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Links With Your Coffee -Tuesday


The sighting of a rare robin last week led to birdwatchers laying siege to a garden in Hartlepool. William Langley lifts the lid on the world of extreme twitching.



Free Will: this is exactly the definition of Free Will I came up with a few months ago, and I think it is perfect.

Unless a person would make a different choice in the same conditions, then we are all just automatons.

Evolution would also create the non-sense lie that we have free will, just as it we have irrational hope during a dire crisis (or even belief in a caring God). A creature that believes it can better its situation will try harder to do so and would survive more often than one that simply accepts its fate.

re: coyne on free will: no offense to robinson but i thought his (coyne's) definition was garbage. in fact robinson's re-statement of it is much too charitable imo, and makes more sense. in coynes version, as long as all the physical/historical aspects of reality are in place in the same way than only if the person in question makes a different choice than the last one under those same physical/historical conditions can s/he be said to have free will.

this does not take into account the human mind itself, which may have suddenly "woken up" and realized that the previous decisions it made were automatic, but still correct in it's new understanding, and therefore makes the same choice- but for different reasons. robinsons more inclusive but less specific formulation appears to allow for this, but coyne's doesn't seem to. i double checked it, please tell me if i'm wrong.

...this does not take into account the human mind itself, which may have suddenly "woken up"

It does take into account "the human mind". I would guess that Coyne regards the condition of his brain to be identical if one is saying "same conditions".

"Free will" is a rabbit hole I never go down any more. I did however wonder the decision that says, "Hey, I'm leaving this choice up to a random number generator." Is it still "determinism" if the result is entirely indeterminant?

Jonathan doesn't like Coyne for his Rabbi bashing, and so it is not surprising that there is a obvious lack of charity in his interpretation of what Coyne says.

to be clear: robinson's use of the phrase "same conditions", without qualification of what those conditions might be, seems wiser to me, although i realize he agrees with coyne and even seems to take it a step farther later in his comment, saying that free will is a "non sense lie"- something that even coyne doesn't seem to be saying- in fact coyne seems to be saying the opposite: that free will exists, as long as i am allowed to define what it is. this, actually seems fair enough, and, in it's way, more open minded than robinson's apparent determinism.

I assume "woken up" is code for 'something causally miraculous happened somewhere in the hominidae family on the way to homo sapiens'. Needless to say, I think a lot of us enter into the debate not wanting to indulge in such dualistic fantasies.

As for the definition though, you're right that it's garbage. It neither matches the libertarian/folk notion of free will (because quantum randomness would fit the definition whilst failing - I assume the reason for this is obvious - to be acceptable grounds for 'free will' in the intended sense) and there's no explanation for why the definition is restricted beyond the conceptual role 'free will' has in grounding our ascriptions of responsibility. If the definition were being offered by someone who believed in it, that would be one thing, but it's kind of like if I said 'deciding what is just or unjust is something only God can do, but there is no God therefore there is no justice'. Well... why on Earth would I adopt that definition of justice if I think it's prima facie non-workable. Isn't /that/ a good reason to go with an alternate conception (some species of compatibilism, in the case of free will).


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