Re: Heed Clarification on MW

From: <>
Date: Tue, 14 Dec 1999 17:42:27 +0100

>> I'm new in town, and it's a delight to follow your discussions!
>> On free will:
>> I'm inclined to doubt that free will as usually conceived is a coherent
>> idea. On the one hand, 'freedom', as a property pertaining to alterations
>> of mental states, connotes a mysterious suspension of causal influence from
>> the rest of the world. On the other hand, however, few would accept an
>> analysis in terms of _randomly_ engendered alterations.

At 12:19 14.12.99 +1100, Russell Standish wrote:
>Putting in the idea of downward causation is assuming something about
>how free will might work, so I'd be reluctant to assume this from the
>outset. All I mean by free will is that _I_ am able to make
>decisions. This is a phenomenon of the 1st person, and one that can be
>explained in a number of ways. One way is to say that this phenomenon
>is an illusion, however that answer is too glib for me. I have stated
>my own view on this, which is heavily influenced by Deutsch, so I
>won't repeat it here.

>The special connection relates to reconciling determinism and free
>will. Free will is of course completely possible in a
>non-deterministic single universe.

As I don't want to sidetrack the other debates, and suppose you've discussed
the compatibilism/incompatibilism issue before, I'll try to be brief:

If by free will you mean only your own ability to make decisions, it's hard
to see how determinism could hamper it. My oven is itself producing heat
however much it was predetermined. Similarly, you can make decisions even
though the content of those decisions are predetermined by the laws and
constants of physics: All it takes is for your option set to be >1 in the
relevant situations. Thus free will as decision-making is completely
possible also in a deterministic single universe, and there should be no
need to invoke MW.

In addition, the decision-making process comes with an experience of
initiative that would perhaps have no equivalent in a conscious oven. It
is _this_ experience that may be illusory (cfr. epiphenomenalism), and that
I suggest might be explained by emergence as downward causation. Please
excuse if I'm missing something obvious, but I can't see how the SW/MW
distinction makes any difference whatsoever in this context. Deutsch also
tries to analyze normative statements in terms of observer state
probabilities, which is even more unworkable for my money: QM does not
take you from "is" to "ought" any more than do General Relativity or

Please note: I expect no replies if you have been through this sort of
stuff before!

Gisle Tangenes
Received on Tue Dec 14 1999 - 08:45:31 PST

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