Re: Free Willism vs. Free Will

Danny Yee (danny@STAFF.CS.SU.OZ.AU)
Sat, 21 May 1994 17:01:18 +1000

> Haven't we been told frequently that in hard logic, it is impossible to prove
> a negative?

In formal logic it is as easy to prove ~A as it is to prove A. In *science*
one can't prove anything deductively :-).

> If randomness can be accepted or interpreted as a kind of determinism (which
> I'm reluctant to do), then we are admitting that something other than absolute
> NEGATIVE, "There is absolutely nothing else than determinism and randomness."

I'm not sure about your definition of "determinism", but I would say we
can argue that there is nothing except *causality* and randomness simply
because noone has ever come up with anything else that is even well-defined
as an alternative explanatory tool.

> Isn't this intensive concern to exclude "anything else" before we've reached a
> stage of certainty shared among a community of enquiry, more IDEOLOGY than

No... science requires commitment to certain basic epistemological
principles. And yes, science is a kind of ideology.

[ to claim that
> consciousness and choice have utterly no influence on events
> seems unwarranted.

Of course it is. But one can be a determinst and still believe that
consciousness and choice are important! The choices I make affect
the rest of the universe, and the choices I make are dependent on who
I am as well as the rest of the universe. Who I am depends on who
I was and what happened to me - there is no "soul", no fundamental
autonomous entity that "is" me.

I *want* there to be causal links between my feelings, emotions and
beliefs yesterday and my feelings emotions and beliefs today. I want
who and what I am to be the causal consequence of my life experiences.
If there were no causality I couldn't exist, let alone be "free".

> Why not let the behaviorists and the determinists discover everything they
> can, go as far as they can go? Aren't those who think there is some-
> thing to be discovered under consciousness and choice, more likely to keep
> persevereing into this difficult field of investigation?

Sure! That's what I think the vital point is - "free will" and
"consciousness", although often used for obscure metaphysical concepts
which aren't at all well defined, can be scientifically defined and
studied and do have a role to play in scientific theories. (I know
I've recommended them before, but have a look at Daniel Dennett's
_Consciousness Explained_ and _Elbow Room_, especially some of the
stuff on the evolution of consciousness.)

And if consciousness isn't important in anthropology, then I must be
very confused!

Danny Yee.