Can Libertarian Free Will Be Rescued?

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Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2010 08:58 pm
I have yet to come across a coherent defense of libertarian free will, which I define as "the ability to have done otherwise." Basically, I can conceive of only three possible ultimate sources of one's actions: (1) that with which one is born, (2) one's environment (from one's birth to the time of the action), and (3) randomness (which may arise in the context of quantum indeterminacies). None of these three sources enables libertarian free will.

Is there anyone out there who can provide a sound argument in favor of the existence of libertarian free will?

I feel that this is an important issue because without libertarian free will, the concept of moral responsibility is rendered incoherent.

Thank you for your time.
 
Night Ripper
 
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2010 09:08 pm
@chap9898,
chap9898;154708 wrote:
I have yet to come across a coherent defense of libertarian free will, which I define as "the ability to have done otherwise." Basically, I can conceive of only three possible ultimate sources of one's actions: (1) that with which one is born, (2) one's environment (from one's birth to the time of the action), and (3) randomness (which may arise in the context of quantum indeterminacies). None of these three sources enables libertarian free will.

Is there anyone out there who can provide a sound argument in favor of the existence of libertarian free will?

I feel that this is an important issue because without libertarian free will, the concept of moral responsibility is rendered incoherent.

Thank you for your time.


What do you mean by randomness? If you mean that the universe doesn't have to be the way that it is necessarily but that it is so contingently, I don't see why that's a problem for free will. That sounds like exactly what free will requires.
 
chap9898
 
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2010 09:25 pm
@Night Ripper,
Night Ripper;154710 wrote:
What do you mean by randomness? If you mean that the universe doesn't have to be the way that it is necessarily but that it is so contingently, I don't see why that's a problem for free will. That sounds like exactly what free will requires.


I'm basically referring to quantum indeterminacies, which might also result in indeterminacies on a larger scale. Such indeterminacies are not under the control of the agent, and therefore they do not enable libertarian free will.
 
prothero
 
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2010 10:21 pm
@chap9898,
[QUOTE=chap9898;154708]I have yet to come across a coherent defense of libertarian free will, which I define as "the ability to have done otherwise." Basically, I can conceive of only three possible ultimate sources of one's actions: (1) that with which one is born, (2) one's environment (from one's birth to the time of the action), and (3) randomness (which may arise in the context of quantum indeterminacies). None of these three sources enables libertarian free will.

Is there anyone out there who can provide a sound argument in favor of the existence of libertarian free will?

I feel that this is an important issue because without libertarian free will, the concept of moral responsibility is rendered incoherent.

Thank you for your time.[/QUOTE]

I am not sure I agree with your analysis of the problem.
It seems to me what is required is a coherent defense of hard determinism.


The notion of libertarian free will is virtually universally assumed and employed in the process of living. It is what Pierce would call common-sensism and others would term hard core common sense assumptions or notions presupposed in practice even if denied in theory.


One can come to all sorts of erroneous conclusions based on partial and incomplete evidence and that is what our current knowledge of the relationship between mind and matter and subjective experience and objective scientific reality is; partial and incomplete.


At the very least we know that complex systems can generate chaotic and unpredictable behaviors and that initial conditions can not be determined. We also know that reiterative processes with small degrees of freedom (fractals) can generate forms which remarkably resemble those found throughout nature.
We also know that natural laws in their most fundamental character are not deterministic but stochastic probabilities.
We know that the behavior of higher forms of life result in creative and innovative actions, inventions, artistic expressions and the avoidance of futility.
It seems to me that it is determinism that requires a defense or demonstration not free will and moral responsibility.


Of course , this is an age old problem and has been debated endlessly but modern science no more destroys the notion or experience of free will than skepticism destroys objective reality. There are some profound assumptions and metaphysical and philosophical speculations which underlie the assertion that modern science tells us that the notion of free will is untenable. In fact most of our experience tells us that determinism is untenable. There is a high degree of order and in some systems a high degree of predictability but the extension of that observation to mind is not justified given the current information.
 
ughaibu
 
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2010 10:40 pm
@chap9898,
chap9898;154715 wrote:
I'm basically referring to quantum indeterminacies, which might also result in indeterminacies on a larger scale. Such indeterminacies are not under the control of the agent, and therefore they do not enable libertarian free will.
Then you're missing the point. Mathematical randomness implies uncomputability, and this is what conflicts with determinism. It's easy to demonstrate that human behaviour includes mathematical randomness, which means that it can not be determined. In any case, your opening post seems to be asking for the "how" of incompatibilist free will, which again misses the point. How-questions are answered by deterministic or probabilistic algorithmic processes, so the how-question for free will is illegitimate.
 
chap9898
 
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2010 11:49 pm
@prothero,
prothero;154726 wrote:

I am not sure I agree with your analysis of the problem.
It seems to me what is required is a coherent defense of hard determinism.


The notion of libertarian free will is virtually universally assumed and employed in the process of living. It is what Pierce would call common-sensism and others would term hard core common sense assumptions or notions presupposed in practice even if denied in theory.


One can come to all sorts of erroneous conclusions based on partial and incomplete evidence and that is what our current knowledge of the relationship between mind and matter and subjective experience and objective scientific reality is; partial and incomplete.


At the very least we know that complex systems can generate chaotic and unpredictable behaviors and that initial conditions can not be determined. We also know that reiterative processes with small degrees of freedom (fractals) can generate forms which remarkably resemble those found throughout nature.
We also know that natural laws in their most fundamental character are not deterministic but stochastic probabilities.
We know that the behavior of higher forms of life result in creative and innovative actions, inventions, artistic expressions and the avoidance of futility.
It seems to me that it is determinism that requires a defense or demonstration not free will and moral responsibility.


Of course , this is an age old problem and has been debated endlessly but modern science no more destroys the notion or experience of free will than skepticism destroys objective reality. There are some profound assumptions and metaphysical and philosophical speculations which underlie the assertion that modern science tells us that the notion of free will is untenable. In fact most of our experience tells us that determinism is untenable. There is a high degree of order and in some systems a high degree of predictability but the extension of that observation to mind is not justified given the current information.


Thank you for a most thoughtful post. You have given me much to ponder. However, by denying the existence of libertarian free will, one does not necessarily have to endorse determinism. Randomness can exist without enabling libertarian free will, if such randomness is not under the control of the agent. So I do not have to provide a defense of determinism in order to argue against libertarian free will.

In your post, you did not provide any additional ultimate source of one's actions beyond the three I mentioned, and I therefore still feel that libertarian free will has not been rescued. Can you provide such a source? My argument is not based on "partial and incomplete evidence" of any sort, but rather on common sense. Additionally, I do not see why, as you claim, "how-questions [must be] answered [only] by deterministic or probabilistic algorithmic processes."

Just because we deliberate and make choices (making it seem like "hard core common sense" that we have free will) does not mean that once we act, we could have acted otherwise. One could very easily argue that as neurochemical processes, our thoughts and deliberations are physical processes, are therefore subject to the laws of physics--which would eliminate libertarian free will. But even if we have immaterial souls that somehow interact with the physical world, this does not provide any additional ultimate source of action beyond the three I have mentioned. I still feel that libertarian free will requires a defense, which you have not provided.
 
ughaibu
 
Reply Wed 21 Apr, 2010 12:05 am
@chap9898,
chap9898;154754 wrote:
Just because we deliberate and make choices (making it seem like "hard core common sense" that we have free will) does not mean that once we act, we could have acted otherwise.
By coordinating choices with a tossed coin we can demonstrate that the probability, of free will being the case, is infinitely great.
chap9898;154754 wrote:
One could very easily argue that as neurochemical processes, our thoughts and deliberations are physical processes, are therefore subject to the laws of physics--which would eliminate libertarian free will.
Laws of physics are statements made by physicists, they dont in any way threaten free will.
 
Night Ripper
 
Reply Wed 21 Apr, 2010 07:03 am
@chap9898,
chap9898;154715 wrote:
I'm basically referring to quantum indeterminacies, which might also result in indeterminacies on a larger scale. Such indeterminacies are not under the control of the agent, and therefore they do not enable libertarian free will.


The universe is random on every scale, not just small ones.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 21 Apr, 2010 07:51 am
@chap9898,
chap9898;154708 wrote:
I have yet to come across a coherent defense of libertarian free will, which I define as "the ability to have done otherwise." Basically, I can conceive of only three possible ultimate sources of one's actions: (1) that with which one is born, (2) one's environment (from one's birth to the time of the action), and (3) randomness (which may arise in the context of quantum indeterminacies). None of these three sources enables libertarian free will.

Is there anyone out there who can provide a sound argument in favor of the existence of libertarian free will?

I feel that this is an important issue because without libertarian free will, the concept of moral responsibility is rendered incoherent.

Thank you for your time.


because without libertarian free will, the concept of moral responsibility is rendered incoherent.

You may feel that. But soft determinism or compatibilism, argues that is not true. And, indeed, that without determinism, there can be no moral responsibility.
 
salima
 
Reply Wed 21 Apr, 2010 08:50 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;154845 wrote:
because without libertarian free will, the concept of moral responsibility is rendered incoherent.

You may feel that. But soft determinism or compatibilism, argues that is not true. And, indeed, that without determinism, there can be no moral responsibility.



not sure i get it. do you mean something like whatever has determined our capability of making choices is the same thing that determines our level of responsibility?

could you give me some examples? or suggest me some online source to lookup?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 21 Apr, 2010 09:16 am
@salima,
salima;154867 wrote:
not sure i get it. do you mean something like whatever has determined our capability of making choices is the same thing that determines our level of responsibility?

could you give me some examples? or suggest me some online source to lookup?


The argument is that unless our choice are caused, they just "come out of the blue" without any explanation for why they happen. It would then be that our choices would be random. And how can we be responsible for our choices if they happen randomly? Unless we make our choices for some reason, we are not responsible for them, and if we make them for some reason, that reason is the cause of them. So, unless they are caused by our reasons for doing them, we are not responsible for them. Take as an example what people do when they have Tourette's syndrome. We don't think they are responsible for what they do then, do we?
 
salima
 
Reply Wed 21 Apr, 2010 09:40 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;154872 wrote:
The argument is that unless our choice are caused, they just "come out of the blue" without any explanation for why they happen. It would then be that our choices would be random. And how can we be responsible for our choices if they happen randomly? Unless we make our choices for some reason, we are not responsible for them, and if we make them for some reason, that reason is the cause of them. So, unless they are caused by our reasons for doing them, we are not responsible for them. Take as an example what people do when they have Tourette's syndrome. We don't think they are responsible for what they do then, do we?


i dont see how our choices could be random-i see that they could be free or not, but not random. sorry, my online dictionary is still hanging up the browser...in the case of the person with tourette's, there is no choice and also the actions are random in the sense that they are not following a pattern, but have a physical cause that can be identified, if i am correct.

i thought determinism meant no free will, that they were opposed. and that is why i think some people like to say determinism means we are free to do anything because nothing is our fault-i would argue that if we have no free will then we have no actual self, there is no agent involved,
and how could an automaton stop to question these things in the first place? so it seems unlikely to me.

but at the same time, i think even if i were absolutely sure that i had no free will, and that i wouldnt be held responsible, i would still go ahead and be very careful in making a choice that i thought was the best under the circumstances, as long as i was able to go through the motions of doing it, even if i thought it was meaningless. because otherwise, what would be the point of living at all? at least making decisions takes up some time...keeps the mind busy.
 
Mentally Ill
 
Reply Thu 22 Apr, 2010 05:47 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;154872 wrote:
The argument is that unless our choice are caused, they just "come out of the blue" without any explanation for why they happen. It would then be that our choices would be random. And how can we be responsible for our choices if they happen randomly? Unless we make our choices for some reason, we are not responsible for them, and if we make them for some reason, that reason is the cause of them. So, unless they are caused by our reasons for doing them, we are not responsible for them. Take as an example what people do when they have Tourette's syndrome. We don't think they are responsible for what they do then, do we?


Couldn't the reason simply be reason itself? The result of our logical minds doing some computation and coming to a decision about how to behave would be "Will"...
I suppose that will would not be free because it would be restricted by natural tendency toward reason.
Only in the insane could we find an example of "free will".


"Some people never go crazy...What horrible lives they must have." - Charles Bukowski
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 22 Apr, 2010 05:53 pm
@Mentally Ill,
Mentally Ill;155379 wrote:

Only in the insane could we find an example of "free will".


"Some people never go crazy...What horrible lives they must have." - Charles Bukowski


If that were true, then there would be no moral responsibility, since the insane are not morally responsible for what they do. That is the refutation of libertarianism, since according to libertarianism, we have no reasons for our actions. Thank you for letting me make that point.
 
prothero
 
Reply Thu 22 Apr, 2010 08:30 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;155386 wrote:
If that were true, then there would be no moral responsibility, since the insane are not morally responsible for what they do. That is the refutation of libertarianism, since according to libertarianism, we have no reasons for our actions. Thank you for letting me make that point.
That of course is not at all a fair representation of the libertarian free will position.
Libertarians do not wish to rescue free will from the fixed future of determinism only to fall prey to the random fluctuations of indeterminism.
Libertarians basically think you have the ability to do otherwise and that rational deliberation about alternative courses of action is meaningful and efficacious: that your wishes, desires, hopes, dreams and aspirations are not determined by the fixed laws of physics and chemistry;that your very strong notion of the presence of mind and the efficacy of will are not an illusion.
That people do have moral responsiblity and agency of will.

It is true that there is no direct explanation for how mental will can overcome the deterministic laws of physical and chemical systems. It is also true that appeal to the random indeterministic behavior of quantum scale systems does not provide liberatarian free will advocates with relief. It is also true that our knowledge of the nature of mind, relationship between the material and the mental and the basis of human behavior is very limited partial and incomplete. For me it would take an overwhelming amount of evidence to abandon the traditional notion of libertarian free will as the ability to do otherwise, the efficacy of rational deliberation and choice and the reality of human agency and hence moral responsibility for our actions.

It is far from proven that "libertarian free will" is meaningless or illusory.
Even though a scientific explanation for "libertarian free will" is lacking, I maintain that you do have "free will" pretty much in the form which you experience it. There is indeed much in human experience that science does not explain and lack of evidence is not proof of absence. The jury is still out and "agency, free will, belief in alternative future possiblities and moral responsiblity" are assumed in practice and indespensible aspects of human experience and social and cultural coherence.

Even many of the advocates of determinism (hard or soft) (compatiblists or incompatiblist) admit that our social and cultural notions of agency, will and moral responsiblity need to be retained for pragmatic reasons.
 
Deckard
 
Reply Thu 22 Apr, 2010 08:52 pm
@chap9898,
chap9898;154708 wrote:
I have yet to come across a coherent defense of libertarian free will, which I define as "the ability to have done otherwise." Basically, I can conceive of only three possible ultimate sources of one's actions: (1) that with which one is born, (2) one's environment (from one's birth to the time of the action), and (3) randomness (which may arise in the context of quantum indeterminacies). None of these three sources enables libertarian free will.

Is there anyone out there who can provide a sound argument in favor of the existence of libertarian free will?

I feel that this is an important issue because without libertarian free will, the concept of moral responsibility is rendered incoherent.

Thank you for your time.


Shoot, I messed up I thought you meant Libertarian in the political sense. Maybe there is some covert connection with politics that will redeem my mistake? No, probably not. I have since looked up the term "libertarian free will" and edited my post accordingly. Sorry about that. I think the Kant stuff may still be a worthwhile contribution.

Kant's 3rd antinomy is worth checking out. Kant argues both sides and concludes that reason alone cannot decide the question.

Here's a description of the two sides of the antimony.
I pulled from this website: Kant's 3rd Antinomy | The Mars Hill Club

Quote:

Thesis
Causality in accordance with laws of nature is not the only causality from which the appearances of the world can one and all be derived. To explain these appearances it is necessary to assume that there is also another causality, that of freedom.


Antithesis
There is no freedom; everything in the world takes place solely in accordance with the laws of nature.
So in answer to your question, free will can be adequately defended simply by asserting that in addition to those causes that are not subject to our will (such as those that you have listed) there is also another kind of causality, that of freedom.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 23 Apr, 2010 01:43 am
@prothero,
prothero;155511 wrote:
That of course is not at all a fair representation of the libertarian free will position.
Libertarians do not wish to rescue free will from the fixed future of determinism only to fall prey to the random fluctuations of indeterminism.
Libertarians basically think you have the ability to do otherwise and that rational deliberation about alternative courses of action is meaningful and efficacious: that your wishes, desires, hopes, dreams and aspirations are not determined by the fixed laws of physics and chemistry;that your very strong notion of the presence of mind and the efficacy of will are not an illusion.
That people do have moral responsiblity and agency of will.

It is true that there is no direct explanation for how mental will can overcome the deterministic laws of physical and chemical systems. It is also true that appeal to the random indeterministic behavior of quantum scale systems does not provide liberatarian free will advocates with relief. It is also true that our knowledge of the nature of mind, relationship between the material and the mental and the basis of human behavior is very limited partial and incomplete. For me it would take an overwhelming amount of evidence to abandon the traditional notion of libertarian free will as the ability to do otherwise, the efficacy of rational deliberation and choice and the reality of human agency and hence moral responsibility for our actions.

It is far from proven that "libertarian free will" is meaningless or illusory.
Even though a scientific explanation for "libertarian free will" is lacking, I maintain that you do have "free will" pretty much in the form which you experience it. There is indeed much in human experience that science does not explain and lack of evidence is not proof of absence. The jury is still out and "agency, free will, belief in alternative future possiblities and moral responsiblity" are assumed in practice and indespensible aspects of human experience and social and cultural coherence.

Even many of the advocates of determinism (hard or soft) (compatiblists or incompatiblist) admit that our social and cultural notions of agency, will and moral responsiblity need to be retained for pragmatic reasons.


I agree there is free will. But Libertarians agree with Hard Determinists that free will and determinism are incompatible. Which (according to them) means that if an action is free, then it has not cause. How can a causeless action be a morally responsible action? That is the question. Free will without moral responsibility is just craziness. And pragmatism is not a ground for truth. The doctrine of the divine right of kings was maintained for pragmatic reasons by the ruling class, but the divine right of kings is not true.

Absence of evidence is evidence of absence if there is good reason to believe that if something were present, there would be evidence for it.

---------- Post added 04-23-2010 at 03:50 AM ----------

Deckard;155517 wrote:
Shoot, I messed up I thought you meant Libertarian in the political sense. Maybe there is some covert connection with politics that will redeem my mistake? No, probably not. I have since looked up the term "libertarian free will" and edited my post accordingly. Sorry about that. I think the Kant stuff may still be a worthwhile contribution.

Kant's 3rd antinomy is worth checking out. Kant argues both sides and concludes that reason alone cannot decide the question.

Here's a description of the two sides of the antimony.
I pulled from this website: Kant's 3rd Antinomy | The Mars Hill Club

So in answer to your question, free will can be adequately defended simply by asserting that in addition to those causes that are not subject to our will (such as those that you have listed) there is also another kind of causality, that of freedom.


But what on earth does it mean to say that freedom is a kind of cause? Just saying something does not mean it makes sense to say it. It is possible to speak nonsense too. You are not, I hope, saying that just having no cause is a kind of cause. I hope. That sounds like something that Reconstructo would say.
 
ughaibu
 
Reply Fri 23 Apr, 2010 03:02 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;155560 wrote:
Libertarians agree with Hard Determinists that free will and determinism are incompatible. Which (according to them) means that if an action is free, then it has not cause
Realists about incompatibilst free will hold the position that determinism is false, a position that makes no mention of cause. Realists about compatibilist free will, on the other hand, hold that determinism is true, and as determinism is incompatible with cause, compatibilists hold that actions have no cause. In short, you have things exactly backwards.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 23 Apr, 2010 06:20 am
@ughaibu,
ughaibu;155580 wrote:
Realists about incompatibilst free will hold the position that determinism is false, a position that makes no mention of cause. Realists about compatibilist free will, on the other hand, hold that determinism is true, and as determinism is incompatible with cause, compatibilists hold that actions have no cause. In short, you have things exactly backwards.


What is a realist about incompatibilist" free will, or compatibilist free will? That they really believe it is true despite how they feel about it. You make up these notions, use them, and you never explain them, but you expect others to be mind-readers. Since when to compatibilists hold that actions have no cause? What are you talking about?
 
Deckard
 
Reply Fri 23 Apr, 2010 06:43 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;155560 wrote:


But what on earth does it mean to say that freedom is a kind of cause? Just saying something does not mean it makes sense to say it. It is possible to speak nonsense too. You are not, I hope, saying that just having no cause is a kind of cause. I hope. That sounds like something that Reconstructo would say.


Quote:
there must exist an absolute spontaneity of cause, which of itself originates a series of phenomena which proceeds according to natural laws -- consequently transcendental freedom, without which even in the course of nature the succession of phenomena on the side of causes is never complete. - Kant presenting the thesis half of the 3rd antinomy
Freedom is the ability to be a cause that is not itself caused by something else.
 
 

 
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