Re: Decision theory

From: Gale <>
Date: Thu, 14 Jan 1999 12:14:53 -0500

Jacques Bailhache wrote:
> Gale wrote :
> >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.
> Are you sure that
> - free will is externally observable ? (it could be only an internal
property of spirit, like consciousness)

Of course it is not directly observable, but then neither is spin.
And no, I am not at all sure I can clarify what external observations
are needed; more in a second.

> - electrons have no free will ? (cf Jean Charon)

Yes, *because*: My best theory of an electron does not include
free will and is excellent in its predictions of the behavior of an
(Although as a Bayesian, I almost never admit to certainty.)

Free will is part of a theory I use in predicting actions of other
Please note that I have limited knowledge and computing power and
so a system that is in principle deterministic may not be well predicted
by me.
This theory is almost certainly at best a Ptolemaic theory, one likely
to be replaced by far better theories several times, but maybe not in my

As part of a theory about other people I do infer free will from
their actions, and what I’m after is whether I can pin down
better just what leads me to infer it. It may just be a slop bucket
part of my theory: to the extent that I cannot predict the actions
of a system, I attribute it with free will.
> There is a continuity from the particle to the man (atom, molecule, cell,
simple animal).

I actually see discontinuity, but I can certainly grant that there is a

> If we consider that the particle has no spirit (free will, consciousness...)
> and the man has a spirit, we must put the separation somewhere. In this
> case, there must have been a being who had spirit and whose parent(s) had no
> spirit.

No problem. A non-chicken can give birth to a chicken according to
standard theory of evolution. The chicken egg precedes the chicken.

> >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.
> Spirit and its properties, consciousness and free will, seems to me too
> transcendental to be just emergent properties.

"Just"?? My word, this is the top of the scale for me. (Degradation,
stagnation, marginal improvement, and qualitative improvement being
below it). I’d be interested as to what status you think consciousness
and especially whether you see any non-human examples of something "too
transcendental to be emergent properties."

> ==========================
Jacques Bailhache

Thanks for your thought and interest, Jacques,
Bill Gale
Received on Thu Jan 14 1999 - 09:22:53 PST

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