RE: "Free Will Theorem"

From: Jonathan Colvin <>
Date: Sun, 10 Apr 2005 23:48:03 -0700

Norman Samish wrote:
> If "free will" simply means "self-determination" then
> Jonathan is right, and to the extent we are self-determined
> we have free will. He says, "the only relevant question as
> to whether our will is free is whether our conscious minds
> (our selves) determine our actions."
> But what about the sufferers of schizophrenia who Stathis
> Papaioannou referred to? They exercise self-determination,
> and their mental state is such that their actions, at least
> in some cases, are completely predictable.
> Do they have free will?

I don't see that the actions of schizophrenia patients are any more
predicatable than yours or mine. In fact, people suffering from this disease
are often *less* predictable (which is why schizophrenia can sometimes be
dangerous). To the extent that their actions are controlled by their
conscious minds, they have free will. If they feel they are being "forced"
to act contrary to their will (speculatively, perhaps by *random* excitation
of parts of their brain) I would suggest that they do *not* have free will
in such cases, because their actions are not willed by their conscious
minds. In this case randomness is contrary to free will, illustrating why
basing free will on unpredictability is a fallacy.

> Another example might be a self-aware computer of the future
> that would be programmed to have predictable actions as well
> as self-determination. Would it have free will?

Yes. Although what do you mean by "predictable"? Its actions might be
predictable only insofar as an identical program subjected to identical
stimulus would give identical actions (its actions might be predictable but
computationally irreducible).

> In both cases, the actions of the Self-Aware Organism are
> predictable, hence their will is not free. They are bound by
> their destiny.

I don't see how mere predictability is incompatible with free will. Your
actions too are predictable. If I set you in the middle of a highway with a
large bus heading for you, I predict you will move out of the way, unless
you are suicidal. Does that mean *you* do not have free will?

> To have free will, the actions of a SAO cannot be completely
> predictable.

Why not?

Jonathan Colvin
Received on Mon Apr 11 2005 - 02:52:06 PDT

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