Determinism and Free Will
Free will is a tricky subject.
In the book ”Who is in charge” Michael Gazzaniga has some good insights.
The two main positions within that debate are the claim that determinism is false and thus that free will exists (or is at least possible); and hard determinism, the claim that determinism is true and thus that free will does not exist.
See more at Wiki.
The hard determinists will tell us, that:
1. The brain enables the mind and the brain is a physical entity.
2. The physical world is determined. so our brains must also be determined.
3. If our brains are determined, and if the brain is the necessary and sufficient organ that enables the mind, then we are left with the belief that the thoughts that arise from our mind also are determined.
4. Thus, free will is an illusion. And we must revise our thoughts about what it means to be personally responsible for our actions.
Put, differently, the concept of free will has no meaning.
Most people agree that the first claim is ok. Claim 2, however, is under attack.
From the 3 body problem and moving on to non linear complex systems it is seen that complex systems does not allow exact predictions of future states.
Which, obviously, puts claim 3 (and then claim 4) on shaky ground…
There are other problems though.
Can we derive the macro story from the micro story – find a mental state from neural state?
According to Gazzaniga, ”analyzing nerve states may be able to inform us how the thing could work, but not how it actually does.”
It has to do with emergence.
Gazzaniga quotes nobel prize winner Philip W. Andersen:
The ability to reduce everything to simple fundamental laws does not imply the ability to start from these laws and reconstruct the universe.
Emergence is not very much liked. Finally, we have gottan rid of the homunculus inside our brains, and finally, we have gottan rid of Descartes dualism – and other ghosts in the machine – and then people propose, that there are still ghosts in there …
According to Gazzaniga:
You cannot analyze traffic at the level of the individual car.
You have to throw in location, time, weather, society and other drivers, then a new set of laws emerge, that can predict traffic.
So, once a mental state exist – is there downward causation. Can a thought constrain the brain that produced it?
Not, really, it is more complex than that.
Take genes. Codons are controlling the construction of the whole (enzymes), but the whole is, in part, controlling the the identification of the parts (translation) and the construction itself (protein synthesis). Its not upward or downward. Its complementary.
How do we get from brain state M1 to brain state M2?
M1 is produced by a physical state P1 and M2 is produced by P2.
If we just go from P1 to P2 – then there is no free will, and we are just along for the ride.
The tough question is though, does M1, in a downward constraining process, guide P2, thus affecting M2?
In genetics there is a multiplicity of events going on? And the same might be the case for action? Downward and upward causation working together.
Action is the result of complementary components arising from within and without.
And different levels and in different languages. Some levels completely emergent from the levels below?
And it gets worse. Social context and social constraints on the group level might also influence our actions. In a language that is completely emergent (not producible) from the level of brain hardware.
Free will is a tricky thing ….
And we didn’t even throw in quantum mechanics and the observer problem to make it tricky…. 🙂