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Thread: Is libertarian free will coherent?

  1. #11
    See, the Thing is... Cow Poke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Thinker View Post
    But can you make an argument showing LFW is coherent?
    Not without exploding my brain.
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    tWebber The Thinker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seer View Post
    So again Thinker, are you appealing to my conscious reasoning or something else? And how do you know that your brain chemicals caused you to spit out a truism in this case, since conscious reasoning or deliberation play no role?
    You obviously want me to accept LFW is true. OK. Prove it's coherent first. I'm not asking you to prove it is true, just prove it is coherent. Do you understand that?

    Stop avoiding what you have to do - Make a positive argument showing LFW is coherent. Or admit it is not.

    This post is the one chance for all you believers to prove LFW is even coherent. If you can't this will be up here forever as a testament to the fact neither you, nor anyone can.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cow Poke View Post
    Not without exploding my brain.
    True.
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    If your whole worldview rests on a particular claim being true, you damn well better have evidence for it. You should have tons of evidence.

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    I believe humans have a 'Will' but it is not necessarily free in terms of Humans have a potential of 'Free Will,' but it is not often exercised.
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  5. #15
    Must...have...caffeine One Bad Pig's Avatar
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    Opening caveat: I'm probing here to increase my understanding, which isn't especially deep. It will be helpful if you don't see this as a full frontal assault, and provide thoughtful answers.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Thinker View Post
    Most participants on this site are religious to some extent and most seem to be Christians. Most Christians believe in libertarian free will.
    Correction: many Christians believe in libertarian free will. I would venture to say that most who believe in free will would have no idea what is meant by LFW. At least a significant percentage of Protestants are Calvinists, and given Augustine's strong stance on determinism and his vast authority in the Roman Catholic church, I'd venture to say that LFW is a minority position among Roman Catholics.
    That is, they reject determinism, are incompatibilists, and believe that our will, mind, and consciousness is not determined by anything and are free to choose any number of possible courses of action.
    On a subject this contentious, I wouldn't touch Wikipedia with a 10-ft. pole.
    Libertarian free will requires at least 3 things:

    (1) We are in control of our will
    (2) our mind is causally effective
    (3) in the same situation we could have done otherwise

    This view is popular among lay people but not among scientists and philosophers. Why is this? It's because libertarian free will is incoherent.

    One simple question to ask the libertarian is: do our thoughts have causes? Yes or no?

    If our thoughts have causes, what ever caused that can't be our will or our mind, because our thoughts are our will and mind. Saying that the soul causes the thoughts just pushes the issue back one step further, because the question now becomes, does the soul have a cause? If it does, then what ever caused it can't be the soul or the mind or the will, it has to be something other. And once you have that, you are essentially admitting that your will is not truly free, since it has a cause that is not us and that we cannot control.

    If our thoughts do not have causes, then you are saying that it begins to exist without a cause. This could violate the kalam cosmological argument's first premise (everything that begins to exist has a cause) and would essentially falsify it. If our thoughts had no cause they would be totally random fluctuations and it would be a mere coincidence that they had any connection to the physical world or reality.

    On top of that, the ability to choose your thoughts is logically impossible. You can't have a thought, about a thought, before you have a thought. You can't choose what your next thought, desire, or idea will be. In order to do that, you'd have to think about it, before you think about it. That's incoherent. If you can't choose your next thought, or any of your thoughts, how is your will or mind controlled by you, and in what sense is it free? It isn't. Thoughts arise in consciousness and we have no control over it.
    This does not seem to me to be a valid attack on LFW, but perhaps I'm misunderstanding something. AFAICT, LFW doesn't deal with how, for example, thoughts arise, but with how we respond to the thoughts which arise. Do thoughts have causes? Sure. They typically come from external or internal stimuli or our subconscious (which is a sum total of our lifetime stimuli and resultant thoughts). They can also come from spiritual sources.
    Right now I'm only asking for a justification of (1) above. (2) and (3) is a whole other argument that only adds to the difficulty the libertarian has.
    For starters, you could provide support for your assertion that LFW requires (1), (2), and (3). I didn't see any in your post.
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  6. Amen Carrikature, Chrawnus amen'd this post.
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    tWebber The Thinker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shunyadragon View Post
    I believe humans have a 'Will' but it is not necessarily free in terms of Humans have a potential of 'Free Will,' but it is not often exercised.
    Schopenhauer famously said, "A man can do what he wants, but not want what he wants."
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    If your whole worldview rests on a particular claim being true, you damn well better have evidence for it. You should have tons of evidence.

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    Quote Originally Posted by One Bad Pig View Post
    Correction: many Christians believe in libertarian free will.
    It is not controversial to say most Christians believe in libertarian free will. Calvinists are a percentage of Protestants and Protestants are a minority of Christians. Catholics are half the Christian population and the Catholic church accepts LFW. Protestants of the Lutheran interpretations also believe in LFW. That easily makes a majority.

    On a subject this contentious, I wouldn't touch Wikipedia with a 10-ft. pole.
    I'm pretty well educated in the subject and Wiki does a decent job summarizing the positions.

    This does not seem to me to be a valid attack on LFW, but perhaps I'm misunderstanding something. AFAICT, LFW doesn't deal with how, for example, thoughts arise, but with how we respond to the thoughts which arise. Do thoughts have causes? Sure. They typically come from external or internal stimuli or our subconscious (which is a sum total of our lifetime stimuli and resultant thoughts). They can also come from spiritual sources.
    LFW deals with both how thoughts arise and how we exercise our will. The exercise of the will is itself a thought in the mind which would face the same problems as the will itself. If thoughts have spiritual sources, what are those sources? Is that the soul? If so I already addressed that.

    For starters, you could provide support for your assertion that LFW requires (1), (2), and (3). I didn't see any in your post.
    Anyone who understand LFW knows that (1), (2) and especially (3) are required. If you deny any of these, you must deny free will. There's no way around it. If we don't have (1) how can the will be free in any sense if we have no control over it?
    Blog: Atheism and the City

    If your whole worldview rests on a particular claim being true, you damn well better have evidence for it. You should have tons of evidence.

  9. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Thinker View Post
    Most participants on this site are religious to some extent and most seem to be Christians. Most Christians believe in libertarian free will. That is, they reject determinism, are incompatibilists, and believe that our will, mind, and consciousness is not determined by anything and are free to choose any number of possible courses of action. Libertarian free will requires at least 3 things:

    (1) We are in control of our will
    (2) our mind is causally effective
    (3) in the same situation we could have done otherwise

    This view is popular among lay people but not among scientists and philosophers. Why is this? It's because libertarian free will is incoherent.

    One simple question to ask the libertarian is: do our thoughts have causes? Yes or no?

    If our thoughts have causes, what ever caused that can't be our will or our mind, because our thoughts are our will and mind. Saying that the soul causes the thoughts just pushes the issue back one step further, because the question now becomes, does the soul have a cause? If it does, then what ever caused it can't be the soul or the mind or the will, it has to be something other. And once you have that, you are essentially admitting that your will is not truly free, since it has a cause that is not us and that we cannot control.

    If our thoughts do not have causes, then you are saying that it begins to exist without a cause. This could violate the kalam cosmological argument's first premise (everything that begins to exist has a cause) and would essentially falsify it. If our thoughts had no cause they would be totally random fluctuations and it would be a mere coincidence that they had any connection to the physical world or reality.

    On top of that, the ability to choose your thoughts is logically impossible. You can't have a thought, about a thought, before you have a thought. You can't choose what your next thought, desire, or idea will be. In order to do that, you'd have to think about it, before you think about it. That's incoherent. If you can't choose your next thought, or any of your thoughts, how is your will or mind controlled by you, and in what sense is it free? It isn't. Thoughts arise in consciousness and we have no control over it.

    Right now I'm only asking for a justification of (1) above. (2) and (3) is a whole other argument that only adds to the difficulty the libertarian has.

    So what's a libertarian free will believer to do? Here are some typical nonstarter responses:

    1. If we don't have free will moral responsibility goes out the window!

    This is an informal fallacy known as an appeal to consequences. The undesirable consequences of a thing say nothing about whether it is false. For example, creationists will often say, "If we evolved then we're just animals. I don't like that, so evolution is false." This is a fallacious way of reasoning. The undesirability of being related to monkeys says nothing about whether evolution is true.

    2. If we don't have free will rationality goes out the window!

    This is similar to an appeal to consequences but not quite. If libertarian free will itself is not coherent and its coherency cannot be established, then you cannot claim that without it there is no rationality. You'd be arguing from a square-circle.

    Basically, I want to challenge all believers in libertarian free will to make a positive argument for the coherency of libertarian free will. I don't need every single detail explained, I just need you to show how it is even logically coherent and not self-refuting. Or, admit that you can't. So who is up to the challenge? I want respondents to focus on the positive argument for LFW, not fallacious appeals to consequences.
    By "logically coherent," I suppose you mean "not self-refuting."

    I propose to show that libertarian free will, if that is real, is not rational (that term is to be strictly defined and applied accordingly).

    For now I simply postulate that any given human has a choice of distinct actions to undertake every conscious moment. One exception is that he cannot choose to do literally nothing--he always must take action even if it is to simply continue his present course of action. How is he to make a choice of several possible actions? An example may be, 1) wash the dirty dishes in the sink; 2) watch the Star Wars movie; 3) go for a walk in the neighborhood park; 4) finish the thank-you note to Aunt Sara. Whatever his choice may be, his reasons for making that choice cannot be exhaustive and in toto sufficient to justify it. In other words, the choice is not rational in a sense.

    It is possible that the choice cannot be wholly irrational, either, because it is possible that the human applied logic to his decision-making, perhaps to reject some of his possible choices as impossible.

    That is an incomplete argument, but I await questions or objections.
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  10. #19
    tWebber Carrikature's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Thinker View Post
    Why is this? It's because libertarian free will is incoherent.
    Barely into the first post and already begging the question.


    Quote Originally Posted by The Thinker View Post
    If our thoughts have causes, what ever caused that can't be our will or our mind, because our thoughts are our will and mind.
    More begging the question. And really? Thoughts can't give rise to other thoughts?


    Quote Originally Posted by The Thinker View Post
    On top of that, the ability to choose your thoughts is logically impossible.
    More begging the question.


    Quote Originally Posted by The Thinker View Post
    You can't have a thought, about a thought, before you have a thought. You can't choose what your next thought, desire, or idea will be. In order to do that, you'd have to think about it, before you think about it. That's incoherent. If you can't choose your next thought, or any of your thoughts, how is your will or mind controlled by you, and in what sense is it free? It isn't. Thoughts arise in consciousness and we have no control over it.
    I agree this is incoherent, but it's because you've made up a bunch of things that no one actually claims. You don't have to choose your next thought for LFW to exist. That's a strawman. Free will relies on action (i.e., the ability to choose which thoughts to act upon), not control of the thoughts themselves.
    I'm not here anymore.

  11. Amen Chrawnus amen'd this post.
  12. #20
    tWebber Carrikature's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by One Bad Pig View Post
    This does not seem to me to be a valid attack on LFW, but perhaps I'm misunderstanding something. AFAICT, LFW doesn't deal with how, for example, thoughts arise, but with how we respond to the thoughts which arise. Do thoughts have causes? Sure. They typically come from external or internal stimuli or our subconscious (which is a sum total of our lifetime stimuli and resultant thoughts). They can also come from spiritual sources.
    You're correct with a caveat. Philosophy of the mind and free will discussions are very closely linked. What you think the mind is and how it works will directly inform your view on free will.


    Quote Originally Posted by One Bad Pig View Post
    For starters, you could provide support for your assertion that LFW requires (1), (2), and (3). I didn't see any in your post.
    Technically, (3) isn't required though it's often claimed to be. (1) and (2) are more or less inherent to what free will is: that you can choose your actions, and that your choices can be effected. I will say that (2) is somewhat arguable, but I don't know many people that see any point in claiming you have free will if you can't make your choices become reality.


    Quote Originally Posted by One Bad Pig View Post
    Opening caveat: I'm probing here to increase my understanding, which isn't especially deep. It will be helpful if you don't see this as a full frontal assault, and provide thoughtful answers.
    What's your current understanding? I'd like to help, but we need a good starting point. For what it's worth, I think there's a pretty big disconnect between 'libertarian free will' and 'free will as it's understood by laymen'.
    I'm not here anymore.

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