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David Roemer

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Materialists and those who think humans evolved from animals are irrational.

The human mind is structured like the scientific method. At the lowest level, humans observe things. This requires paying attention. At the level of intelligence, humans ask questions and invent possible answers. At the level of reflective judgment, humans marshal evidence and decide what is true or just probable. The next level is free will, that is, deciding what to do with our bodies.

Materialists say animals pay attention and are intelligent and rational. They don't say, however, that animals have free will. What they say is that free will is an illusion.

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  • Aug 9 2012: Before we can even consider whether humans or animals have free will we must determine what free will is and if it exists. Unfortunately free will is an abstract concept which is untestable and unprovable.

    I see no reason why if we assume that humans have free will, we should assume that animals do not.

    There are only two possible reasons why someone might assume that humans have free will while animals do not. It allows cruelty to animals since you can't really "hurt" a biological robot and there is a comfortable feeling of superiority which the assumption creates.

    David, you are suggesting that there is a group of people which have made the following three assumptions;

    1. Animals do not have free will.
    2. Humans do have free will.
    3. Humans evolved from animals.

    I would suggest that 1 and 2 are your assumptions and they do not belong to the "Materialists" or "those who think humans evolved from animals" and they are not self evident givens which we should all accept unchallenged.

    A rational set of assumptions might be;

    1. Animals have free will.
    2. Humans have free will.
    3. Humans evolved from animals.

    Alternatively;

    1. Animals do not have free will.
    2. Humans do not have free will.
    3. Humans evolved from animals.

    Or finally, perhaps the most reasonable position;

    1. I don't know if animals have free will.
    2. I don't know if humans have free will.
    3. Humans evolved from animals.
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      Aug 9 2012: Your rule that we have to define free will is completely arbitrary. Why should I follow this rule? I do not follow it because the human mind is structured like the scientific method. At the lowest level is observations, which requires paying attention. The level of inquiry requires being intelligent. At the level of reflective judgment, humans marshal evidence and decide whether a theory is true.

      The humans have free will is an observation. Humans ask: What is the relationship between myself and my body? Theory: Free will is an illusion. Judgment: There is no evidence supporting this theory.
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        Aug 9 2012: People who can't ask question because s/he is deaf and dumb........and also s/he can't construct any sentence because of the same reason......what s/he is ? Animal ? Is that so?
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        Aug 10 2012: David how do you distinguish or describe what you observe to be free will?

        Communication benefits from having agreed definitions for words - including free will
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      Aug 10 2012: How do you define free will Luke?

      For me it's like I appear to choose chocolate ice cream over strawberry. But could that be predicted with an adequate understanding of the mind etc.

      It gets very complex when you need to understand all the experiences and variables that go into a single decision.

      It probably does not matter in a practical sense because even if we could predict everything we can not for now so it feels like we are making a choice. Chocolate thanks.
      • Aug 10 2012: Explaining my thoughts on free will can be difficult, I don't always have the right words to be understood correctly but let’s see how it goes.

        Predicting the outcome of a decision requires three things; you must know all the variables, you must know all the rules and reality itself must be absolutely deterministic.

        My very amateur understanding of quantum physics is that the Heisenberg uncertainty principle disallows our knowing all variables and Bells theorem suggests that quantum effects cannot be explained with local variables and determinism cannot be absolute. If free will is to exists, it's probably expressed somehow on the quantum level.

        I'm going to borrow from a previous post of mine now;

        There are conceptual problems with the idea of free will;

        The act of making a decision is one which is made, consciously or otherwise, by placing all the known variables into an equation defined by your value system and determining the best conceptual path. This process is very mechanical and predicable, if you know the variables and the equation, you automatically know the outcome.

        If free will does exist it means that a decision must be made in the absence of knowledge, values and analysis. It would be the ability to make a choice when you don't even know that there is one to be made. (otherwise it is predictable and not true free will)

        Free will is paradoxically nonsensical but at the same time an individual’s experienced existence or even existence itself cannot be explained with a "turtles all the way down" endless causal chain of events. (I don't see absolute determinism as a viable alternative explanation).

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