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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 30, 2012 10:52 pm 
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beng wrote:
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If we can predict your choice 10 seconds before you are aware of it, then our assumptions about how free will works are obviously not immune to revision by neuroscience.


Yes, this claim is like the claim that physic has render the argument from motion moot or that the disprove theory of Big Bang has render St. Thomas' causality argument moot.

Not quite beng. You know I am right with you about the 5 ways. (99 times out of a hundred it is not his argument that is being attacked but a complete strawman). But here I think there is a real challenge, at least on the surface. On first glance, the fact that they can tell what you are going to say well before you say it undercuts speech as a conscious choice. I more or less here the words in my head and say and write them at the same time. Sometimes, admittedly, I write words before I even hear them in my head, so I even have personaly experience of my keystrokes being commanded by my nervous system before I am consciously aware of the commands.

I do think that itself is a challenging argument.

I know there are things in dscliff's post that we would question. And the comment about God and people being damned involves many misconceptions. But it seems to me that we can too quickly dismiss challenges to misunderstandings. Perhaps they are, ultimately, based on that but it can be useful even to us to do so, for a better understanding. I think the dogma of predestination, though, could wait.

dscliff raises several areas of interest here, each one could take pages of discourse. I suggest we narrow a particular question done.

E.g., whether or not it is real, what is meant by freedom? If there is a misunderstanding, perhaps it would first be there, especially if the options presented are a purely libertarian view, or a determinist view, or maybe a compatbilist view. As Catholics we reject all three of those theories. But think about it, what is the name for the general notion we Catholics hold? It is so unknown that it hasn't got a well known one. Maybe if we present "another way" we can at least make progress.

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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2012 3:42 pm 
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Malleus Haereticorum wrote:
I suggest we narrow a particular question done.

E.g., whether or not it is real, what is meant by freedom? If there is a misunderstanding, perhaps it would first be there, especially if the options presented are a purely libertarian view, or a determinist view, or maybe a compatbilist view. As Catholics we reject all three of those theories. But think about it, what is the name for the general notion we Catholics hold? It is so unknown that it hasn't got a well known one. Maybe if we present "another way" we can at least make progress.


I've assumed the working definition of freedom to be a capacity to believe (and act upon) things beyond what is revealed to us about the forces of nature (physical nature). ie. that there are truths outside of nature that we have the capacity to appeal to.

Natural organisms are driven to survival via the perpetuation of their gene makeup plus through the impulse to act in defence against attack. By virtue of that principle, we are determined in our physical nature.

But under that definition, it would be impossible for an atheist to be anything other than hard determinist.


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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2012 4:37 pm 
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ellietrish wrote:
Malleus Haereticorum wrote:
I suggest we narrow a particular question done.

E.g., whether or not it is real, what is meant by freedom? If there is a misunderstanding, perhaps it would first be there, especially if the options presented are a purely libertarian view, or a determinist view, or maybe a compatbilist view. As Catholics we reject all three of those theories. But think about it, what is the name for the general notion we Catholics hold? It is so unknown that it hasn't got a well known one. Maybe if we present "another way" we can at least make progress.


I've assumed the working definition of freedom to be a capacity to believe (and act upon) things beyond what is revealed to us about the forces of nature (physical nature). ie. that there are truths outside of nature that we have the capacity to appeal to.

Natural organisms are driven to survival via the perpetuation of their gene makeup plus through the impulse to act in defence against attack. By virtue of that principle, we are determined in our physical nature.

But under that definition, it would be impossible for an atheist to be anything other than hard determinist.


Wow. Three questions, because I don't want to rush to characterize you here, as I know I have a tendency to do that but

1. Do you think free acts only pertain to supernatural acts, e.g. faith?

2. What do you think our physical nature is and where does the soul fit into that?

3. If free acts exist only in the religious realm, what of predestination and its ancilary doctrine (e.g. sufficient grace). Is there no human freedom unless one has effiacious grace, or at least sufficient?

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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2012 5:47 pm 
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1.Do you think free acts only pertain to supernatural acts, e.g. faith?

I believe we are obligated to be honest about the meaning of freedom. I’m wary of using my own words here ‘cos it usually ends in bloodshed. Can I just quote JP2 from the Encyclical Redemptor Hominis…

Quote:
Jesus Christ meets the man of every age, including our own, with the same words: "You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free"82. These words contain both a fundamental requirement and a warning: the requirement of an honest relationship with regard to truth as a condition for authentic freedom, and the warning to avoid every kind of illusory freedom, every superficial unilateral freedom, every freedom that fails to enter into the whole truth about man and the world. Today also, even after two thousand years, we see Christ as the one who brings man freedom based on truth, frees man from what curtails, diminishes and as it were breaks off this freedom at its root, in man's soul, his heart and his conscience. What a stupendous confirmation of this has been given and is still being given by those who, thanks to Christ and in Christ, have reached true freedom and have manifested it even in situations of external constraint!


2.What do you think our physical nature is and where does the soul fit into that?

We are ‘clothed’ by our physical nature as per St Paul 2 Cor 5-10.

Quote:
For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.


I find this the clearest indication that our physical bodies are not subject to judgement, but what they ‘clothe’ has been granted freedom during the passage of the lifetime. The promise of judgement assumes freedom. A person who is already captive is ‘sentenced’. No judgement required.

3.If free acts exist only in the religious realm, what of predestination and its ancilary doctrine (e.g. sufficient grace). Is there no human freedom unless one has effiacious grace, or at least sufficient?

I’m sorry familiar enough with those terminologies to try an answer that’ll do justice to your question.


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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2012 6:53 pm 
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I am disappointed you didn't answer what you thought about number one. It is true that truth and grace makes us freer, and gives us a radical new freedom not there when we are in sin. True freedom is the freedom to do what is right.

But still, when we speak of the voluntary we also include sinful action. I think what is being missed is that there are different aspects of freedom. Sin presupposes a free will, but is only possible because of imperfection, e.g. those who have reached their final end in God cannot sin, because they are too free to sin, namely they are fulfilled and see the Good face to face.

One number two you really suprise me, because you are departing severely from John Paul II, and misinterpreting St. Paul (at least if I understand you right). You seem to be proposing a Cartesian/Platonic antropology.

You are not your soul. You are not your body. You are this single entity which has is comprised of two principles of its nature, the soul and the body, form and matter. We are not clothed by another "nature" as nature is the inner principle of motion in that which it is in. Our nature, if it is to be identified with one principle, is more identified with the soul, but taken strictly includes both.

The soul is what makes the body what it is. It is that by which it is of this nature. In fact, nature and form are often used interchangeably. The soul is like the figure impressed on waxen seal, and the body the wax. You cannot separate them into two entities.

Early, in response to dscliff, I said they were wrong who looked for a casual gap. That is, they are wrong who treat the body as one thing, subject to its own laws and processes, and the soul another, which interacts/controls the body. That idea is thoroughly uncatholic and was condemned nigh 800 years ago.

Rather, when I walk, it is I who walk. The soul does not act as some efficient cause to move my legs, whether directly or via organs. Rather, the soul is the principle in virtue of which I am human and hence am the way I am, and that includes the ability to walk. It is in virtue of the soul that I see, but not as if the soul was standing behind the controls in some inner gland of my brain. Rather, it is the soul that makes me human, just as it is the soul that makes a dog a dog, or a soul that make an oak tree an oak tree. The radical difference is that the human soul has an intellective faculty which is not the power of some organ, but separable from the body. That is, the human soul is spiritual and can continue existing upon death.

John Paul II was especially adamant about the substantial unity of man, body and soul.

St. Thomas has a good commentary on the passage you cited

http://dhspriory.org/thomas/SS2Cor.htm#51 (NB where it says mind[s] it should be soul[s])

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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2012 7:40 pm 
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It is de fide that man consists of two essential parts: soul and body. It is also de fide that the soul is the form of the body. This leaves Cartesian dualism in an awkward position.

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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Tue May 01, 2012 10:47 pm 
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Obi-Wan Kenobi wrote:
It is also de fide that the soul is the form of the body.


I believe that soul is the form of the body, but I didn't know that it's de fide.

As I recall, in the early years of St. Thomas' academic career he was shunned by many because he believed that the soul is the form of the body. So, if it's de fide, it happened during or after St. Thomas. When was that?


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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Wed May 02, 2012 6:14 am 
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Lateran IV.

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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Wed May 02, 2012 2:16 pm 
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Does anyone have a universally understood meaning of 'freedom' that can anchor a discussion of whether we are free or determined?


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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Wed May 02, 2012 2:17 pm 
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One of the chief tasks of philosophy (and theology) is achieving a clear definition of the thing to be discussed. I have to go get ready for CCD and May Crowning right now, but I have a reference I can check later.

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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Wed May 02, 2012 2:20 pm 
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Thx, Fr.


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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Wed May 02, 2012 4:25 pm 
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ellietrish wrote:
Does anyone have a universally understood meaning of 'freedom' that can anchor a discussion of whether we are free or determined?


This is the classical definition of freedom: Freedom 101 (time to learn what is freedom)

The modern definition (like the one from John Stuart Mill) is erroneous and lead to the moral decadence of today.


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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Wed May 02, 2012 8:59 pm 
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beng wrote:
ellietrish wrote:
Does anyone have a universally understood meaning of 'freedom' that can anchor a discussion of whether we are free or determined?


This is the classical definition of freedom: Freedom 101 (time to learn what is freedom)

The modern definition (like the one from John Stuart Mill) is erroneous and lead to the moral decadence of today.


I haven't dwelled too much on John Stuart Mill's essay but he is addressing external freedom in answer to the problem of unaccountable governance. The thing is the audience always matters because freedom is only something that actually exists inside a relationship between people and people or people and authority. His model of freedom was speaking to antagonistic authority and to defensive citizens. They didn't experience themselves as free. They experienced impotence.

We do experience ourselves as free in democracy as we know it. But I would still say that the definition I gave of freedom still goes in the civil realm ie. "a capacity to believe (and act upon) things beyond what is revealed to us about the forces of nature (physical nature). ie. that there are truths outside of nature that we have the capacity to appeal to."

The prevailing authority in democracy, even though it's an extrinsic authority created by the collective will of the people, it's a force that exists outside of nature and we willingly submit to it in order to feel free.


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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Wed May 02, 2012 9:35 pm 
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ellietrish wrote:
"a capacity to believe (and act upon) things beyond what is revealed to us about the forces of nature (physical nature). ie. that there are truths outside of nature that we have the capacity to appeal to."

The prevailing authority in democracy, even though it's an extrinsic authority created by the collective will of the people, it's a force that exists outside of nature and we willingly submit to it in order to feel free.


Have you read the Freedom 101 link above?


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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Wed May 02, 2012 10:01 pm 
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Yes I did read it all. Very thorough. The thing is, in what way does it translate into a universal understanding of 'freedom'. Can we meet with people (atheists, pantheists etc) on a level playing field in this issue of free will without betraying or compromising our soul? That's why I suggested the place of 'authority' in the formula.


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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Wed May 02, 2012 11:23 pm 
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ellietrish wrote:
Yes I did read it all. Very thorough. The thing is, in what way does it translate into a universal understanding of 'freedom'. Can we meet with people (atheists, pantheists etc) on a level playing field in this issue of free will without betraying or compromising our soul? That's why I suggested the place of 'authority' in the formula.


A universal way of understanding freedom would mean an understanding which is shared by all, or at least, many people. The problem with such understanding is that it need not be the truth (hence, the fallacy of argumentum ad populum). Such as how many people believe that strawberry is a fruit, which is incorrect.

If we take a universally believed, but erroneous, premise as a starting point of a discussion, the discussion will go downhill.

So, it would be much fruitful, although time consuming and tiring, to first establish the correct definition of freedom instead of finding a universally accepted definition of freedom.


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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Sat May 05, 2012 2:46 am 
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DesertSailor wrote:
You walk into McDonalds. You look at the menu board. You order. You used free will.


The thread has wandered a bit into related issues like free will and Divine knowledge or the e xact definition of freedom. I am not a scientist but E. Feser's website has a number of links to scientists who are highly critical of the studies of the neuro-scientists refered to by dschiff.

Lets just rest on the commonsense observation made by Sailor here. Without doubt, I experience what seems to be free will, reason, emotions, memory and other faculties. I also experience these faculties not as seperate but as part of a whole which I can call, in a non-technical way, personality or soul. I experience this and so does everyone else.

This being so the best the determinist can say is that this experience is an illusion. They cannot deny the experience itself. The questions then arise: Who or what faculty exactly experiences this illusion which we can call self-consciousness? Is this too an illusion? Impossible as St. Augustine and Descartes famously point out.

Further, to suggest what our self-consciousness experiences is an illusion and has no effect on our behaviour or thoughts or memory or emotions is, taking a common sense view, simply contradictory to our most intimate experience and one that is confirmed by the sense perception we have of our own behaviour and that of others.

Free will exists. As do other faculties. To deny it is to deny what is plainly obvious to us all.

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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Sat May 05, 2012 4:05 pm 
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CanadianCatholic wrote:
DesertSailor wrote:
You walk into McDonalds. You look at the menu board. You order. You used free will.


The thread has wandered a bit into related issues like free will and Divine knowledge or the e xact definition of freedom. I am not a scientist but E. Feser's website has a number of links to scientists who are highly critical of the studies of the neuro-scientists refered to by dschiff.

Lets just rest on the commonsense observation made by Sailor here. Without doubt, I experience what seems to be free will, reason, emotions, memory and other faculties. I also experience these faculties not as seperate but as part of a whole which I can call, in a non-technical way, personality or soul. I experience this and so does everyone else.

This being so the best the determinist can say is that this experience is an illusion. They cannot deny the experience itself. The questions then arise: Who or what faculty exactly experiences this illusion which we can call self-consciousness? Is this too an illusion? Impossible as St. Augustine and Descartes famously point out.

Further, to suggest what our self-consciousness experiences is an illusion and has no effect on our behaviour or thoughts or memory or emotions is, taking a common sense view, simply contradictory to our most intimate experience and one that is confirmed by the sense perception we have of our own behaviour and that of others.

Free will exists. As do other faculties. To deny it is to deny what is plainly obvious to us all.



"You walk into McDonalds. You look at the menu board. You order. You used free will."

This doesn't seem to me to be a sound formula for free will though. I used to say to my kids when they were little 'what do you want after Mass. A sausage roll or a cream bun?' Then they would have to deliberate and supposedly freely choose, when my agenda was actually to get them to Mass at 7am on a cold Sunday.

Choosing from a delectable menu of processed cardboard food shaped items produced by someone wanting to make a lot of money for themselves, could be a test of free will but might not be also. It's not uncommon for business to abuse the concept of freedom to get what they want.


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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Sat May 05, 2012 6:13 pm 
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ellietrish wrote:
CanadianCatholic wrote:
DesertSailor wrote:
You walk into McDonalds. You look at the menu board. You order. You used free will.


The thread has wandered a bit into related issues like free will and Divine knowledge or the e xact definition of freedom. I am not a scientist but E. Feser's website has a number of links to scientists who are highly critical of the studies of the neuro-scientists refered to by dschiff.

Lets just rest on the commonsense observation made by Sailor here. Without doubt, I experience what seems to be free will, reason, emotions, memory and other faculties. I also experience these faculties not as seperate but as part of a whole which I can call, in a non-technical way, personality or soul. I experience this and so does everyone else.

This being so the best the determinist can say is that this experience is an illusion. They cannot deny the experience itself. The questions then arise: Who or what faculty exactly experiences this illusion which we can call self-consciousness? Is this too an illusion? Impossible as St. Augustine and Descartes famously point out.

Further, to suggest what our self-consciousness experiences is an illusion and has no effect on our behaviour or thoughts or memory or emotions is, taking a common sense view, simply contradictory to our most intimate experience and one that is confirmed by the sense perception we have of our own behaviour and that of others.

Free will exists. As do other faculties. To deny it is to deny what is plainly obvious to us all.



"You walk into McDonalds. You look at the menu board. You order. You used free will."

This doesn't seem to me to be a sound formula for free will though. I used to say to my kids when they were little 'what do you want after Mass. A sausage roll or a cream bun?' Then they would have to deliberate and supposedly freely choose, when my agenda was actually to get them to Mass at 7am on a cold Sunday.

Choosing from a delectable menu of processed cardboard food shaped items produced by someone wanting to make a lot of money for themselves, could be a test of free will but might not be also. It's not uncommon for business to abuse the concept of freedom to get what they want.

My point is not that free will is not constrained or that it can be subject to manipulation or duress by other people. In fact it is constrained by sin quite apart from the actions of others. For our salvation we require grace but the offered grace may be refused. I am not a theologian either but it strikes me that common sense observations of ourselves and others confirms Catholic teaching on free will [ by which I mean the simple power to chose] and its constraints.

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 Post subject: Re: Free Will: Does it exist?
PostPosted: Sat May 05, 2012 6:37 pm 
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dschiff wrote:
If we can predict your choice 10 seconds before you are aware of it, then our assumptions about how free will works are obviously not immune to revision by neuroscience.
Is your brain external to your person?

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