Re: "Free Will Theorem"

From: Jonathan Colvin <>
Date: Mon, 11 Apr 2005 19:28:51 -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?


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 / deterministic 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? There is no contradiction between determinism / predictability and
free will, so long as free will is viewed as self-determinism.

Jonathan Colvin
Received on Mon Apr 11 2005 - 22:31:56 PDT

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