Skip to content

You Don’t Have Free Will, Which Is Why You Make Such Bad Choices

Stream: You Don’t Have Free Will, Which Is Why You Make Such Bad Choices

There is a special kind of stupid achievable only by the intelligent (I resemble this remark). I’d ask you to pardon me for such a harsh statement, except that I can’t.

I didn’t have a choice but to say it. You didn’t have a choice in how you reacted to it. And if philosophy professor Tamler Sommers is right, nobody has any choice in anything they do.

Sommers says “recent advances in cognitive neuroscience” show that we must “abandon the deeply problematic concept of free will and ultimate moral responsibility.” We “feel free” and “We feel responsible”, but we are not.

One reason we don’t choose to leave behind the belief we can make choices is “is that the ethical implications of denying free will and moral responsibility seem terrifying.”

That sentence might not have been clear, so let me restate it. Sommers argues we have to abandon the idea we choose our actions. Only then will we make better choices. If we accept we are not morally responsible for our behavior, then our behavior will become more moral.

Be Not Afraid

There is not much sense in those renditions, either. Because there is no sense in Sommers’s position. If we cannot make choices, we cannot make choices. We can’t freely acknowledge we can’t make choices if we can’t make choices. If we are not morally responsible for what we do, then there are no immoral or moral acts.

Sommers is not alone in disbelieving in free will. Many modern philosophers agree with him. They acknowledge we common folk feel like we have free will, but they argue we are suffering an illusion.

Yet this is impossible. In order to have the “illusion” of making a free choice, a person had to have the ability to freely make a choice. As Alfred R. Mele says in Free: Why Science Hasn’t Disproved Free Will, “If there is an illusion…it’s the illusion that there’s strong scientific evidence for the nonexistence of free will.”

There just is no philosophically consistent argument against free will. The acres of paper darkened with ink on this subject always end in absurd spectacle: a philosopher arguing why you have to freely choose to not believe in free will. And the implied farcical cry, “I do not have free will!”

The First Mistake

Why do philosophers like Sommers make this mistake? For two reasons.

The first is []

You have no choice: you must click here to read the rest.

76 thoughts on “You Don’t Have Free Will, Which Is Why You Make Such Bad Choices Leave a comment

  1. Seems to me that if a person can only choose what they perceive as the best choice then you are saying a person who chooses something different from you is responsible (punishable, even) for not seeing things the way you do. As if there’s somehow a choice in believing what you believe.

    Does anyone think that a lack of free means society would be unable to deal with, say, murders? Why? People with deadly communicable diseases can be quarantined — effectively imprisoned. Did they have a choice in contracting the disease? Why can’t we treat murders similarly?

  2. Briggs is battling against a summary of Sommers’ article that he found on a creationist website. (The original is from 2004, but for some reason the Discovery Institute decided to dig it up and complain about this this week). So it’s not surprising that he gets some things wrong. For example, Sommers does not say that people do not make choices. In fact, that they do make choices is implicit in his argument.

    In short, average Briggs.

  3. Lee,

    You had no choice but to say that, and no choice but to miss the quotes pulled directly from Sommer’s article, you little biochemical automaton, you.

  4. I didn’t miss them. You missed, and still miss, all the distinctions that you would need to understand in order to discuss this area intelligently; for example, the distinctions between various kinds of choices and “free will”. The ideas you think you are opposing may be faulty in many ways, but you would have no way of knowing that.

  5. It takes a special kind of stupid, normally available only to intellectuals, to believe that there can be no belief, to think that there can be no thought, and to choose not to make choices.

    Repeat after me – social justice warriors (SJWs – a subclass of leftists of which professors of philosophy are generally members) always lie. SJWs always project. SJWs always double down.

    Lee – If you believe that the proposition that there is no such things as intelligence, thought, choice, or free will, as the referenced article/topic argue, then you can not yourself choose to wish to conduct an intelligent debate on the subject. Your comments are merely the accidental result of a billion trillion monkeys pounding away on keyboards forever, or rather a multitude of neurons firing in a deterministic chemical pattern that was predetermined when the stars were born out of the gaseous firmament.

    The proposition refutes itself. A is always A, and is never Not-A. Or, as was more ably sung by Rush, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mEzgc_ne60

  6. Briggs should have linked Sommers’ post instead of another commentary on that post

    http://www.naturalism.org/philosophy/free-will/darrow-and-determinism

    (He probably didn’t have a choice)

    Briggs :: If you had read Sommers’ post instead of someone else’s comments on it (once or twice removed), you might have come away with on different understanding.

    Sommers is almost saying exactly what DAV suggests, that once a crime has been committed, it might be necessary to incarcerate [quarantine] the perpetrator. What Sommers is ultimately saying is that we can’t feel smug and morally superior about the choices we make compared to the choices of others (criminals). Their actions may well be a product of heredity and environment.

    Sommers’ main thesis is to prevent these crimes. He doesn’t exactly say, he likens crime to natural disasters and how we tape and board windows for hurricanes, make our building structurally sounder for earthquakes and vacate trailer parks for tornadoes. What actions we take to ameliorate crime is left to the student.

    Sommers’ post is over 13 years old.

  7. John B():

    Don’t get your hopes up. This is a guy who printed fake climate news from the semi-pornographic Daily Mail, stood by it even after I warned that it was fake, and has failed to correct even after the Daily Mail itself retracted the article and admitted that it lied. Both here and at at Stream, which seems to have editorial standards of a similar integrity.

  8. Not saying that I agree with Lee nor Sommers; it’s just both are being misunderstood.

    Argue what they say, not what you think they said.

    Briggs does “quote” from Sommers (quotes not in the other commentary), so apparently he did go to the source; but taking those quotes out of context does not easily argue against his thesis.

    As Ravi pointed out about naturalism, IF everything IS all about genes and genetics, how more interesting are Christ’s words that “You must be born again”!

  9. Lee

    You have to know (from past posts) that I like, appreciate and most times agree with Briggs.
    I have complained in the past when he’s used “dodgy” sources for his posts. (I think he might have grudgingly updated a post -or provided a comment with better links- because of my complaints.)

    The old honey and vinegar thing sometimes applies when you comment – just saying

    (Not sure of the fake climate news you refer to)

  10. “Not saying that I agree with Lee nor Sommers”

    The only position I’ve taken here is that one should be acquainted with someone’s argument before trying to critique it. Strange that this should be controversial.

  11. John B,

    Another quote: ” A terrible crime, then, should be viewed like the effects of a hurricane or an earthquake. There is no one to blame but nature (and nurture) itself.” From that we rightly infer the criminal had no choice. And from that we infer nobody has any choice, unless we believe it is only criminals who are free from free will.

    Good thing Sommers’s post was only 13 years old. From 14 and on, the material no longer counts.

    Dodgy source? Intelligent design is trivially true.

    Lee,

    Remove “semi” from your charge of the Daily Mail and we agree. But we also do not fall prey to the genetic fallacy.

    Another quote: “Indignation, outrage, resentment, and hatred are everywhere, and all of these attitudes are grounded in an unjustifiable philosophical premise: that people can be ultimately responsible for their actions.”

    From that we deduce people aren’t free, etc. etc. etc.

    That includes me. I am not responsible for saying these things. So nyah nyah nyah.

  12. Matt once again alludes to what could roughly be called the Argument From Persuasion: if we don’t have free will, why bother trying to persuade someone that we don’t have it?

    That particular argument, at least absent much more precision, is rather weak, as the act of ‘trying to persuade someone of something’ is readily seen within the animal kingdom. Animals attempt to ‘persuade’ each other all the time: ‘Stay out of my territory’; ‘procreate with me instead of some other male’, etc. What’s the ‘point’ of that, given that animals lack free will (as every Thomist would agree)? So creatures can lack free will, and still strenuously attempt to ‘persuade’.

    Of course, this line better exposes what is actually being argued: that there is a type of persuasion meant to move the intellect and the will, and this is the particular persuasion meant in the Argument From Persuasion. But animals lack both intellect and will. QED.

    But do animals lack intellect and will? This in itself might be perceived as a bone of contention, but the medieval definition of these capacities seems to preclude that particular line of inquiry from before the outset, by defining ‘intellect’ and ‘will’ in a particular way.

    I am not a medieval specialist, but roughly, ‘intellect’ and ‘will’ provide access to non-material realities. Not only this, but intellect and will are themselves non-material capacities. The meta-physical definitely exists, but only men and angels can have any grasp of this, because only men and angels possess these non-material capacities, intellect and will — aspects of an immortal soul. Animals — along with every other created being except for angels and men — exist only in the material world. Thus, all the actions of animals are completely ruled by material causes. They are incapable of free will. (And, as a lemma, they don’t exist eternally and they don’t go to heaven — or to hell).

    The non-material world, the meta-physical, is the sole ‘place’ wherein free will can be exercised. If the non-material world did not exist, medievalists would agree that there could be no free will. As a corollary, they would further agree that if Man has no access to the meta-physical, he could not have free will.

    So ‘intellect’ and ‘will’ are capacities that only angels and men have, and their definitions are closely tied to a capacity to apprehend non-material realities.

    But exactly how ‘free’ comes into it, the medievalists disagree. Why, exactly, is the non-material world ‘free’ in a way that the material world is not? And so forth.

    And to me, by the time of the high medievalist philosophers, the most important feature of the discussion becomes obscured: even if you can prove ‘free’, how can you get from ‘free’ to moral? Again, these terms are all latently wrapped up in Catholic profession, and cannot be defined apart from it.

    For St. Thomas, it is obvious that we all wish to be happy, and if we look accurately, our happiness is to be with God. The Fall ‘weakened’ our intellect and will so that we often apprehend happiness inaccurately and choose wrongly. Etc. But his is not the only view among medieval philosophers; for example, John Duns Scotus pointed out severe weaknesses in St. Thomas’s argument that the intellect was the primary agent in man’s free decisions.

    In sum, I just don’t think things are as simple as Matt makes out.

    I found a useful short summary of medieval positions here:

    https://www.iep.utm.edu/freewi-m/

  13. “Not saying that I agree with Lee nor Sommers” (I did add :: “; it’s just both are being misunderstood”)

    I guess that I misunderstood you as well

    You are right in your inference that he included a summary link and not the source

    But you were wrong about … “battling against a summary of Sommers’ article that he found on a creationist website” …

    Briggs did quote from the article extensively – just not very well and the quotes ended up being straw dogs.

    Peace to all

  14. Should have said “Briggs did quote from the original Sommers post extensively”

    Briggs said: “Another quote: ” A terrible crime, then, should be viewed like the effects of a hurricane or an earthquake. There is no one to blame but nature (and nurture) itself.” From that we rightly infer the criminal had no choice. And from that we infer nobody has any choice, unless we believe it is only criminals who are free from free will.”

    Yes, but Sommers doesn’t say they should be ignored and left to their own devices. Sommers talked about prevention and likened criminal behavior to natural disasters (although since natural disasters can’t really be prevented, he can only be talking about amelioration). He said that there was justification for incarceration; he only said we can’t take the moral high ground about it. The whole “There but for the grace of God go I” comes to mind.

    When Sommers said “criminal behavior” should be prevented, he just didn’t have any solutions to put forward how to prevent “human disasters” let alone “natural disasters”. Sommers basically is engaged in empty rhetoric, trying to reinvent terms and concepts to his liking, but providing no way out of the dilemma.

    By the way, it isn’t just naturalists that argue against “free will” (see Reformed Theology or Calvinism). Isaiah 38 should be prime example of Man’s Free Will thwarting God’s Will.

  15. “But we also do not fall prey to the genetic fallacy.”

    Nor, apparently, do we understand what it is.

    The commonsense notion that some sources of information have more credibility than others is not any kind of fallacy. It’s just ordinary sanity.

  16. Sommers has to show that it is physically impossible for a human to have free will. After all, physically (by observing humans) it is clear thay they have free will, i.e. the ability to make choices and act upon them.

    Stating that free will is an illusion is not a rebuttal of a physical theory. Occams Razor implies that the simpler theory, people having free will, is better than the more complicated theory, people having the illusion of free will, and some unstated capability that creates the illusion.

    Further, with two competing theories, he has to provide physical tests that show which of the theories cannot be true. If he cannot think of such a test, he has no physical theory.

    Saying that mechanics will show that matter will follow proscribed paths, so that one can compute in theory all future states is not good enough, because that statement is part of a physical theory too. Two different physical theories can be in disagreement (think Relativity and Quantum Mechanics) but they do not prove each other to be wrong.

  17. Seems to me that Briggs represented the original Sommers article quite faithfully and made the clear argument that we have free will, as he has done before in several posts.

    Sommers on the other hand, doesn’t make a coherent point at all, but goes back and forth between feelings and hopes.

    “If you are unlucky enough to be the kind of person who commits crimes, you’ll have to be put away for it. But society should not compound this misfortune by promoting retributive sentiments like resentment and bloodlust . . .”

    Why not: If are unlucky enough to be the kind of person to compound a criminal’s misfortune by promoting retributive sentiments like resentment and bloodlust, then criminals should not compound this misfortune by committing heinous crimes.”

  18. Predictions have the purpose of replacing coincidence with error. This is advantageous for you whenever the predator (opponent, etc) fails (i.e. your escape is the non-error).
    Spontaneous behavior (“free will” in academic gobbledygook) is not simply random, instead it belongs to cultivation of wellbeing: heed you mother’s advice to demonstrate “free will” to your date, by beginning with small talk.

  19. Why, exactly, is the non-material world ‘free’ in a way that the material world is not?

    It is not the world that is free or not, but the will — up top a point. Everyone is so mesmerized by Modernist notions that they miss that point. Not every motion of a human being is freely willed. That was why Aquinas noted the distinction between “a human act” and “an act of a human.” When a scholar absentmindedly strokes his beard while in deep thought, the stroking is merely habitual and not consciously determined. I myself once had the occasion to walk home (about two blocks) from the dry-cleaners while mulling over a statistics problem. I did not “come to” until my key missed the keyhole and I was recalled to consciousness. That was a fairly complex train of actions — toting the dry-cleaning over my shoulder, walking up the street, reaching into my pocket and pulling out the key — all done without conscious thought.

    Liberum arbitrium is usually translated as “free will,” but is better rendered as “free judgement.” The will is an appetite for the products of the intellect; i.e., for concepts. (This is analogous to the emotions, which are appetites for the products of perception.) Since it is impossible to want what you do not know, the will is necessarily undetermined to the extent that knowledge is incomplete. Free will needs to be thought of as more akin to free fall: nothing impedes the will or determines it to one particular concept.

    Libet-style “experiments” miss the point entirely. They are always Buridan’s Ass situations, where the experimental object (i.e., a person) is asked to press the left button or the right, or twitch the left finger or the right, et al. But these are hardly intellectual choices.

  20. Yeah sure, and of course if they put their wrongheaded philosophical bias under the guise of “science” then that make their viewpoint sound authoritative and creditable. And wouldn’t it be nice that we didn’t have free will and weren’t responsible for anything? Typical agenda to cover the truth there Mr. Briggs.

  21. The really strange theory is that if you do something for a reason, your behavior was caused and therefore not free. Only purposeless decisions can be free. (I think that theory was what Ayn Rand meant by “whim worshipping.”)

  22. “There just is no philosophically consistent argument against free will.”

    Suppose we have a choice between A and B. If free will is real, we would be able to choose A or B independently of any starting point. But that would mean that our choice couldn’t be based on reasoning (of any sort) as we would have to be able to reason our way to either outcome from a single starting point. It would appear from this that the only way to have free will would be for it to be really “free”, in other words: random

  23. Reasons aren’t causes. Reasons are explanations. Reasons answer ‘why’? They inform choice beforehand and provide insight afterwards.

    Nor do reasons necessarily entail good choices.
    Good information is not even a guarantee either but it’s a reliable start.

    The cause of a thought or an action and how this works is still unknown. How metaphysics is connected with material is not understood but that it does interact must be apparent and simply ignored by those who do not believe in non material power.

    Neurophysiology is understood in terms of chemistry very well but it still has not explanation for metaphysical things such as pain, thought, understanding or love. The complexity of the human body in it’s entirety which confounds full understanding of anybody still also interacts with the outside world which feeds back and forth. Just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean a thing such as mind can be dismissed as an illusion amidst the material complexity.

    It’s lazy thinking because it jumps to a conclusion based on dismissing the same thing which gives the authority to dismiss and conclude.
    Like a child rubbing out and starting again only to reach the same inevitable problem.

  24. The malevolent demons in you did it (http://wmbriggs.com/post/23895/). Just blame them for everything. You have no free will, whatever it means.

    Let me say it again, Mr. Briggs, you are out of your mind. While you have CLAIMED that your have eradicated some demons in you, it seems to me other demons have planted some thoughts in your mind. (Just to go along your belief in demons.) And you believe you know the truth since you are convinced that those thoughts are from God.

  25. If free will is real, we would be able to choose A or B independently of any starting point.

    You are confusing free will with random chance. All it means is that the will is not determined to any one judgment in matters where knowledge is complete. Of course, the surest way to debunk free will is to redefine it into a corner from its original meaning.

    Recte: If free will were real, we would be not be constrained to choose either A or B, since the choice of A or B is typically not an object of the will in the first place. We do not choose A or B. We construct A and B (and C…) as we mull over the best way to achieve the Good.

  26. @ Joy,

    “Reasons aren’t causes.”

    I’m not clear that this is true, or how it relates to my point?

    @ Ye Olde Statistician,

    “You are confusing free will with random chance.”

    No! I’m contrasting the two. Did you even read my comment, or was your response entirely pavlovian? (swordfish comment: *clang*)

    Let me try explaining my point again: If free will exists, it must be possible to start with your mind in one state then “will” yourself to different end states – if you can only go to one end state from a given starting state, then you aren’t free. But if you can go to different end states from a given starting state, then whatever reasoning/motivation/inclination/morality/instinct/whatever you employ to do so would be different in each case, so it couldn’t be the *real* reason you chose the end state you did, and you can’t be held accountable for your choice.

    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

    “Consider Leo. At a certain moment he agent-causes a decision to tell the truth, and until he does there remains a chance that he will instead, at that moment, agent-cause a decision to lie. There is, then, a possible world that is exactly like the actual world up until the time at which Leo agent-causes his decision but in which, at that moment, Leo agent-causes a decision to lie. Nothing about the world prior to the moment of the agent-causing accounts for the difference between Leo’s causing one decision and his causing the other. This difference, then, is just a matter of luck. And if this difference is just a matter of luck, Leo cannot be responsible for his decision.”

  27. Swordfish,
    I don’t think it was you who brought in the ‘reason’ word, someone further up and I haven’t checked. Your comment did inspire me to remark but I thought better of saying that,
    ‘random means unknown’. Therefore is not a cause of anything material.
    In the one case where ‘unkindwabieness’ or mystery is the desired effect.
    Where it could be said to be a ‘cause’ of a thing being unknown only in that instance.

    That makes perfect sense to me.

    However, since you mentioned my ‘reason’ remark, I’m pretty sure that’s true to.
    ‘reason’ is an operation which occurs at the level of the mind. Cause is a word used in describing a chain, however long or complex. Reason is the higher or the master which allows cause to be determined.
    I’m not trying to be preposterously cheeky today. I know you are cleverer than me.
    However I also know that I’m pretty sure I’m correct.

  28. YOS: “You are confusing free will with random chance.”

    SFT: No! I’m contrasting the two. Did you even read my comment

    Your earlier comment ran thusly:
    SFT said: “Suppose we have a choice between A and B. If free will is real, we would be able to choose A or B independently of any starting point. But that would mean that our choice couldn’t be based on reasoning (of any sort) as we would have to be able to reason our way to either outcome from a single starting point. It would appear from this that the only way to have free will would be for it to be really “free”, in other words: random

    The final sentence certainly does appear to conflate “free” and “random.”

    The errors begin with “Suppose we have a choice between A and B.” That’s a Buridan’s Ass problem and, to the extent it involves sensory objects, is a matter of the emotions (sensory appetites) rather than the will (intellective appetite). Who ever had choices laid out so well? Only when the “choice” is to wiggle the left finger or the right finger.

    But if you can go to different end states from a given starting state, then whatever reasoning/motivation/inclination/morality/instinct/whatever you employ to do so would be different in each case

    If I can penetrate the somewhat obscure language — end state? starting state? what are these ‘states’? — you seem to deny that people can have conflicting motives and simultaneously hold different thoughts.

    Now if you wish to claim that you have demolished the scientific paradigm of the will developed by Descartes and his contemporaries, have at it. As soon as you invoke res cogitans you are as much in the brush as when the analytics invoke possible worlds. The whole history of modern philosophy has been one false start after another. Each new dude that comes along — Descartes, Hume, Kant, Hegel, …., Sartre, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida, et al. Spends his time demonstrating how his predecessor got everything messed up.

  29. Suppose we have a choice between A and B. … Who ever had choices laid out so well? Only when the “choice” is to wiggle the left finger or the right finger.

    Or to pull the trigger or not.
    Or to pay for the item or lift it.
    Or to falsify your tax return or not.
    Or to cheat on your spouse or not.
    etc.

    Are these solely emotional choices?

    The final sentence certainly does appear to conflate “free” and “random.”

    I read his post as: “You are driven to the choices you make by your assessment of them and always select the one you see as best. If you were to select an alternative with a lesser assessment then something (perhaps the satisfaction of proving you can select a “non-optimum”) has altered your assessment of the options and the previously assessed lesser alternative is now the best. Because you must select the one with the best assessment, you aren’t truly free in your choices. A random selection would be more free.”

  30. “…Each new dude that comes along — Descartes, Hume, Kant, Hegel, …., Sartre, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida, et al. Spends his time demonstrating how his predecessor got everything messed up.”

    Or you could just think for yourself.
    Insisting on a single line of reasoning to explain the universe, say one thing and do another, claim ‘proof’, then expect to be convincing!

    “Possible worlds” for example are a way to describe scenarios and are not, some kind of philosophical thought toxin except in the case where an individual has become detached from reality perhaps or want you to believe in a multiverse, also an act of faith, luckily not mandatory thinking yet. Let’s swap one tyrannical thought police for another! That’ll work.

    It’s just a metaphor.

    Just because some publish bad ideas it’s not a reason to cling to faulty methods which were based on even older ideas and which rendered the bad ideas *as it turned out no doubt rendered by disillusionment with the imperfections of the old. Old is often but not always, necessarily, better.
    You’ll say I know, but you really don’t.

    Sometimes the way forward is backwards!
    You don’t get out of.a parking space by crashing through the vehicles in front and causing damage and mayhem on the way even if it’s the most direct route.
    Catholic fundamentalists do! (very bad drivers.)
    …and don’t let one in charge in a china shop unless it’s a greek one.

  31. Or to pull the trigger or not.
    Or to pay for the item or lift it.
    Or to falsify your tax return or not.
    Or to cheat on your spouse or not.
    etc.

    Most of those are not Buridan’s Ass Decisions (BADs). “X or not-X” isn’t the same kind of thing as “twitch your left finger or twitch your right finger,” which are merely physical acts with no moral consequences, and do not require intellective assessment. Nor have any been tested in a Libet-style experiment. As to whether they have an ’emotional’ element (like say, anger, greed, lust, respectively) is not an issue. The emotions (sensory appetites) are hungers for or revulsions to the products of perception. Since every intellective act is accompanied by an act of imagination, this will always be the case, much as your silhouette accompanies your walk in the sun, even though your shadow does not cause your walking.

    BAD experiments define freedom as control by conscious intention fixing on one thing as opposed to another, but then test for the existence of such a thing by using a circumstance in which conscious intention has no reason to fix on one thing as opposed to another. IOW, the experimenters and their fanboys assume a priori the freely willed choices are unreasonable. Yet, will is the appetite of reason. It’s a feature, not a bug.

    But recall that virtue is the habit of choosing the good. Suppose that Libet had gotten the same results when asking grad students to make a moral choice, such as asking them to cheat on their spouses or not (or shoot the professor or not). Aristotle would interpret this as the effect of habitual action, and the habits as results of previous imperfect choices.

    James Chastek comments on Harris’ contention that Libet experiments would disprove free will no matter what the results were:

    Harris recognizes that his argument against freedom goes through irrespective of experimental findings, but he’s resting his case on ur-axioms that ground science as such, namely (a) Every action is nothing but initial conditions and formal rules, and (b) all initial conditions (or at least all the ones after the Big Bang) arise from actions. Sean Carroll makes the same assumptions in his arguments against the existence of human souls.

    What’s fascinating about (a) and (b) is that they are proposed as explanations of action which can’t account of the initiation or principle or arche of any action, since they give no account of how one could move from not acting to doing so. An initial condition is indifferent to action or stasis, and an abstract rule has no power to shove particles around. In fact, Harris and Carroll are both working from an ur-axiom that natural processes are not initiated* or, what is the same thing, any initiation of a natural process comes from outside nature. Alas for their arguments, this is the sort of belief that both allows for and is much more compatible with the existence of God and the freedom of intellectual substances.

    ###

    I read his [Briggs’] post as: “You are driven to the choices you make by your assessment of them and always select the one you see as best…”

    Except for the tendentious use of “driven to,” which begs the question, that’s not a bad description of Aristotelian virtue. Now we only have to explain what it means for your assessment to drive you; as if your assessment were something outside you. Perhaps an assessment Just Happens, like a Brute Fact. But then why the oft-debilitating deliberations beforehand? The agonizing consideration of alternatives? If free will is an illusion, then deliberation also must be an illusion, for there would be no “selective advantage” to its evolution. The choice would be determined whether deliberated or not.

    For reference: https://www.amazon.com/Thomistic-psychology-philosophic-analysis-nature/dp/B0007HDOEU#reader_B0007HDOEU

  32. If free will is an illusion, then deliberation also must be an illusion, for there would be no “selective advantage” to its evolution. The choice would be determined whether deliberated or not.

    Why? If I have a computer program that branches depending on whether A gt B, the determination of the values of A and B must occur before the branch can be taken – even when all of the inputs lead to the result.

  33. Why? Suppose that deliberation (not determination) is an evolved capacity in humans. And suppose that evolution proceeds by natural selection. Then, if choices are determined other than by the will, the deliberation that precedes them is ineffective, deliberation would confer no selective advantage. Behavior/action would be the same. Hence, those who deliberated before choosing would not act differently than those who did not. Hence, no differential survival-to-reproduction. Hence, those who believe they deliberate over choices must be suffering a delusion.

    If you really drill down through the concept, you will discover that the experimental object (person) would make the same decisions even if you told her ahead of time what that decision would be.

    I’m not sure why you think that a computer program would tell you anything about the matter, since a computer neither deliberates nor chooses. After all, you can use a computer to simulate flying an airliner from EWR to LAX; but when you climb out of the simulator, you will not actually be in Los Angeles. (This illustrates what we might call the “Turing Fallacy”: two processes might product the same results, but that doesn’t mean the processes themselves have identical internal structure. E.g. the Tychonic model of the world produced identical results to the Copernican model, but their structures were very different.

  34. I’m not sure why you think that a computer program would tell you anything about the matter

    It doesn’t. It was a trivial example to show that any algorithm that evaluates a decision based upon valus must first know the values involved or, with people, at least believe them to be known.

    I see the deliberation as part of the mechanism of assessment. Most of what you have said sounds to me more like allowing feedback of recognized consequences into the deliberation. The angst comes about from not really being sure of the consequences and/or their worth. Besides, not all assessments are deliberated. Sometimes, the values of the options are already known. And then, some are likely built-in: fight or flight, e.g., with fight usually employed only when flight becomes problematic. Still requires a decision. In flying, where you don’t have much time for nail-biting, thee are general rules, e.g. engine out: establish best glide speed; pick a landing spot and fly toward it; try to diagnose the failure; if it can’t be remedied then attempt to land in your selected spot. There are some rules of thumb for selecting a landing spot. There are even general rules for dealing with things that can go wrong when reaching the selected spot.

    That said, those who are better at predicting possible consequences and making decisions based upon them would be more likely to survive than those who remain unaware of them. Don’t see why it couldn’t have evolved.

    you can use a computer to simulate flying an airliner from EWR to LAX; but when you climb out of the simulator, you will not actually be in Los Angeles

    ??? Irrelevant.
    The purpose of a simulation is not to finally arrive there.
    At least for me. Can’t speak for you though.

  35. The purpose of the simulator is to remind one of the difference between an analogy and thing itself. If you could simulate human acts with a computer model, it would not necessarily demonstrate that the structure of the computer model actually reflects the structure of the human process.

    In De malo, (https://www.amazon.com/Thomistic-psychology-philosophic-analysis-nature/dp/B0007HDOEU#reader_B0007HDOEU), pp. 272 et seq., Aquinas presents 24 arguments against free will and discusses each one. Some objections will sound familiar; others will be new to you. Some will require considerable deliberation simply to understand what the objections are.

    I recollect the comment of A. N. Whitehead that people who devote their minds to proving that don’t have one constitute a curious object of study. But one of the odd customs of the Modern Age is the notion that one may detach one particular concept from an entire idea and treat it as if it have no connection to any of the other concepts; and then when the disconnect is pointed out, to insert an epicycle to explain why the disconnect really isn’t one. Hence, the notion that we can study the will independently of its relationships with the active and passive intellect, with the sensory appetites, with animal prudence, and all the rest.

  36. Not sure how we strayed from the topic into simulations.

    When I write a computer program, I’m not simulating the algorithms; I’m implementing them.
    I view their steps from the standpoint of doing them myself.
    When the program runs, I’m not the one performing the steps but am confident they are proceeding the way I would.

    When I brought up the point about implementing a decision branch by comparing the values of the options it seems obvious that the values must be known beforehand. There must be at least two steps: 1) evaluate the worth of the options, and then 2) pick the best one. If you know a way to do this in one step please illuminate. Of the two steps, (2) seems the easiest and is quite likely identical in all decision makers from bugs to humans. How hard can it be to compare things? It is (1) that will be found to differ. There’s even a step before (1) and that is to enumerate the options.

    the notion that we can study the will independently of its relationships

    Sorry, but from all of your posts, you seem to be more into categorizing instead of actually attempting to understand the workings. I study things by tearing them apart recursively; poke them independently; then reassembling them one by one examining how they work together. The black box approach will never get you an understanding of what makes it work — only what to expect from it.

  37. I study things by tearing them apart recursively; poke them independently; then reassembling them one by one examining how they work together. The black box approach will never get you an understanding of what makes it work — only what to expect from it.

    And yet, when I once before presented a flow chart of the process, the reaction was one of total bemusement. I don’t recall whether it was yourself or one of your fellow robots. And the unsubstantiated accusation was laid that I did not understand the flowchart I presented.

    I had understood that your computer algorithm had been meant as an illustration of how free will is not necessary for decision-making; IOW that humans make deliberate decisions in the same manner as your computer. That is, without thinking. Thank you for your clarification. I agree with you: the computer is only a tool, like a very fast slide rule, by which you yourself make decisions. At least those based on quantity. And the will involved is your own, that freely chose to write the program.

    But you still seem to regard the will as choosing among acts presented to it with “values” pre-attached. But it is the person who attaches the values. For example, Adam Apple may find that bay scallops are tasty morsels and when in the mood may choose to snap them down. But when ill, he may turn away gagging from the self-same morsel. (It is well-known that foods present differently to the senses depending on whether one is hale or ill.) That is, the person is not coerced either by the senses or by the intellect, let alone by the stars or by inner clockworks, or by an algorithm to a determined conclusion.

    You cannot want what you do not know. So if the means to achieve the end are not entirely known, or known only in a vague and inchoate sense, the will is necessarily free of constraints. This is like your algorithm where the values of the choices are not presented to the computer or the choices are not well-enough spelled out to attach a precise value.

  38. But you still seem to regard the will as choosing among acts presented to it with “values” pre-attached. But it is the person who attaches the values.

    That may be your impression but I think I have only said the values are determined (in fact, must be) without saying how they might be. Nor do I assume the values are invariant. Some, though, may have default values that are used in the absence of information. Step (2) above needs some value to proceed.

    When it comes to the “will”, your definition seems malleable. In this case it seems to be what I called step (2) when I would think it is both steps and maybe more. Giving it a name though only provides a shortcut for discussion otherwise it is of little help. I prefer not to use it at all. Yes I am aware that we are discussing “Free Will” but the words seem to have special meaning to you that you appear too think everyone also has.

    And yet, when I once before presented a flow chart of the process, the reaction was one of total bemusement.

    I recall mentioning that it was a good guess but you do not have a way to tell how good of a guess it is. My amusement is that you tend to speak of things such things as if you are certain it is not a guess but actually shows how the mind works. I OTOH recognize that I am only speculating and currently have no way to test my speculations. If I’m not stating that emphatically enough then I apologize.

    Still, you tend to produce categories (e.g., active and passive intellect, sensory appetites, animal prudence) that don’t help much in understanding the workings.

    I had understood that your computer algorithm had been meant as an illustration of how free will is not necessary for decision-making; IOW that humans make deliberate decisions in the same manner as your computer. That is, without thinking

    No, what I’m describing is what some might define as thinking. “Free will” is not only unnecessary but a case can be made it is an illusion. In fact, what I described is essentially that case.

    You cannot want what you do not know. So if the means to achieve the end are not entirely known, or known only in a vague and inchoate sense, the will is necessarily free of constraints.

    You now seem to be using another definition of “free” and perhaps another definition of “will”. If the decision process must pick the best option after evaluation then it is constrained by definition. You seem to have wandered off from decision making.

    (It is well-known that foods present differently to the senses depending on whether one is hale or ill.) That is, the person is not coerced either by the senses or by the intellect, let alone by the stars or by inner clockworks, or by an algorithm to a determined conclusion.

    Seems to me that wellness might influence the perception of tastiness. Kind of a coercion. The algorithm I used as example produces a selection based on the available inputs which undoubtedly vary from time to time. It isn’t coercing anything ever.

    This is like your algorithm where the values of the choices are not presented to the computer or the choices are not well-enough spelled out to attach a precise value.

    The values of anything are rarely known precisely as you must be well aware. Even a computer operates with approximations. You can’t compare two values without some idea of what they may be. Yes, sometimes they might be way off from those determined with more information. So what? That doesn’t mean the underlying algorithms are without constraints. In fact, the algorithm example I presented actually embodies a constraint: select the option with the best evaluation.

  39. I am aware that we are discussing “Free Will” but the words seem to have special meaning to you that you appear too think everyone also has.

    Only the standard meaning that they always had among the folks who started the whole discussion back in the day.

    I recall mentioning that [the flow chart for the stimulus-response process] was a good guess but you do not have a way to tell how good of a guess it is.

    Well, the whole topic is outside the scope of natural science, so aside from actual experience and observation, you’re probably right.

    Still, you tend to produce categories (e.g., active and passive intellect, sensory appetites, animal prudence) that don’t help much in understanding the workings.

    Some of it I covered on my own blog some while ago; but I became distracted by other matters and never finished.
    This was sort of a lead-in:
    http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2014/06/to-deepen-into-art.html
    Then this one contains links to further episodes:
    http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2014/07/in-psearch-of-psyche-some-groundwork.html

  40. @ Ye Olde Statistician

    “The errors begin with “Suppose we have a choice between A and B.” That’s a Buridan’s Ass problem”

    The errors are your own. This isn’t any sort of “Buridan’s Ass” problem because I’m not suggesting the two options are equal.

    “and, to the extent it involves sensory objects, is a matter of the emotions rather than the will.”

    Now you’re assuming that A and B are sensory objects? I didn’t specify that either. BTW, who said that emotions aren’t allowed to be involved in a decision-making process?

    “Who ever had choices laid out so well?”

    Maybe someone in a simplified thought experiment designed to illustrate a point?

    Here’s my second try at explaining:

    Thought experiment: You’re choosing between two options, A and B. You follow a particular thought process and choose A. Now rewind time back to the start and run it again. (You have no knowledge of what you did the first time.) This time, you follow a different thought process and choose B. My question: One thought process led you to choose A, another led you to choose B – how did you choose which thought process to follow each time? Do you have a “meta” though process to decide which thought process to choose? If so, do you have a “meta meta” thought process to decide which “meta” thought process to choose? (Etc.)

  41. Thought experiment: You’re choosing between two options, A and B. You follow a particular thought process and choose A. Now rewind time back to the start and run it again. (You have no knowledge of what you did the first time.) This time, you follow a different thought process and choose B.

    But the “thought process” just is the act of choosing. It is not somehow “out there” and you “follow” it. Still less does it “lead” you or “drive” you as if it were external to your own act.

  42. @ Ye Olde Statistician,

    “But the “thought process” just is the act of choosing.”

    By “thought process”, I mean the internal mental processes one goes through *before* choosing. If there are none, how is the choice not just random anyway? To put my confusion another way, free will is impossible if everything is deterministic, but it’s also impossible if non-determinism exists (which it does, due to QM) because it would “just” be random. I actually don’t see the problem with having random free will – it’s better then nothing!

  43. free will is impossible if everything is deterministic, but it’s also impossible if non-determinism exists

    IOW, heads, you win; tails, I lose? But consider the man who is brained by a hammer while on his way to lunch.

    Everything about his perambulation is caused. He walks that route because his favorite café is two blocks in that direction. He sets forth at the time he does because it is his lunchtime. He arrives at the dread time and place because of the pace at which he walks. There are reasons for everything that happens.
    Likewise, the hammer that slides off the roof of the building half a block along. It strikes with the fatal energy because of its mass and velocity. It achieves its terminal velocity be cause of the acceleration of gravity. It slides off because of the angle of the roof and the coefficient of friction of the tiles, because it was nudged by the toe of the workman, because the workman too rose to take his lunch, and because he had laid his hammer where he had. There are reasons for everything that happens.
    Not much of it is predictable, but causation is not the same as predictability.
    It would never occur to you – at least we hope it would never occur to you – to search out “the reason” why at the very moment you walked past that building, some roofer in Irkutsk dropped his tool. Why should the concatenation become more meaningful if the roofer is closer by? Spatial proximity does not add meaning to temporal coincidence. Chance is not a cause, no matter how nearby she lurks.
    So the hammer has a reason for being there, and the diner has a reason for being there; but for the unhappy congruence of hammer and diner, there is no reason. It is simply the crossing of two causal threads in the world-line.
    “Ah, what ill luck,” say the street sweepers as they cleanse the blood and brains from the concrete. We marvel because our superstitions demand significance. The man was brained by a hammer, for crying out loud! It must mean something. And so poor Fate is made the scapegoat. Having gotten all tangled up in the threads, we incline to blame the Weaver.
    — “Nexus” (Intro)

    IOW, that some things are due to chance goes back to Aristotle, long before QM. The addition of “random” is a modern novelty, and it should be noted that ensuring randomness requires careful design and planning. Casinos don’t just happen.

    It’s also worth noting that Aquinas was always careful to specify in what manner “free judgment” came into play. Not every act of a human was a human act, he said. (You could write that in medieval Latin, but not in classical Latin.) Many acts are not the result of free judgment, but of reflex, habit, and the like. One does not freely will one’s heart to beat or one’s dinner to be digested; or to stroke one’s beard while in deep thought. All sorts of injuries and impairments might affect one’s “thought processes.”

    In fact, the vast majority of a human’s acts may be of these autonomic/impaired type. But it is often the tiny distinction that is most important. The difference between the orbits if the planets and pure Platonic circles is very very small, but it is critically important. The crucial point is that while free judgment may be called upon relatively few times compared to reflex or habit, that is allowed for in the philosophy; whereas the philosophy that everything is determined or everything is random does not allow for any exceptions for voluntarism.

    Did you read the Question regarding “free will” in the booklet I linked?

  44. “who said that emotions aren’t allowed to be involved in a decision-making process?”

    At last…fabulous.

    It is naeive to think that thinking happens otherwise.

    YOS must concede at least that point but I note he brought the hammer at lunch story out again and that’s very distracting. It is not only bad acts which result from faulty thinking. It’s even worse than that. Good acts can come from faulty thinking. Clear reason can result in bad decisions and a belief in free will is no guarantee of anything at all. Or the crime problem would be solved for all time. Just believe in free will! Silly.

    What he and others like Ed F and Briggs call intellect is what normal people call clear thinking. It’s never completely clear of the body’s process and the autonomic, endocrine, immune systems in whatever states they are in at decision time.

    Decision can also occur at a subconscious level in the case of pain or pleasure for example.

    Only a very brittle minded individual can hang onto this idea of the mind or, what they are talking about actually is brain function. Keeping blame at the forefront as much as possible. It is a recipe for mental illness because those with the best functioning consciences or those prone to guilt fall into a kind of neurosis wherein they don’t trust themselves or like themselves. This is where Catholic preaching from this principle goes so badly wrong.

    Yos your remark implies as usual, that impairment and autonomic go together. Body is bad, intellect is good.
    It is unhealthy and not of any use in the clinic where healing is the wanted outcome. Always trust what Is known to work for the good. Especially in matters of the human mind/brain + body interface which is still mysterious.

    If something works and a reason is offered which is consistent and congruent with science then it will do until the reason or the theory breaks down.

    It is the pretence that it is possible to be above one’s body. It is the ultimate in natural snobbery! It does actually, literally, hurt to try.
    You can’t detach yourself from your vessel. You have to live with it. YOS, Briggs, Ed, et al. Human anatomy and physiology doesn’t read books. You do, so you use your anatomy and physiology to do so. Aiming for good and making good decisions is more complex than pretending that lines of logic in two D that can be described on paper are a true representation of the mind that was used to write the flow chart.

    It is also nonsense to say that nothing’s ultimately in control!

  45. @ Ye Olde Statistician,

    “IOW, that some things are due to chance goes back to Aristotle, long before QM.”

    Whether you call non-determinism “randomness” or “luck” doesn’t make any difference that I can see. The problem would be that if free will relies on random factors to be free, it isn’t free will as generally conceived. That is, you can’t “will” your way to an outcome other than you did without the intervention of random factors.

    From a religious point of view, as I understand it, you’re morally responsible for your decisions because you *could* have decided differently due to your posessing free will (or “free judgement”) – that can’t be true if you can only decide differently due to random influences.

    “Did you read the Question regarding “free will” in the booklet I linked?”

    No. Are you referring to your Amazon link?

  46. What he and others like Ed F and Briggs call intellect is what normal people call clear thinking. It’s never completely clear of the body’s process and the autonomic, endocrine, immune systems in whatever states they are in at decision time.

    Of course not. Aquinas was very clear on this. So too is the section in William Wallace’s The Modeling of Nature and Brennan’s old Thomistic Psychology. The intellect is the intellect. “Clear thinking” is a nice fuzzy term that can mean anything. (Operationally, “clear” thinking generally means thinking that agrees with the speaker’s POV.)

    The reason it’s never “completely clear” of somatic processes is that the human beings — indeed, all living things — is a synolon, a blend of matter and form, of soma and psyche. Damage to the brain can affect one’s thinking. Just get drunk a time or two and you’ll see.

    It only seems as if the raw intellect is highlighted because we live in the Late Modern Age, and the intellect is not well thought of in a time when “I think that…” has been replaced with “I feel that…” in common discourse. We are post-Nietzsche and his Triumph of the Will. We have no problems Feeling about stuff. We only have problems Thinking about it. Compare: movies to novels. Heck: compare older movies to Late Modern remakes of them. Ever see The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3? Compare the original to the remake.
    http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2009/12/der-untergang-des-abendlandes.html#more

  47. [a] if free will relies on random factors to be free,
    [b] it isn’t free will as generally conceived.
    [c] That is, you can’t “will” your way to an outcome other than you did without the intervention of random factors.

    a) It doesn’t. Next objection?
    b) “as generally conceived” only means that Late Moderns have problems conceiving things.
    c) You cannot ‘will’ your way to an ‘outcome’ in any case.

    The problem with Late Modernism is that by mushing up the concept of volition, it inevitably leads to confusions. The result of wanting something is not that it is accomplished or possessed, but simply that it is wanted. That is, a prisoner locked in a dungeon may will his freedom even if he never achieves his objective.

    “Did you read the Question regarding “free will” in the booklet I linked?”

    No. Are you referring to your Amazon link?

    No, to Aquinas’ On evil, found here in pdf:
    http://14.139.206.50:8080/jspui/bitstream/1/619/1/Aquinas,%20Thomas%20-%20On%20Evil.pdf
    specifically pp. 253-264 (of the text, not the pdf file) where Aquinas provides 24 objections (not just one) to humans having free will.

  48. @ Ye Olde Statistician,

    a) “It doesn’t.”

    This is just an assertion. Try providing an argument or some evidence.

    b) ““as generally conceived” only means that Late Moderns have problems conceiving things.

    If you’re suggesting that the generally understood definition of free will is wrong, what is your definition?

    c) “You cannot ‘will’ your way to an ‘outcome’ in any case.” […] “That is, a prisoner locked in a dungeon may will his freedom even if he never achieves his objective.”

    That you can’t ‘will’ your way to some outcomes doesn’t mean you can’t ‘will’ your way to any outcomes. What about “will power”?

  49. “(Operationally, “clear” thinking generally means thinking that agrees with the speaker’s POV.)”
    It seems you’re catching on. The intellect is not clearly definable. You may claim that it is well defined but it ‘clearly’ isn’t because it is impossible to say where intellect begins and body ‘ends’ in observation that is not only personal.

    For all I know your mechanism for separating the intellect from body influence might indeed be better than mine or vice versa. Concentration is not pure ‘intellect’ at work.

    There’s nothing pure about concentrating hard on writing a programme or calculate a strategy to do evil. It takes a corrupt mind to do this. No need to speak of motive as being that of some “sensory appetite.” Pleasure and pain are not sensory appetites. That’s where this theory which isn’t really Thomas’s fault, is going wrong.

    Getting drunk to create non clear thinking? Well I’ve never been ‘drunk’ enough that my intellect didn’t function.

    It’s about the dummest thing you can do but clever people do It when they are self medicating and they do so because they believe the kind of claptrap that is spouted by those who think that ‘feelings’ are a sign of corruption or perversity or some other dumb language.

    Alcohol didn’t make them pour the glass. Sounds like more excusing to me of bad behaviour and excuse for failure to take responsibility. Are you referring to morals AGAIN? Or just talking about decision making? How drunk does a person have to be to forget that murder, rape, theft, lying are wrong? All the alcohol does is prevent them from caring about consequences for themselves or others. It is a suppressant or a depressant. The knowledge doesn’t alter.

    The reason it’s never “completely clear” of somatic”
    You are repeating what I said and then seem to be claiming you’re saying it.

    What do You mean by somatic? Don’t give me a link or a teaching session. You’re talking to a physiotherapist, an English one clinical esp grade, not a theorist.

    The word is clearly defined clinically. Philosophy is not king if you’re in the realm of discussing human tissue and the way it operates. Certainly since the humours weren’t even noticed as wrong I shouldn’t be surprised that people build a faulty picture of what happens.

    The philosophy must explain what is observed or it’s superfluous. Philosophy, logic and reason are used by everybody whether they’ve read a book on it or not.

    “processes is that the human beings — indeed, all living things — is a synolon, a blend of matter and form,”

    of soma and psyche.”
    Of soma and psyche! Now different language? ‘form’ is a rubbish word though.

    “Damage to the brain can affect one’s thinking. “
    That’s my point! You’re disagreeing! Aren’t you? My point is that it doesn’t just have to be damaged or sick to cause bad behaviour. You’re in a soup always, and there’s nothing you can do about it and neither should you try to negate the body. That is a kind of neglect. Aiming to do good doesn’t start with a bad account of biology and brain function. Good information is what is required. Only you and God know if you tried your best. ‘you’ and ‘me’ alike.

    “Just get drunk a time or two and you’ll see.”
    See what? See the point that I’m making and with which you only agree partially?
    It only seems as if the raw intellect is highlighted because we live in the Late Modern Age, and the intellect is not well thought of in a time when “I think that…” has been replaced with “I feel…”
    Yes people are derogatory about brains and mind but they always were. It’s nothing new. You should hear what Aristottle’s Aunt and his next door neighbour said about it.
    The humours weren’t a help in explaining anything either, skip that!

    An endless source of non funny satire for those who don’t realise that they too have feelings. When I argue about it or object, I’m not coming at the thing from the angle you seem to insist that I am. (Judging from your comments.) You’ll never make a hippy out of me. Nor a Catholic, nor an atheist (although It would be a material advantage), a new age anything, a trendy, a mindless follower of or member of a gang or a person who doesn’t think or at least make the attempt.
    A receptionist friend of mine once told me,
    “You know what you should think? You should stop thinking.” It was good advice at the time.

    However the difference is to recognise the limitations of and fallibility of all people. It is not simply the case that the body is the corrupter of the intellect! Waiting, like a spider or a ‘serpent’ does to trap and beguile. That view is wrong and for complex reasons. Not one sentence or one paragraph.

    Why do you think the deterioration in art has to do with feelings being given mastery over intellect? The deterioration of art and therefore suffistocation of people’s taste or lack of has to do with who’s holding the mic and at this time Christianity which made everybody rich is also the reason people don’t think they need it.

    Feminisation is at the route of allergy to ‘feelings’? I think the allergy is also misplaced and that feminisation is responsible for much that has altered for the worst but it does not alter the the human body.

    Those things DO NOT CHANGE by fad. So developing an allergy to anything that refers correctly and truthfully to the involvement of the immune and endocrine systems the nutritional state, the perfusion state and so on, and then saying ‘feelings’ all affect thinking is absolutely correct. Even when you think you’re feeling nothing. Feeling nothing is as possible as thinking nothing.
    The word feeling is a simple one used in some of that conversation!

  50. a) “It doesn’t.”

    This is just an assertion. Try providing an argument or some evidence.

    It was just a comment on your previous assertion that “free will relies on random factors to be free.”

    b) “”as generally conceived” only means that Late Moderns have problems conceiving things.”

    If you’re suggesting that the generally understood definition of free will is wrong, what is your definition?

    Just think of the “generally conceived” notion of “evolution” compared to the actual theory of evolution and you will see the basic thrust.

    My definition is just that used historically by those who initially proposed the idea; viz., Aquinas and his homies. Cf. the book On evil that I linked to earlier.

    c) “You cannot ‘will’ your way to an ‘outcome’ in any case.” […] “That is, a prisoner locked in a dungeon may will his freedom even if he never achieves his objective.”

    That you can’t ‘will’ your way to some outcomes doesn’t mean you can’t ‘will’ your way to any outcomes.

    But this means that achieving your objective is something additional to the will. Will rules the Emotions which govern the Acts. But there are lots of other things going on, as Joy has pointed out.

    Your original assertion was that “you can’t ‘will’ your way to an outcome other than you did without the intervention of random factors.” Some outcomes are achieved; others are not. But that is over and above your ability to deliberate.

    What about “will power”?

    I don’t believe in mystical powers. You may be thinking of “fortitude” (a/k/a “courage”) one of the classical “cardinal” virtues (lit. “strengths”), the one “by virtue of which” one continues to pursue one’s choices even when “the going gets tough.” See item b), above.

  51. The crucial point is that while free judgment may be called upon relatively few times compared to reflex or habit

    Outside of bodily functions over which you have no control **, you must always be considering some additional course of action other than habit otherwise you would never do it. You may be daydreaming while walking home under habit but if you were to encounter a gaping hole blocking your path you probably wouldn’t step into it. It’s also unlikely you would hit a fallen tree while driving home under habit. You must be constantly considering whether or not a deviation is needed. So this “free judgement” (vs. regular old judgement?) must be always active when a choice of action is possible.

    ** The placebo effect suggests this may cover a smaller number of functions than previously thought.

  52. @DAV: Exactly.
    As I said when relating the anecdote, I came to when my key missed the keyhole. Photons still impinge on the eyeballs and get processed. Images still formed, but no conscious attention was required. The phenomenon of “muscle memory” is familiar to pianists, jet pilots, atheletes, and others. Heck, it’s familiar to flatworms.

    As regards the placebo effect, it is well known that, given hylomorphism, the mind can affect the body, just as the body can affect the mind. That’s because as Joy pointed out, it’s all one.

  53. @ Ye Olde Statistician,

    “Your original assertion was that “you can’t ‘will’ your way to an outcome other than you did without the intervention of random factors.””

    It wasn’t an assertion, it was the conclusion of a previous argument. I’d request that you provide a reason why you think it’s wrong, but you seem unable or unwilling to do so.

    To set out this position again, hoping to get some useful criticism rather than a knee-jerk gainsaying of every sentence I write, how about this variation of a previous explanation:

    If the world is 100% deterministic, free will is impossible. If the world is less than 100% deterministic (due to QM effects), free will is possible but only if you accept that randomness counts as free will. I actually do accept this, but most people don’t.

    “I don’t believe in mystical powers.”

    Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha… You do.

  54. (sophistication.) that’s funny.

    Swordfish,
    “…free will is possible

    but only if you accept that randomness *uncertainty? ..counts as free will.”

    This is pushing the question further back to remain in uncertainty.

    If you move or don’t move, you know you chose to do it. You know you are in charge of that. Why would you bring in something that is effectively a thing which nobody understands to then say that our decision to declare something true is not essentially reliable?

    Theists believe the mystical part is answered by God but QM is mystical. You won’t agree here either.
    Penrose says that QM answers the question of where awareness resides and it seems to me that free will requires awareness.

  55. Intended to say,?
    “Penrose says that QM answers the question of how, theoretically, awareness can be explained (it might reside in microtubules) and it seems to me that free will requires awareness.’
    This is still not solving the problem as to wether free will exists, it’s just neuroanatomy.
    Awareness itself is already separate from the material it is not a thing.

  56. …not a thing made of material. It needs a revolution in human experience and cross this boundary and it is impossible. The mind is an eternal circle.

  57. “you can’t ‘will’ your way to an outcome other than you did without the intervention of random factors.”
    I’d request that you provide a reason why you think it’s wrong

    Because you can’t will outcomes, period. The will produces desires, not outcomes. In science, for example, the results of an honest experiment are what they are, not what you want them to be; but neither are they the intervention of “random” factors. Think what “controlled study” means.

    The will, as has been defined since the time of Aristotle, is the intellective appetite. That is, it is the hunger for (or revulsion toward) the products of the intellect, viz., conceptions. As such, this is similar to but not the same as the sensory appetites (or “emotions”), which are hungers for or revulsions toward the products of the senses, viz., perceptions. Someone who hungers for world peace is not guaranteed success in the pursuit of it any more than a lioness who hungers for a gazelle in a more materialistic sense.

    The freedom of the will comes from the incompleteness of the intellect.
    1. You cannot want what you do not know.
    2. You do not know everything.
    3. Therefore, the will has at least some wiggle room, or “degrees of freedom,” and is not determined to any one particular conclusion.

    To put it another way, the ancients and medievals thought the will was free as regards means, not ends. Just as the intellect is determined toward the True, the will is determined toward the Good. But just as our imperfect intellects oft times conceive of the False, our wills oft times desire the Bad. (Heck, even our senses oft times go awry.)

    You may desire world peace, an abstract universal, you do not know what ‘world peace’ is. What does it look like? What are its features? Most importantly, how is it to be achieved? (The Pax Romana was achieved the old-fashioned way: by defeating all of one’s opponents in war.) If there is no one way to achieve one’s desires, one’s choices of means are not determined to any one course of action. Again, I refer you to On evil, previously linked to.

    Perhaps this does not seem like much compared to Modern notions of free will; but that may only mean that Modern re-definitions are poorly thought-out compared to the original ancient and medieval definition.

  58. “Perhaps this does not seem like much compared to Modern notions of free will; but that may only mean that Modern re-definitions are poorly thought-out compared to the original ancient and medieval definition.”
    They’re probably answering a different question. One set by themselves having to do with volition and choice to act and are trying to make sense of one function of a being in physical terms which to some are mechanical and must necessarily be only material.
    They’re not mistaken about he meaning, they’re starting at a problem from a different assumption and world view.

  59. They’re probably answering a different question. One set by themselves having to do with volition and choice to act

    Of course, the question was set by themselves. They started the whole discussion. For some reason, the question was discomfiting to 18th century mechanists, who were so enamored of the financial success of machinery that they supposed everything, including themselves, were machines. So they simply made Bold Assertions to the contrary and never bothered refuting the conclusions of their ancestors.

    And of course, it had to do with “volition and choice to act.” Volition is simply the Latin form: voluntas, voluntatis, a feminine noun of the third declension, and ‘choice to act’ is simply whether some human acts are voluntary.

  60. Bella
    Bella
    Bella
    Bellorum
    Bellis
    Bellis!
    Said very fast…and you know I don’t agree with you but you don’t know why and neither do I because you’re setting the questions and the answers!
    Tomorrow I will read again my remark to your description and your reply. It’s not computing.

  61. @ Ye Olde Statistician,

    “Because you can’t will outcomes, period.”

    That’s odd, because I’m sure I’ve willed a particular outcome, like moving my arm, and it’s happened.

    “The freedom of the will comes from the incompleteness of the intellect.”

    This isn’t ‘free will’ according to any definition I’ve read. Doesn’t God have complete knowledge? So God has no free will according to your definition.

    Also, how is God’s complete knowledge of the future compatible with our having free will? God knows exactly what we’re going to do, but we could still have done otherwise?

  62. @ Joy,

    “If you move or don’t move, you know you chose to do it.”

    Well, you think you know!

    Actually, I’m not sure this is right. I’ve noticed that most of the movements I make, like shifting position when I’m sitting, are really involuntary, or at least they seem to happen slightly before I’m aware that I “decided” to do them.

  63. Swordfish,
    Yes, exactly, and that’s really the irony. Where the thinking diverges really. You might say ‘I don’t think I only think I think.

    Whether to trust, ultimately, the irony of your own mind and it’s apparent, self evident interaction with or proximity to material things as being evidence of something different, curious, otherworldly, or whether, on balance, rejection of minds which must include one’s own, as simply part of an enormous kaleidoscope; being run without agency and without purpose.

    The irony is important evidence. Voluntary movement is, only once initiated, further down the process. In voluntary movement the mind and material work together and the movement is evidence of the existence of agency whereas to some, just more ordered mixing of electrochemistry a ‘brain state’ only.

    When your postural muscles work all day and even while sleeping to prevent acidosis and potentially noxious effects of sustained postures and pressures, receptors detect a build up of acidic bi-products of muscle function and cell metabolism, (or you’d have numbness, cramp and writhing pain all day long everywhere, fragile broken tissue, like Golem.
    These receptors can and often do become Heightened in sensitivity. Physically, temporarily altered thresholds, not imagined.
    One of the reflexes is the withdrawal reflex, a “primitive spinal” one, and that happens spectacularly at a speed which is unconscious and involuntary. (Like in receiving an electric shock or a sudden physical insult.
    Your description of adjustment, IS involuntary movement until you become aware something’s numb or is hurting. Just as watching yourself in a mirror for long enough you’d see movement that you also knew you didn’t cause but wouldn’t think to doubt that conviction.

    BUT
    When asked to move, you either move or don’t. You decide. Either excepting that the mind can be trusted ultimately without full understanding or still in that same state of uncertainty, mystery, give it up to the material, negating ‘self’.
    In my view it is surrendering rather than accepting.

    The mystery and doubt is what needs to be accepted not the mind surrendered as illusion.

  64. “Because you can’t will outcomes, period.”
    That’s odd, because I’m sure I’ve willed a particular outcome, like moving my arm, and it’s happened.

    Congratulations. I had not thought that bodily motions were the sorts of outcomes under discussions. I had taken from your earlier remarks that you meant outcomes external to your own acts, such as willing world peace and alas not attaining it.

    “The freedom of the will comes from the incompleteness of the intellect.”
    This isn’t ‘free will’ according to any definition I’ve read.

    That was the definition used by Aquinas and the others who started the discussion. It was only centuries later that people began fiddling with it, and like so often in fiddling with something, they broke it.

    Doesn’t God have complete knowledge? So God has no free will according to your definition.

    It’s not “my” definition, but the classical definition. And when said of God must be understood analogously. That is, there is something in God that is like intellect and will, but it is not identically the same. For answer to your query see the 19th question in the first part of the Summa theologiae.
    http://readingthesumma.blogspot.com/2010/06/gods-will.html

    Besides, humans do not exercide free will in all matters. If you understand the meanings of the symbols as given “2+2”, you cannot withhold consent from the conclusion “=4”.

    Also, how is God’s complete knowledge of the future compatible with our having free will?

    That I freely chose some course of action does not mean no one else guessed or knew what I would do. My wife can almost always tell you what I will order at the restaurant. The doesn’t mean I don’t decide for myself. Free-will?Suprise!
    Keep in mind that from God’s point of view, there is no future. He knows all times as present simultaneously, as if the world were a “block universe” of some sort.
    http://readingthesumma.blogspot.com/2010/05/question-14-gods-knowledge.html

    I’ve noticed that most of the movements I make, like shifting position when I’m sitting, are really involuntary, or at least they seem to happen slightly before I’m aware that I “decided” to do them.

    This will come as no surprise to Aquinas. He used the example of a scholar absent-mindedly stroking his beard. Don’t forget that the rational soul subsumes a sensitive soul, a vegetative soul, and the form of inanimate matter. We have an automic nervous system, for example. Don’t fall into the Cartesian trap of the “ghost in the machine.” Our soul and body are inextricably melded, so many if not most of the acts of the body may be involuntary, governed by habit, reflex, instinct, etc.

    Late Moderns need to realize that our ancestors were not stupid. The doctrine of free-will is not a meme, but a fully articulated subject that generally requires more attention than a comm box reply. That was why I referred you a while back to Brennan’s text on Thomistic Psychology. It is a book that bears study.

  65. Who are these imaginary LM’s you are in constant battle with? Who thinks ancients are stupid?
    They did think some stupid things and so do some moderns.
    Some think LM’s are stupid, isn’t it time to move past that?
    They thought some very funny things that were wrong. My heart isn’t bleeding for them. Everybody gets things wrong and they’re not alive to know they’re a source of amusement.
    You seem to make the irrational emotional leap that this must mean that they think their intellect is bigger than the ancient, or some childish notion. It’s just petty.

  66. @ Ye Olde Statistician,

    “That I freely chose some course of action does not mean no one else guessed or knew what I would do.”

    I’m not sure how you can have a free choice if God already knows what you chose. If things can only ever turn out one way, free will is illusory.

    “Late Moderns need to realize that our ancestors were not stupid. The doctrine of free-will is not a meme, but a fully articulated subject that generally requires more attention than a comm box reply.”

    You say: “fully articulated subject”, I hear: “obscurantism”. Really insightful ideas are simple; evolution can be explained in a couple of sentences.

  67. When people say “God knows’ they really should be saying “I think God knows”. It doesn’t sound as intelligent. Nobody knows what God thinks. It is always speculation.

    If freedom in any sense is to exist at all in the universe it must entail choice of some kind.
    In order for that choice, God limits his power and this explains the resultant ‘evil’. The existence of free will must entail bad outcomes.

    Evolution does not explain ‘self’ or ‘you’, as you are.

  68. Who are these imaginary LM’s you are in constant battle with?

    “Late Moderns.” These are folks beginning in the early 1900s, but especially after the 1950s, who have abandoned the tenets of the Modern Age and left it in ruins. (The collapse started earlier in the arts, as is usual.) Starting just over a half-century ago, certain thinkers began to sense that our era was drawing to an end. Romano Guardini wrote The End of the Modern World in 1950, followed by Jacques Barzun, The House of Intellect, in 1959. In 1970, the historian John Lukacs picked up the theme in The Passing of the Modern Age. At the same time, startled by the Great Northeast Blackout of 1965, electrical engineer Roberto Vacca wrote The Coming Dark Age. Walker Percy wrote of the end of the age in “The Delta Factor” in 1975. Lukacs revisited At the End of an Age in 2002 and Jane Jacobs warned us of Dark Age Ahead in 2004. A few years later Maggie Jackson wrote Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age. The term “post modern” made a dramatic entrance.

    The Modern Ages had a number of distinct dimensions. It was the Age of Europe, the Age of the Bourgeois, of the State, of Money and of Industry, of the City, of Privacy, Family, and Schooling. It was the Age of the Book, of Representative Art, of Science, and of Secularism. All of this began to brew up five hundred years ago, and all of it is losing its fizz today. Cool, bourgeois reason with book in hand gave way to hot, committed activism with “social” media in hand. Children no longer dream of growing up to be like their parents; their elders now dream of never growing up.

    The following should help:
    [JB] Barzun, Jacques. The House of Intellect. (Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2002)
    [NC] Carr, Nicholas, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” The Atlantic (July/Aug 2008)
    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200807/google
    [JC1] Chastek, James. “The Modern Account of Nature,” Just Thomism blog, http://thomism.wordpress.com/2009/08/10/the-modern-account-of-nature/
    [JC2] Chastek, James. “Jugjugjugjugjugjugjugjjgujgujgujgujgujgujujgujguj,” Just Thomism blog,
    https://thomism.wordpress.com/2010/09/13/jugjugjugjugjugjugjugjjgujgujgujgujgujgujujgujguj/
    [MJ] Jackson, Maggie. Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age. (Prometheus Books, 2008)
    [JJ] Jacobs, Jane. Dark Age Ahead. (Vintage Books, 2005)
    [JL1] Lukacs, John. The Passing of the Modern Age. (Harper & Row, 1970))
    [JL2] Lukacs, John. At the End of an Age. (Yale Univ. Press, 2002)
    [WP] Percy, Walker. “The Delta Factor” in The Message in the Bottle (Picador, 1975)
    [RV] Vacca, Roberto. The Coming Dark Age. (Doubleday, 1973)

    For discussions of previous such transitions:
    [PB] Brown, Peter. The World of Late Antiquity. (W.W. Norton, 1989)
    [JH] Huizinga, Johan. The Autumn of the Middle Ages, tran. Rodney Payton and Ulrich Mammitzsch (Univ. of Chicago, 1996)

  69. I’m not sure how you can have a free choice if God already knows what you chose.

    A free choice is not necessarily a surprise choice. No one says that God forces or coerces you to choose as you did. A free choice is uncoerced, not unexpected. Did you not read the portion of On evil previously linked?

    You say: “fully articulated subject”, I hear: “obscurantism”.

    That is a typical Late Modern response. “Don’t hassle me with all those details and special cases, just spoon feed me two sentences in words of one syllable.”

    Really insightful ideas are simple; evolution can be explained in a couple of sentences.

    But then you have to back-fill to take care of the logical contradictions and the hard cases. Darwin had to write a lengthy book, and even he did not get it all across clearly. It took the science of genetics to “explain” it, and for that a college course or two is required.

  70. @ Ye Olde Statistician,

    “A free choice is uncoerced, not unexpected. Did you not read the portion of On evil previously linked?”

    Suprisingly, no. I did look through it, but there’s not much point reading a defence of free will if it assumes the existence of God and defines free will differently to how everyone else does.

    As for “uncoerced”, how is God not coercing people if He’s threatening them with eternal torture?

    (Having just read that last sentence, I realise that I’ve typed it before. These arguments go nowhere and can be quite boring sometimes. Think I’ll call it a day, for now.)

  71. @ Joy,

    “Nobody knows what God thinks. It is always speculation.”

    I’m just referring to the qualities Christians generally claim God to have.

    “In order for that choice, God limits his power and this explains the resultant ‘evil’. The existence of free will must entail bad outcomes.”

    God gives us a free choice so he can justify judging us, but we only need to be judged because we’re given a free choice, so it’s really a circular explanation. And God is still responsible for the whole situation.

    “Evolution does not explain ‘self’ or ‘you’, as you are.”

    I’m not sure I need an explanation?

    PS: Bad luck with your reading homework from YOS. Yours is even worse than mine!

  72. “A free choice is uncoerced, not unexpected. Did you not read the portion of On evil previously linked?”
    Suprisingly, no.

    Why would you expect that to be surprising?

    there’s not much point reading a defence of free will if it assumes the existence of God…

    Sure, there is. The existence of God is not a premise in his arguments. Don’t be afraid of picking up cooties.

    …and defines free will differently to how everyone else does.

    You have said this several times, but have never said what this modern distortion is. Your responses may dance on the bones of the Scientists of the Revolution and reduce Hume and Descartes and the rest to dust; but you have not touched the concept of free will as defined for centuries by the likes of Aristotle and Aquinas and taught by the orthodox and catholic heirs of the old Greek traditions.

    I will cheerfully admit that ‘Bill and Ted’ do not have an excellent definition that “everybody else” uses. (Whatever it is.) But then, I have seen that “everybody else” does not have a very good definition of “evolution,” either; and Darwin-deniers do not refute evolution by natural selection by pointing out that dogs do not give birth to cats.

    As for “uncoerced”, how is God not coercing people if He’s threatening them with eternal torture?

    Then why do so many people demonstrably choose evil? You probably think that when the proverbial bandit sticks a gun in your face and says, “Yer money or yer life!” that you don’t have free will.

    Having just read that last sentence, I realise that I’ve typed it before.

    That’s because of your reliance on tired and repeated cliches and gotchas. You could try typing a new sentence.

    These arguments go nowhere

    That’s because no one can be reasoned out of a position that they did not reach by reason.

    [to Joy] PS: Bad luck with your reading homework from YOS. Yours is even worse than mine!

    One of the markers of the Late Modern Age is the unwillingness of folks to do any serious reading. Hence, the emergence of “TL;DR” as a cliche to take the place of thought.

  73. @ Ye Olde Statistician,

    “Did you not read the portion of On evil previously linked?” [Suprisingly, no.] “Why would you expect that to be surprising?”

    Oh, no reason.

    “The existence of God is not a premise in his arguments. Don’t be afraid of picking up cooties.”

    Where do I start with this? I did read the section about free will but it makes so many assumptions, not just about God (that was only one example) but about almost everything. Aquinas assumes the existence of something, so reversing the burden of proof, then makes up fake objections which he can knock down because he made them up. Arguments which consist of hundreds of steps are highly unlikely to reveal anything true.

    “Then why do so many people demonstrably choose evil? You probably think that when the proverbial bandit sticks a gun in your face and says, “Yer money or yer life!” that you don’t have free will.”

    They don’t really believe in God. You’re the one who mentioned free will being “uncoerced”. I’m not sure (again) what that means? There must be some sort of ‘coercion’ at some level to a decision, otherwise it wouldn’t be possible to choose other than randomly. (As has, again, already been said.) In other words, reasons or evidence which may inform a decision-making process are themselves ‘coercion’ of a sort. What if the bandits in your analogy are your own brain chemistry?

    “You have said this [defines free will differently to how everyone else does] several times, but have never said what this modern distortion is.”

    YOU are the one who has been telling everyone that their definition of free will is wrong, yet you can’t even come up with a useable definition.

    “I will cheerfully admit that ‘Bill and Ted’ do not have an excellent definition”

    ?

    “Darwin-deniers do not refute evolution by natural selection by pointing out that dogs do not give birth to cats.”

    Actually, they do, or at least “monkeys don’t give birth to people”.

    [I realise that I’ve typed it before.] “That’s because of your reliance on tired and repeated cliches and gotchas. You could try typing a new sentence.”

    As opposed to your reliance on parroting 1,500 year-old obscurantist mumbo-jumbo? You should try making an argument rather than clinging onto Aquinas’s coat-tails. Incidentally, you also repeat the same arguments and analogies over and over.

    “That’s because no one can be reasoned out of a position that they did not reach by reason.”

    I can assure you that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this issue. Have you? As far as I can tell, the answer is no, as all you do is quote others.

    “One of the markers of the Late Modern Age is the unwillingness of folks to do any serious reading.”

    It depends what you mean by ‘serious’. I don’t count Thomism or any theology as serious. It’s literally worthless. Example from the text you linked: “Are Any Venial Sins Remitted in Purgatory after This Life Ends?” The answer is: Who cares? Sin is just a label, purgatory is a made-up place like Middle Earth, and nothing happens after you die.

    I did visit my favourite Stanford Dictionary of Philosophy and read the entire section on free will, and have read discussions on it before, so it’s not like I’ve read nothing.

  74. Swordfish, just read the *** part, It kept growing like knitting! Can’t decide which bit needs deleting.

    God, you might say, is invented to explain. The difference is that God does account for those non material things which physics cannot. Invented Gods don’t live forever.
    …?“In order for that choice, God limits his power and this explains the resultant ‘evil’. The existence of free will must entail bad outcomes.” (whether God limits himself necessarily on purpose or there is another reason, I can’t tell.)
    …?“*God gives us a free choice SO he can justify judging us,” ? (but it doesn’t follow that he gives us choice because he wants to reserve judging rights! It is not some heavenly Alice style court scene, like the internet!

    “…*we ONLY need to be judged because we’re given a free choice, so it’s really a circular explanation. “ ( that’s not an explanation that fits with Jesus’s message or proclaimed purpose as it was revealed. God is Love is at odds with *that sentiment which is therefore almost certainly wrong.). God became subject to moral evil in Jesus’s death and showed that there is still ultimate hope. It is more of a brute fact that for freedom to be real there must be choice.

    And God is still responsible for the whole situation.” (God is the cause, yes. Like the blizzard causes the avalanche that destroys a house. Psychopaths are still responsible for what they do, ultimately. God is utterly fair. He is ultimate reason, truth, love. What we call judgement may be some kind of justification. Natural evil and moral evil are separate, of course and the whole show is mixed up.
    Cause and Blame aren’t the same types of explanation. One explains order and state and the other, responsibility, accountability.

    Ultimate Purpose of God is unknown. It’s certainly a warmer and happier outlook than some want you to think or believe.

    Evolution does not explain metaphysical things. Like why the world outside can be explained by laws and why mathematics in a mind can describe accurately enough to make engineering possible.
    It makes erroneous the claim that all information we know can be explained by it.
    Nor can it be expected to explain absolutely everything. The mind, thought, experience, are in another realm at the same time as materials are knocking about.
    ***
    “Evolution does not explain ‘self’ or ‘you’, as you are.”
    “I’m not sure I need an explanation?”

    This is the key: You’re not sure you need one and I’m sure I do. Reason is necessary, either way.

    PS: Bad luck with your reading homework from YOS. Yours is even worse than mine! “ …Twas ever thus.

  75. Swordfish A: “Did you not read the portion of On evil previously linked?” [Suprisingly, no.]
    Swordfish B: I did read the section about free will

    So which was it?

    I did read the section about free will but it makes so many assumptions, not just about God (that was only one example) but about almost everything.

    Did you read it for understanding or just scan it for key words? It actually took me several readings before I understood some of the arguments. In fact, when I took Philosophy of Man back in college, I rejected quite a bit due to sophomore wisdom.

    Aquinas assumes the existence of something,…

    Such as what? He doesn’t assume the existence of God, he demonstrates it. Oh, not with the certainty of mathematics, but with more than the tentativeness of natural science. He does assume the existence of motion, of the order of efficient causes, of contingent being, of the consistency of natural laws. A number of things along those lines.

    …so reversing the burden of proof,

    ‘A burden of proof fallacy occurs when someone attempts to invoke or assign a burden of proof outside of any agreement or interpersonal protocol [as in a court of law].

    In such cases, the concept of “the burden of proof” becomes a rhetorical trope that conceals two informal logical fallacies: special pleading and an argument to ignorance. A fallacy of special pleading occurs when one asks or demands (“pleads”) to be exempted from a rule or criterion to which everyone else is held for no relevant reason (or no reason at all). An argument to ignorance fallacy has the form “my assertion is true until proven false.”’
    https://lastedenblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/20/the-burden-of-proof-fallacy/
    https://lastedenblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/02/the-burden-of-proof-destroys-rational-discourse/

    then makes up fake objections which he can knock down because he made them up.

    Actually, he is citing the arguments made by others, typically the best arguments. Some of them don’t seem cogent in the Late Modern Age because we don’t use the categories of thought then employed (and so fail to understand the deadliness of the objection); others because they have been rejected even by the broader culture.

    Arguments which consist of hundreds of steps are highly unlikely to reveal anything true.

    I’ll keep that in mind when re-reading my old college textbooks in mathematics; esp. general topology. But so also analysis, probability, geometry, and the like. Hundreds of lemmas, theorems, and corrolaries. Hell’s bells, we even have a proof that not every true statement can be proved within the discourse. We spent two entire days going through the proof of Gödel’s Theorem.

    Most of Aquinas’ arguments consist of far fewer steps than “hundreds.” But he does make hundreds of arguments which successively build upon one another.

    I’m not sure (again) what that [uncoerced] means?

    It means the means to employ in pursuit of a given good are not entirely determined up front. That is, the principle and term of the act lies entirely within the person and not in external “forces.”

    There must be some sort of ‘coercion’ at some level to a decision, otherwise it wouldn’t be possible to choose other than randomly.

    There being no such thing as “random,” only a lack of knowledge, this is a difficult position to defend. I a man’s acts are completely determined to a particular means, then he cannot decide otherwise. Yet people often do choose one way or another. If the choice is random, then all human actions are meaningless and it would be impossible for a scientists even to set up an experiment.

    In other words, reasons or evidence which may inform a decision-making process are themselves ‘coercion’ of a sort.

    No, because the motives originate in the person (they are the principle of the act) and act ends in the person.

    The notion that people have free will is not one supported by Aquinas. And one should bear this in mind both when reading the De malo and when reading what Aquinas says about freedom in other texts. What he believes in is not free will. What he believes in is freedom of choice. [Aquinas uses no Latin expression which corresponds exactly to the English “free will.” He speaks of will (voluntas) but not of free will (libera voluntas) or freedom of the will (libertas voluntatis).] When Aquinas attributes freedom to people, he frequently says that they have what he calls liberum arbitriuns. And, though translators of Aquinas often render this phrase by the English expression “free will,” its significance is different. For the thesis that people have free will is commonly taken to mean that freedom is something which belongs only to the will, that it is, if you like, the prerogative of will or a peculiar property of it. And Aquinas does not share this assumption. For, as we have seen, he believes that will and understanding are intimately comingled when it comes to human action. On his account, intellect and will are at no point separated in the exercise of practical reason. There is no act of practical intelligence that is not also one of will, and vice versa.

    Suppose that I and a mouse smell a piece of cheese. On Aquinas’s account, the cheese is significant for the mouse and, all things being equal, it will be drawn to it. According to Aquinas, however, I can perceive the cheese as more than something to eat without thinking. I can see it, for example, as somebody else’s cheese, or as bad for me if I want to lose weight, or as what I promised to give up for Lent, or as more expensive than I can decently afford, and so on. And, Aquinas thinks, my ability to think of the cheese in these ways is the root of my human freedom.

    “Aquinas thinks [that] when reflecting on the world we can always view it under different descriptions. So he also thinks that we can engage with it not because we are forced to think about it only in one way. We can engage with it as able to think about it in different ways. And we can act accordingly.”
    On evil, Introduction, pp 35 et seq.

    YOU are the one who has been telling everyone that their definition of free will is wrong, yet you can’t even come up with a useable definition.

    I am the one who has actually presented a definition of liberum arbitriuns and pointed out its inescapable connection with the intellect. It had been eminently useful for millennia. You have not provided an alternative definition that “everyone else” uses.

    “Darwin-deniers do not refute evolution by natural selection by pointing out that dogs do not give birth to cats.”
    Actually, they do…

    So you do not accept Darwinian evolution?

    As opposed to your reliance on parroting 1,500 year-old obscurantist mumbo-jumbo?

    I still use the same old Pythagorean Theorem in use for even longer. Nor do I reinvent the wheel every time I want to drive somewhere.

    When I do not cite my sources, people accuse me of abrogating someone else’s thought and passing it off as my own; so you can’t win.

    “That’s because no one can be reasoned out of a position that they did not reach by reason.”
    I can assure you that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this issue.

    Not really the same thing. “Reach by reason”?”thinking about.” Example: One may reach a conclusion by intuition or emotion (e.g., 9yr old Dawkins, who “just knew” there was no God.)

    I don’t count Thomism or any theology as serious. It’s literally worthless.

    That is why you have never understood or seriously rebutted any of its contentions. However, “free will” (so called) is not a matter of theology, but of human psychology.

    Example from the text you linked: “Are Any Venial Sins Remitted in Purgatory after This Life Ends?” The answer is: Who cares? Sin is just a label, purgatory is a made-up place like Middle Earth, and nothing happens after you die.

    –Exactly as I said in the immediately preceding comment. Of course, “who cares” was also the response given by Sherlock Holmes to the Copernican Theory in Doyle’s “A Study in Scarlet.” But the world is full of true and useful things about which any number of folks may not care.
    –Also, sin is defined as a deficiency in a good. It is useful to have a name for such deficiencies. In manufracturing, we called them “defects.” Sometimes a name is “made up,” but basic words typically evolve from ancient usage. Aquinas, of course, wrote in Latin and used malus, which means a bad or an evil (hence the book is titled De malo. Old English synn meant “moral wrongdoing, injury, mischief, enmity, feud, guilt, crime, offense against God, misdeed,” and came from Proto-Germanic *sun(d)jo- “sin.” The Latin cognate to this is sons which meant “guilty, criminal.”
    https://www.etymonline.com/word/sin
    –Purgatory is a logical necessity.
    –Your final objection is simply begging the question.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *