Monday, August 18, 2008

I feel stupider for having read this.

And now, I will spread the pain!

(Non-philosophers and folks not up on the free will debate can read this for explanation of the sheer idiocy on display.)


undergroundman said...

I like the quote at the end:
But Gerard ’t Hooft of the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1999, says the pair’s conclusions are legitimate — but he chooses determinism over free will. “As a determined determinist I would say that yes, you bet, an experimenter's choice what to measure was fixed from the dawn of time, and so were the properties of the thing he decided to call a photon,” ’t Hooft says. “If you believe in determinism, you have to believe it all the way. No escape possible. Conway and Kochen have shown here in a beautiful way that a half-hearted belief in pseudo-determinism is impossible to sustain.”

Hooft sounds like my type of guy. I got the chance to see Conway present this theorem live at a math conference. I wasn't able to get in a question, and the whole thing struck me as absurd, but I'm not sure if it is idiocy per se.

You know that Robert Kane has essentially advanced an argument for compatibilism using quantum particles? Of course, you did look at my paper, so you do. :p

Thanks for the review of it, by the way. :) I may get around to revising it sometime.

I've not yet been able to fathom the "hypothetical argument" for compatibilism, which is allegedly destroyed by the "Consequence argument". The other type of compatibilism by Dennett exist under a deterministic framework. It should be called simply pragmatic compatibilism, although I don't recall Dennett ever using the term. I don't use it either. I used to have an argument from James in my paper; I'm not sure why I took it out, but I generally don't like the way that James seems to take his pragmatism into the realm of validating statements of fact.

ADHR said...

I like the phrase "chooses determinism over free will". It's self-refuting.

Kane isn't a compatibilist, I'm afraid; he's a libertarian. That's why he goes on about quantum particles -- he's trying to show that, somehow, quantum indeterminacy is sufficient to ground the sort of self-directed action that libertarians have been after. Personally, I think pragmatism is a shorter route, and one that isn't so friggin' weird.

I don't know the hypothetical argument, actually. But the consequence argument is a nightmare to figure out. It gets bogged down quickly in details of modal logic. I tend to think it's fundamentally misguided, as it presumes (without argument) that the sort of free will compatibilists are after is the sort that allows for actions to radically break from what came before. And I don't see that kind of freedom at stake in any of the classic sources -- to pick two, it's not Aristotle's idea of freedom, and I don't believe it's Kant's.

Dennett is a stealth pragmatist. His whole philosophical framework and approach are deeply pragmatic (which he probably got from Quine, and maybe a dash from Ryle, who is sort of semi-pragmatist in his views). But he never, that I know, comes out and admits it. James is a very extreme sort of pragmatist, hence why he runs the "cash value" test of truth all the way down (points for consistency, minus several million for making a lick of sense). Rorty was a big fan of his, which should tell you all you need to know -- but he's not the only pragmatist. Classically, you have Peirce, James and Dewey; more recently, Putnam, Dennett, Quine, Davidson, Brandom and McDowell. (The latter two, though, are also Hegelian, which is an interesting mix of influences.) I leave Rorty off the last as he is, IMHO, too anti-philosophical to be really counted as a pragmatist.

undergroundman said...

Sure, Kane characterizes his view as libertarianism, but I tend to instinctively think that anyone who tries to mix reality, which is deterministic, with free will is compabilist. These distinctions are fairly semantic, anyway.

Your comment that "chooses determinism" reminds me of the ontological argument for God. Yes, linguistically we define "choice" as being something with alternatives. However, just because we define it as such doesn't mean there really are choices. On one level, of course, we evaluate possible choices, but we can only really make one of those choices.

ADHR said...

Kane, as I understand him, actually denies reality is deterministic. So, that's how he gets the libertarianism off the ground.

I agree that there may not really be choices. But the fact that 't Hooft expresses his view as a choice underlines how difficult it is for us to escape the use of vocabulary that assumes a certain level of freedom. (And hard determinism must deny all freedom.) Which for a pragmatist like me is enough to show that the hard determinist bears the burden of proof.

Soft determinists, of course, would cash out "choice" in slightly different terms. So, there are real choices, but what's a "real choice" differs from standard assumptions.