Emergence (Evolution)

by dhw, Tuesday, August 20, 2019, 08:54 (323 days ago) @ romansh

ROMANSH: […] If you are saying complex systems can result in complex patterns of behaviour, then I would agree.

You raised the subject of emergence in the context of free will, under the title “Emergence: not understood”. Free will would be impossible without consciousness, and I have tried to explain what I understand by consciousness emerging from the cells. I still don’t see what this has to do with the existence or otherwise of free will.

dhw 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:
There are clear arguments for and against both God and free will, and I can’t choose between them.

ROMANSH: Yes this is all fine. By modern definitions of "atheist" you could well be defined as one.

Atheism: the belief that God does not exist. Theism: belief in the existence of God or gods. (Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English) I have neither belief. What is your point?

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

dhw Behave? Not sure what you mean by “flavours”.

ROMANSH: By behave, I mean do you pray or worship to some deity on the odd occasion (other than any goddesses we may be attached to). Give thanks etc. Or do you go about your daily life as though there is no deity? Or perhaps you think this deity is in effect blind and uncaring, and to all and intents and purposes does not meddle in our lives?

I do not pray or give thanks to any deity. I simply do not know if there is such a thing. If there is, it may well be blind and uncaring. What is your point?

ROMANSH: My point is if someone put a gun to your head to force you to make a bet which way would you bet? Personally I would bet for "blind, unthinking universe that can produce all the complexities of life".

Then you are more atheist than theist. Now shoot me. I still don’t know what is your point! Back we go to free will:

ROMANSH: […] [Compatibilists] do define free will into existence […] But they do have interesting semantic debates on how we "could do otherwise" using the causal mesh. If you can have a go at this it would be much appreciated.

I have already done so, and you said my argument (see below for summary) was “fair enough” and then proceeded to ignore it and went straight back into your argument that there is no escaping the causal mesh.

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

ROMANSH: In the words of the famous sailor, Captain Haddock, "Balderdash!"
We should make sure our definitions match the phenomena we are trying describe. Not some half way house that might give a concept a fighting chance in a philosophical debate.

So you want to define free will out of existence and stop the debate!

ROMANSH: If we and our wills are a product of the causal mesh we find ourselves in what way are we free? Only in the trivial sense we do not have a gun to our heads, tumours etc. If cause is false, then I cannot be responsible for anything. Now if we find ourselves thinking we are partially free from this causal mesh how can we be sure our thought is not brought about by our ignorance of the causal mesh?

my link to what I think free will is, I should update it a bit.

You have defined free will as: The ability to act or to make choices independently of the environment or of the universe.

In the word you have quoted from the famous sailor Captain Haddock: “Balderdash!” You have indeed defined free will out of existence. You might as well say that if we had never existed (no universe, no life), or if there was nothing to choose from (no environment), we could not have had free will, and so free will does not exist. And yet you claim that compatibilists “change the definition” as if your definition was “the” definition. The basic premise before we even begin such a discussion is that we do exist and there are choices. Each of these is specific to an existing situation, and the question is whether we are or are not able to choose independently of external influences that force us into making one particular choice. I find your argument perfectly valid – we cannot escape the “causal mesh”, in which case there is no free will. You found my argument “fair enough” – all the influences that have made me what I am come together to form the “me” that takes the decision, and so it is “I” and no one and nothing else that makes the choice. Then there is free will. The issue is controversial, and a definition should not exclude one side or the other.

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