RE: Decision theory

From: Higgo James <>
Date: Wed, 6 Jan 1999 14:16:23 -0000

Free will requires a will to be free, and a will requires a self. As there
is no such thing as a self, there can be no such thing as free will.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Gale []
> Sent: 05 January 1999 16:57
> To:
> Subject: Re: Decision theory
> Jacques Bailhache wrote:
> > I wonder if there couldn't be another possibility, neither determinism,
> nor
> > randomness, but free will, which I agree to be something rather
> mysterious.
> > This idea of description levels seems very important to me. This is
> perhaps
> > the key idea for understanding the spirit and its properties,
> consciousness,
> > free will and creative intelligence.
> > My idea is that the universe, and the living beings in particular, could
> be
> > made of an infinity of material organization levels : body, cell,
> molecule,
> > atom, particle, quark, ..., with different physical laws at each level.
> What is needed is an operational definition of "free will".
> I want some way to tell from *external* observations of
> a system whether it has free will. Can one come up with
> a definition such that humans show free will but electrons
> do not? I want to be able to apply the definition to a
> mechanical intelligence.
> It seems to me that this is likely to involve some notion of
> unpredictability. Since I do not want to include electrons
> as having free will, the unpredictability has to go beyond
> a statistical predictability.
> I agree that the levels notion is important, but would emphasize the
> emergent properties aspect rather than the compositional aspect.
> Thus molecules display huge variety which is barely present at the
> atomic level. Cells display self-reproduction which is barely present
> among single molecules. Multi-cell beings have such emergent properties
> as self awareness, intelligence, and values.
> A point of an operational definition of free will would seem to me to be
> that the values and intelligence of a person are not directly
> observable,
> but are inferred from their past actions. Having some notion of their
> values, some predictability is possible, but lack of precision in
> measuring values leaves a large amount of unpredictability. Since we
> are
> including autonomous agents for which establishing precise starting
> conditions is not possible or is ethically inadmissable, then this could
> only be tested on ensembles of beings.
> Problem: suicide would appear to be statistically predictable
> for ensembles of people, yet surely this is an act (the ultimate act??)
> of free will. Or is it? Well, it has to depend on age, culture,
> status within the culture, ... Age is rather clearly not a direct
> determinant, but an indicator for other variables not easily measured.
> So if there is only a residual variance after taking into account
> explanatory variables, then one might want to argue that
> not all of the suicides *had* exercised free will, even if they
> could have. But one would want to appeal to the residual variance
> to argue that free will was shown by some of the suicides
> (and non-suicides), and potentially available to all of them.
> Thus free will is shown if we cannot build a model that accounts
> for both the mean and variance from the single prediction of a
> probability for an ensemble.
> I believe this will exclude electrons (prepared spin up in x direction,
> spin measured in y direction), but I'm not at all sure it excludes
> amoeba. And it seems a rather weak concept if it is manifested by
> single cell creatures, so there are likely some basic ideas missing.
> Cordially,
> Gale
Received on Wed Jan 06 1999 - 06:20:10 PST

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