Friday, 6 July 2012

Mark Balaguer: A Scientifically Reputable Version of Indeterministic Libertarian Free Will


    Abstract: In this paper, I defend libertarianism (i.e., the view that humans have libertarian free will) against philosophical and scientific objections.  The main philosophical objection is sometimes called the Mind argument, or the luck objection; in responding to this objection, I argue that there's a certain subset of our decisions that have the following property: if they are undetermined in the right way, then they are libertarian free.  This conclusion turns the traditional Mind argument upside-down; if my argument is cogent, then it shows that the question of whether we possess libertarian free will reduces to an empirical question about whether certain of our decisions are undetermined in the right way. Finally, in the second half of the paper, I respond to a few scientific objections to libertarianism, arguing that we do not have any good empirical reasons to doubt the hypothesis that our decisions are undetermined in the right way.  Now, it seems clear that we also don't have any good reason to believe this hypothesis, and so my overall conclusion is that the question of whether we possess libertarian free will is an open empirical question.

    Balaguer, M. Free Will as an Open Scientific Problem, MIT Press, 2010. http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/chapters/0262013541chap1.pdf
    Balaguer, M. "Why There are no Good Arguments for any Interesting Version of Determinism," Synthese, vol. 168 (2009), pp. 1-21.http://www.calstatela.edu/faculty/mbalagu/papers/Why_there_are_no_good_arguments_for_determinism.pdf#view=FitH,top
    Balaguer, M. "A Coherent, Naturalistic, and Plausible Formulation of Libertarian Free Will," Nous, vol. 38 (September 2004), pp. 379-406.http://www.calstatela.edu/faculty/mbalagu/papers/A%20Coherent,%20Naturalistic,%20and%20Plausible%20Formulation%20of%20Libertarian%20Free%20Will.pdf#view=FitH,top

Comments invited

46 comments:

  1. I don't see how the Rollback Objection can plan any role in the argument pro or con free will. It is impossible to test and check what would happen (of course using another method of "going back" than with God ;).

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    1. It is a classic philosophical argument. Balaguer tries to tap into our intuitions regarding what is physically possible (what the laws physics allow). Obviously, we can't go back. Another way to state the objection is this way: If physical laws allow for Ralph to choose O as well to choose P (with almost equal chance), then Ralph did not author the decision because it seems to be a matter of pure luck.

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    2. Yes, clearly we can't perform the experiment. But I suppose the objection could be that if a libertarian view predicts that outcome O would occur if we could run the experiment, and if outcome O is problematic for some reason, then there is a problem with the given libertarian view. But my point is that if we did run the experiment, and if the agent chose differently in different "plays" of the universe, that would not be a problem. Given that the agent is torn, the thesis that it is the agent who is doing the choosing wouldn't be undermined by that result. But if the agent always chose the same way, then I think that would create a problem for libertarians. Thus, since we can't actually run the experiment, there is no problem here.

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  2. So many things wrong with this...

    For instance, his defn of "control" is so weak that heuristic algorithms fit the bill. I'm not sure I want to grant that my text mining tools are free, and if so, I'm not sure I want that kind of freedom.

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    1. Ok, so you actually need it to be edible for Harnad as well. Magic comes in...

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    2. I actually didn't provide a definition of "control". But the traits of TDW-undetermined torn decisions that led me to claim that they're controlled are not possessed by any mining tool. Because one of the traits was that they're conscious--in particular, conscious choosing events. Thus, since no mining tools are conscious, they would not count as L-free for the reasons that lead me to say that TDW-undetermined torn decisions are L-free.

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  3. If we find ourself in a TDW undetermined decisional process, or in a .51-.49 situation, will we have authorship in the decision or will the decisional process wait untill the variable context gives it sufficient reason to decide.

    Prof. Balaguer appears (I emphasize "appears" as I may understand him wrong) to consider TDW undetermined decisional processes in a static framework outside of any temporal dimension, which may validate his view. However, considering it within a temporal framework, with all the variability that exists in informational inputs, might render the authorship solution unnecessary.


    Etienne Dumesnil

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    1. There is some ambiguity in what is meant by a ".51-.49 situation"...

      SITUATION 1: The person is consciously leaning toward one of the options--say, A--but hasn't fully decided yet. This isn't a torn decision. We can call it a "leaning decision". I think decisions like this can be L-free, but I didn't talk about this today, and the argument is different. Today, I was only talking about torn decisions--i.e., decisions where the person feels completely torn and isn't leaning one way or the other.

      SITUATION 2: The person is making a torn decision--so the "phenomenological probabilities" are .5 and .5--but the actual objective moment-of-choice probabilities of the two tied-for-best options being chosen (given the complete past and all the laws) are .51 and .49. In this situation, the choice isn't PERFECTLY TDW-undetermined. But I want to say that it's close enough; decisions like this aren't FULL-BLOWN L-free, but they're for-all-practical-purposes L-free. (In the discussion period, someone said "If the probabilities are .51 for A and .49 for B, then the choice will be B." If this person had SITUATION 2 in mind, then this is a mistake. What it MEANS to say that the objective probabilities are .51 and .49 is that there is some real indeterminacy there. So in this case, if we ran the decision 100 times, we should expect to get (roughly) 51 choices of A and 49 choices of B. If, on the other hand, the person was talking about SITUATION 1, then again, this isn't a torn decision; it's a "leaning decision", and so the theory I presented today doesn't apply to them.)

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  4. Are Haggard's findings compatible with Balaguer's theory? (Are they even relevant to one another?)

    In Haggard's paradigm that includes a free choice condition, people choose either direction (right or left) but they feel differently about each choice depending on whether or not it was primed. That is, they feel less in control of the decision if they choose the unprimed arrow, and they feel more in control if they choose the primed arrow.

    So Haggard correlates the moment of consciousness with the moment of action selection, which seems compatible with Balaguer's view that the moment of choice is free, but Haggard's findings about sense of control hint otherwise. . .

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    1. If I'm thinking of the same Haggard study that you're thinking of, then I would say that (a) yes, the results are perfectly compatible with what I said, and (b) they're not entirely relevant, because the choices in question aren't really torn decisions.

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  5. It's clear that Dr. Balaguer believes that there is a neural substrate of all of these choices, and he is not suggesting that some sort of dualist agent is making our torn, wholly-undetermined decisions for us. So, I expect he would support the statement that these ambiguous or undetermined choices (meaning, choices that are not pre-determined at the moment of choice presentation) are governed by context, pre-existing connectivity and activity of our neural networks, and a stochastic element of neural activity (existence and utility this stochastic element illustrated yesterday by Bjorn Brembs).

    Under this scenario, L-freedom (of which a requisite is non-randomness) need not exist. When one is presented with two probalistically-equal choices are presented, the inherent stochastic activity will ultimately lead to the choice. The Libet experiments (and many follow-ups) suggest that the conscious sense of agency in decision-making is ascribed after the stochastic elements account for the final decision. L-freedom and TDW-indeterminism exist only in the sense that the outcomes may not be predictable prior to the moment of choice, but I don't see how they describe any new property of the brain or our consciousness.

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    1. I agree that it might not exist. The claim that our torn decisions are undetermined in the appropriate way is wildly controversial, and right now, I don't think there's any good reason to believe it. But as far as I know, I don't think there's any very good reason to reject it. Certainly the Libet studies don't provide such reasons. This is because the claim that a torn decision is TDW-undetermined is perfectly compatible with the claim that various things about the decision are completely determined--e.g., that the decision would occur--and the readiness potential could be part of a causal process responsible for these things. The only thing that needs to be undetermined, in order for a choice to be TDW-undetermined, is which tied-for-best-option is chosen. And there is no evidence that the readiness potential causally determines this.

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  6. Another problem with Balaguer's free will: plays virtually no role. Of course, people pointed out that a 50-50 torn decision is a rarity (an impossibility?). Furthermore, question is determined by context; information available is determined by context, agent's history; capacity to delibarate is determined by health, education, context, etc. And we're not even talking about less problematic decisions.

    How is this ideal tipping point any important in such a context? Sure doesn't seem to say much about us; and sure doesn't seem like consciousness should be restricted to such abstract moments.

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    1. See the above comment about SITUATION 1 and SITUATION 2. If you're talking about SITUATION 2, then I agree that an exact 50-50 state of affairs is unlikely, but it also isn't needed on the view I've got in mind. And if you're talking about SITUATION 1, then this isn't a torn decision at all; it's a "leaning decision", and so it's not really relevant to what I was talking about today.

      As for whether this says anything about us, all I can say is that I routinely make decisions while feeling torn. So it says something about me.

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  7. I don't see the point of invoking quantum physics in a discussion about free will, because even if at the micro particles level there is a kind of indeterminism, it doesn't make us free. Here, Epicurus had the same problem : if atoms (or electrons) move in an indeterministic way, this have nothing to do with the fact that our actions are the results of our thoughts or reasons.

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    1. I feel that he sort of addressed this point at the beginning of his talk. He said that he was gonna talk about something specific which he called 'Libertarian freedom'. And then he added that this might or might not be what people really mean when they talk about 'free will' (or that there might be no matter of fact about it) and that, in any case, L-freedom was interesting in itself, even if it's not related to real free will.

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    2. I agree with Alexandre. I think that free will might be more a phenomenological question than a problem that physic can solve (thus, it needs a different level of explanation). Free will seems only to be the feeling of making free choices, the feeling that I have the control on my decisions. It's not because I am in a torn decision situation (and that I feel the tension) that there was no determinisms that brought me to choose X rather than Y: there can be unconscious processes that "pushed me" to choose X rather than Y, even though I had this subjective feeling that there was no more reason to choose X rather than Y. How can we postulate that "nothing made [the subject] do it", especially when we take seriously volitions?

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    3. The point is as follows. A torn decision is a neural event, and a neural event (like every other macro-level event) is a bunch of quantum events. So it is extremely plausible to suppose that if all quantum events are determined, then all torn decisions are determined and, hence, we have no L-freedom. But if some quantum events are undetermined, then it opens the POSSIBILITY that torn decisions are undetermined. A neural event could be undetermined if it is composed of a bunch of quantum events some of which are undetermined. And in my view, it is an open empirical question whether this is in fact the case. So I do not think that quantum indeterminacy entails that we are free. Rather, I think it is a necessary but not sufficient ingredient for L-freedom. And the point of most of the paper was to argue that undetermined events aren't necessarily random in the bad sense.

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  8. I was wandering what professor Blaguer has to say concerning emotion in decision making. because even in a torn situation, the instant before this torn situation there is an emotional stream that can affect our decision making at that point.

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    1. I think that emotions are obviously causally relevant to how we choose. In fact, they can be relevant to putting us into torn situations and pulling us out of them. That's fine with me. But then when you are actually making a torn decision, in the actual moment of choice, if you feel torn when you choose, there is a question whether your emotional state caused you to choose A over B without your realizing it. If so, that would undermine the L-freedom in the choice. But the first scenario, in which emotions play a causal role in putting us into a torn state, that wouldn't undermine L-freedom. And this is true of lots of other things that can play causal roles in the genesis of our reasons for action and our torn states.

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  9. i am really impressed about the human obsession of free will. Maybe because in my case the problem is solved in thinking that free will exist as soon as there is no machine that can capture the hole universe low and forces and can predict or simulate what I m going to do in the future.

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    1. I don't think I agree with this point. In fact if no machine can explain your choice maybe it's because the whole universe forces are really too complicated for us to build the machine that could act like us, and there is always the "random issue" in that if this machine did exist, maybe it wouldn't choose like us because some random factor make it choose otherwise.

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  10. Hypothétiquement, il peut y avoir des situations où il y aurait un TDW-undertermined... Mais en réalité, nous n'avons que des exemples où le choix du 50-50 n'existe pas.
    Il est vrai que je peux être dans une situation où j'hésite entre prendre mon vélo et mon auto, que je pourrais choisir mon vélo un jour et mon auto un autre. Mais entendons-nous, j'aurais fait ce choix en fonction d'un ou plusieurs facteurs.
    Comment peut-on conclure que le libertarianisme existe dans notre monde, si on se base sur des théories qui ne concerne pas notre réalité, avec toute la complexité que cela implique.
    C.Q.F.D.

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  11. I found Dr. Balaguer's talk interesting. I am not sure though that the wholly undetermined free state truly exists in decision making. I subscribe to the view, much like many neurobiologists I suspect, that our actions/choices are the result of neural firings and by the time the neural outcome has happened, the computation has already been done for us and the odds are already no longer 50/50.

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    1. I would actually take this one step further. On my view, we shouldn't just say that a choice is the RESULT of neural firings; rather, we should say that a choice IS a bunch of neural firings. It is a physical event. The question is whether the physical event--i.e., the event that is both a bunch of neural firings and also a conscious choice--is undetermined in the way that would make them L-free.

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  12. Guessing on the function of (an illusory) free will : consciousness allows to improve the attribution of a biological value (wether or not it is beneficial for the organism) to the things that are attented. Free will is no more than paying attention to the decisions we have to make. By having an illusory free will (which is conscious), we can have an emotional feedback on the result of our choices and then increase the ability to give a biological value to a certain behavioral choice by emphasing the consequence of our actions in our fitness.

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  13. Pasting a comment I made on Twitter. Let's look at the 50-50 thought experiment upside down.

    If you had free-will, you COULD chose the 49% possibility. So the 50-50 thought experiment does not make much sense.

    If you can't choose the cake that is rated at 49% (even if it is not that good) and just have to choose the 51%, then you do not have freedom of the will. Free will would not make sense if it only worked in perfert Buridan's Donkey situations - which never occur in real life anyway. Free will should allow to knowingly select the suboptimal possibility, otherwise your decisions can be explained (and predicted) by simple heuristics.

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    1. Again, there is need for clarity about what we mean by the 51-49 scenario. In your comment, you seem to have in mind the case where the phenomenological FEEL is 51-49. If so, this is not a torn decision, and so my talk wasn't about these decisions. (I talk about this in my book, though: the bottom line is that libertarians can take either of two lines--they can say either that in such cases, we will choose the 51 option or that the objective probabilities match the phenomenological ones; if either of these were true, it would be consistent with libertarianism.)

      But the more important point I want to make here is this: use say that a 50-50 choice can't happen. But if we're talking about 50-50 phenomenology here, this case most certainly CAN happen. Indeed, we know that it happens very often. Every time you choose while feeling completely torn, this is what's going on. When I say that a torn decision is one that involves a 50-50 phenomenology, all I mean is that the person feels utterly torn. This obviously can and does happen.

      Now, I admit that it's unlikely to have the OBJECTIVE probabilities be exactly even, but again (see remarks above), the libertarian doesn't NEED it to be EXACTLY 50-50. She can let it be 51-49; and this most certainly won't decide it for the 51 case, because to say that the objective probability of an event occuring is .51 is NOT to say that it WILL happen. It's to say that it's 51% likely that it will happen. Given this, we should expect it to happen roughly 51 times in 100 trials.

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    2. Free will tend to happen at the phenomenological level. I don't have access to objectif probabilities, but it is I that is supposed to have free will.

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    3. But on my view, it is an empirical question whether you have free will. You don't have subjective access to the answer to this question. If the objective probabilities aren't what they need to be for L-freedom, then you don't have L-freedom, even if it feels to you that you do.

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  14. I find this all quite interesting though it's hard for me to follow most of it. Until I get a chance to try to understand more precisely, one, perhaps relevant, question : Dr. Balaguer, does the view that you have of consciousness matter in this discussion? (And you might have said what yours is but I didn't get it). It seems to me that the argumentation follows differently depending on whether one sees consciousness as a distinct emergent "entity", with potentially a power to feedback on the very processes that generated it, or not. If I am in possession of a faculty that can watch my thoughts and have an influence of them, it could well be that the decisions that my faculty will make will be a computable (or non-computable but still determined) outcome of my biology and history, but it remains that I have this faculty, this will. But if I believe that I do not have this faculty, I cannot say that there is something in me that has a power over what goes on in my mind. In other words, is what matters the most the question of whether the will is free, or whether there is a will to start with?

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  15. Hi Juliette. This is a really good question. No, I do not hold an emergent view of consciousness. But I do hold a token-token identity view of mental states and events. So mental states and events ARE neural states and events. And given this, conscious states and events can influence my behavior for the simple reason that neural states and events can influence my behavior and conscious states and events ARE neural states and events.

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  16. Free Will is often seen as necessary to attribute moral responsability to someone. In the sort of free will you defend there seem to be no better reasons to choose either O or P. In this framework, I don't see how one could attribute moral responsbility to a being and not to a machine randomly selecting O or P. What is the difference?

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    1. But on my view, a nonconscious machine that randomly selects O over P won't have L-freedom or any other sort of free will. So it won't have moral responsibility. Free will requires consciousness on the view I have in mind.

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  17. Interesting talk. The video unfortunately cut out when you explained how your view differs from Kane's--I wish I would have caught that section. Since I am more familiar with Kane's theory, let me couch my concerns in terms of his theory and hope that it also applies to your account of TDW or torn decisions. To help make my problem more vivid I would like to introduce a case where the quantum indeterminacy is located outside the agent (although everything else remains the same as Kane’s famous businesswoman example). Lets imagine that Louis is a middle aged man who is currently feeling down because his wife recently left him. To get his mind off things he decides to spend the afternoon making a doghouse for his companion Philo. Louis takes out his power tools and gets to work cutting the necessary pieces. Now, in the process of cutting the wood Louis is overcome with a strong urge to harm himself. (Perhaps he thinks this is a good way to get back at his ex.) In this situation, Louis desires both to cut the wood so as to finish Philo’s doghouse and to injure himself. (Perhaps we can even say he is torn in your sense of the term. If this is not a good example of a torn decision I imagine an analogous example could easily be created.) An inner struggle ensues and Louis is confronted with an important life choice. He is, at that very moment, undecided. Now let’s imagine that in the process of cutting the wood a random quantum event causes the blade to jump, cutting off two of his fingers. Did Louis “freely cause” his injuries? Did he “decide” or “make” this event happen? In no way can we say that Louis caused or controlled the outcome since no one causes or controls quantum events! Hence, it would be counterintuitive to call this a free act. Yet Kane cannot easily explain why the example of the businesswoman is an example of libertarian freedom while this is not. Even though the outcome is indeterminate—as it was in the businesswoman case—it is nonetheless backed by reasons since each of the competing courses of action is something Louis wanted to do. Whatever the outcome, Louis would have succeeded in doing what he was trying to do because he was simultaneously trying to cut the wood and harm himself. According to Kane’s theory, the felt indeterminacy and reasons backing of deliberative outcomes is necessary and sufficient for control. The Louis example satisfies both of these conditions. Louis, clearly in the throes of a soul-searching moment, experiences uncertainty and inner tension. He is conflicted by his competing desires and feels as though branching paths are metaphysically  open before him. Phenomenologically, then, he satisfies the first condition—felt indeterminacy. He also satisfies the second condition because he has reasons backing either outcome. Whatever happens, Louis wanted it to happen...(part two coming)

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  18. Kane, of course, is likely to argue that such “external” or “accidental” indeterminacies are irrelevant and that what is needed is a correspondence between experienced indeterminacy and micro-level indeterminacy at the neuronal level. It’s unclear, however, why indeterminacy at the neuronal level is required for this correspondence! Kane’s proposal requires only a correspondence between experienced (or phenomenological) uncertainty and “the opening of a window of opportunity that temporarily screens off complete determination by influences of the past.” This correspondence, I maintain, is met in my example. What difference does it make that the (posited) quantum indeterminacy is located at the neuronal level and not, say, the micro-level of the saw blade? The uniqueness of Kane’s theory (and i believe your account) comes in locating the indeterminacy at a crucial temporal moment in the deliberative process— i.e., at the moment when one is confronted with a SFA or torn decision and is uncertain about what to do. It is the temporal location of the indeterminacy that matters, not its spatial location. It might be scientifically relevant where the libertarian posits the required indeterminacy—since, empirically, certain hypotheses will be more plausible than others—but philosophically  it’s irrelevant where the indeterminacy occurs. As long as the phenomenological indeterminacy experienced during the deliberative process is accompanied by metaphysical indeterminacy, and there are reasons backing the alternative outcomes, both of Kane’s singly necessary and jointly sufficient conditions for control are satisfied. 

    How would you respond to such an objection? I'm basically granting the phenomenology of a torn decision AND real indeterminacy, yet arguing that control is not preserved. 

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  19. Hi Gregg. This is a good question. I actually discuss an objection similar to this in my book. Let me first make sure that a certain feature of my view is clear: on my view, the relevant indeterminacy has to be located (i.e., temporally located) AT the moment of choice. Near the end of your remarks, you say that I locate the indeterminacy at the moment that the person is confronted with the choice. That’s not right. You could be confronted with a choice, and then deliberate for a while, or wait for a while, or whatever. On my view, the indeterminacy has to be located at the moment that the person chooses, not when the person is confronted with the choice.

    Given this, let me make sure I’ve got your worry right. I think it’s this: (1) In the Louis case, (i.e,. the case in which the relevant undetermined event is a quantum event that’s outside of his body), the decision isn’t L-free or authored or controlled by Louis; but (2) there is no relevant difference between Louis and the sorts of decisions I was talking about in my paper--i.e., TDW-undetermined torn decisions; therefore, (3) the decisions I’ve got in mind aren’t authored or controlled by the agent or L-free.

    If that’s the argument, then my response is that (2) is false. The relevant difference is that in a TDW-undetermined torn decision, the conscious choice itself is undetermined, so that the event that settles which option is chosen is the event with a me-choosing-now phenomenology. In this scenario (unlike the Louis scenario), we get the result that the agent (say, Ralph) authors and controls the decision because the relevant event IS a Ralph-consciously-choosing event, and (at the moment of choice) nothing causally influences the decision. So we have the result that Ralph did and nothing made him do it. And this is very different from the Louis case; for in that case, the event that settles things (i.e., that determines which possible future becomes actual) isn’t a conscious decision of Louis’s.

    Now, in response to this, you might say something like the following: (a) the torn decision is a neural event, and so it’s made of quantum events, and in order for the neural event to be undetermined, some of the quantum events need to be undetermined; thus, (b) in order for it to be the case that the agent authored and controlled the neural event, it needs to be the case that she authored and controlled the relevant quantum events; but (c) no one controls quantum events; therefore (d) the agent doesn’t control the neural event (i.e., the decision).

    I discuss an argument like this in my book. Imagine someone arguing as follows: (i) your car is made of subatomic particles; therefore, (ii) in order for it to be the case that you own your car, it needs to be the case that you own the relevant subatomic particles; but (iii) no one owns any subatomic particles; therefore (iv) you don’t own your car.

    This argument is obviously not cogent. In particular, either (ii) or (iii) is false. I don’t think it matters much which of them we say is false. My intuition is that it would be best to reject (iii) and to claim that if a subatomic particle is a PART of a macro-level object that I own, then I own that subatomic particle (WHILE it’s a part of the relevant macro-level object); but if someone really wanted to endorse (iii) and reject (ii), I don’t think I’d care enough to resist.

    Likewise, for the argument in (a)-(d). Given the arguments in my paper (i.e., the arguments for the claim that if our torn decisions are TDW-undetermined, then we author and control them), it seems to me that the argument in (a)-(d) is flawed because either (b) or (c) is false. Once again, my intuition is that it’s best to reject (c) and to claim that if a quantum event is a PART of a macro-level event that I control, then I control the quantum event. But if someone really wanted to endorse (c) and reject (b), then again, I probably wouldn’t care enough to resist this way of thinking of things.

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  20. Hi Mark. Thanks for the thoughtful reply and for clarifying the temporal point of indeterminacy. You do accurately represent my concern but I am not convinced by your reply. You claim that the relevant difference between the Louis case and an authentic case of TDW is that in a TDW-undetermined torn decision, the conscious choice itself is undetermined so that the event that settles which option is chosen is the event with a "me-choosing-now phenomenology." You claim that this gets you the result that the the agent authors and controls the decision because the relevant event IS an author-consciously-choosing-event.  

    I'm sure how this helps. Now that I understand your position better one could just modify the case so that (a) the temporal point of indeterminacy is located at the moment of choice, (b) it is accompanied by a "me-choosing-now-phenomenology", and (c) the metaphysical indeterminacy that settles the choice is actually external to the agent rather than neuronal.

    At this point I see a few options open to you: (1) You could still insist that the choice is L-free because it was authored and controlled by the agent. I doubt, however, that anyone would find this conception of control convincing or important enough to ground L-freedom. (2) You could insist that the three conditions of my example can never be met. I also find this reply unconvincing because I see no principled reason why this would be a conceptual impossibility.  (3) You could simply stipulate that the phenomenological indeterminacy must be identical to actual neuronal indeterminacy within the agent such that they are one and the same event, but this seems ad hoc to me. Your theory only  requires a temporal indeterminacy that takes place at the moment of choice AND is accompanied by a certain phenomenology. My case fulfills those conditions. There is no reason to insist that our phenomenology somehow accurately tracks real metaphysical indeterminacy at the neuronal level. That would require a rather remarkable introspective ability! Since phenomenology is often illusory you should be willing to allow for cases where there is a "me-choosing-now" phenomenology but no actual indeterminacy (either in the agent or out!). Hence, you should also allow for the possibility of a "me-choosing-now" experience that IS accompanied by real metaphysical indeterminacy BUT is also external. 

    From your reply is sound like you are assuming that the phenomenology itself is  what gets you the result that the choice is controlled and authored. If that's the case, it sounds like you are simply demanding that certain compatibilist conditions be satisfied to secure your "control" condition. The indeterminacy condition is simply necessary to make it libertarian but it appears to add nothing to your sense of "control". 

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  21. Hi Gregg. Here's what I'm saying: if the torn decisions (i.e., the neural event with the me-choosing-now phenomenology) is TDW-undetermined, then it is authored and controlled by the agent because (in a nutshell) in this scenario, the event with the me-choosing-now phenomenology IS the event that settles which option is chosen. If an external event settles which option is chosen, then you don't get this result. It doesn't matter at all, on my view, whether the external undetermined event is itself undetermined or not--either way it is an external causal influence, and so it is authorship-and-control-damaging. I don't see why we should think this is ad hoc. The distinction I am drawing is between an agential event being the undetermined settling event and an external non-agential event being the undetermined settling event. This isn't an ad hoc distinction. It's what libertarians cared about all along.

    Mark

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  22. THE ILLUSORY CONCEPT OF PROBABILITY:
    I gives me the impression that the concept of probability is just an illusion that is the result of incomplete knowledge of the conditions from the perspective of an observer. It doesn't really exist. For example, we say that the probability of a coin toss resulting on one or the other side is 50%, but that's just because we assume ignorance of the conditions by which it was tossed. If we now know exactly all of the the conditions by which it is tossed (force, position, orientation, angle, etc.) we would actually be able to say that the probability of the coin falling on one side is 100% and the other is 0%.

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    1. Well, this claim is just equivalent to the thesis of determinism. And I think that it is an unconfirmed empirical hypothesis. Quantum mechanics has probabilistic laws, and there isn't a shred of evidence for the claim that there are hidden variables that we are unaware of that deterministically cause all quantum events.
      Best,
      Mark

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  23. Xavier Dery ‏@XavierDery

    Balaguer uses what he describes as an "all-events causation, completely materialistic view" to free will. Music to my ears! #TuringC

    11:21 AM - 6 Jul 12 via Twicca Twitter app

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  24. Xavier Dery ‏@XavierDery

    Yes! The choice itself is the event where the causative chain originates, it's not relevant to argue wether there's agent causation #TuringC

    11:41 AM - 6 Jul 12 via Twicca Twitter app

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  25. I know it has been debated after Dr. Balaguer's talk and also in this blog, but I still want to bring a few points about the 50-50 decisions. First, a thought experiment is what it is, thoughts. It doesn't stand in real life and we want to explain real life. What comes out of that experiment is indeed really interesting but I don't thing we are learning something about consciousness and free will conducting this experiment. Second, even if that thought experiment was to be applicable IRL, the classical butterfly effect would take place after a pretty short period of time and make it unpredictable, not free. It is a mistake to think that unpredictability can be equated to freedom of choice.

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    1. Hi. Two points. First, you're right that we can't settle the question with a thought experiment. But by thinking things through, we can figure out one thing that will help when we can go examine the world empirically. In particular, we can motivate the claim that IF our torn decisions are causally undetermined in the right way (with the right objective probabilities assigned to the various options and so on), THEN they are L-free. But of course, we still need to determined empirically whether these decisions really ARE undetermined in the right way. Second, I agree with you that unpredictability has nothing to do with free will. Coin tosses are unpredictable, but they are not free. Much more is required for free will.

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  26. I made this comment during the question period after Dr. Balaguer's talk, and spoke to him personally about it after: if we were to one day use science successfully to establish that we do have libertarian free will, or conversely, that we don't, what might be the repercussions for society at large? His response to my question was that he did not think the answer would make any real difference. I was wondering what others thought?

    I was of the opinion that the impact on society might be significant, in particular if it was shown that we do NOT possess libertarian free will. At an individual level, I agree with Dr. Balaguer, I doubt we would live our lives any differently. However, i could certainly envision policy reform taking place in light of the findings. I almost think that it would be desirable to find that in fact we do NOT possess libertarian free will. I think such findings might provide much needed support for those trying to make positive changes in the penal domain.

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