship between free will and the abortion debate. It's a bit strange that the large group of people who deny the very existence of free will are among the most ardent defenders of a woman's right to choose an abortion. It makes no sense to freely choose an abortion when there is no free will, since the abortion is practically being forced upon the woman by a society that is itself imposing its own abortions on helpless individuals. ADM (talk) 16:28, 12 June 2009 (UTC)

To my knowledge, there is nothing on this in verifiable, reliable sources. Any discussion or speculation of this topic that does not start from reliable sources is nothing more than original research, and will be reverted on sight. You may also want to look at the Free will and theology page, although even that page does not seem to cover any purported link between free will and abortion. Edhubbard (talk) 16:49, 12 June 2009 (UTC)
Part of it is discussed in the sources of the article libertarian perspectives on abortion. There are many libertarians who, despite being liberal or anarchistic on almost all social issues, have adopted a pro-life perspective on abortion, because they feel that it isn't really a free choice and that much of the decision process is influenced by bureaucratic modern governments. Ronald Reagan, a noted libertarian, is considered to have adopted similar views, which have largely framed the abortion debate in the United States. ADM (talk) 17:10, 12 June 2009 (UTC)
I tend to agree with Edhubbard -- if the sources don't extend beyond libertarian literature, our coverage probably ought to be limited to libertarianism-related articles. Only if the broad community takes an interest would it be appropriate weighting to cover the issue in this article. Looie496 (talk) 17:21, 12 June 2009 (UTC)
Well, the very term pro-choice implies some kind of relationship with free-will, it obviously fits somewhere there, it means that independent women have the right to make decisions on their own terms. ADM (talk) 17:25, 12 June 2009 (UTC)
I think that this also relates back to a previous debate we've had on this page [10] about whether Libertarian political viewpoints have anything whatsoever to do with the strictly metaphysical usage of Libertarianism (metaphysics) as it is used in this article. Although both the political viewpoint and the metaphysical viewpoint have the same name, there was no consensus that the two were related. The libertarian perspectives on abortion article that you have linked to uses libertarianism in its political, not metaphysical sense. Let's be careful not to confuse these issues. Edhubbard (talk) 19:52, 12 June 2009 (UTC)

This doesn't seem that different from complaining that people demanding the release of political prisoners don't believe in some form of metaphysical free will, so their demands are meaningless since the prisoners will never be "free", or any other similar example (proponents of freedom of speech, perhaps?). If you can find any encyclopedia article on free will that discusses abortion like this, or even any sources that talk about it, please do. However, if it is ever used I fail to see how it would be unique to abortion, and I suspect it would be used as a sort of last ditch, haven't got any arguments left sort of argument. Richard001 (talk) 21:06, 12 June 2009 (UTC)

I don't subscribe to the idea that the concept of free will is purely metaphysical and that it has no socio-political implications, because it obviously does. People who live in collectivist societies like North Korea or Laos arguably have less free will than people who are members of the Western economic elite. On a related note, abortion statistics indicate that women from poor ethnic minorities are much more likely to obtain an abortion than women from wealthy white families. ADM (talk) 21:51, 12 June 2009 (UTC)
See, but that's exactly the confusion I'm talking about here. In the strict metaphysical sense of free will (the sense used in this article) no one person can have any more (or less) free will than any other person. It is a property (or not) of the entire universe, and beings either have or do not have it, in the same way that gravity is a property of the universe, and the way objects respond to gravity does not change if they are dropped by someone who is rich or poor. What is at debate in this article is the degree to which anyone can or cannot be said to have free will, given the laws of physics, and what free will would mean for our conception of how the entire universe works. Your whole argument about free will in different societies is predicated on the sociopolitical sense of free will, and you still fail to see how the metaphysical sense of free will (again, the sense used here, which is, after all, why there are two articles) is independent of these political considerations. Because the same words are used for the two different meanings, the sentence "A rich white man has more free will in modern America than does a poor Hispanic woman", is either (unfortunately) obviously true (political context) or complete and utter nonsense (metaphysical context). That is, there is one meaning of freewill that is purely metaphysical, and that is the version discussed in this article. To bring things like abortion or social dynamics into this simply misses the point of the distinction. Edhubbard (talk) 22:15, 12 June 2009 (UTC)
I don't think that it is really possible for our contemporaries to claim a decent understanding of all the laws of physics, or of natural law in general, in a way that would definitively solve this dispute. For instance, there is a thought experiment called quantum suicide and immortality that proposes the existence of an indefinite number of universes in which people could co-exist simultaneously for an unknown period of time. There are other scientific theories that involve multiple time dimensions, hidden cognitive functions and genetic advancement which could likely modify our perception of the universe, of human consciousness and of existence itself, in a sense that would radically alter current deterministic philosophies about free will. ADM (talk) 00:16, 13 June 2009 (UTC)
What is a deterministic philosophy? (this is opposed to an indeterministic philosophy?) I found your original comment interesting, but I would agree with the others in that, information regarding it does not belong on this page at the moment, and it appears as though it is referring to socio-political free will at least once (Maybe you had two arguments to begin with?) I would recommend someone creates an where people can discuss problems like this without references - maybe someone could do PhD on the relationship between an individual's philosophical beliefs, their socio-political beliefs, their education, their experiences, and their society's beliefs - all as a function of time... Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 11:28, 24 June 2009 (UTC)

Free will and the scientific method

There is a South African astrophysicist of some note called George F.R. Ellis. He has received the Templeton prize, and also recently authored a paper in Nature on causality in physics.

The essence of the causality argument, as I understand it, is that the laws of physics are not completely deterministic, in the sense that the evolution of complex structures can be influenced by external actions. Anyway, the interest for this article is his related argument on free will, which seems like it could be very important for the discussion in the context of science.

The argument states, essentially, that human free will is a postulate of the scientific method. That is, for the scientific method to have any validity, humans must be able to freely decide between various interpretations of data based upon the rules of logic. Therefore, the question of whether or not humans have free will cannot be determined scientifically. (One immediately sees the absurdity that arises if it were ever to be "proven" that humans have no free will, as in this case, every scientific conclusion ever made can no longer be supported, including any proof that humans have no free will.)

I don't know whether Ellis qualifies as a "philosopher" among those who typically bear that title, nor do I know, in all honesty, whether or not this idea originated with him (reading it in an article of his was simply my first exposure to it), but it seems like a very powerful argument nonetheless, and one that seems to be missing from the discussion here.Dm215 (talk) 21:13, 9 July 2009 (UTC)

Is this a new argument? If it is I should be allowed to take credit for it as I came up with it first (see above). Anyway the argument makes perfect sense. --ReluctantPhilosopher (talk) 16:41, 20 July 2009 (UTC)
The claim that the scientific method requires free will is not a new idea under one definition of free will (freedom from a hypothetical chaotic deterministic physical reality) - see C. S. Lewis - basically nothing can be established as "true" unless human reason and logic are first taken as "true" (Dualism_(philosophy_of_mind)#Argument_from_reason). Richardbrucebaxter (talk) 12:52, 30 July 2009 (UTC)
I think this argument is no good, because it focuses on some (questionable) peculiarity instead of the main role the concept of free will plays in science. Acknowledging free will enables the scientist to distinghuish fact from value, material from spiritual, objective from subjective, transferring information you find in the universe from creating information yourself. And I think this idea to distinghuish material from spiritual is central to the success of the scientific revolution, rather than the idea to have evidence for everything. If the idea is to have evidence for everything, so including good and evil, beauty and such, then likely all your "science" is not going to be any good, your science is just going to be in line with what you like and dislike. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Syamsu (talkcontribs) 07:11, 30 December 2009 (UTC)
Wikipedia policy is that articles must be based on published sources, not on our own personal opinions or arguments. If the argument you favor has been published and has drawn significant attention from other philosophers or scientists, it could be discussed in this article, but you will have to point to the place where it is published. Regards, Looie496 (talk) 21:13, 30 December 2009 (UTC)
I am just trying to accurately reflect how the concept of free will is commonly used practically in science, which is to distinghuish fact from value. So looking at the wikipedia rules, I think it says we should not enter Ellis opinion about free will because it is much unique and personal to him, but we should reflect the common use of free will in science. When you do an experiment then commonly it is said in science you must not let the result be influenced by what you want the result to be, or what you think the result should be. That this idea to distinghuish fact from value is most important in the scientific revolution well that is more a personal opinion of mine yes, I just added that for context.--Syamsu (talk) 23:10, 30 December 2009 (UTC)
Okay. The article doesn't currently have anything about Ellis in it, as far as I know, so I suppose everything is all right. Regards, Looie496 (talk) 00:35, 31 December 2009 (UTC)

Talk:Free will/Archive-to-Jan-2007 discussions mentioned in an acedemic paper

I added the media template. RE: Rumpsenate (talk) 20:35, 16 July 2009 (UTC)

moving new material here from article -- folk intuitions

The following was just added to the article by an IP editor. I am removing it and putting here because on one hand, "forthcoming" articles can't be used as sources unless they have provably been accepted for publication by reputable journals, but on the other hand, the material appears to be valid and important so I don't want to simply delete it.

Can better sources be found for these statements? Looie496 (talk) 16:04, 20 July 2009 (UTC)

I'm sure you can find other sources for similar statements, but what is the problem with the cited sources? They are hosted on the author's web-pages, but here is the proper ref for the second article:
Nichols, Shaun. "Moral Responsibility and Determinism: The Cognitive Science of Folk Intuitions". Noûs. 41 (4): 663–685. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0068.2007.00666.x.  Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help)
I haven't checked whether the summary above accurately reflects the article, although I don't have a reason to doubt it. I've read a paper by Nichols were they ask a question about determinism in terms of an alternate universe and about the real world. They get a similar effect: people tend to be perfectly happy with determinism in an alternate universe, but resort to compatibilism about our own world. Vesal (talk) 17:29, 20 July 2009 (UTC)
Good; I've reverted my removal. Both refs listed the papers as "forthcoming", and I've seen numerous cases where papers cited as "forthcoming" never actually get published. But with a proper ref, I see no problems. Looie496 (talk) 17:41, 20 July 2009 (UTC)
Although this seems settled now, just a quick note to say that I think Looie was right to pull the material pending verification that the "forthcoming" didn't mean "eventually, maybe, when I get to it" in this case. As a general note, anything with a doi must be accepted for publication, so Vesal's finding of the doi for the second paper pretty conclusively shows that it will be published soon. It's nice to see wikipedia work the way it's supposed to. Cheers, Edhubbard (talk) 22:50, 20 July 2009 (UTC)

Vivekananda's cow and chaos theory

These are two different topics, both covered in their appropriate sections. Vivekananda lived before chaos theory existed. hgilbert (talk) 08:59, 24 August 2009 (UTC)

Chaos theory itself is very young compared with Vivekananda and teacher Ramakrishna. However, what chaos theory describes is a situation that is as old as the Cosmos itself. So I can see what Dr. Anil K. Rajvanshi means in the brief essay, "Free Will, Evolution and Chaos Theory". The statement, therefore, is appropriate, however the cited website may not meet Wikipedia's reliable source standards. I would suggest that the editor who wants to use this reference, I believe it's "Opuntiaflower", check with the reliable sources noticeboard to find out if this or any other source is considered reliable.
 —  .`^) Paine Ellsworthdiss`cuss (^`.  11:15, 22 September 2009 (UTC)
It very clearly fails to meet WP:RS; that's why that material has repeatedly been removed and I expect will continue to be. The time to reconsider this is when a reputable scholarly source publishes an account of these ideas. Looie496 (talk) 16:37, 22 September 2009 (UTC)
FYI, Opuntiaflower is in all likelihood either a sock of, or connected to, Akraj, who has identified himself as being Dr. Anil K. Rajvanshi. That account, along with numerous other accounts and IPs, have been adding links to Dr. Rajvanshi's essays both at his institute's site and at any site he can get to reprint them. The issue has been raised in the past at the COI, spam, and India project pages. --Ckatzchatspy 17:33, 22 September 2009 (UTC)

Mention of slang in article lead

I'm not sure that the recent addition by Wikieditor1988 belongs in the article introduction. Perhaps in a subsection or not at all? Shanata (talk) 06:33, 21 October 2009 (UTC)

Hmm. I'm open to the idea that something of the sort belongs in the intro, but that doesn't seem very comprehensive. For example, the most common analogy for lack of free will that I've seen is being "robotlike". Looie496 (talk) 14:14, 22 October 2009 (UTC)
I see that the addition was deleted. I haven't yet read this entire article, so I won't say much. However, it does seem appropriate that the article allude in some manner to metaphorical and popular language about free will and determinism. NinetyNineFennelSeeds (talk) 18:32, 17 November 2009 (UTC)

The first diagram

This decision tree diagram seems to me to be false at the first node, because not believing in determinism (as most physicsally literate do not) is not equivalent to believing in free will. Richard001 (talk) 10:06, 25 November 2009 (UTC)

You're misreading the tree: the "free will?" node is a question rather than an assertion, and gives rise to two branches, one for TRUE and the other for FALSE. This does however raise a doubt about whether the diagram is too difficult to understand. Looie496 (talk) 16:51, 25 November 2009 (UTC)

'Compatibalism' or 'Compatiblalism and Incompatibalism'.

There are two 'main articles' linked from here, titled 'Compatibalism' and 'Compatiblalism and Incompatibalism' respectively. Do we really need two different articles covering the same territory like that? --Irrevenant [ talk ] 07:06, 29 December 2009 (UTC)

No. What's the best way to fix it -- delete A, delete B, or merge the two? Looie496 (talk) 19:37, 29 December 2009 (UTC)
I'm not sure these are actually different articles. The Compatibilism link is just a redirect to Compatibilism and incompatibilism. Check it out... I think it's already ok, but perhaps one of the wikilinks on this page should be eliminated? Edhubbard (talk) 00:04, 30 December 2009 (UTC)


I just wanna know from one of you philosophy buffs why this 'free will' topic is so important. As far as the average Joe is concerned, they have a choice in everything they do (at least in theory, because it doesn't take into consideration things such as restrictions by law). What's really the point in pondering so hard on this topic, when (if everything has already been determined) it will always appear we have 'free will'? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:48, 2 July 2009 (UTC)

Article talk pages are intended to be used for discussing ways to improve the article, not for questions about the topic. Looie496 (talk) 18:08, 2 July 2009 (UTC)
It is so important for everyone in the world, because blame and praise, punishments and rewards are alloted according to the idea that everyone act according to a free will. The article could profit from dealing with free will also from a pragmatic perspective: how is free will practiced. As it is now, it is a little far out. One example that struck me — a blasphemic free-will-denier as I am — is a hypothetical 19th century bourgeouisi girl becoming angry over not being able to do the same things as her brother, f.ex. go out getting drunk, going to a specific education, because social convention forced her to become a marriage object according to the local culture where they lived. She might ask why she is not "free to do" the same thing as her brother, and therefore conclude that the culture hinders her from doing something. The current article concentrates too much on alleged connections between "free will" and rare-case-concepts such as "hard core determinism" which have too little to do with a practical usage: "am I free now in this context". Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 14:45, 18 February 2010 (UTC)