UCSB Philosophy Blog

Members of the UCSB Department of Philosophy and anyone else are welcome to talk philosophy with us. Bring your own brain.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

I will choose free will

Hey folks. The Guerilla Radio Show returns to full power tonight with a show on Free Will. What is Free Will? How can I get some? If you choose not to decide, have you still made a choice? Check us out on KCSB 91.9 if you can get it on your radio. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell the KCSB webcast is currently not functioning, so if you're not in our radio listening area, you won't be able to hear the show until we archive it on the GRS website, which should be fairly soon after the broadcast.

And here's a quick philosophical/logical question for your blog-reading (dis)pleasure: if laws (of nature) are more than just regularities, but the laws of nature could have been different (e.g. E=mc2 might have been false), then is there a way to cash out physical necessity in terms of possible worlds? Here's the problem: Say we have a law of nature /\x(Fx->Gx), which is true in this world, but not necessary because in some worlds there are different laws. It looks like there's no way to make this law "necessary" in any weaker way that doesn't break down into making it a contingent regularity. If we say that it's physically necessary, in the sort of standard way of formalizing that ([](LP->/\x(Fx->Gx)), where LP is a proposition stating some specified set of laws of physics; thus, the laws of physics strictly imply the regularity), we end up with a proposition that's still contingently true, because making it "physically necessary" in this way just made it true in worlds where the laws of physics come out true. If it's contingent that these laws of physics hold, then it's no less contingent that our regularity holds, if it only holds where the laws of physics do. We seem to want to say: the laws could have been different, but given that they are such-and-such, this regularity necessarily follows. But the standard ways to formalize this can only render it as: there are regularities that hold in only some worlds (specifically, worlds where certain other regularities hold); this seems to lack entirely the "necessity" we're looking for. Unless I'm missing something, there doesn't seem to be an obvious way to formalize physical necessity in the non-Humean, "necessitarian" way that a lot of philosophers would like to assert it. If that's the case, then either this is a deficiency in possible worlds semantics (I believe, though I haven't here argued, that this problem generalizes to any semantics of modal logic given in an extensional metalanguage, including Lewis/Stalnaker counterfactuals), or it indicates an incoherency in "necessitarian" physical necessity: physical necessity either can't be cashed out in terms of truth in a certain set of worlds, or it can and it's thus nothing more than a contingent regularity. I hope this is stated clearly enough that you can see the problem; it's kind of off-the-cuff, though, so I wouldn't be surprised if it's obscure. Of course, you can leave a comment asking for clarification. :)


  • At 8:16 PM, Blogger Luke Manning said…

    Chaos on a stick, I'm telling you. Those of you who couldn't tune in to the radio show due to the webcast being down may be somewhat relieved to know that FM listeners didn't hear the show either. Well, to be more specific, they didn't hear anything from the microphones; this was due to a technical mixup at the station, whose origin was not with us. As Chris put it during the dead air, the Free Will show is hexed; last time it transmitted but didn't record, this time we were recording but not transmitting. At some point we'll put something up in the site's archives, but probably not all that soon since it's not a finished show. Sorry folks.

    Concerning my philosophical thing, I'm starting to wonder if I'm just confused about the whole thing. But that'll be determined soon enough. Over & out.

  • At 8:11 AM, Blogger Kevin Schutte said…

    This seems like a clear and cogent argument to me.

    So you've got "either this is a deficiency in possible worlds semantics...or...physical necessity either can't be cashed out in terms of truth in a certain set of worlds, or it can and it's thus nothing more than a contingent regularity."

    I opt for the middle of the three options (but only because I don't have the background to tackle the first option). I think the necessitarian, in accepting the claim that there is some more oomph (and I use a technical term here) beyond the truth of the contingent statement, has to admit that he cannot know the precise nature of the oomph.

    I'm working on an argument for this point in preparation for my qualifying paper. Here's the weenie version: If the Humean is wrong, then there must be something which distinguishes worlds in which all instances of causation turn out deterministically from worlds in which "God plays the dice" in just the right way such that all of the same events happen, but happen indeterministically. Furthermore, there seems to be an infinite number of ways in which all of the same events can happen indeterministically. (For any event, there is a world in which it was 50% likely, one in which it was 25% likely, one in which it was Pi% likely and so on.)

    I see no empirical way of separating these worlds, and figuring out which one is ours. It seems like any non-empirical attempt would be just as futile.

  • At 6:15 AM, Blogger Robert said…

    Who do you think has free will? You might say everyone; I would say no one. The Wikipedia Encylopedia describes free will …. The question of free will is whether, and in what sense, rational agents exercise control over their actions and decisions. Addressing this question requires understanding the relation between freedom and cause, and determining whether or not the laws of nature are causally deterministic.
    To the average person that is probably correct. But that in reality barley touches the answer. Free (Not in bondage to another) will (Faculty by which a person decides or conceives himself as deciding upon & initiating action). The first requirement to having free will is to be able to think and be aware of yourself as an entity (I think therefore I am). That would rule out all of the animal kingdom. The second requirement would be intelligence (that is understanding not cleverness) or the question is meaningless. The third would be to yourself to question and ask yourself if you had free will. The forth would be not let emotions have any bearing on all actions and decisions. For example, a parent has an adult child that has carried out many horrendous evil acts and is obviously mad. The way the parent views her/his child is very much influenced by the emotional fact that he/she is the parent. The parent does not have free will; the parent is in bondage to the fact that they are a parent. It is clear that if you have a mental problem you do not have free will. You cannot have free will for part of the time only. To have free will means that you have it continuously. It is logically correct to say that if you are not interested to know if you have free will you do not have it by definition. At this point, I would guess that I have eliminated 95% of the world’s population as not having free will. If you react instantly with an emotional response to ANY situation without correction, you do not have free will. I would say that raises it to 99% of the population without free will.
    At this point, consider the importance of free will. Without it all the ugliness and badness in the world is explained. Without it what is the difference between you and ALL the ugly predators that have inhabited the planet since life started here. You might say I am good and believe in God or I am a good atheist who wants the world to be better. But without free will, you are only a pawn/player in this world of ugliness.
    If you are an adult you have been in affect been severely brainwashed by everything that has taken place in your life. Your country of origin, culture, parents, friends, religion, education, books read, films, art, music, radio, TV, newspapers etc have all played a major part in your identity and how you view the world and your existence. Imagine that you suddenly came into existence with no previous identity or memory but you could think intelligently, read write and talk. You would have NO preconceptions at all. If in that theoretical situation and with free will what you make of the world and civilisation, what obvious conclusions would you come to? What would your first impressions of the world be? Would it be a world of intelligence, harmony, love or the complete opposite? Would each individual be concerned and want the best for every other individual. Would all share lovingly? Would there be no anger, hatred, murder, torture. Would there be an absence of greed? Would there be an absence of nonsense puerile religions? The answer is obvious. You would find a world of chaos with an awesome history of violence, pain and suffering. THINK, in your theoretical uncontaminated position could you possibly say that any one of them had free will? Do you think that the person who designs and makes nuclear weapons has free will? Do you think that the men and women in Russia who make the hundreds of thousands of Kalashnikov rifles that are used to kill have free will? Do the millions of men and women in the west who buy their pampered pets expense food while people starve have free will? Does the leader of a country or the head of a religious organisation living in luxury while others have only poverty with no hope have free will? Does the suicide bomber who blows himself up and everyone in his vicinity and thinks that he is going to paradise to be served by servile virgins have free will? Do the millions who smoke, over indulge in alcohol or are addicted to drugs have free will? Do ALL the six billion plus people on this planet who go about their daily lives and cannot see anything clearly have free will? The list could go on and on and I’m sure that you would be in there somewhere.
    If a just one person said to me..this world is ugly and worthless and if I could not change it completely I would without pain to anyone remove it I would know two things. The first is that the person would be intelligent. The second is that while he might not have complete free will he/she would be more than half way there.
    If you reply that, the answer is a man called Jesus or Muhammad not only have you not understood any of the previous and have no free will but you also have no intelligence.
    Why is the world as it is? Why do people cling on to the lie that there is more good than bad when it is obviously not so. Why do people think that they have free will when they do not? That is catch22. Only by having free will can you know and understand the answer to that question. If you do not want to know, you do not have free will and you are the same as the lion, tiger, monkey, dog, flea etc.. What a sorry uncorrectable state you are in.
    Robert robert77@fsmail.net


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