Welcome to Sanctioned Suicide!

By registering with us, you'll be able to discuss, share and private message with other members of our community.

Sign Up Now!

Metaphysics Discussion

W

worried_to_death

Illuminated
Joined
Jul 14, 2020
Messages
1,215
Something I've thought about: If poincare recurrence were to apply to our hypothetical cyclical universe, then our future iterations would be completely different people even though they would be perfectly identical?

What if one were to be cryogenically frozen but revived at a later point in time? Would our subjective experience carry over or would it also be someone else? The same would apply for re-uploading one's consciousness onto a computer.
But with cryogenic freezing there is no replication involved and there is a strong element of continuity
With uploading consciousness its kind of like cloning. You would still have the original biological brain consciousness, so from the point of download they would diverge. Like a cell which splits to become twins.

And yes I think that future iterations would be subjectively different people. Because they wouldnt be made of the same token (i. e. Individually identical, although they would be the same type) molecules and atoms . the molecules and atoms would belong to a different universe. Thats my intuition anyway
 
Last edited:
Wayfaerer

Wayfaerer

JFMSUF
Joined
Aug 21, 2019
Messages
1,560
But with cryogenic freezing there is no replication involved and there is a strong element of continuity
With uploading consciousness its kind of like cloning. You would still have the original biological brain consciousness, so from the point of download they would diverge. Like a cell which splits to become twins.

And yes I think that future iterations would be subjectively different people. Because they wouldnt be made of the same token (i. e. Individually identical, although they would be the same type) molecules and atoms . the molecules and atoms would belong to a different universe. Thats my intuition anyway
But with cryogenic freezing, you are technically dead and that would be the break in continuity.

You see, this is what I really don't understand. I hear of people dying officially but then coming back to life. So did the original subjectivity end and a new one began and we just don't know it? That'd be fucking nuts!
 
Last edited:
W

worried_to_death

Illuminated
Joined
Jul 14, 2020
Messages
1,215
But with cryogenic freezing, you are technically dead and that would be the break in continuity.
Yeah true. But cryogenics is still in the science fantasy/thought experiment stage. Although embryos have been brought back to life.
So it could be that whoever wakes up is subjectively different from the person who 'died', who knows

I hear of people dying officially but then coming back to life. So did the original subjectivity end and a new one began and we just don't know it? That'd be fucking nuts!
Ye, you hear of that, but I don't think those people actually died. They may have been 'medically' dead, but the fact that they came back to life means that there were still maybe microscopic (maybe quantum?) vital processes going on in their bodies which were enough to sustain minimal life.

But yeah, imagine if in that case the original subjectivity ended and a new one began, but the 'new' person wouldn't know any different because it would have all the 'old' person's memories. Insane
 
Wayfaerer

Wayfaerer

JFMSUF
Joined
Aug 21, 2019
Messages
1,560
I know that I have been bringing this up a lot and it's getting on people's nerves but I really can't help it. I haven't e-mailed Sean Carroll yet but from the digging I've been doing, it seems to me he believes in the literalness of eternal recurrence at least from what I can find...


Have you seen this yet @worried_to_death? I think it makes a convincing case. I've read many of the comments and I feel disgusted by how people actually want infinite recurrence. I can't think of anything more greedy and solipsistic than that! I say this without the slightest tinge of exaggeration: I would rather be literally crucified, as in nailed to a cross and left to bake in the noonday sun until I died of exposure, than repeat my life an infinite amount of times. In fact, I would literally beg for such an opportunity! Life would only boil down to luck and nothing else, and I've been very unlucky in several aspects. there have been so many things in my life have happened in such a way that I would almost bet money that my life is a simulation to torment me over as long a period of time as possible but just barely enough as to not make me CTB until its finished with me. It's just really cruel and f'ed up.

What I find interesting though is that someone had made the same argument you've made but I don't see many people advocating for it elsewhere. I think it's also convincing but the lack of support for it is not reassuring to me. It seems like there are a lot of ways that this can happen and an infinitely expanding universe may not be relevant at all in terms of whether it can happen or not. What are some theories that make this impossible and have strong backing by physicists?

I'm having a meltdown and I need an eternal return support group.
 
Last edited:
W

worried_to_death

Illuminated
Joined
Jul 14, 2020
Messages
1,215
The impression I get from that video is that it's a mish-mash of real science, philosophy and wild speculation, without letting listeners know which is which. This creates confusion and an illusion of being convincing.

i.e. it says near the beginning: "After an unfathomably long time, every state of an isolated and dynamic system that has an unchanging set of physical laws will be repeated."

This actually only applies to isolated mechanical systems with a finite volume. So the examples the video gives at the beginning is a set of cards (finite elements, mechanical shuffling system) and a box with gas molecules (finite isolated system). But then it makes an unjustified leap to the universe as a whole, as if it was just a logical extension of those finite discreet linear systems.

The universe is not a closed linear finite system, but an open chaotic one. Moreover, it may not even be a discrete state system (which is required for poincare recurrence to repeat the exact same initial state), but only a continuous system (which gives approximations to initial states but not identical ones).

Although it would seem that being able to divide reality into time chunks and atom chunks and particles etc would make it a discrete system with finite elements (although expansion would actually make it a potentially infinite system), that may be wrong because reality could really an analog process.
A better fit for the universe might be the non-intersection theorem of nonlinear dynamics, which doesn't give repetitions of exactly the same initial conditions.

I read this comment in the comment section:

"It implies that there are infinite versions of yourself all the time and you cannot make the difference between the different ones so technically you are inmortal"

The video creator replied:
"It' hard for me to agree or disagree. It's philosophical."

There we have it. It's basically metaphysical speculation which is given a veneer of credibility by throwing in some technical jargon and big numbers.

I would rather be literally crucified, as in nailed to a cross and left to bake in the noonday sun until I died of exposure, than repeat my life an infinite amount of times
same here
None of what the video is proposing is 100% confirmed though, right?
Well, there are a few facts thrown in here and there, but the basic message the video is trying to put forward is pure metaphysics/speculative philosophy at this stage, I think.

What are some theories that make this impossible and have strong backing by physicists
I'm not sure. If heat death and maximum entropy don't allow for isolated decreases in entropy or quantum fluctuations, then that would obviously rule it out. And the 'quantum fluctuations in heat death' idea is just a hypothesis, not a proven fact.

I'm not even sure that something like penrose's conformal cyclic cosmology (CCC theory) would give infinite recurrence of the exact same universes.
It may only give potentially infinitely many different universes. Same with the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. Which is why talk of 'eternal return' doesn't really crop up in cosmology, because it's just too metaphysical and speculative and relies too much on what we don't know yet.

Because if really infinite repetitions is a part of reality, then every possible universe that could ever exist must have already existed infinitely many times, and then you get the paradoxes and logical nonsense.
 
Last edited:
Wayfaerer

Wayfaerer

JFMSUF
Joined
Aug 21, 2019
Messages
1,560
@worried_to_death Thank you for clarifying all that for me. BIG thanks! I must say that you are very smart. Unfortunately, I was not able to make it far in my would-be career of science before I decided on CTB. I wish I had given more thought to metaphysics before my life had reached this point where it is too late to make positive changes. What you've said has provided a fair amount of relief to me but the fact that we don't have enough information to completely rule it out for absolute certain is terrifying on its own.
 
Last edited:
W

worried_to_death

Illuminated
Joined
Jul 14, 2020
Messages
1,215
@worried_to_death Thank you for clarifying all that for me. BIG thanks! You are very smart. Unfortunately, I was not able to make it far in my would-be career of science before I decided on CTB. It provides some relief but the fact that we don't have enough information to completely rule it out for absolute certain is terrifying on its own.
I'm not too smart lol
I'm not a physicist or anything, and there's a lot I don't know, so I may have said things that are inaccurate.
I just pick things up here and there and try to use logic as much as possible.

I know it can't be completely ruled out, but personally I'm not going to let that bother me too much.
We don't have enough information to completely rule out (nearly infinitely lol) many things, right?
Basically anything that isn't a logical contradiction is possible, yet most of the time we don't worry about all of these things just because they haven't been completely ruled out yet.

As far as I'm concerned, eternal recurrence is just one among many other religious/philosophical ideas about the meaning of life/nature of existence (eternal recurrence actually makes life literally meaningless though, and in the worst possible way).
I know that it can be based upon a purely materialistic and deterministic conception of reality and that some cosmological data and hypotheses can be used to tentatively support it, but what are the chances that it really represents the final 'truth' about life, existence and everything? Not very high at all, I would say.

I do feel for you that you weren't able to pursue a career in science :(
he believes in the literalness of eternal recurrence at least from what I can find
Really? Sean carroll believes in it? Or does he just believe in the multiverse hypothesis, which is very different to eternal recurrence?
If you have sources which show that he believes in it, could you share?
Is our universe deterministic or indeterministic? Do we have free will or not
I'd like to discuss topics these with more people on here.
But I guess many are not in the right frame of mind to discuss abstract topics like this
 
Last edited:
Wayfaerer

Wayfaerer

JFMSUF
Joined
Aug 21, 2019
Messages
1,560
Really? Sean Carroll believes in it? Or does he just believe in the multiverse hypothesis, which is very different to eternal recurrence?
If you have sources which show that he believes in it, could you share?
I came across one of his blogposts from '09 referencing Nietzche but I think I had misunderstood it on the first reading. At first glance, it may give someone that impression but I think he's speaking as if it were from the perspective of a 19th century understanding of physics. Still, I'm trying to find out more.

I'd like to discuss topics these with more people on here.
But I guess many are not in the right frame of mind to discuss abstract topics like this
I had the same thought but not many people seem interested. I feel like I am operating at 50% mental capacity than normal due to being severely depressed, anxious and developing tolerence to self-medication. Discussing these topics in-depth adds a new layer of challenge for me and it's difficult to stop ruminating.

As for those topics, I can't help but think determinism/no free will are true. I'd rather have free will and indeterminism because at least we wouldn't have to worry about repeating the exact same lives over and over again. I would think they're things that would necessarily break such a concept and render it impossible.
 
Last edited:
W

worried_to_death

Illuminated
Joined
Jul 14, 2020
Messages
1,215
I feel like I am operating at 50% mental capacity than normal due to being severely depressed, anxious and developing tolerence to self-medication. Discussing these topics in-depth adds a new layer of challenge for me and it's difficult to stop ruminating.
same.
I have bouts of mental clarity but most of the time I feel in a haze and I can't focus.

t first glance, it may give someone that impression but I think he's speaking as if it were from the perspective of a 19th century understanding of physics
Hopefully he wasn't taking eternal recurrence seriously but was trying to understand it from a 19th century physics perspective, as you say.
 
Wayfaerer

Wayfaerer

JFMSUF
Joined
Aug 21, 2019
Messages
1,560
same.
I have bouts of mental clarity but most of the time I feel in a haze and I can't focus.
I am in great mental pain all day and my coping mechanisms have fizzled out. With a CTB date looming and then finding out that there may be a chance of being stuck in my life for all eternity like some kind of infinite hell prison, that'll do horrible things to one's psyche. I had lived my life as if life were meaningless in the good way i.e. nothing you do matters and then in the far future everything returns from which it came: Zero, and it stays that way forever. I would've radically altered my lifestyle if I knew I was doomed to repeat it. I definitely wouldn't have done some things if I had been aware of this possibility, yet I had never even heard of this idea before late last year which was the worst possible time for me. The idea scares me because it explains a lot like what came before the big bang. It also is not intuitive because like you've said before with real infinities in a physical universe.

I have had a physical copy of "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" for many years but I had never gotten around to reading it. I only read physical books when I don't feel like my world is ending which was infrequent in my past. If I had read it sooner, then I at least would've had the idea implanted into my brain at a better time.

Hopefully he wasn't taking eternal recurrence seriously but was trying to understand it from a 19th century physics perspective, as you say.
Here's the link if you're curious: https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2009/02/10/nietzsche-long-live-physics/

I think I was jumping to conclusions at first. Still, the theories he gives give that impression to me even if he doesn't outright say it. I guess it is one of those things where I'll just have to ask him.
 
Last edited:
Wayfaerer

Wayfaerer

JFMSUF
Joined
Aug 21, 2019
Messages
1,560
On the topic of free will, I do not think that we have it. My reasons are as follows:

1.) We assume animals not to have free will, so why would we assume that humans do?

2.) If free will were to exist, humans would somehow be the only exception in the entire animal kingdom, yet somehow we are still cut from the same cloth as them.

3.) If free will existed, humans wouldn't be as predictable as they are.

4.) We did not choose where we were born, who our parents were, what our favorite color is, what our favorite movies are, etc. So why would we be able to choose anything else?

5.) YOU ARE YOUR BRAIN -- it would be strange to be able to control your chemical processes in your brain by choosing where the molecules go and what they react with by just merely thinking about it. What sense does that make?
 
Coping Wizard

Coping Wizard

Member
Joined
Sep 15, 2020
Messages
15
This type of topic is for people who are way smarter than me mainly because I'm an absolute brainlet who doesn't really understand really anything. But I do remember seeing someone who talks about metaphysics quite a bit.

I introduce you to Kill(ss)ing Asuka!

EDIT: He does talk about other topics besides from Metaphysics but I do remember he does talk about Metaphysics quite a bit in some of his videos.
 
Wayfaerer

Wayfaerer

JFMSUF
Joined
Aug 21, 2019
Messages
1,560
This type of topic is for people who are way smarter than me mainly because I'm an absolute brainlet who doesn't really understand really anything. But I do remember seeing someone who talks about metaphysics quite a bit.

I introduce you to Kill(ss)ing Asuka!
Yeah the shirtless guy. I've seen a few of his videos on quantum immortality and subjective reincarnation I think it was? Something along those lines. I don't know if I really believe all that but he's a really smart kid I'll give him that.

Did you come from wizchan?
 
W

worried_to_death

Illuminated
Joined
Jul 14, 2020
Messages
1,215
The idea scares me because it explains a lot like what came before the big bang
I don't think it explains this though.
No one on earth has any real idea about what type of reality could have existed before the big bang.
Or even what 'before the big bang' actually means, considering the spacetime of this universe started with the big bang.

If it could me mathematically shown that the probability of an eternal recurrence scenario had .000000000000001% chance of being true, would your anxiety be diminished? Or is it just the fact that it's a possibility which causes you so much anguish?

I only read physical books when I don't feel like my world is ending
weirdly, this is exactly true for me too

I think I was jumping to conclusions at first. Still, the theories he gives give that impression to me even if he doesn't outright say it. I guess it is one of those things where I'll just have to ask him
i'll take a look at the link when im feeling a bit better. Can't focus much right now
 
Coping Wizard

Coping Wizard

Member
Joined
Sep 15, 2020
Messages
15
Yeah the shirtless guy. I've seen a few of his videos on quantum immortality and subjective reincarnation I think it was? Something along those lines. I don't know if I really believe all that but he's a really smart kid I'll give him that.
Unfortunately he is dead and drove his car into Lake Michigan and jumped, I know this because there was a news article on his disappearance though I can't find it right now.
Did you come from wizchan?
Yes I did, how do you know and why do you ask?
 
Wayfaerer

Wayfaerer

JFMSUF
Joined
Aug 21, 2019
Messages
1,560
If it could me mathematically shown that the probability of an eternal recurrence scenario had .000000000000001% chance of being true, would your anxiety be diminished? Or is it just the fact that it's a possibility which causes you so much anguish?

Actually, yes, but it would have to be such an unrealistic, miniscule chance like you say. Unless it was 25% or 50% then fuck no I'd be hardcore panicking (as if that would help me anyway.) I'd probably scream like I were a lunatic in an insane asylum and start tearing out my hair!
 
Last edited:
W

worried_to_death

Illuminated
Joined
Jul 14, 2020
Messages
1,215
On the topic of free will, I do not think that we have it. My reasons are as follows:

1.) We assume animals not to have free will, so why would we assume that humans do?

2.) If free will were to exist, humans would somehow be the only exception in the entire animal kingdom, yet somehow we are still cut from the same cloth as them.

3.) If free will existed, humans wouldn't be as predictable as they are.

4.) We did not choose where we were born, who our parents were, what our favorite color is, what our favorite movies are, etc. So why would we be able to choose anything else?

5.) YOU ARE YOUR BRAIN -- it would be strange to be able to control your chemical processes in your brain by choosing where the molecules go and what they react with by just merely thinking about it. What sense does that make?
Good points.
I tend to agree that some kind of metaphysical free will unconstrained by the laws of physics and chemistry seems to me difficult to conceive.
But there are ways to define free will which make it compatible with determinism. You can have a completely naturalistic, evolutionary account of free will like dan dennett's.

I like schopenhauer's saying: you can do what you will but you can't will what you will.

I wish I could engage more with your specific points, but can't right now.
 
Wayfaerer

Wayfaerer

JFMSUF
Joined
Aug 21, 2019
Messages
1,560
Good points.
I tend to agree that some kind of metaphysical free will unconstrained by the laws of physics and chemistry seems to me difficult to conceive.
But there are ways to define free will which make it compatible with determinism. You can have a completely naturalistic, evolutionary account of free will like dan dennett's.

I like schopenhauer's saying: you can do what you will but you can't will what you will.

I wish I could engage more with your specific points, but can't right now.
I disagree with Dan Dennett because he just takes [no free will] and calls it free will. I mean, come on...

That's okay, this thread will still be here later.
 
W

worried_to_death

Illuminated
Joined
Jul 14, 2020
Messages
1,215
Unfortunately he is dead and drove his car into Lake Michigan and jumped, I know this because there was a news article on his disappearance though I can't find it right now.
wow, he was only like 23 or something.
Did he do this on purpose?
 
Wayfaerer

Wayfaerer

JFMSUF
Joined
Aug 21, 2019
Messages
1,560
Unfortunately he is dead and drove his car into Lake Michigan and jumped, I know this because there was a news article on his disappearance though I can't find it right now.
WOW :ohhhh: what the hell?!

When did this happen?
 
Last edited:
Wayfaerer

Wayfaerer

JFMSUF
Joined
Aug 21, 2019
Messages
1,560
I did some searching and I found out the he had schizophrenia and went off his meds in order to take DMT before he (presumably) killed himself. I wouldn't hold much stock in what he says tbh he was crazy. Smart, but crazy.

also lol "meat space" I'm going to take that one.
 
Last edited:
W

worried_to_death

Illuminated
Joined
Jul 14, 2020
Messages
1,215
I did some searching and I found out the he had schizophrenia and went off his meds in order to take DMT before he (presumably) killed himself. I wouldn't hold much stock in what he says tbh he was crazy. Smart, but crazy.

also lol "meat space" I'm going to take that one.
His body language and mannerisms in that video are quite strange.
He did seem psychotic there.
But able to construct a theoretical worldview using a mixture of physics, complex geometry, psychedelic terminology, solipsism...
the whole story about this guy and his ending is so bizarre. There's just something about him which is slightly 'glitchy'...
wicked smart yet seemingly mad yet seemingly enlightened.
 
W

worried_to_death

Illuminated
Joined
Jul 14, 2020
Messages
1,215
"Henri Poincaré proved his “recurrence theorem” in 1890: in a mechanical system with bound orbits (particles can’t just run off to infinity), any state through which the system passes will be approached (to arbitrary accuracy) an infinite number of times in the future"

I don't think sean carroll is implying in any way that Poincare recurrence can actually be applied to the universe as a whole.
I don't think the universe is a 'mechanical system with bound orbits', for one.

I think he just used poincare recurrence, and its superficial similarity to eternal recurrence, as a segue to Nietzsche's positive view of physics.

I would still like a clarification from him though..


I also read this comment below the article, which makes some decent points:

"Your account of Henri Poincaré’s “recurrence theorem” includes the significant cosmological caveat that the mechanical system must have “bound orbits (particles can’t just run off to infinity)”. Supposing that only part of the system is bound, how well does the theorem work? If the only galaxies left in a few thousand billion years are the remnants of our local group, will you develop the same cosmological theories as you have done this time around? How much difference would it make to you personally that the physical evidence on large scales will be completely different?
There are cosmological assumptions that we could make that would salvage the recurrence theorem, particularly an endlessly repeated big bang scenario, if we want to put faith in such things. I’m not clear, however, that we could experimentally verify that enough of the orbits in the system are bound to ensure recurrence.
There is also the caveat that each recurrence is only arbitrarily close to this occurrence, so that in almost all recurrences there is at least one very significant event that doesn’t happen (Caesar gets to Brutus first, Lincoln isn’t mortally wounded, Franz Ferdinand survives, JFK survives, to name only the deaths of famous men, …). Any of these single events may make my life completely different or fail to happen. Of course infinity is a lot of recurrences.
There are also assumptions that you don’t mention. The constants of Nature had better be perfectly invariant over time. The gravitational constant changing very slowly, say by 1% every 1000 billion years, probably messes everything up nicely. What about field theories in their various forms? The list of caveats seems to me quite lengthy."
 
Last edited:
Wayfaerer

Wayfaerer

JFMSUF
Joined
Aug 21, 2019
Messages
1,560
"Henri Poincaré proved his “recurrence theorem” in 1890: in a mechanical system with bound orbits (particles can’t just run off to infinity), any state through which the system passes will be approached (to arbitrary accuracy) an infinite number of times in the future"

I don't think sean carroll is implying in any way that Poincare recurrence can actually be applied to the universe as a whole.
I don't think the universe is a 'mechanical system with bound orbits', for one.

I think he just used poincare recurrence, and it's superficial similarity to eternal recurrence, as a segue to Nietzsche's positive view of physics.

I would still like a clarification from him though..
Yeah, that's what I had figured with my 2nd reading. Poincare recurrence is what inspired Nietzsche's eternal recurrence as well.

I also read this comment below the article, which makes some decent points:

"Your account of Henri Poincaré’s “recurrence theorem” includes the significant cosmological caveat that the mechanical system must have “bound orbits (particles can’t just run off to infinity)”. Supposing that only part of the system is bound, how well does the theorem work? If the only galaxies left in a few thousand billion years are the remnants of our local group, will you develop the same cosmological theories as you have done this time around? How much difference would it make to you personally that the physical evidence on large scales will be completely different?
There are cosmological assumptions that we could make that would salvage the recurrence theorem, particularly an endlessly repeated big bang scenario, if we want to put faith in such things. I’m not clear, however, that we could experimentally verify that enough of the orbits in the system are bound to ensure recurrence.
There is also the caveat that each recurrence is only arbitrarily close to this occurrence, so that in almost all recurrences there is at least one very significant event that doesn’t happen (Caesar gets to Brutus first, Lincoln isn’t mortally wounded, Franz Ferdinand survives, JFK survives, to name only the deaths of famous men, …). Any of these single events may make my life completely different or fail to happen. Of course infinity is a lot of recurrences.
There are also assumptions that you don’t mention. The constants of Nature had better be perfectly invariant over time. The gravitational constant changing very slowly, say by 1% every 1000 billion years, probably messes everything up nicely. What about field theories in their various forms? The list of caveats seems to me quite lengthy."
I see it this way. At the very beginning of the big bang, the universe was in its lowest entropy state. I assume this means that there are fewer possible states at this time, with the amount of possible states arising exponentially from then on as entropy increases. If determinism is rigid then what happens in the earliest possible state is what really matters as all possible states afterward are entirely determined from this state. I can't see how a universe perfectly identical to ours has Brutus take the place of Caesar and then have the rest of history diverge from there. That would be a serious break in the continuity of determinism.

Of course, the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics mucks all of that up so I am speaking as if MWT is true.
 
Last edited:
W

worried_to_death

Illuminated
Joined
Jul 14, 2020
Messages
1,215
I can't see how a universe perfectly identical to ours has Brutus take the place of Caesar and then have the rest of history diverge from there
yeah, if there is some kind of cyclic cosmology or repeating big bang scenario, and the initial state of the universe at lowest entropy point is exactly identical to another, in terms of the precise tuning of all physical laws and distribution of energy and particles etc, then it would seem that its evolution has to be identical too.

I think the question still stands if another identical initial state can ever reoccur even with potential infinity, or if it will always result in an arbitrarily-close-to but nonidentical state (if 'reality' is more like a continuous state system, not a discrete one).

But anyway, we don't even have any compelling evidence that there has ever been (or there is, on a MWT scenario) even one other universe than this one, let alone many or infinite.
This is still all in the realm of thought experiment. There are some theoretical physicists who reject many worlds realism as being unscientific and speculative.
 
Last edited:
W

worried_to_death

Illuminated
Joined
Jul 14, 2020
Messages
1,215
If free will were to exist, humans would somehow be the only exception in the entire animal kingdom, yet somehow we are still cut from the same cloth as them
I'm just going to define free will in a non-compatibilist way. I'm not saying I necessarily believe it, but it is useful to give precise definitions first.

So I would define free will as an ability to choose between different courses of action, such that if person a chooses x, then it's possible that person a could have chosen y or z instead. Moreover, person a will be able to give reasons why they chose x over y and z, so that it wasn't the result of a purely random process. So there has to be an element of conscious control involved, although the conscious control will not itself be determined by external deterministic forces.

On this definition, person a's choice of x cannot be submitted to a 'Laplace demon' analysis ("An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes").

Free will on the above definition prevents a Laplace style demon from being able to predict the (non-coerced, non-compelled) choices of a being with free will, even if it has total knowledge of the past and present.

So, just to address your point, every species is different and has different abilities and adaptations. Birds are cut from the same cloth as humans, yet they can fly and humans can't.
Humans are the only exception when it comes to having a syntactical language, so why not free will too?

Perhaps free will is an emergent property of the prefrontal cortex and results from a synthesis of high-order self-awareness, decision making and cognition.
So free will is an natural property, in that it is grounded in molecular motions and electro-chemical processes and atomic interactions, but it is more than what it can be reduced to, or the sum of its parts. Like the wetness of water is more than just its chemical compositional breakdown (H2O molecules). The wetness is an emergent property once a certain complexity and magnitude of chemical composition is reached.

But it does seem that, unlike the wetness of water, free will violates the laws of physics in terms of determinism, predictability, non-random outcomes of macro processes etc. In trying to ground free will naturalistically, it seems that it undermines that very naturalism.
Its higher order properties in terms of stochastic/non-deterministic decision making undermine its chemical and physical basis and vice versa.

So, maybe stopping at the chemical and molecular is arbitrary, and that's why you get the inconsistency.
Maybe you have to understand the higher order property of free will in terms of its more fundamental constituents, i.e. quantum processes.
So, quantum entanglement, superpositions, nonlocality, wave function collapses etc.

But, these are said to be indeterministic, 'random' processes and events which can only be analysed statistically, so how can a coherent understanding of free will be based on them, when free will requires an element of conscious control? Also, how can we somehow be in 'control' of these processes when we're not even aware of them and they're governed by laws of probability which we don't understand or choose?
And even if we were somehow in control of quantum processes, that would just beg the question how we are in control, and what it is that's doing the controlling.

If, on the other hand, it's the quantum processes themselves that are controlling and 'determining' decisions at the macro, higher-order level of the organism, then free will would be undermined too. We'd be at mercy of the quantum instead of at the mercy of the chemical or molecular.

It seems that whichever way you slice it free will as defined above is an impossibility.

The only way out is to redefine free will so it fits with determinism. But this is basically a capitulation and admission that there is no true free will.

Just some random thoughts (although they were determined too).
 
Last edited:
Wayfaerer

Wayfaerer

JFMSUF
Joined
Aug 21, 2019
Messages
1,560
I define free will as the ability to be able to make different choices in the same decision if one were to hypothetically roll back the clock. Does one choose to have the thoughts that one has? It would have had to have been provoked by something. When you get down to it, all thoughts are intrusive, it's just that some are comfortable and others not.

When humans make decisions, just like any animal, we do so using our own internal logic with the available information that we possess. Even when you are not conscious of it, humans use a flow-chart-like system in order to have the best possible outcome. Even if the logic is flawed, we'll use it assuming that it is true. However, our internal logic varies from person to person. This is why we make different choices to the same decision. e.g. Person A chooses Car X because it is black so that dirt is not as visible on the exterior while Person B chooses Car Y because it is red and that is their favorite color. Person A's thought process is practical while Person B's is subjective-minded. Why does one prefer being objective in their thinking while the other not? Is that really their choice? If Person B is convinced, it was not a free choice, likewise if Person B was unconvinced then it would also not be their choice. Perhaps Person B is unable to understand why Car X is better than Car Y, or maybe doesn't care and still weighs his/her subjective preference greater than utility. Maybe, Person B adapts Person A's thinking and incorporates it into his/her own internal logic.

Point: We do not choose what we believe to be true. It's like telling yourself that the sky is pink instead of blue. You cannot convince yourself of this no matter how hard you try.

Crime is also a great example. Neither of us are criminals (I assume) because we are fairly intelligent people with foresight. We understand that our actions have consequences and they can be far-reaching. Why would a criminal commit a crime (non-essential to life) when we would not? Does the criminal lack the mental capacity to understand what would happen to him if caught, and if so, does he care? If he does not care, then why? Why do we care and him not? Is it our genes and our environment that dictates this, or is it free will? I think the former explains it without even having to introduce the latter.
 
Last edited:
W

worried_to_death

Illuminated
Joined
Jul 14, 2020
Messages
1,215
And even if it's all genes + environment, I still think that people can be responsible for their actions, and that praise and blame are valid categories.
I don't think these require some mystical idea of free will which somehow interacts with material processes in a way which violates known physical laws.

I define free will as the ability to be able to make different choices in the same decision if one were to hypothetically roll back the clock
That's another good way of putting the definition I gave.

On a sidenote, you know stephen jay gould said that if it were possible to turn back the tape of evolution to the beginning 4 billion years ago, the history of life would not repeat itself. The world would turn out to be unfamiliar, and most likely lack humans.
And every time you rewound the tape, evolution would turn out much differently with different creatures etc.

Any thoughts as to why he thought this?

The only basis that I can think of as to why he thought this is that mutations in dna sequences are random, and that 'random' can be understood as indeterministic and operationally probabilistic and not predictable.
But surely if the initial conditions were exactly the same down to the last molecule at the beginning of the transition from inorganic to organic, the outcome would be exactly the same too? All dna mutations would still be 'random', but they would still turn out to be exactly the same random ones which occurred the first time around.

Unless Gould was basing his metaphor on some quantum mechanical interpretation, which I don't think he was. Mutations are only 'random' in the sense that a dice throw is random (or maybe this is where I'm wrong?)

If everything about a dice is known, and all the environmental variables are taken into account, then the outcome of a dice throw could be theoretically predicted with 100% accuracy.

This is not the case with quantum events, which are inherently random, and still yield only probabilities even if all relevant information is known.
 
Last edited:
Top