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Thread: The Great Contradiction

  1. Top | #231
    Contributor ruby sparks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bomb#20 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by remez View Post
    By free will I simply mean the opposite of determinism.
    That's a popular definition in philosophical discussion, but it's an unreasonable one. The people who use that definition -- both dualists like you and also anti-compatibilism materialists like r.s. -- do not use that definition consistently. Take such people out of a philosophy discussion and into a jury box and they'll use "free will" just like normal English speakers: they'll use it to mean "doing something because you want to".
    I have a few more thoughts on the above part of your reply to remez.

    It’s not the case that those of us who don’t subscribe to compatibilism change the definition we use. In the first instance, I’m not sure I even use a definition of free will any more than I use a definition for god (I tend not to believe in either).

    Secondly, if you steal my phone and let’s say it appears to be deliberate, it’s true that I will blame you, but that’s got more to do with me being almost as trapped as anyone in what might be the illusion of free will, and not the changing of a definition.

    I say almost (as trapped) because I tend to think that my skepticism about free will allows me to temper my retributive urges, even if not completely or all the time. Imo, free will skepticism is not something that is confined to abstract philosophical discussions. It’s something you can have as part of your everyday outlook.
    Last edited by ruby sparks; 01-12-2020 at 08:19 PM.

  2. Top | #232
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    Quote Originally Posted by Treedbear View Post
    Just one question to clarify your view of compatiblism. Would you claim that for something that you did in the past, some act or thought (intentional or not), could you have acted or thought differently under the same circumstances? Because the classic definition of free will (one generally embraced by the public and even the judicial system) is in the idea that given the same circumstances one could have acted differently.
    When the public and the judicial system talk that way, the phrase "the same circumstances" is ambiguous. At any point in time and space there are an infinity of circumstances; people talking about "the same circumstances" rarely have that whole infinity in mind. They have some specific subset of the circumstances in mind. When we're trying to decide whether a litigant signed a contract of his own free will, we're thinking about whether he could have not signed given the circumstance that a mobster had a knife at his throat. We aren't thinking about whether he could have not signed given the circumstance that he wanted the money the contract promised him. "Given the same circumstances" usually excludes circumstances about what a person wants, apart from a few exceptional wants such as wanting not to be murdered.

  3. Top | #233
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    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Bomb#20 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by remez View Post
    By free will I simply mean the opposite of determinism.
    The people who use that definition -- both dualists like you and also anti-compatibilism materialists like r.s. -- do not use that definition consistently.
    I do not use that definition
    Yes, you certainly do.

    (see above).
    What, post #228? That is an example of you not using remez's definition. Are you under the impression that you can refute a charge of (doing X but not consistently) merely by providing an example of you not doing X?!?

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Could you derive the contradiction, please?
    For example: Assume that the real word is deterministic - not even randomness. Assume I wrote this of my own free will. Derive a contradiction. Could you do that, please?
    Something that is causally determined (and/or random) is not freely willed or freely done. I don't think I know how to put it any more simply than that. It's like saying up is down or black is white. One is not the other.
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post

    Clearly, that argument is invalid by its form, unless it has implicit premises:

    Premise 1: X is determined.
    Conclusion: X is not freely done.

    The argument has the same form as:

    Premise 1: X is clever.
    Conclusion: X is not freely done.

    That is not valid. Of course, you might have implicit premises that make your argument valid. Could you please make a valid argument, making the required premises explicit?
    That makes no sense whatsoever, I'm afraid.

    Because freely-willed and determined (constrained) are effectively opposites.

    Premise 1: X is up
    Conclusion: X is not down
    You have been caught red-handed relying on that same definition, not once but twice. If you want to refute the charge, you have to explain away the examples of you doing it, not just exhibit examples of you not doing it. All citing post #228 shows is that I'm right about your inconsistency in addition to being right about your using the same definition as remez.

    But as Thomas Aquinas said, when faced with a contradiction, draw a distinction. So knock yourself out. By all means, show us a hair-splitting distinction between "By free will I simply mean the opposite of determinism" and "Because freely-willed and determined (constrained) are effectively opposites.".

    While we're on the topic of you thinking like remez, you also appear to both use the same definition of "contradiction". Just like remez, you appear to have a special fondness for taking an opponent's premises, mixing them with your own premises, deriving an absurdity, and then accusing your opponent of contradicting himself.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    If you have a plausible case (for free will) that is not just a total (and contradictory) fudge (eg Hume or any form of compatibilism) I’d be interested to hear it but I doubt you have because it has never been provided by anyone ever, as far as I am aware.
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    Thinking about this again, there is another way it is like the OP, in that the belief that free will is compatible with determinism is arguably one of the great contradictions.
    By all means, exhibit Hume contradicting himself and compatibilism contradicting itself, as opposed to exhibiting them merely contradicting you.

  4. Top | #234
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    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Bomb#20 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by remez View Post
    By free will I simply mean the opposite of determinism.
    That's a popular definition in philosophical discussion, but it's an unreasonable one. The people who use that definition -- both dualists like you and also anti-compatibilism materialists like r.s. -- do not use that definition consistently. Take such people out of a philosophy discussion and into a jury box and they'll use "free will" just like normal English speakers: they'll use it to mean "doing something because you want to".
    I have a few more thoughts on the above part of your reply to remez.

    It’s not the case that those of us who don’t subscribe to compatibilism change the definition we use. In the first instance, I’m not sure I even use a definition of free will any more than I use a definition for god
    You have to have some mental association between the words and meanings, or you wouldn't be able to use them intelligibly in sentences. Those associations are in substance definitions, even if you don't think of them that way or try to put them into words.

    (I tend not to believe in either).
    Case in point. What is the referent of "either" in that sentence? Well, on your account, it doesn't have any referent -- that's what saying you don't believe in them amounts to. So how can your sentence containing "either" be comprehensible when "either" has no referent? As Kant pointed out in his famous refutation of St. Anselm, existence is not a property. "Unicorns do not exist." cannot ascribe a property of nonexistence to unicorns since there are no unicorns to have the property. Rather, existence is a quantifier over properties -- it states the quantity of stuff possessing some identified property. "Unicorns do not exist." means "Not (There exists an X such that X possesses unicornhood)". Likewise, to say you tend not to believe in a god means you tend not to believe (There exists an X such that X possesses godhood"). Now why on earth would you say such a thing unless you have some notion of what godhood involves? Godhood must be some property in your mind. You are ascribing the property of nongodhood to everything in the universe; well, what is this property you are ascribing to me, to yourself, to your toothbrush, and so forth? Whatever it is you are ascribing to us all, that's the (reversed) definition of "god" you use. It may be implicit and it may be subconscious, but it has to be there.

    You are alleging unfreeness in every will in the universe; well, what is this property you are ascribing to all our wills?

    Secondly, if you steal my phone and let’s say it appears to be deliberate, it’s true that I will blame you, but that’s got more to do with me being almost as trapped as anyone in what might be the illusion of free will, and not the changing of a definition.
    You called free will an illusion before.

    Absent a convincing or coherent alternative explanation, you are, it would seem, ‘merely’ a very, very, very complex physical/biological/chemical machine that is doing stuff which is dictated by prior natural causes at every instant, but 'you' (ie the system/machine that calls itself 'me') is under the illusion that this is not the case.
    Poppycock. You had no evidence. Angra Mainyu had given you no observational reason whatsoever to imagine that he was under the illusion that it was not the case that he is a very, very, very complex physical/biological/chemical machine that is doing stuff which is dictated by prior natural causes at every instant. You ascribed such an illusion to him because you assumed he meant the same thing by "free will" that you meant. But he means something different. He means something reasonable, something people obviously have, something that actually matters for purposes of assigning blame. Practically anyone would blame me if I stole his phone and it appeared to be deliberate. It takes a special kind of ideological blinkers to doggedly insist against all evidence that everyone applies blame in this situation because everyone is under the illusion that we aren't complex physical/biological/chemical machines, rather than because we're looking at the situation as it really is and correctly applying a more sensible concept of "free will" than yours.

    I say almost (as trapped) because I tend to think that my skepticism about free will allows me to temper my retributive urges, even if not completely or all the time.
    Why? Why would skepticism about free will temper your retributive urges? Would a person nondeterministically deliberately stealing your phone promote your retributive urges? What would the nondeterminism add to the moral calculus apart from making the thief the victim of bad luck?

  5. Top | #235
    Contributor ruby sparks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bomb#20 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Treedbear View Post
    Just one question to clarify your view of compatiblism. Would you claim that for something that you did in the past, some act or thought (intentional or not), could you have acted or thought differently under the same circumstances? Because the classic definition of free will (one generally embraced by the public and even the judicial system) is in the idea that given the same circumstances one could have acted differently.
    When the public and the judicial system talk that way, the phrase "the same circumstances" is ambiguous. At any point in time and space there are an infinity of circumstances; people talking about "the same circumstances" rarely have that whole infinity in mind. They have some specific subset of the circumstances in mind. When we're trying to decide whether a litigant signed a contract of his own free will, we're thinking about whether he could have not signed given the circumstance that a mobster had a knife at his throat. We aren't thinking about whether he could have not signed given the circumstance that he wanted the money the contract promised him. "Given the same circumstances" usually excludes circumstances about what a person wants, apart from a few exceptional wants such as wanting not to be murdered.
    Correction: YOU are thinking about whether he had a knife to his throat.

    Some of us don’t think about determinants and constraints in those extremely shallow and superficial terms.

    Some of us take it, or at least tend to think it likely true, in the absence of any explanation as to how it could possibly be otherwise, that he literally, actually had no way of freely willing himself to do otherwise than sign the contract.

    Compatibilism effectively pretends, or at least allows, that it is otherwise, without offering any explanation as to how it could be the case. Fudging the definition doesn’t count. We could do that for god and then god would exist. We could do it for almost anything, if we needed for some reason to deny the likely actual truth.
    Last edited by ruby sparks; 01-12-2020 at 11:37 PM.

  6. Top | #236
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bomb#20 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    I do not use that definition
    Yes, you certainly do.

    (see above).
    What, post #228? That is an example of you not using remez's definition. Are you under the impression that you can refute a charge of (doing X but not consistently) merely by providing an example of you not doing X?!?

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Could you derive the contradiction, please?
    For example: Assume that the real word is deterministic - not even randomness. Assume I wrote this of my own free will. Derive a contradiction. Could you do that, please?
    Something that is causally determined (and/or random) is not freely willed or freely done. I don't think I know how to put it any more simply than that. It's like saying up is down or black is white. One is not the other.
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post

    Clearly, that argument is invalid by its form, unless it has implicit premises:

    Premise 1: X is determined.
    Conclusion: X is not freely done.

    The argument has the same form as:

    Premise 1: X is clever.
    Conclusion: X is not freely done.

    That is not valid. Of course, you might have implicit premises that make your argument valid. Could you please make a valid argument, making the required premises explicit?
    That makes no sense whatsoever, I'm afraid.

    Because freely-willed and determined (constrained) are effectively opposites.

    Premise 1: X is up
    Conclusion: X is not down
    You have been caught red-handed relying on that same definition, not once but twice. If you want to refute the charge, you have to explain away the examples of you doing it, not just exhibit examples of you not doing it. All citing post #228 shows is that I'm right about your inconsistency in addition to being right about your using the same definition as remez.

    But as Thomas Aquinas said, when faced with a contradiction, draw a distinction. So knock yourself out. By all means, show us a hair-splitting distinction between "By free will I simply mean the opposite of determinism" and "Because freely-willed and determined (constrained) are effectively opposites.".

    While we're on the topic of you thinking like remez, you also appear to both use the same definition of "contradiction". Just like remez, you appear to have a special fondness for taking an opponent's premises, mixing them with your own premises, deriving an absurdity, and then accusing your opponent of contradicting himself.

    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    If you have a plausible case (for free will) that is not just a total (and contradictory) fudge (eg Hume or any form of compatibilism) I’d be interested to hear it but I doubt you have because it has never been provided by anyone ever, as far as I am aware.
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post
    Thinking about this again, there is another way it is like the OP, in that the belief that free will is compatible with determinism is arguably one of the great contradictions.
    By all means, exhibit Hume contradicting himself and compatibilism contradicting itself, as opposed to exhibiting them merely contradicting you.

    Good catch. It seems I did use the same definition as remez. On reflection I think I was inaccurate and incorrect. The opposite of determinism is indeterminism.

    What I perhaps should better have said was that free will and determinism are mutually exclusive, and thus their (supposed) compatibility is effectively a contradiction.

  7. Top | #237
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bomb#20 View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks View Post

    I have a few more thoughts on the above part of your reply to remez.

    It’s not the case that those of us who don’t subscribe to compatibilism change the definition we use. In the first instance, I’m not sure I even use a definition of free will any more than I use a definition for god
    You have to have some mental association between the words and meanings, or you wouldn't be able to use them intelligibly in sentences. Those associations are in substance definitions, even if you don't think of them that way or try to put them into words.

    (I tend not to believe in either).
    Case in point. What is the referent of "either" in that sentence? Well, on your account, it doesn't have any referent -- that's what saying you don't believe in them amounts to. So how can your sentence containing "either" be comprehensible when "either" has no referent? As Kant pointed out in his famous refutation of St. Anselm, existence is not a property. "Unicorns do not exist." cannot ascribe a property of nonexistence to unicorns since there are no unicorns to have the property. Rather, existence is a quantifier over properties -- it states the quantity of stuff possessing some identified property. "Unicorns do not exist." means "Not (There exists an X such that X possesses unicornhood)". Likewise, to say you tend not to believe in a god means you tend not to believe (There exists an X such that X possesses godhood"). Now why on earth would you say such a thing unless you have some notion of what godhood involves? Godhood must be some property in your mind. You are ascribing the property of nongodhood to everything in the universe; well, what is this property you are ascribing to me, to yourself, to your toothbrush, and so forth? Whatever it is you are ascribing to us all, that's the (reversed) definition of "god" you use. It may be implicit and it may be subconscious, but it has to be there.

    You are alleging unfreeness in every will in the universe; well, what is this property you are ascribing to all our wills?

    Secondly, if you steal my phone and let’s say it appears to be deliberate, it’s true that I will blame you, but that’s got more to do with me being almost as trapped as anyone in what might be the illusion of free will, and not the changing of a definition.
    You called free will an illusion before.

    Absent a convincing or coherent alternative explanation, you are, it would seem, ‘merely’ a very, very, very complex physical/biological/chemical machine that is doing stuff which is dictated by prior natural causes at every instant, but 'you' (ie the system/machine that calls itself 'me') is under the illusion that this is not the case.
    Poppycock. You had no evidence. Angra Mainyu had given you no observational reason whatsoever to imagine that he was under the illusion that it was not the case that he is a very, very, very complex physical/biological/chemical machine that is doing stuff which is dictated by prior natural causes at every instant. You ascribed such an illusion to him because you assumed he meant the same thing by "free will" that you meant. But he means something different. He means something reasonable, something people obviously have, something that actually matters for purposes of assigning blame. Practically anyone would blame me if I stole his phone and it appeared to be deliberate. It takes a special kind of ideological blinkers to doggedly insist against all evidence that everyone applies blame in this situation because everyone is under the illusion that we aren't complex physical/biological/chemical machines, rather than because we're looking at the situation as it really is and correctly applying a more sensible concept of "free will" than yours.

    I say almost (as trapped) because I tend to think that my skepticism about free will allows me to temper my retributive urges, even if not completely or all the time.
    Why? Why would skepticism about free will temper your retributive urges? Would a person nondeterministically deliberately stealing your phone promote your retributive urges? What would the nondeterminism add to the moral calculus apart from making the thief the victim of bad luck?
    I’m on my phone at the moment so not able to edit replies properly.

    But just on your last question. The reason that retributive urges are tempered by free will skepticism (as suggested in a number of studies) is taken to be the at least partial acceptance that the person responsible may not have been able to have done otherwise. It is effectively allowing some clemency, humility, understanding and a measure of forgiveness, or at least reduced judgementalism on grounds of (perceived) ultimate lack of personal blame.

    In other words, “He is not a bad person, he just did a bad thing, and I would have done it if I had literally been in his shoes”.

  8. Top | #238
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    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    In other words, “He is not a bad person, he just did a bad thing, and I would have done it if I had literally been in his shoes”.
    Okay, so you think there is such thing as immoral behavior, but not bad people. But why? Take, for example, a serial rapist and killer. He habitually engages in despicable behavior. How is not he a bad person? He has horrendous intentions, as a habit. Being a bad person is a character trait, and he sure seems to have it.

    Also, you say "I had literally been in his shoes". But what do you mean by that?

    Because if you mean the exact situation, particles and all...then that would not have been you at all. It would have been the serial rapist and killer in question, who is not the same person as you - or at best (if your expression allows it) a physically identical serial rapist and killer, who is also not you. So, it's not the case that you would have done it, but that he would have done it - as he did. But the fact that he would have done it - not you - gives you no reasons not to blame him.

    On the other hand, if you do not mean the exact same situation, then why would you think you would have committed the same heinous crimes as he did?

    And if you do not think you would have committed the same heinous crimes, then why would you feel less inclined to blame him?

  9. Top | #239
    Contributor ruby sparks's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Angra Mainyu View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by ruby sparks
    In other words, “He is not a bad person, he just did a bad thing, and I would have done it if I had literally been in his shoes”.
    Okay, so you think there is such thing as immoral behavior, but not bad people. But why? Take, for example, a serial rapist and killer. He habitually engages in despicable behavior. How is not he a bad person? He has horrendous intentions, as a habit. Being a bad person is a character trait, and he sure seems to have it.

    Also, you say "I had literally been in his shoes". But what do you mean by that?

    Because if you mean the exact situation, particles and all...then that would not have been you at all. It would have been the serial rapist and killer in question, who is not the same person as you - or at best (if your expression allows it) a physically identical serial rapist and killer, who is also not you. So, it's not the case that you would have done it, but that he would have done it - as he did. But the fact that he would have done it - not you - gives you no reasons not to blame him.

    On the other hand, if you do not mean the exact same situation, then why would you think you would have committed the same heinous crimes as he did?

    And if you do not think you would have committed the same heinous crimes, then why would you feel less inclined to blame him?
    I do mean the exact same situation, and yes if i had been in the exact same situation (arising from the same history) then you’re right, I would have been him, the serial rapist and killer. It’s a version of ‘there but for the grace of god go i’ without the god part.

    Added to which, if I think that he could not have done otherwise, then there is less reason to attach personal blame or want retribution.

    Which is a slightly separate issue to asking what measures would be taken with him/me/the rapist killer.
    Last edited by ruby sparks; 01-13-2020 at 11:09 AM.

  10. Top | #240
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    In post 239, Ruby Sparks said:

    Added to which, if I think that he [the serial rapist and killer] could not have done otherwise, then there is less reason to attach personal blame or want retribution.
    If he can't do otherwise, then we can't either. In which case, we cannot change the amount of blame or retribution.

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