Sunday, August 05, 2007

Free Will Fantasy


I just needed some time to think it through. Now what was so confusing has become simple at last. I just need to pretend that I actually can make choices. After all, up until now I have been pretending that there is a God and that Jesus is His Son. With all that practice, it should be a no brainer to pretend like the decisions I make have consequences over which I need to concern myself.

Come to think of it, I have been pretending just that all my life. Since I have never considered seriously such contentions from philosophy like "everything being in my head" as being something to seriously ponder, the pile of such discards has included no free will.

I really need to pretend these things, because our entire Western way of thinking is based on volition. The jurisprudence system is based on intent and reasonable man. Our constitution set out the idea of the peons ruling the rulers by making and informed decision. Our commerce is based on consumer choice.

Wonder if there are other aspects of what we think we know scientifically that will require us to pretend to accept the unscientific? First God. Then free will. What next?

4 comments:

Hey Skipper said...

I really need to pretend these things, because our entire Western way of thinking is based on volition. The jurisprudence system is based on intent and reasonable man. Our constitution set out the idea of the peons ruling the rulers by making and informed decision. Our commerce is based on consumer choice.

As they all should be, and justfiably so.

IMHO, you should address the questions raised in previous threads before starting whole new ones on the same subject.

Randy Kirk said...

I understand your concern and will try to do so. My reasons for starting new threads is that sometimes it seems like there needs to be a bit of a new start.

bernardo said...

I just need to pretend that I actually can make choices.

But you can make choices. They're just not quite as unpredictable as you wish they were.

After all, up until now I have been pretending that there is a God and that Jesus is His Son.

No, you have been assuming that there is a God and Jesus is his son. You have been pretending that to assume otherwise is unreasonable.

... it should be a no brainer to pretend like the decisions I make have consequences over which I need to concern myself.

Your decisions do have consequences. If you make them in a careless way, you are less likely to get what you want/like/need. The world may not be perfectly predictable, and your happiness may not be perfectly predictable, but if you try and figure out what actions lead to optimized happiness, you'll be right enough of the time to make that figuring-out worthwhile.

Just because optimizing our behavior to lead to greater happiness might be deterministic, doesn't mean it's not worth doing. I want what I want, I like what I like, and I need what I need, even if I am just a computer.

Since I have never considered seriously such contentions from philosophy like "everything being in my head" as being something to seriously ponder, the pile of such discards has included no free will.

You still haven't really defined what "free will" is. You know your own decision-making process well enough that determining whether or not you have free will depends only on what it is you call "free will".

Our entire Western way of thinking is based on volition. The jurisprudence system is based on intent and reasonable man. Our constitution set out the idea of the peons ruling the rulers by making an informed decision. Our commerce is based on consumer choice.

Just because choices might not be completely unpredictable, this does not change the fact that some choices are less desirable than others, or that choice-making is not an essential right or a pillar of modern society. Choice-making is how people optimize a society (and a market) to be more fair (and more efficient), so that they sacrifice only what is needed in order for them to get what they need. This does not rely on choice-making being non-deterministic.

The question of "Why punish people who make choices that harm others if those choices were inevitable" deserves its own blog post, but I don't think I can answer it any better than this video does.

Wonder if there are other aspects of what we think we know scientifically that will require us to pretend to accept the unscientific? First God. Then free will. What next?

You're really going to need to explain that better. But I'll take a swing at it anyways: In order to make sense of the world, we make assumptions that are not provable. Science assumes that the worls is naturalistic (no supernatural influence) and repeatable (same rules over time), and does not claim that these things can be proven. You don't have to pretend to believe in anything, since nothing is absolutely true. Things are only true if certain assumptions are true. In general it is reasonable to make certain non-provable assumptions, like "I share a common physical reality with intelligent beings like myself" and "the behavior of beings and of matter follows rules" and "other people suffer just like I suffer". From these assumptions we construct beliefs, rules, rules of thumb, theories, and models. Are those constructs "true"? Only are true as the assumptions, which are unverifyable, so the constructs must be verified pragmatically. in other words, who cares what is true? We propose models and determine empirically how well they work. That way you don't have to "pretend" anything, since observations can tell you which system of beliefs matches the real world the best. And when multiple systems of belief match the real world very well, but rely on different sets of assumptions whose consequences some people dislike, then those people are free to pick the system of belief they want.

You don't have to pretend or believe anything. Anything could be false, nothing is provable, assumptions are just assumptions. Now that you realize this, you can start building a system of beliefs with a solid foundation, in a way where you are honest about "how" you "know" each of its components.

I don't claim to have done this as thoroughly as I wish. But you do need to stop asking these questions in a way that implies they are rhetorical. It's not hard to think about this stuff if you attack it methodically, and guide your methods along the ideas and inquiries made by previous thinkers. You're not the first person to ask these questions, you know... ;]

Randy Kirk said...

Bernardo,

I really thought that we were plowing new ground here every week. : ) Surely we have uncovered at least once completely unexamined idea in the last 8 months.

Ok. I am a pragmatist of the highest order. Let see is this another example of recursion: Non-fiction writer/pragmatist.

Therefore I understand fully your model approach to science or daily living. Of course, I would maintain that just such a model provides me with all the pragmatic reasons I need to believe in God, Jesus, the Bible, etc. And, based on your above comment, and earlier comments, you would probably agree with my arriving at that conclusion by that method.

At some point we have folks killing each other over their various pragmatically arrived at assumptions about how things work. Maybe more immediately, those assumptions determine a subset of ideas about how governance should work. Thus we end up with no set of absolutes upon which to base the rules.

Since I no longer like my 14 year-old child, and she is tearing up my family, and she is making life miserable for everyone, she should be A) lovingly parented with prayer and hope; B) sent to a boarding school; C) kicked out of the house; D) Committed to a mental institution; E) Beaten to within an inch of her life, and/or confined to a closet in the basement; E) Set on an ice flow.