Free Will – once again – a problem with Trick’s postulate

Common Intuitions about Free Will (and how it needs to be defined)

Hi Trick,

If the universe were deterministic in the hard sense, then you would be correct in your deductions.

But that does not appear to be the case.

The universe seems to approximate causality in a softer sense, of being at base something quite different – being random within probability distributions.

In large aggregations (of time or “particles”) such systems can be very predictable, but at the level of individual events, they are not predictable in anything other than a statistical sense. Even pilot wave QM has that same characteristic, just in a different form. There is no escaping the quantum weirdness in a sense, it is and must be non-classical, but may not be Copenhagen interpretation. Uncertainty is fundamental to QM.

So QM seems to be clearly telling us that our universe is not hard deterministic, but only approximates determinism at certain levels.

QM also seems to be telling us that all things influence (in a probabilistic sense, though not in the sense of hard determinism) all other things.

In such a world of probabilistic influence, the nature of the boundaries between the systems is the greatest influence on the degrees of freedom that may develop between systems.

And there is no hard causal way of getting there.
One has to be willing to relax boundaries and experiment with the new paradigm, then make one’s own choice about the appropriateness of paradigms.

I agree with you in the sense that the hard blame form of morality is not appropriate, and one needs a more relaxed form of morality, that allows for degrees of influence, and accepts diversity, and acknowledges the need to bring asocial individuals back to being basically cooperative members of society, or to constrain them until they do; which does seem to be the basic Christian sort of message. And I write as a functional atheist (in the probabilistic sense of always retaining some degree of uncertainty about all things even as reality demands action instant by instant) myself, as someone committed to indefinite life extension, and to creating systems that minimise risk to individual life and maximise the degrees of freedom available to individuals within that, acknowledging that we all exist within social and ecological contexts which demand of us minimum levels of responsibility (so freedom is not a freedom to follow whim, but demands of us certain levels of consideration of reality, systems, ecology, and social structures before exploring our whims).

It seems to me, as someone with over 50 years of interest in the nature of consciousness, and having explored it from the directions of biochemistry, ontology, epistemology, systems, games, evolution – it is far from simple, and does in fact seem to be sufficiently complex that should we live for the rest of eternity, with exponentially expanding computational capacities, our maps will never quite be the territory – the dragons of chaos and uncertainty will remain on the charts if one looks closely enough at the detail. That sort of fractal nature does in fact seem to be part of this reality.

So in essence, I reject your prime postulate – of us existing in a hard deterministic universe, and make the strong claim that if one looks closely enough at broad enough sets of evidence, the evidence sets actually strongly support (in the probabilistic sense) the proposition that we live in a universe that only approximates causality at certain scales, and is probabilistic at base. Infinities seem to have that unsettling characteristic.

[followed by Trick linked to his post –]

Thank you for that – clarifies a little.

Without the substantive arguments – the statement “It means that both possibilities, determinism and indeterminism, are equally ‘incompatible’ with free will” still occurs as a statement of faith – rather than one based upon evidence and consideration.

My objection to the logic of this post remains. The statement is only coherent in the case of hard determinism.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see
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3 Responses to Free Will – once again – a problem with Trick’s postulate

  1. Free will is a wonderful idea (in a sequence of cause and effect — M.C.Escher-like — patterns).
    I used to partake in one on one philosophical conversations with Professor David Bohm. Bohmian mechanics does have some value. I really began a deep interest in philosophy when i read about the severing of the corpus callosum… producing two separate fields of consciousness.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Tom,

      I have never spoken to David Bohm, though I have listened to several of his lectures, and read some of his writings. His work is interesting, even if it seems a little “off track” to me. My perspective is more biological than Quantum Mechanical, though QM plays a part.

      I agree with you that his ideas are well worth considering, and being part of a greater mix.

      I’m a soft free will sort of guy.
      To me it is one of those “use it or lose it” kind of things, that starts small and limited and becomes more significant the more one uses and develops it.

      I have some rough idea of the sorts of mathematical and systemic underpinnings of the notions of freedom and influence, and of boundaries in complex adaptive systems, and of evolution more generally, and its deeply recursive nature.
      And there are several words in that sentence that seem to me to be of sufficient complexity that one could usefully explore any of them for the rest of eternity.

      So for me freedom is more about degrees of influence, and degrees of separation; deeply tied to the nature of the boundaries between systems, their permeability, elasticity, etc in various dimensions (potentially infinite). Only ever the sort of thing we might approximate, and not at all the sort of thing that is subject to hard specification.


  2. Pingback: Free Will again – Trick thread continues – Updated 30 April 2018 | Ted Howard NZ's Blog

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