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Scientific Determinism

We all believe in causality- that everything that occurs does so because of prior causes.

Our decisions are a good example of this. My fuel indicator says I'm low on fuel so I go to the pump to get petrol.

My decisions are culminations of the firing of neurons inside the biological neural network that is my brain.

The state of these neurons is decided by each preceding state as per causality, going back in an unbroken chain to the first development of the neural network.

So where does free will creep in? If all the 'states' that describe my behaviour at the time are determined by preceding states then my behaviour is in a sense pre-determined.

So is our notion of free will mistaken? What implications does this common scientific knowledge have on our current criminal justice system?

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Free will comes in

When one puts themselves into a state of I don't know. When one stands naked and humble before the knowledge of the universe and forgets everything they "know" enlightenment is achieved by shedding the ego. The ego is the filter (neural network) through which all physical signals sensed into electrical patterned stimuli are processed and filed into the neural net patterns of weighted experience. Weighted input stimuli in turn feeds bias which in turn feeds the next weighted sum. The result of this ego filtering process in turn weights the logic from previous experience then determines the patterns of neurological stimuli and then electrochemically generates the necessary transporters (chemical language of the cells) to provide the necessary cellular coordinated activities. Notice how the signals filter through the ego that was built by experience. Free will comes in when one simply says I don't know. This can provide an alternate patterned stimuli interpretation bypassing the traditional experience and tap a new neural net root. Tapping this unconnected "virgin" root of a neural net that has not been built yet enables one to free themselves of the previous experience and bias (NULL themselves) and then move freely into building an entirely new experience resulting in completely novel logical weights and bias. The free will is the ability to consciously forget everything you knew and start anew and then have the choice to later connect the two previously isolated neural nets to gain broader experience and more perspectives OR not. As with anything else practice makes perfect. The better one gets at forgetting everything and learning a new perspective the more perspectives that can be achieved. If this is made into essentially a never ending multiplying recursive function this expands experience, diversifies accessible bias, which in turn maximizes the ability for randomness or not. Having the choice of complete and total randomness or strictly biased applications of discreetly isolated task demonstrates free will is accessible. While everything before had to happen to get the neurons physically there the neurons can connect and reconnect based on experience and deterministic behavior can result OR it can be an AND of multiple built perspectives which can result in the flows of patterned stimuli through the existing neurons to be novel. This novelty in the pattern of energy flow of logic is the result of the exercise of the freewill. Knowing a new neural virgin tap root can be access OR not shows that one has freewill. However it appears that not everyone realizes this. If one does not realize this ability to tap a new root then all actions are on a single natural biased net and therefore all electrochemical generations will fall into the same patterns of deterministic behavior and deterministic transporter generation resulting in very predictable patterns of behavior that results from not realizing entirely new perspectives can be accessed and then cross-linked OR not.

The most powerful Law of Nature is Time. It is finite and we all will run out of it. Use this Law to your advantage, for it offers you infinite possibilities...

Yeah, that I agree with but

Yeah, that I agree with but when it comes to data processing efficiency and also 'resolution' then you have to repeat certain patterns until they become second nature. For example playing an instrument so forgetting everything can lead to innovative thinking, but if you want to become good at the new concept you came up with you have to repeat.

Anyway, see my reply below where I have cast a wider net to find where free will might be lurking.

Would you consider probabilistic randomness as free will? Personally I don't think so. Free will would imply a personal non-causal choice between these states, free of the physical realm. You can postulate a soul, but them how would the soul interact with the material world.

It is an interesting philosophical question but to be honest I'm more interested in the implications for the criminal justice system.

Thanks for all the great

Thanks for all the great answers. I just checked today as I thought the thread was buried.

I want to give a further analogy to demonstrate I am not considering a human being in a vacuum but accounting for the environment as well.

Consider an unbroken placement of solids and striped balls at a pool table. The player steps up and strikes the cue ball for the break.

Now, as long as we know all the positions of the balls and the force and point of impact of the stick on the cue ball we can predict the future states at any given time of all the balls.

Similarly, according to particle physics, the universe is a constant interaction of tiny particles. If all the rules of physics are known and all the current states of the particles are also known at any given point of time, then in theory a computer powerful enough would be able to compute all future states.

Now comes in the uncertainty principle due to which exact positions and momenta cannot be known beyond a limit. So this would seem to be the phenomena through which free will may sneak in.

However, this point of view is destroyed when you consider that despite these uncertainties, particles still must adhere to a probability distribution function.

Now the fundamental laws of physics apply to our bodies as well so yes there can be free will (big stretch) but it would still be constrained overall.

Sorry for putting your brain through the grinder =D

What I am finally interested in is whether the criminal justice system should not be about punitive measures at all but about management of threat. Whether that is done through behavioural therapy (A Clockwork Orange ^_^) or simply through confinement and isolation.

I think it is very difficult to reconcile with our everyday experience but if found to be true should affect the punitive aspect of our laws. If any, they should be completely a by product rather than the aim.

Just because someone can predict your behavior

Doesn't mean that it isn't your free will to make the decisions you do.

That's because the prediction is only validated AFTER the event has happened. Once something is in the past, it is deterministic. Things in the future are not, because you do not yet have all the information required.

Its an interesting question though.

Descartes' Demon

In theory perhaps such a machine could be built, though to accurately simulate the universe we would need a computer as big as it unless some data compression mechanisms could be used without introducing approximations or errors.

I get what you are saying. But even so we would be like a train that can only move along a single track, never able to go off, yet believing it was free to roam and only you g along the track of its own free will.

Misperception of Terminology

"Firing of nuerons" has a lower common denomenator: impulses.

Re: Criminal Justice System

Committing crime is reactionary to impulse, not "determination."

Re: "States" you're "in"

There is no stationary form of existence because your nueral network is intrinsically bionic. Your cognition is completely separate.

I think it's an incredible question; I think you might enjoy this book: The Overview Effect — Space Exploration and Human Evolution by Frank White.

I've generalised the argument

I've generalised the argument to particles in general rather than neurons.

There will be states even in a dynamic process. You can consider snapshots taken at intervals of every Planck time. But you get relativity and gravity into it and it becomes very convoluted as now even the reference for time must be chosen because it is progressing at different rates all over the universe.

Explained Better

I dug up a quote from myself on this subject,

"I think that it's a false question. Human cognitive ability means that human agency involves internal evolution against external conditions, in a self-preserving manner book-ended by conscious awareness. Human choice is not (internally) deterministic, it depends upon the conditions of the actor and his internal state, as well as the external conditions. It is the union of the two.

I wouldn't disagree with elements of determinism generally, however I disagree with some. This becomes clear when one considers the implications of determinism. For example, free choice would be less desirable if we conclude human agency is purely deterministic. This means that if the external conditions can be controlled, the moral aspect of choice becomes irrelevant. Thus a scientifically managed society would not necessarily value individual choice except in a minor pragmatic way.

Understanding why this is wrong has less to do with the nature of human agency as it has to do with our analysis of it. The self has the ability to preserve its core aspects while changing peripheral aspects to meet the external conditions. So 'self' is defined not analytically (you are what you have done) but dynamically (you are what you would do). Self IS the PROCESS of self discovery, in a way. Under that definition, determinism's moral dimension becomes clouded. A person must be allowed to freely act in order to achieve meaningful self-definition.

In line with my overall point: there is no illusive metaphysical aspect of free will, rather, there is no analytical way to define the very real, physical, natural 'self' which exists by free choice.

There is free will and there must be freedom

I think our notion of free will is sometimes swapped out with the Platonic notion. This is the idea that our will is a supernatural force, that exists in a more perfect realm, and that we fully own choice in a magical, incomprehensible way.

That is silliness.

Will is determinant fundamentally, but that's not the end of the story. Two points:

1)Hayek - the sheer complexity behind choice means that your choices may as well be magical, as no one is fully going to manage or predict 'you' and 'your will' will inevitably take on forms of spontaneity. In other words, you are the only entity that ultimately owns your choices, you are the creator of your choices (by whatever process) so you are accountable for them.

2)Free will does not mean your magical soul choosing A or B in a vacuum. Life is a series of choices, outcomes, preconditions. Yes, your preconditions are determined, and affect your choices and outcomes, but they are uniquely yours. Choice is part of a learning process, a 'becoming' process. As you 'become' yourself continuously over time, you are never faced with: choice A or choice B. You are faced with dynamic and complex outcomes. You must continually - because of external constraints [determinism] - choose how you are to define yourself in the face of those constraints. Materialism dominates life, but life is not solely materialistic. You can't always control the constraints, but you control how those constraints change you and make you into something. That process of control is evolutionary.

Thus: Freedom's virtue doesn't lie in permitting some soul to act one way or another throughout life. Freedom permits the process of becoming that very much lies behind who we are, and undergirds all of our choice.

Abuse, which stifles freedom at the spiritual level by attacking a person's existential validity, proves that without this spiritual freedom of being able to become what we will become on our own terms, the figurative soul adapts by breaking itself into pieces. Abuse makes broken people. As does oppression.

Anyway, the long story short is that perhaps we are never making choices free of our external constraints, but when our process of choice is liberated, at that point we fully experience choice, and that process of the conscious experience of choice is what allows our souls to evolve and ultimately leads to a purposeful life. We learn from our choices who we are, and who we are is why we are.

I pretty much believe this to be the case...

I have been a hard determinist for 7 years now. The only free will I have ever witnessed is the perceived free will of people who cannot know the future. You would need to add up all of the previous variables to know the future, which is a pretty impossible act. So to me, free will is a label to describe the mystery of the future inside of the human consciousness. Do not forget that a large part of our consciousness is subconscious. Our subconscious could be making all of our decisions for us, and we would never be the wiser.

-Matthew Good

"So to me, free will is a

"So to me, free will is a label to describe the mystery of the future inside of the human consciousness. "

This is a fantastic definition. However the illusion is persistent, so even though we can understand it intellectually, we can never really 'get' it.

Again, fantastic way of putting it.