FW: "Free Will Theorem"

From: Brent Meeker <meekerdb.domain.name.hidden>
Date: Thu, 14 Apr 2005 11:53:42 -0000

-----Original Message-----
From: Brent Meeker [mailto:meekerdb.domain.name.hidden]
Sent: Thursday, April 14, 2005 11:25 AM
To: "Hal Finney"
Subject: RE: "Free Will Theorem"

>-----Original Message-----
>From: "Hal Finney" [mailto:hal.domain.name.hidden]
>Sent: Thursday, April 14, 2005 4:25 PM
>To: everything-list.domain.name.hidden
>Subject: Re: "Free Will Theorem"
>Stathis Papaioannou writes:
>> This is more or less the point I was trying to make: philosophical
>> discussion leads to "a troubling entaglement that seems to lead to
>> contradictions". I return to what I called a definition but I should
>> probably have called a description of the basic phenomenon we are
>> discussing:
>> A decision I make is "free" when I feel that I could have decided otherwise.
>> Is this OK as a starting point, before we start analysing what it
>all means,
>> and regardless of what the ultimate conclusion is going to be? I'm not
>> saying anything controversial yet; I'm simply describing under what
>> circumstances I get this "free will" feeling, whatever that is.
>It's probably OK, but it seems a little ambiguous. Do you mean that you
>"feel" this in a naive way, before giving it any philosophical thought?
>Or do you mean that you still feel this after considering, for example,
>that you live in a deterministic and/or random universe?
>And worse, that if you live in a multiverse, then your choice in fact was
>no choice at all and was rather the subjective experience of a splitting
>of the multiverse into two parts, one part where you made one choice and
>one part where you made the other? Would you still feel that you could
>have decided otherwise if this was your mental model of the universe?

I don't understand this equating conscious choice with multiple-world
splitting. The latter is a QM interpretation - but we have no reason to
believe that the evolution of brain states corresponding to a choice is QM. In
fact Tegmark in his analysis, says the brain is essentially classical.

>> Now, a philosopher comes along and tells me that in fact, I am mistaken. I
>> could not actually have decided otherwise, because my brain was following a
>> script predetermined by the laws of physics. Or, just as bad, I could have
>> "decided" otherwise, but it would have been due to random events in my
>> brain, and thus it have no more been my "decision" than if I had been
>> enslaved to the outcome of a coin toss.
>> First, I might point out that the philosopher is putting words in my mouth.
>> I never claimed that my cerebral decision-making processes were not random
>> or not deterministic. All I claimed was that I get the free will feeling
>> when I *feel* I could have decided otherwise. I may not know much about
>> physics or philosophy, but I certainly know how I feel! If I learn that my
>> brain is actually based on an old poker machine, that is interesting, but I
>> still feel the way I feel.
>Doesn't this require a degree of cognitive inconsistency or dissonance,
>in which you must separate your knowledge of the nature of reality from
>your instinctive feelings about your behavior?

I don't see why. The "feeling I could have done otherwise" isn't knowledge
about how I made my decision. And really, as far as I or anyone else knows, I
could have done otherwise. Evolutonarily, this feeling may provide a benefit
by causing you to reflect on your decisions and their consequences and to learn
from them. So the feeling might be better characterized as "I could do
otherwise if the situtation arises again."

>> On the other hand, I might aknowledge that my feeling of freedom is not
>> actually consistent with the particular interpretation of the term
>> the philosopher is trying to foist on me. In other words, if
>"freedom" means
>> "not bound by determinism or randomness", then I could not possibly
>be free,
>> simply because there is no third alternative to determinism or randomness!
>> In this case, I would have to admit that my "free will" feeling is
>> quite peculiar, with no correlate in the real world. Fine: let's
>say this is
>> what it is. My subjective experience of free will remains unchanged, my
>> behaviour remains unchanged, and my attitude towards other people (also
>> exercising this strange, non-free, non-random, non-deterministic free will
>> thing) remains unchanged.
>I guess I'm having trouble understanding this subjective experience
>of free will. It seems to require a somewhat sophisticated degree of
>self-modelling and self-understanding, in order to model the concept
>that your mind could have behaved differently and made a different

I'd say it's a *lack* of self-modeling. It's not a theory about how my brain
could have done otherwise. It's just a feeling or intution - one that is not
present when I'm coerced.

>Yet it is blind to other physical realities. Aren't you just
>lying to yourself? Or do you really have this "feeling" as a direct,
>pre-rational self-perception, like the experience of redness or of pain?
>I'm not sure I have any such feeling, but perhaps I have internalized
>the philosophical arguments so much that they have contaminated this
>"pure" self-perception that you describe.

But are you so sure of "other physical realities"? And which theory have you
internalized - that your decisions are deterministic or that they are random?

Brent Meeker
Received on Thu Apr 14 2005 - 15:58:31 PDT

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