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April 17, 2012 / compassioninpolitics

More Free Will and Determinism

Freedom vs. Determinism Question:

Twelve or so concepts to jog your thinking on determinism (I’m not going so far as to be able to defend free will). So, its not an argument

Issue 1: Identity Bubbling Up (and Down)
1. I-ness and we-ness co-determine each other.
2. However, this is probably best re-phased I-ness and we-ness co-mingle.
3. It could be re-phrased as “influence.”
Both of these together or even independently–suggest that looking askew at these relations could yield different analysis of the relationships.

You could even go so far as to say that an overly-agressive materialism looks for cause and effect everywhere–which is a good thing–but also finds it everywhere (including where it might not exist).

Issue 2: Of Leaders, Followers, and Self-Fulfilling Prophesies
The idea of leadership vs. followership creates self-fullfilling prophesies of those identities. (this follows a bit of the science of learned helplessness as well as Bandura’s work, as well as the basic concepts of self-fulfilling prophesies).

If we act like leaders (or as self-determined individuals) the world looks more like a world with free choice. Conversely, if we get sucked into following other people–not looking at the world critically–it looks more like we are at the whims of other forces (particularly when the end result can be addiction). Those with self-control as going to look more like choosers on the one hand–and those without self-control may end up skewing results (particularly if there are too many in the study) as well as skewing our perception of the human experience. Arguably, this could have spillover effects in other virtues like courage, character, & responsibility–which you might say are subsets of leadership–depending on how you look at the world.

Pre-empt: this is not to say that leaders are 100% self-directed or non-influenced by outside forces.

Issue 3: Allegories & Metaphors
The application of the three blind man and the elephant allegory–is a metaphor to describe the situation of science, a numeric data, or statistical cause-effect relationship seeking thinker in terms of the free will question.

Although conversely, its possible to go with the guy looking for the drunk and the light post metaphor. ( Apparently called “the streetlight effect”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streetlight_effect . Incidentally, I ran across it via the book Super-crunchers, which is about data as a decision-making device, as I recall.) An extreme form of naturalism/materialism and fMRI studies may be looking for the wrong thing (although they will will probably find what they are looking for)

Issue 4: Defining “Determine” in Common Language & Science
Does the definition of “determine” mesh with our current beliefs about what science (and social science does)? Are we using the right words–when these relationships primarily express probabilities (particularly in social science)?

It seems that in a world of total determination–the probabilities would be all the same 100% (or that you would find a large number at between 90% to 100%). Admittedly, this is a straw person of sorts–but it feels like there is a grain of truth to it or some similar line of reasoning.

Issue 5: Groups & the Laws of Human Averages: A Discourse on What Scientific View May Leave Out
In most issues of social science–the question evaluates groups–where as decisions are made at the individual level. (This is some way may be a re-statement of 4b above). This seems to really lose sight of who the individual is–and only look at averages–only look at aggregates–only look at groups. Of course the issue of free will is going to be lost at 30,000 feet. While outliers are acknowledge–and even sometimes studied–the presence of outliers points to diversity in the human experience–and whole realms of possibility.

Diversity, diversity, diversity. Reality, the human experience, and the humanities seem to have something to say here–that our lives don’t always fit on a spread sheet–we are more than the sum of our skin and bones. Our relationships are deeply meaningful–our experiences of life on planet earth is something truly special and unique.

Issue 6: Universal Law versus Free Will–Its a False Choice
Freedom doesn’t entail the freedom from necessity (i.e. the laws of nature).
Not, sure what philosopher/theologian this is from, but I’m borrowing it.

Issue 7: Rider and Elephant Metaphor: Getting the Elephant Out of the Determinist Debate
The division of decisions into 2 types by some behavioral economists seems to suggest different ways to handle and think about decisions. You could arguably divide decisions into those in which the elephant or the rider is given priority. Our human instincts, which have deep biological roots–are likely to have a higher determinist-looking framework and may overshadow the parts of the human experience which point in the human direction. Without excluding those or bracketing them of in some sense–we lose perspective on our own role in our decisions.

Odd thought experiment–imagine an experiment which tests which decision-making model you prefer (data or emotions)–what would the results prove about human decisions as a whole? I’m curious about the ways in which bi-furcated decision making in experiments clouds those experiments. Also, the ways in which extremes (chocolate chip cookies vs. radishes) also may provide the appearance of stronger relationships than actually exist. Admittedly, in order to determine if a relationship exists–I think extremes are helpful, but for more in depth application–it seems you have to back off from some of the extremes…..or back off from the implications or conclusions some.

Issue 8: I Reflect Therefore I Am. (How the Determinist Argument Seems Self-Defeating, Anti-Rational, or at Least Paradoxical)
The issue of the uniqueness of human self-reflection–like the above arguments.
a) the ability to reflect
b) the ability to have the free will discussion. the ability to choose this discussion over others.
c) the ability to imagine

Issue 9: My Frontline Seat to the Question Free Will and Conciousness. Your Frontline Seat to the Question of Free Will and Conciousness
Internal experience verifies. Internal experience of conciousness is the closest description of conciousness we have.

Issue 10: Mapping Brains vs. Mapping towns.
The Map is not the territory http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Map–territory_relation

* This overlaps with the 30,000 foot issue earlier.

Issue 11: Free Will and Determinism is a Continuum.
Diagram

Issue 12: Acting With Free Will is the Best Path toward Progress, Evolution, and Excellence.
Acting as if free-will exists makes the most sense from a human potential, ethics, and utilitarian perspective. In fact, theres almost no perspective that it makes sense for a human to adopt an absolute determinist perspective. A combination of action, reflection, and improvement makes life happen. Helping create meaning helps drive lives and cancer cures. Admittedly, knowledge of some determinist forces can be helpful at the margins (I was put in a position where I didn’t have a lot of choices–or perceived I didn’t. Or a whole host of factors, including poverty contributed to X result in my behavior or the behavior of someone else). And, I do think studying those causal possibilities and relationship is important human endeavor which can provide light–but to assume that its the only light that is relevant to human decisions–is to ignore a whole host of human values and flourishing possibilities.

I think the work of Thomas Kuhn may apply–but I’m not entirely sure.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Kuhn

Not sure if this fits, but I thought you might find it a bit interesting.

———————————————————————————-

Three or four concepts to jog your thinking on determinism (I’m not going so far as to be able to defend free will). So, its not an argument

Issue 1:
1. I-ness and we-ness co-determine each other.
2. Re-phased I-ness and we-ness co-mingle
Both of these together or even independently–suggest that looking askew at these relations could yield different analysis of the relationships.
* even the word “determine” may be the wrong word–influence.

Issue 2:
The idea of leadership vs. followership creates self-fullfilling prophesies of those identities. (this follows a bit of the learned helplessness as well as Bandura’s work).

Issue 3:
The application of the three blind man and the elephant allegory–is a metaphor to describe the situation of science, a numeric data, or statistical cause-effect relationship seeking thinker in terms of the free will question.

One Comment

Leave a Comment
  1. trickslattery / Apr 18 2012 12:52 pm

    “Issue 12:Acting With Free Will is the Best Path toward Progress, Evolution, and Excellence.”

    I think just the opposite and am writing a book explaining why. I also go into great detail explaining why free will is incompatible with both a deterministic universe as well as an indeterministic universe.
    😉

    Take care,
    ‘Trick

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