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Comments on Sunday 20 June 2004:
The debate of Free Will versus Determinism is a strangely ongoing and pointless one, pretty much on a par with "is there a god?" The two are also comparable in that my answer to both is somewhere in the region of "I don't really care."

What does annoy me is when people try to argue that there is or is not free will (or a god). What annoys me more is this 'compatibilist' crap. (Also Firefox, which just gave me a horizontal scrollbar in my textbox because I pasted a URL that was too wide.)
Free will in the usual sense does not exist : there is no such thing as a consciousness detached from reality. However, the notion of free will which we could call man's "decisional capacities" - being able to make decisions - is axiomatic. Something is axiomatic if it is necessary to accept the concept in order to deny it. Because of this, any refusal to admit the axiom is what we call a fallacy of stolen concept.
Translation:
First we define free will as something non-contentious, thus rendering the entire argument void. Actually, the very first thing we said was "free will does not exist", and there is no actual difference between compatibilism and determinism, except that we try to make some sort of poncy compromise to avoid argument.
On to the next paragraph:
In the case of free will, this is true : if we were not able to decide how to orient our attention, we could not deny free will. Therefore someone who denies free will, has accepted it by necessity. Any discussion presumes the existence of free will in this sense.
Refutation:
10 PRINT "This program does not have free will."
RUN
Later:
This solution may seem to reduce free will to an illusion. But this is a misunderstanding of evolution. Like any other function of the brain, free will has evolved to fulfill a function - in this case, mental flexibility. Decision-making abilities have permitted our species to go beyond the simplest instincts and tool-making of apes to the incredible range of technology and knowledge available to us today. A lot of benefits for an illusion !
What a load of arse. Those aren't benefits of free will, they are benefits of the ability to make decisions. Okay, so compatibilism defined free will as the ability to make decisions right at the start, but then surely nobody is contending that brains don't have the ability to make decisions. The further problem I see with this definition is that I'm pretty sure that at least 90% of compatibilists would not admit that computer game AI has free will, even by their definition. It clearly does. By the definition this bloke gives, even a pseudocode program such as the following has 'free will'.
if (sensor.detect_sunlight()) {
  Turn_off_outdoor_light();
} else {
  Turn_on_outdoor_light();
}
What they want to say is that free will is an illusion and it's all deterministic, but they're too scared to go quite that far.

My view of the argument is that the following are acceptable positions to take:
  • I believe there is free will, I accept my own thought as evidence of this, I discard measurable physics or believe there are missing aspects, and cannot provide any evidence to anyone else, or any argument to back up my belief. *
  • I believe there is no free will, I accept measurable physics as evidence of this, I believe my own thought is purely a result of deterministic physics within my brain, and I cannot provide any evidence to anyone else, or any argument to back up my belief. *
  • I have no firm opinions on the matter, due to lack of evidence or lack of caring about it.
Whereas the following are not acceptable positions:
  • I define free will as something that isn't being argued about, and then prove my own argument that nobody was ever actually contending, thus avoiding the question entirely because it scares me.
  • I believe in free will and can prove it by...*
  • I believe in predestination and can prove it by...*
* Actually having good proof makes the unacceptable notions acceptable, and renders the later clauses of the acceptable ones unnecessary. Good proof for free will would require some action that a computer could not be programmed to do, or a definition of free will which accepts that computers also have it (which actually falls foul of unacceptable type 1, until we have proper AI). Good proof for predestination would require some technology capable of exactly modelling a brain and environment, and showing that it would behave exactly the same as the real brain and environment, no matter how much it and they try to behave differently.

And my own opinion is, of course, of the "don't know, don't care" flavour.

Here is a fun and exciting word for everyone who bothered to read this far, or skipped to the end. Octopus. [10:27]

AttackOfTheSpam
Do you know what else is a pretty word? 'Transcendent.'

Also for someone who doesn't really care, you certainly can expound on the matter, or at least your annoyance at it.

Nameless
I don't care about the free will thing - I can still be annoyed by bad logic in argument, and that's just one of the places where bad logic crops up a lot.

RavenBlack
Tsk, forgot to put my own name in. Stupid change of browser.

Digi
Excellent refutation.

AttackOfTheSpam
I probably should have read the entire argument before commenting, but even now I find myself without motivation. Blah.

MorbidCorvid
Hee hee... Octopus...

C. Copperpot
I'm a fan of walrus, myself.

Nameless
I stand by gynotikolobomassophile as my personal favorite.
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