A new normative theory and a PhD thesis

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A new normative theory and a PhD thesis

Postby Daniel McKay on November 19th, 2016, 9:51 pm 

For my PhD thesis I am writing and defending a new normative theory. Part of this process is gathering objections from many different sources and then discussing the most interesting or common ones in an objections chapter.

So, I am looking for people to read a portion of my work and then tell me anything they think is wrong with it, anything I've missed and anything they think I am mistaken about. Anything you say that I use in my thesis will be referenced to you in the way that you prefer (real name or username).


Here is the link for a draft version of two early chapters which should outline what my theory is and give you a give you a good enough understanding to point out all the ways in which you think I'm wrong:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B00h0Nc3IZm1TkYzUnVZLWJ5Wms/view?usp=sharing

Thanks for reading this and I look forward to reading your comments.
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Re: A new normative theory and a PhD thesis

Postby DragonFly on November 20th, 2016, 1:04 am 

This part below may have a sort of undeclared reference to resolve, in 'free thing', although it is already in quotes to probably mean that it may not have good definition, and of course it is ever at the heart of a dilemma/paradox.

To be free (that is, to have free will) one must have the ability to, when there is a choice to make, make a choice that is not wholly determined by external or preceding factors, but rather a product of the “free thing” itself.

If there is a "free thing" that's not a part of who we've become as our will, then it seems that we and our will are harmed rather than helped by the will being bypassed somehow, even in part, since we lose our consistency of action that would have been so if our entire fixed will had its say, as instead somehow doing something as partly 'random' that doesn't utilize the full will, that is, if outputs from no inputs are even possible.

Being free of one's will would seem to be useless, except perhaps to somehow achieve a true variety of action, but such variety could spell the end through some doom.

What, then, is 'free will' free of, if not the will? If we are just 'free' to operate, then that is a freedom, but it doesn't resolve how the will can ever be free of the will, for how is one ever able to act as a kind of a mini first-cause, which doesn't fly, anyway, for what is causeless has no set direction to it, even if such is possible. It's also already a given that we can collapse scenarios of consequences of into thoughts and actions, as to operate as human mammals.

It does seem to us often that "They should, they ought to, they could" (with more learning/training to widen the fixed will to a new and better feed will) but then it also seems to blunt our wishes that they don't or they can't, at least in really stuck cases, and so at least for those we gain some compassion instead of uselessly agitating ourselves over what they did. To avoid even any involuntary anxiety, we might even bypass them completely.

Of course, the above paragraph is about good morality future actions, and has a good aim, but if said about the past, such as they shouldn't have done something or they could have done it differently, then one would not be facing the reality of the actualities that did happen, rendering "if's" useless but for curiosity about alternatives for like situations in the future.

So, I suppose the whole thesis depends on what 'free' is, above and beyond the entire realm of the will (already including rumination, consciousness, and all that goes into making choices from the repertoire of information that we have in the brain up to some instant of decision).
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Re: A new normative theory and a PhD thesis

Postby Daniel McKay on November 20th, 2016, 7:48 am 

I am confused as to where you got the idea of being free of one's will? By free thing, I just mean the entity that has free will, not some other separate entity.

I don't know how we can act as a mini first cause, but I think we can. And I think we have good reason to believe that we can (which I have explained in the chapter you read), even without knowing how doing so is possible.

Also I strongly disagree that saying one should have done differently than they did is not facing the reality of the situation. One cannot be said to have done anything wrong if everything they did was the only option available to them.
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Re: A new normative theory and a PhD thesis

Postby DragonFly on November 20th, 2016, 1:00 pm 

Daniel McKay » November 20th, 2016, 6:48 am wrote:I am confused as to where you got the idea of being free of one's will? By free thing, I just mean the entity that has free will, not some other separate entity.


It's difficult to vote for having free will when we don't know what the 'free' part means, if not free of the nature of the will. So then, all that the mention of 'free will' has going for is that it sounds like a good thing have just on the basis of its wording. The same with taking infinity and Nothing to be extant because of there being those words.

Daniel McKay » November 20th, 2016, 6:48 am wrote:I don't know how we can act as a mini first cause, but I think we can. And I think we have good reason to believe that we can (which I have explained in the chapter you read), even without knowing how doing so is possible.


What is causeless is eternal, and having no beginning doesn't allow for any design of it.

Daniel McKay » November 20th, 2016, 6:48 am wrote:Also I strongly disagree that saying one should have done differently than they did is not facing the reality of the situation. One cannot be said to have done anything wrong if everything they did was the only option available to them.


Well, the inputs available for the person at the time made for a 'bad' output, so it's tough to argue with that actuality by supposing that the inputs could have been otherwise. All our "what if's" have already been trumped by the action that did go forth due to the real situation at the time.

The defendant appeals to the judge that "The universe made me do it" and the judge probably replies that, Well, that's true, but I still have to lock you up until the universe doesn't make you do it any more, in order to protect society."
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Re: A new normative theory and a PhD thesis

Postby Daniel McKay on November 20th, 2016, 8:47 pm 

Yes on a deterministic understanding of the universe, that is how the judge should reply. However, if the person has the ability to make choices that are not wholly determined by antecedent conditions, which ability we can call "free will", then the judge can reply "the universe did not make you do it, the inputs did not lead necessarily to the output, rather you choose that output from a range of possible outputs, and you should have chosen a better one".

Why is what is causeless eternal? That seems like a strange assumption to make.
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Re: A new normative theory and a PhD thesis

Postby DragonFly on November 20th, 2016, 11:05 pm 

Daniel McKay » November 20th, 2016, 7:47 pm wrote:Why is what is causeless eternal? That seems like a strange assumption to make.


Well, philosophically, as Nothing isn't productive (or even 'there'), then, for example, the Basis of Existence had to be ever, with no beginning and no end, no option, as a causeless entity, which also means that it had no point for its definition and design, making it either to be only what it can be by some default necessity or else something very indefinite (as Quantum Mechanics finds it to be, scientifically), in which anything goes.

QM has it to be a unitary set of probabilities when interacted with, either by out instruments or by nature's actions, resulting in random output. Now, if any of this were to somehow seep into the normal doings of the will, say at some key junction, disrupting the normal process, then this would seem to harm both a free will and a fixed will, although it probably washes out or at least evens out in the classical realm of the brain, but, still, if it could get through then at least that is one way that actions could turn out differently if the situation could be played again, but still this credit/debit would not be accorded to the person's responsibility, but is rather a form of a coercion by 'random'.

The courts don't yet realize that "responsible vs. not responsible" is at a right angle (orthogonal) to "determined vs. not determined', although exceptions are made for temporary insanity, coercion, any more.

The judge's "should have" is rather a wish that the person had done better, yet whatever led to the bad action was really structured as so at the time, which all our hopes can never go back to change.
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Re: A new normative theory and a PhD thesis

Postby Daniel McKay on November 21st, 2016, 6:43 am 

I'm glad you mentioned the "non-deterministic free will would just be randomness" objection. That is one I that has come up before. Would you mind me referencing you as one of the people who had brought it up? If so, how would you like to be referenced?

Why are you making nothing into a thing. I am not suggesting that the cause of a free action is "Nothing". I am suggesting it is the person that performs those actions, but that those actions are not wholly determined by antecedent events and conditions such that one could never predict with complete certainty how someone will act (Laplace's demon is impossible).

I also didn't invoke quantum mechanics as I certainly don't have a good enough understanding of quantum mechanics in order to discuss it intelligently.

Responsible vs not responsible is not orthogonal to determined vs not determined, being not determined is a precondition for being responsible.

The judge's should have is not a wish, it is a claim about how the person ought to have acted, and presumes that they could, under those circumstances, act differently from how they actually did.
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Re: A new normative theory and a PhD thesis

Postby NoShips on November 21st, 2016, 7:00 am 

Regarding the following (from post 2):

"To be free (that is, to have free will) one must have the ability to, when there is a choice to make, make a choice that is not wholly determined by external or preceding factors, but rather a product of the “free thing” itself."


I would agree, but I'm wondering if you're aware that this is probably not the predominant interpretation of free will; the so-called "compatibilist" school of thought.

The compatibilists hold that all our choices, like everything else in the universe, are completely determined, but with the exception of acts that are coerced (a mugger holding a gun to your head) and similar cases (addiction, perhaps), our acts are, nonetheless, free.

In other words, on the compatibilist account, when you raid the cookie jar in the middle of the night, or flirt with the neighbor's wife, you could not have done otherwise (like everything else it was entirely determined), yet your actions and deemed free, thus you are morally accountable for them.

When you hear people like Daniel Dennett endorse free will (you'll find a clip on Youtube), it's this (the compatibilist) concept of free will they have in mind.

Like yourself, it doesn't sound much like freedom to me.


P.S. Stephen Pinker too. There's a clip on Youtube. I'd post links but the connections here are soul-destroying.
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Re: A new normative theory and a PhD thesis

Postby DragonFly on November 21st, 2016, 3:08 pm 

Daniel McKay » November 21st, 2016, 5:43 am wrote:I'm glad you mentioned the "non-deterministic free will would just be randomness" objection. That is one I that has come up before. Would you mind me referencing you as one of the people who had brought it up? If so, how would you like to be referenced?


'Austin P. Torney, aka DragonFly' is fine.

If determinism is true (cause determines effect appears likely), that would seem to reduce life's meaning somehow, in that we can only do as we must, as bio-electro-chemical-mechanical machines/automatons—an apparent horror to our sensibilities.

We look for a way out of the horriffic situation (outputs from inputs) by perhaps proposing more inputs, beyond those obtained from learning, such as picking up inputs directly; however, at the end of the day they are just another input, whether described as others brainwaves coming in or whatnot, making the situation intractable, although learning makes for wider choice making than we had before, yet still fixed to the new instants of deciding.

So, we banish determinism, leaving us with its opposite, as 'not determined'! But this seems to be much scarier, for we're doing things based on nothing, which we interpret as random, which is not even true to ourselves.

So, we rush back to embrace determinism, now accepting it as the only way nature can operate, grateful for the survival that its consistency provides, happy not to be a random air-head, enjoying the benefit of true experiences, albeit like those of watching a movie, which we can still enjoy and get into, relieved of shame and blame for those times when our neural votes produced the 'bad, restored from our hubris back toward the ultimate humility of our insignificance, now much better able to live and let live.

While we can't predict what will happen, nor could the Daemon if 'random' can be so (which still needs to be shown), indeterminism is not much as a refuge, for either there is determinism or there isn't, neither of which appeal to us.

Daniel McKay » November 21st, 2016, 5:43 am wrote:Why are you making nothing into a thing. I am not suggesting that the cause of a free action is "Nothing". I am suggesting it is the person that performs those actions, but that those actions are not wholly determined by antecedent events and conditions such that one could never predict with complete certainty how someone will act (Laplace's demon is impossible).


I'm saying that Absolute Nothing is impossible because it has no being, etc.


Daniel McKay » November 21st, 2016, 5:43 am wrote:The judge's should have is not a wish, it is a claim about how the person ought to have acted, and presumes that they could, under those circumstances, act differently from how they actually did.


Except that the neural votes came in at the time, reflecting the actual situation, and they Donald Trumped the later wishes and hopes of the judge with reality's true path.
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Re: A new normative theory and a PhD thesis

Postby Daniel McKay on November 21st, 2016, 8:41 pm 

NoShips. Yes I am aware that compatibilism is the more popular position, but I, like yourself, reject it. When compatibilists say "but we can have free will" they are talking about something quite different from what I am when I talk about free will.

DragonFly: Why must it be determined or random? Are you saying these are the only two options?
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Re: A new normative theory and a PhD thesis

Postby DragonFly on November 21st, 2016, 10:41 pm 

Daniel McKay » November 21st, 2016, 7:41 pm wrote:DragonFly: Why must it be determined or random? Are you saying these are the only two options?
Yes, although perhaps in a mixture, but it's hard to fathom that what the brain's analysis comes up with could get ignored and furthermore get replaced with something that wasn't even any part of its repertoire, but we suppose there can be disruptions due to cosmic rays, 'random', chemical imbalances, neurotransmitter problems, and other mistakes; however, that's not what you/we are looking for to have to will to be free, for those exceptions are just desperate reaches that don't help, although they maybe show that actions could have been different, but still not in the way we/you are after.

What would be a true middle ground between determined and not, for the cases when the will is truly able to operate as intended, without mistakes messing it up?

Maybe it is that we come up with probabilities, due to our lack of perfect information? Even so, we don't sit on the fence for long, usually, unless some evidence is expected, and so we are back to some definite action/thought that collapses the probability into one thing or another, which doings would also seem to be determined by how we estimate.

It gets worse. In the Block Universe eternalism that is often inferred from Einstein's Relativity theory, all the events for all time are already laid out, somehow, instantaneously, making all that happens to be even predetermined, which seems to add insult to our already injured notion; however, it's opposite, presentism, does only slightly better (though not in any significant way), with each step determined as a process goes along, in that each 'now' is made from the previous 'now', as still meaning determinism, albeit it not predetermined for all time ahead of time.

Both eternalism and presentism have their paradoxes, so some go for a growing block universe, in which the past is retained but the future remains open, although still determined.

Is there still a hope left in Pandora's Box of Truths for a way for the will to be both consistent in doing its job yet free in some useful way from doing its job—that actually makes us operate better as 'free' and not 'fixed', in some kind of a mixture?
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Re: A new normative theory and a PhD thesis

Postby Daniel McKay on November 22nd, 2016, 8:25 pm 

I am not suggesting that there is a middle ground, but rather a third option entirely.

Eternalism isn't necessarily a problem depending on how you conceive of free will and time. It might be the case that the future already exists, either a certain amount of it or all of it, but this doesn't necessarily require that our choices are determined by preceding events, much as it wouldn't require random events to be determined by preceding events. It could be the case that they are real free choices, but we have already made them as the future already exists.

Why still determined in a growing block universe?
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Re: A new normative theory and a PhD thesis

Postby DragonFly on November 22nd, 2016, 11:52 pm 

Daniel McKay » November 22nd, 2016, 7:25 pm wrote:It could be the case that they are real free choices, but we have already made them as the future already exists.


I do wonder how the Block Universe was formed all at once for all time. It could be done instantly in the 5th dimension, but then we'd have to likewise wonder how the 5th dimension came to be… and end up with a regress.

So, let us make up a story that there could have been a live presentation done in no time, ideally, but now we are seeing a slow motion replay of what we already did, presumably because after it all got real-ized, light had to have a finite speed (or the broadcast became time-dilated).

As for how the forward extent of the block universe in its future part is already complete as infinite, I don't see how. I like presentism better, but then how is the relativity of simultaneity dealt with?

Daniel McKay » November 22nd, 2016, 7:25 pm wrote:Why still determined in a growing block universe?


I suppose it doesn't have to be, nor in presentism, if we can count on 'randomness' to affect the strict determinism without obliterating the benefits of consistency.

Anton Zellinger has found randomness to be the bedrock of reality to a level of three or four sigma.

Randomness being true also prevents a regress in our wonderings about the eternal basis, in that what is eternal can't have a design put to it, given no beginning—so, it must be truly random.

My great short film on eternalism/presentism: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAz6balOuSk
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Re: A new normative theory and a PhD thesis

Postby mitchellmckain on November 24th, 2016, 1:42 am 

Determinism is dead from a purely objective (i.e. scientific) standpoint, but ethics does not require this. The whole determinism and free will debate is thus irrelevant. It is sufficient to say that someone is responsible when their choice of action is not determined by conditions external to the conceptual operation of the mind. External conditions would include biological and chemical effects upon the brain. This would, of course, also be subject to judgments with regards to mental competence, the lack of which would indicate the need for medical treatment and/or supervision rather than punitive responses.

It is typical for law enforcement to understand the reasons or motive for actions without suggesting that the determinate effect of such causes in any way remove responsibility. Quite the opposite, motive verifies that the conceptual operation of the mind is involved rather than something external, chemical or medical.
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Re: A new normative theory and a PhD thesis

Postby BadgerJelly on November 24th, 2016, 2:56 am 

Neither determinism nor free-will can be proven. If we could prove either we'd be in a very strange situation ... or rather non-situation!?

Haha

The absurdity.

It is hard for me to work from the premise presented in your paper. I can present many questions about this, but understand that some premise needs to be presented and that all "premises" are in one sens eor another "false".

Normative ethics is generally a confusing thing for me especially. To say there is an ethical truth is to take a extraordinary and alien journey. I have taken this journey before and found myself taking so many side paths during this investigation that I was far to occupied and fascinated with such things that I saw no need to carry it through towards some "end".

Free-will ironicaly is pretty much like living towards the "as if" of an absolute ethical truth. Often the logical thinker turns to human nature and investigates evolution and genetics in order to cloth decision in cold logical facts. There is certainly a very bizarre and tangled mess here and within this mess ideas of "compatibilism" have made attempts to remedy the situation.

Like I said to you, I will try and fidn the time to read it all and to stick to the frame you've set it in. My thoughts and comments may not be of much use though.
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Re: A new normative theory and a PhD thesis

Postby Daniel McKay on November 26th, 2016, 9:05 pm 

Thank you Badger, I look forward to reading what you think. Also, I am not convinced that free will cannot be proven. I think given enough time for technology to advance, we could indeed set up an experiment to demonstrate it. Lack of free will obviously can't be, but trying to prove a negative is always a non-starter.
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