Emergence: not understood (Evolution)

by dhw, Saturday, August 17, 2019, 11:25 (95 days ago) @ romansh

dhw: No, I don’t have a model.

ROMANSH: Then how can you say something is more than the sum of the parts … if there is no model?

There is no model which can prove that consciousness emerges from the individual cells of the brain! All we can do is draw analogies that seem to point to this being a possible process (I'm neutral on the subject). I offered the ant colony and life itself. Do you want me to call them models? OK, then, they are models. What does that prove?

dhw: ...but I would point out that lack of belief is very different from disbelief. I am an agnostic because I neither believe nor disbelieve in a God. Ditto free will.

ROMANSH: First part … you lack belief in god … unless of course you are an agnostic theist.

Yes, I lack belief in God. I also lack disbelief in God. I also lack belief in a blind, unthinking universe that can produce all the complexities of life. But I also lack disbelief in such a universe. I have explained my agnosticism to you, as follows:
dhw There are clear arguments for and against both God and free will, and I can’t choose between them.

ROMANSH: Yet you will behave as though there is or is not certain flavours of God.

Behave? Not sure what you mean by “flavours” either, but in my discussions with David, a theist, of course I consider different versions of his God’s possible nature, purpose and methods. Not knowing whether God exists or not doesn’t stop anyone from speculating on these matters.

DAVID: Similarly for free will. For example do you find yourself thinking "so and so" should not have done that and could have done otherwise?

Of course I do. The choices are always there – that is essential to the whole concept of free will. But then I have to ask myself whether so and so was capable of doing otherwise, i.e. whether the principle of cause and effect is such that he/she had no choice, or the sum of causes and effects has produced his/her unique and individual identity and so his/her choice of action was entirely his/her own and nobody else's and was NOT forced upon him/her by any external constraints or influences. It’s a common problem, sometimes even in law, when the degree of responsibility becomes an issue.

dhw However, your point about definition is crucial. I vaguely remember you coming up with one that automatically precluded free will: something along the lines of decision-making that is independent of the universe.

ROMANSH: Similar … yet people do believe their decision making can be somehow independent of all the causal influences that rain down upon them.

Round we go in our circle: we can say that our cells and our upbringing etc., and the fact that we wouldn’t be here if there wasn’t a universe, have forced us into our decision (no free will), or we know all these things made us what we are, but what we are is us and no one else, and no one and nothing else forced us to make the decision, and so the decision was ours alone (free will).

dhw: I don’t know what you mean by “changing the definition” anyway.

ROMANSH: This is what compatibilists tend to do.

Please tell us your version of the one and only, objectively correct definition of “free will”.

dhw – we must agree on a definition before we even begin a discussion. I wish I could remember my own, which I know I modified after our discussions. Perhaps something like: an individual’s ability to make choices and decisions independently of external constraints and influences.

ROMANSH: when you say external constraints doe this include the way the behaviour of matter is constrained by say physics?

You might as well ask me whether it includes the fact that without a universe I would not be alive and therefore the existence of the universe is a constraint. By implication, you are therefore trying to defining free will out of existence, just as you accuse compatibilists of trying to define it into existence. Your question is fair enough, though, so let's run around the circle again. If my answer is yes, my definition will lead to the conclusion that there is no such thing as free will. If my answer is no, because I do not regard general physical laws or the existence of the universe to have had any direct influence on my choice of action in a particular given situation, then my definition will lead to the conclusion that there is such a thing as free will. In my own personal case, my definition leads to the conclusion that I do not know if there is such a thing as free will, because I do not know which of these two answers is objectively correct.

dhw: At least that would provide a starting point. Then we would enter into all the pros and cons we have already discussed.

ROMANSH: We could define free will into existence, and we'll find all sorts of things could have free will. Also it will miss out on the consequences of matter being constrained by the way it tends to behave.

We should make sure that our definition is neutral. So what is yours?


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