Sunday, February 15, 2009

Free Will Redux-III


Oh my! I have stirred up a cyclone in someones Guinness mug.

Five Lashes With the Whip of Philosophical Jargon

and more recently:

Free Will, and the meaning of loaf

I never was good at rear guard actions as the main body wanders off into the sunset. However, stinging from the unmerciful whip of jargon, one must rebut.

Galen Strawson. Interesting guy. (Anybody who goes to a Dragon School and is not named Harry Potter is probably interesting in his own right. But, clearly, his mum and dad wanted him to be a doctor.) In any case, Swanson states:
"We do what we do, in a given situation, because we are what we are."
I like pithy sayings, particularly if they involve circular logic. This ranks right up with "Know Thyself." Since neither statement is grounded in the real world, except that it is a collection of synapses, it has to be an idea. I love ideas, but they are very pliable. Einstein's theory of relativity was just a very good idea until 1919 when it received observational verification. Everyone seems to know what "responsibility" is, but it is an abstract idea like all the rest. Therefore, Swanson's syllogism (1-5) cannot be tested in reality. One has to have the same mental construct (i.e. "believe" the same things Swanson does) to "agree" or even "disagree" with him. (Since I hate people who use quotes, particularly "air quotes," I'll stop right there.)

I guess what I am saying is that it is hard to argue with the philosophers because we do not share a common language.

(As an aside, Swanson's Argument is included in discussions by the philosopher Harry J. Frankfurt (frequently referred to in the Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews) but who is best known for an essay (and book) On Bullshit. I remember reading an essay/review of this in the New Yorker. Yea and verily, I walketh in the valley of BS. )

Onward. From Ms. Cat-o-nine tails, we read a review of Tomasz F. Bigaj's work: Non-locality and Possible Worlds: A Counterfactual Perspective on Quantum Entanglement. The review is by an interesting guy named Michael Dickson. Here is an example of my difficulty understanding the philosophical language:
the role and proper application of counterfactual reasoning in proofs of Bell's Theorem and related theorems.
What, you might ask, is counterfactual reasoning?
In some interpretations of quantum mechanics, Counterfactual definiteness (CFD) is the ability to speak meaningfully about the definiteness of the results of measurements, even if they were not performed.
Got that? And Bell's Theorem? Go here.

All of this to address the conundrum proposed by Einstein and his colleagues in 1935.
Out of this arose Bell's Theorum (mentioned above).
Out of this arose, finally, measurements and experiments on quantum entanglement. One of the latest is quite impressive: World's Largest Quantum Bell Test Spans Three Swiss Towns.

Aha, Dr. C., now we are getting somewhere, you say. Finally someone is going to do a physical experiment that is relevant to your concerns.

No, unfortunately, because what proceeds in the review of Biagj is, to me, almost totally incomprehensible. It assumes a deep emersion in this field and, try as I did to understand it, I must admit I am got lost at the second Swiss Town.

As a final observation, what takes place in the brain is on a mesoscopic scale and not, as far as I can tell, susceptible to the wiles of quantum intanglement, in spite of some spectacular speculations by the anesthesiologist, Hameroff.

Punishment accepted. Uncle cried. Position vanquished.


Now for the Growlery. I take much of what he says to hear. I particularly am impressed with the idea of applying "Gödel's incompleteness theorem.....that we cannot completely analyse the system from within, using its own rules." Perhaps my tiny spacecraft has sailed too close to the Sun and my arguments have fallen like so much wax and feathers. (I hate mixed metaphors).

In any case, It is time to put the question to rest.


Julie Heyward said...

"It is time to put the question to rest."

I have enjoyed thinking about it. Thank you for your tolerance and thorough responses.

I feel that it is interchanges/discussions such as this -- between Dr. C, Felix Grant, and myself -- that makes it, intuitively, so hard for me to imagine that any of we (stubborn, opinionated ... ) three is not somehow anchored, willfully anchored outside of -- hello Gödel -- the hoi-poi of temporal events.

But I hate Gödel.

Felix Grant said...

"It is time to put the question to rest."

But, I wonder, is it time to do so because we have decided so, or because the stochastically aggregated opening and closing of ion gates has made it so?

Am I wondering that because I am inclined to so so, or because biochemistry has made me do so?

I am going to lie down now. Later I shall have coffee and a bourbon biscuit with Gödel, and tell him that Julie H hates him.

Dr. C said...

Hopefully it is more tasty than the fruit loaf (putting that in his trolly and coaching it).

“The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next.”

Ursula K. LeGuin

Pauline Laybourn said...

These two touch on your blog discussion this week.

The video below was a link from a Frans de Waal site:

Akhandadha Das (2/18/09) looks at animals and Frans de Waal's view on morality:

To be honest, I'm not sure what to think about all this, but it does have me thinking!