Comments for en-gb 30 Thu 24 Jul 2014 13:27:40 GMT+1 A feed of user comments from the page found at David That should be Lucasian Professor of Mathematics. Sun 03 Apr 2011 21:19:43 GMT+1 jude I listened to the programme hoping to find new ways of thinking, leading to new ways of behaving, which often happens through listening to this fantastic programme but unfortunately not this timeThese are my thoughtsOur brains continue to grow throughout our life, shaped by our actions, particularly by habitual behaviour (the value of Lent?)Looking at my conscious choices they often look inevitable, but then hindsight bias does make us see the past that wayI am frustrated that I do not behave in a way that I admire, be the different person I would like to beWhen I was a teenager I learnt that if I wanted to make sure I would not regret a night out then I had to not have that first inoffensive drinkIt is the small actions, which seem to have no obvious consequences and yet that I am free to take, that create the ground on which future ‘choices’ are made So I need to search out the available small choices that will hopefully change my life trajectory in a positive mannerI have this free will. Looking at research about what affects the plasticity of the brain I expect some people will have a background that has restricted their free will and so will need our carrot or stick assistance, and some will be set up to be more self-determinant than I can be. From those who have much, much will be expected? Wed 23 Mar 2011 15:27:01 GMT+1 PJ46 Profound apologies !!!In my previous comment I have consistently written "conscientiousness" when it should have been "consciousness".I ought to have said "mind" instead ! Thu 17 Mar 2011 16:45:14 GMT+1 PJ46 Surely, the existence, or otherwise, of free will is all to do with one's reactions to the events we encounter in the world.Scientists, and many philosophers,set about investigating thesereactions without first investigating the true nature of the world that one is reacting to.The world is perceived by means of our senses. Put very briefly,these senses ( sight, sound, touch etc.) all operate in a similar way,producing signals which are sent to the brain, which in turn produces a perception of the world in our conscientiousness. Thisperception is the only indication we have of the world. Because it exists in our conscientiousness, it must be entirely mental. Hencethe world we perceive from the moment we wake 'till the momentwe sleep, is a mental one and not a material one. Since our body( including the brain) is part of the world, it too must be a mental creation ! The brain does not therefore produce conscientiousness, as is generally believed, it is conscientiousness that gives rise to the brain !!A consequence of the world being a mental phenomenon puts anew slant on the question of free will.I could go on ...... Thu 17 Mar 2011 14:18:33 GMT+1 PJ46 This post has been Removed Thu 17 Mar 2011 13:34:43 GMT+1 knight As free will has been a subject of discussion for so long, it was unlikely that any generally acceptable conclusion would result from this one, but happily, discussion usually promotes further thought, which must be useful if only to negate the question.My own thoughts went to "unwillingness". Now especially - an unwillingness to understand the political preference for austerity measures which must further the cultivation of "measure" as the principle condition in our social culture. Other vital abstract conditions - 'goodwill', 'appreciation', 'pleasure' - call out to be reflected in 'economy'.Thank you as always for the programmes, and I pass on that I felt obliged(involuntarily or determinedly?) to articulate for myself ' a conscious sense and art of symbolization', on which our culture is surely based. It works well and will work even better when more consciously in play. Thu 17 Mar 2011 08:26:51 GMT+1 johno Furthermore, I believe Feferman, amongst others, has written a decent thesis to refute GIT being used (mathematically) to disable determinism.Many people do not adhere to the notion that GIT is apllicable to that which you think it is... Wed 16 Mar 2011 23:21:46 GMT+1 johno MyCatsCanTypeI simply cannot agree with your rather hasty and dogmatic assumptions about determinism. Firstly, your claim that quantum mechanics is non-deterministic is not true. It depends what interpretation of QM you have. If it is the Copenhagen Interpretation, then perhaps. But there are many interpretations, some deterministic, all unproven.Secondly, your claim on Godel's Incompleteness Theorem is also disputed. For example: "Since most physicists would consider the statement of the underlying rules to suffice as the definition of a "theory of everything", most physicists argue that Gödel's Theorem does not mean that a TOE cannot exist. On the other hand, the scholars invoking Gödel's Theorem appear, at least in some cases, to be referring not to the underlying rules, but to the understandability of the behavior of all physical systems, as when Hawking mentions arranging blocks into rectangles, turning the computation of prime numbers into a physical question.[19] This definitional discrepancy may explain some of the disagreement among researchers."Don't jump to hasty conclusions. Also, since my book was written for the popular philosophy, getting into the finer details of GIT would be counter-productive. To repeat, most philosophers do not believe in free will per se, and I assume they are not all ignoring GIT. "... is a stretch, because Godel was working with a pretty specific kind of system, or set of systems, and the proofs do not translate very well to looser systems, or some conception of “reason” that is not really a system at all. His proofs were revolutionary, but their application is not as wide as some people make it out to be." Wed 16 Mar 2011 23:06:30 GMT+1 David Congratulations on 500 or 501! Melvyn opened on the right line by asking whether the table had free will. The answer was NO. Conclusion: Material things do not have free will. Materialist philosophy forces linear, Hellenistic thinkers into determinism and circular arguments. Materialism is false whether from a Goedelian point of view or because it ignores two other vital factors: life and consciousness. Chemicals do not have life. Apart from mankind no other life forms have consciousness or worry about moral questions, or filling out tax forms. Materialism provides no explanation for either of these two dimensions of life and conscience, let alone moral answers. Discussing free will without a Creator (a further ‘factor’) is like debating how airplanes fly if you do not believe in air, or how mobile phones work if you do not believe in electromagnetic waves. The great scientists like Newton or Faraday were not so cognitively challenged. Newton, Samuel Clarke and Whiston, Newton’s successor as Lucasian Professor of Physics, wrote extensively about fulfilled prophecy, for example, about the rise and fall of the Persian, Greco-Macedonian and Roman empires. They also took as certain the return of the Jews en masse to a new State called Israel after about 2000 years and the building of a temple. This required investigating scientifically the prophecies, some written nearly 4000 years ago, that spoke of Israel's dispersion (due to forgetting God) and the re-gathering at repentance and the recognition of their Creator. A pity we did not hear scientist-philosophers up to discussing these vital factors in relation to free will and divine planning. I hope the next discussions, the next 500, will be more open and more really scientific, not materialistic or atheistic. Wed 16 Mar 2011 22:53:49 GMT+1 David This post has been Removed Wed 16 Mar 2011 19:06:23 GMT+1 Robert in Crawley Well it seems to me that the positions set out by the contribors all start from the same errors:1) The notion that the human personality is a homogeneous, monolithic entity;2) That humans (and living creatures generally) are not - at least in some degree - active agents in their own destiny.From either a scientific or purely empirical perspective these are patently false propositions.What makes a person what they are, and drives what they do in particular circumstances is the result of many layers of experience.Where those layers of experience all have essentially the same elements in them Determinism will describe the most likey outcomes of an interaction between an individual or a group and the world outside.Everthing we know about ourselves and wider creation tells us that Determinism is contrary to nature - that which attempts to remain static and unchanging is always broken and swept away by the flow of creation.The discussion about where moral responsibility resides in relation to Free Will also hinged on the error of supposing that there is some kind of 'Moral Gold Standard' waiting to be deduced, formally set out and applied.Experience of the world again tells us that this a falsehood - a very dangerous falsehood.The imposition of Moral Responsibility is about enforcing codes of behaviour that support order within, and the survival of the group.As such the imposition of Moral Responsibility is about realising an ideology and is an exercise in relativism. Wed 16 Mar 2011 11:28:45 GMT+1 Central Communities Team Tue 15 Mar 2011 17:47:46 GMT+1 Neopantheist (Apologies for the howler typo in the line 4th-from-last of my comment of 11:49 14MAR. It should of course read "a good scientist", not "a god scientist"! Freudian?)In support of timkjuk, who wrote: "To say that the extraordinary creativity of the living world is fully determined is a claim on exactly the same level as saying that it is all done by God, which is to say that there is no way in principle of ever knowing whether it is true or not." A useful implicit critique of a certain "mateialist fundamentalism" which occasionally surfaces in this debate. A passionate conviction that some hypothesis or other must be accepted as written in stone for ever is a step backward from the spirit of open-handed enquiry from which science was born. I would perhaps question timkjuk's final clause - " way in principle of ever knowing whether it is true or not". Terms such as "never" or "not ever" always invite qualification; but perhaps the cautious " principle.." answers that criticism Given another century or so, one might hope that we have uncovered levels and areas of truth about our universe(s) quite inconceivable from this vantage point. Chomsky is on record on this topic as follows:"It may be that contemporary natural science already provides principles for understanding of mind. Or perhaps principles now unknown enter into the functioning of human or animal minds, in which case the notion of 'physical body' must be extended, as has often happened in the past, to incorporate entities and principles of hitherto unrecognized character." "Challenging Chomsky, Botha, Blackwell (p.106)." and" 'the whole issue of whether there's a physical basis for mental structures is a rather empty issue' because, in the development of modern science 'the concept "physical" has been extended step by step to cover anything we understand', so that 'when we ultimately begin to understand the properties of mind, we shall simply ... extend the notion of "physical" to cover these properties as well.' He does not even deny that it is possible in principle to account for 'mental phenomena' in terms of 'the physiological processes and physical processes that we now understand.' It will be clear from these quotations that although Chomsky describes himself as a 'mentalist', it is mechanistic determinism, and more particularly behaviourism, to which he is opposed and that in contrast with such philosophers as Plato or Descartes, he might equally be described as a 'physicalist' " -(Chomsky': John Lyons, Fontana 1970, P.138: reporting a radio interview)NOTE: As a newcomer to this discourse I cannot be sure if these quotes are permissible within the House Rules. If they are not, i will resubmit the comment without them. In either case I am willing to suply more details of these works via my own e-mail address, Tue 15 Mar 2011 13:30:07 GMT+1 MyCatsCanType I am astonished that johno, above, claims to have written a book on free will and yet admits to not being an expert on Gödel's Theorem. However, I don't know why I'm surprised: when I wrote my dissertation on Gödel it was a constant disappointment to me that philosphers would comment on Gödel (negatively or positively) without making the slightest effort to understand the meta-mathematics. Nor does the feeble web page linked to by johno cast any more light. The fact is, for a system to be deterministic it must be axiomatic, else whence does the determinism originate? And if it's axiomatic, then it is subject to Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem. It is not a question of IF the theorem is true, the theorem is proven.Unfortunately johno also appeals to the "most cats prefer Whiskas" argument in support of his belief in determinism. Sorry, but that argument is never proof of anything other than an inability to adduce anything substantive.I didn't mention this before because it was brought up (however weakly) in the programme, but of course the findings of quantum mechanics also support the proposition that the universe is non-deterministic. How can it possibly be deterministic if at the most basic level it functions not by the laws of physics but rather by the laws of probability? James Carey will doubtless bluster about the science being in error, but by citing Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle (one of the less dramatic and contentious implications of Quantum Theory) he rather suggests that he doesn't know very much about it. Perhaps he would care to investigate Ghostly Action at a Distance (as demonstrated in the Aspect Experiment) and the various subsequent experiments which seem to prove that the bizarre phenomenon really does breach the laws of classical physics and is not caused by so-called hidden variables. Or, for something easier to understand, the very simple Twin-Slit Experiment with photons demonstrates dramatically both the probabalistic nature of quantum events and the bizarre effect on quantum events of being observed. Sorry James, you cannot justify your belief in determinism by simply reiterating it stridently, you need to engage with the counter-evidence and demonstrate WHY it is wrong rather than merely asserting that it is so. Tue 15 Mar 2011 12:53:38 GMT+1 getafix Hi I think this would prove to be a compelling topic of discussion for the programme. The ideas at it's core are so simple to grasp, but at the same time are frustratingly difficult to fully comprehend. It is said that Non-Dualism can be understood as concept but only remains as such until it is experienced - then it becomes enlightenment. "Advaita Vedanta is considered as the most influential sub-school of the Vedānta (literally, end or the goal of the Vedas, Sanskrit) school of Hindu."? Advaita Philosophy, or Vedantic Nondualism has become, along with Buddhism, one of the most popular spiritual paths being pursued by those interested in enlightenment today. Tue 15 Mar 2011 03:53:30 GMT+1 getafix This post has been Removed Tue 15 Mar 2011 03:48:14 GMT+1 John Thompson We are mixing categories like physics and biology when we discuss free will.An 18thcentury mechanistic view of science undermined hopes for a theory of human action based on freedom.If we are determined by natural forces-by mechanism-we cannot easily put together a consistent picture in which a free individual makes moral choices.Consciousness needs to be explained in biological terms if one wishes to escape the reductionist failure of the Enlightenment, until consciousness isexplained in biological terms to progress towards a more complete notion of the free individual.The flux of categorizations in a selective system leading to memory and consciousness alters the ordinary relations of causation as described by physicistsConsciousness is connected to temporal continuity or “experienced” time.Memory is the key element in consciousness, bound up with continuity and different time scales.In human -beings primary consciousness and higher order consciousness coexist,eachhaving different relations to time.The sense of time past in higher order consciousness is a conceptual matter,having to do with previous orderings of categories in relation to an immediate present driven by primary consciousness.Higher order consciousness is based on the ability to model the past and future.The sense of time is a conscious event.This view of time is distinct from the clock-time of the physicists. Each individual is subject to a multi-layered set of irreversible selectional events in his/her perception or memory.Individual human beings have intentionality,memory and consciousness:they can sample patterns at one point on a line and based on their personal histories subject them to plans at other points on that line.They can enact these plans,altering the causal relations of objects according to the structures of their memories. No unusual physics is involved,simply the ability to categorize,memorize and form plans according to a conceptual model.Inanimatenonintentional objects cannot alter causal chains because they lack appropriate memory.For systems that categorize in the manner that brains do there is macroscopic indeterminacy.”Time slippage” with planning is permitted by consciousness,changing how events emerge.A theory of action based on human freedom is supported by theories of modern physics and the findings of neuroscience,ruling out a machine model of the world and of the brain.Having been knocked from the centre of our place in the universe and ourselves by Darwin,Newton and Freud, we can avoid the fatalism of the behaviourist-materialist philosophy by following the new mentalist mind-brain paradigm.In other words we do what we subjectively wish to do.Consciousness is autonomous,exerting top-level causal influence in the direction and control of behaviour. Mind is conceived to govern,top-down, neural and chemical events.Willedchoice involves the causal influence of subjective value priorities wherein personal wishes,feelings and mental factors override subsidiary forces of the neural substructure.Free will decisions are still caused and determined but acquire degrees of freedom and of self-control far above mechanistic determinism.We use the mind to initiate and control our physical actions. Mon 14 Mar 2011 14:45:40 GMT+1 Neopantheist In support of "P346" and "RobW". The undue influence of the Abrahamic monmotheisms on current thought, coupled with PJ346's rather sad little note on Karma "..maybe it wasnt sufficiently 'scientific'", prompts the observation that the haste with which the concensus dismissed Hubble's "steady state" model in favour of the "Big Bang" hypothesis might well be partly accounted for by a more or less unconscious need to replace the old Biblical myth with something of the same order. (The regicide tends to inherit the throne by default - see Anatole France, "Revolt of the Angels"). A Hindu would perhaps have considered the alternative rather more deeply. As it is, we have seen excuse after excuse, invention after invention, used to promulgate a "Big Bang" which always turns out to be a metaphor when one asks silly questions like "whereabouts would we look for the big bang if we are 'looking into the past'?". Hubble's initial formulation was indeed a bit naive, but it could have been developed had it had the same psychological support as the BB. I understand that Hubble was rubbished largely on the grounds that the more distant galaxies showed radical differences of composition from the local ones, and that therefore the Universe was Evolving!! (Fine, so far - of course it is evolving) but that "..if it was evolving it must have a linear beginning and end".?! I may be misinformed abiout this, but if that was the argument it beggars belief. The fact that something is evolving suggests that it has an organic-like syntropy built into it. There is no reason why a recursively evolving universe should have to hav a BigBang/HeatDeath linearity. Straight lines are a human invention - Nature works in curves of all kinds. Any "straight line" can be seen as part of a curve if the curve is sufficiently distant - and as far as I know, pi still hasnt been chased down to a fixed ending, which strongly suggests that the Unioversal Organism is eternal and boiundless. Of course, that's just another hypothesis... As to karma, the concept has been bandied about rather carelessly in various "New Age" contexts, but its main characteristic is not that of rewards and punishments dealt out by pretehuman entities, but rather that the manner in which we do in fact constantly regenrate ourselves for better or worse leads us into contexts and situations ("incarnations" in Himndu terms) which reflect our current condition. The incarnating "soul" is drawn to what it resonates with.Instead of the Abraamic "sin", we have simply the hazard of addictions, or habits, which we have the option to master or not, as we Will. Given that organism is a higher order of organisation than mechanism, being endogenic and self-motivating, then I would expect an eternal and infinite universe would have evolved by now from mechanism to organism and beyond. The fact that we are not equipped to measure and analyse it at this time may be a bum ego-trip for some of us - but on the other hand, it means that the advdenture of eternal discovery has no end - no absolute heast-death which cannpot be "followed" by another Big Bsng - the absurd semantic traps come clustering in as we pursue the idea. ButI doubt that Universe minds much -- our science, and indeed all that we are, is just part of the etermal cosmic adventure. Enjoy. Mon 14 Mar 2011 14:38:55 GMT+1 Neopantheist James Carey: "It is all very simple. ALL events are interconnected. No event can be different unless ALL other events are different." Far from simple, this strikes me as very opaque, and I cannot tease out from the context just what Mr Carey defines as an "event". Different from what? From one another? or pedrhaps he means different from the implicit definition in the following sentence, which seems to be saying merely that all events must be predetermined. But this is mere assertion of a hypothetical position, with which I must take issue. I am pleased, at least, that Mr Carey is talking about "events" rather than "things" or "particles"; bcause my own position rests on the proposition that "things" are betterconceived as "events"; and, extending this idea, that individual "events", in everyday terms, are merely convenient abstractions which we use in the bounded context of our expectations. For instance: in the purest sense, there is only one Universal Event - all other "things"/events are subsets defined by quite arbitrary boundaries imposd by the limits of the human nervous systm and physiocybernetics generally. An example: Consider a kitchen table. We find it convenient to abstract this subset from a greater Event, which wee might define as "beginning" with a Tree or Trees, and "ending" with a heap of ash. Beyond those limits we would not call it a Table. The point is that the boundaries and spacemarks which we use to break up the Universal Event into convenient "particles" are in fact arbitrary. All mathematics which relies on counting and comparing numerical values is dependent on such boundaries. We invented feet and inches, seconds and hours, to broadly indicate subsets of space, time, matter and energy, and we could then make quantitative calculations in terms of ordinal and cardinal numbers. Very useful, but only while we stay within the limited context where they were invented. A really god scientist, five centuries ago, would quite rightly have ridiculed the idea of packing the content of hundreds of books into a few cubic inches. He was right then, and would be wrong now. So what about the future? Mon 14 Mar 2011 11:49:39 GMT+1 Bobby Please remove my previous comment. I looked at the IOT 500th episode blog and noticed that it referred to a duplicate episode in the archive. Free Will was the 500th episode after all, though I think the repeat of should be removed from the archive ... Sun 13 Mar 2011 18:42:12 GMT+1 Drape1941 This post has been Removed Sun 13 Mar 2011 17:36:08 GMT+1 John Thompson As this is the only place to put ideas about future programmes i'd like tosuggest Capitalism,its causes,development and crises;also Civilization,isit still a useful term or is it an accurate description or what is it?Lastly,Phenomenology(or the importance of Merleau-Ponty). Sun 13 Mar 2011 14:20:47 GMT+1 Neopantheist This post has been Removed Sun 13 Mar 2011 13:43:01 GMT+1 muswellnel This continues to be my favourite programme despite today's blather from the philosophers; I am in accord with valadon and cataract, and most of all with PJ46 for his comment on the sad omission of Karma. Sun 13 Mar 2011 11:17:49 GMT+1 Bobby Why was this episode called out as the 500th episode, when in reality it was the 501st? It might be the 500th addition to the IOT archive, though the archive does not include the 325th episode (Series 9 Episode 22 - William Wilberforce, first broadcast on 22nd February 2007). Sun 13 Mar 2011 01:18:59 GMT+1 paul_h This post has been Removed Sat 12 Mar 2011 20:50:56 GMT+1 Frank This post has been Removed Sat 12 Mar 2011 19:22:27 GMT+1 jacmak This post has been Removed Sat 12 Mar 2011 19:10:38 GMT+1 Carol Dawson A speaker versed in consciousness would have added greatly to the discussion. All our actions are determined by the past unless we learn to exercise free will. We all have the potential for free will and it is achieved through profound self inquiry. The exercise of choice is a function of self knowledge. We most certainly can get back behind the conditioned rational thinking self to take responsibility for who we are but it cannot be done cerebrally through debate. Consciousness is a state of being not a state of mind. It involves knowing what it is to operate as an 'end' not a 'means'. We do not have to put up with the illusion of free will although most of us do. The solution is embodiment - understanding how to reference both the mind and body to access our full resources as human beings. A speaker versed in consciousness could have highlighted those occasions in the discussion where the overlooked assumptions and false conclusions of your contributors illustrated the limitations of conditioned rational thinking. Sat 12 Mar 2011 17:21:36 GMT+1 John Thompson I think in discussions of this subject people are apt to desert their instincts and sense and to hypothesise to such an extent(drag in so many theorems)and play such verbal trickery that they lose the basic outline and intuition.Consciousness is the universe thinking about itself.If consciousness is the gradual insertion of freedom into matter,fromwhich it has evolved,this could hint at how chance operates on the selection process of alternate variables,to which the will then gives consent.We freely select and commit ourselves to action based on that selection. Perhaps the two-model version of free will(adopted by indeterminists like Popper and James) is the most agreeable.If one feels a sense of connection between self and universe,then a belief in free will makes it exist.Its not a question of proof,although logic can be used! Sat 12 Mar 2011 15:44:36 GMT+1 richard I was disappointed that there was not a discussion of the implications for free will that arise from Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity. This seems to stongly suggest that it is fatalism rather than determinism obtains. TS Elliot among others appreciated this in Burnt Norton and the latter would, I think, make a good subject for a future programme. Sat 12 Mar 2011 15:04:24 GMT+1 Newtonne I don't see that philosophers' ideas about free will have progressed much since David Hume and, like Valadon above, I would have welcomed the input of scientists and mathematicians.One striking contribution would have been an account of the Free Will Theorem of John H. Conway and Simon Kochen. Quoting from their paper: "It asserts, roughly, that if indeed we humans have free will, then elementary particles already have their own small share of this valuable commodity. More precisely, if the experimenter can freely choose the directions in which to orient his apparatus in a certain measurement, then the particle’s response (to be pedantic—the universe’s response near the particle) is not determined by the entire previous history of the universe." Sat 12 Mar 2011 14:40:24 GMT+1 Michael Edgeworth McIntyre It's strange how Libet's work keeps adding to the confusion in free-will discussions.The point often missed -- it seems -- is the difference between subjective time and objective time, a simple fact that's also a biological necessity. It's easy to verify from, for instance, the way music works. Try websearching on the exact phrase "acausality illusions". Sat 12 Mar 2011 12:53:07 GMT+1 Michael Edgeworth McIntyre This post has been Removed Sat 12 Mar 2011 12:38:12 GMT+1 John Thompson Does the world of fact and observation give us any insight into the fate ofthe universe?We still don't know if the universe is limited or limitless,howmany dimensions or worlds there are.Whether indeed we are all alone in the universe.In this sense I think from many of the comments and the speakers that the universe is not entirely predictable,that free will if regarded as incompatible with determinism,could be said to be an illusionwe need to reach beyond determinism.Its like the lottery ticket which gives you the illusion you will win millions:most win nothing but for a few itcomes true,a necessary illusion to lift themselves from their deterministicstate.The world of science in itself is not enough even for its participants,hence the incorporation of the metaphysical sense in Lovelock's Gaiahypothesis,with its vision of the interconnectedness of the earth,giving one example. Sat 12 Mar 2011 12:09:47 GMT+1 neilantony1962 500 programmes - wow and thank you. You have certainly become an establsihed part of my weekly life. Which makes me think an idea for a future programme might be legacies. Can they be manufactured (Juluis Caesar?) are they changed over time (Richard Nixon?). Here's to your ongoing legacy creation for many years to come . Sat 12 Mar 2011 10:06:05 GMT+1 Ross Somervell I fear there is something a little silly going on here. We (notice I include myself here) are talking about ourselves as though the thinking doubting acting self were a given. It isn't. 'I' makes sense in a(n) historic (unreal) context, as told in fairytales etc. but is no more real than the notion of 'free will'. When you ask if we have free will, you ask a silly question, for the mythical 'we' is precisely that to which we attribute free will in our fairytales etc. You can't have one without the other. Unfortunately our language compels us (as I am doing now) to reinforce the illusion. Sat 12 Mar 2011 04:49:18 GMT+1 timkjuk In case anyone has read my first post above, I should correct myself. I meant to write in the second paragraph "science, as we all know, has been so fantastically successful AT [not AND] predicting and controlling events" . You could probably have worked that out, but it took me along time to understand what I'd written when I read it again. Was that error determined at the big bang, I wonder. Fri 11 Mar 2011 18:20:47 GMT+1 Kenyon Wright I was astonished that nobody mentioned or saw the fatal flaw in the determinist case. It is this. If everything is determined, then the views and writings of all philosophers are equally determined, and not subject to free will. If our thinking and reasoning are eqully determined, there is no case for holding anything to be actually "true"and any debate becomes useless - if it is only the repetition of views pre-determined. Determinism shoots itself in the foot Fri 11 Mar 2011 17:30:46 GMT+1 timkjuk I was disappointed and puzzled that the contributors to the programme all signed up to determinism, and even more surprised that most of the comments on the blog endorse that position. I’m not a professional philosopher or academic, so I might be talking way out of my depth here; nonetheless it seems to me that both determinism and free will are metaphysical positions, and there is a still lively controversy within philosophy about what exactly metaphysics is really trying to do and whether it has any chance of doing it. For many respectable, serious philosophers metaphysics is just an idle exercise – in Wittgensteinian terms, the result of being ‘bewitched by language’. My judgement at the end of the programme was more or less: that’s what you get if you try to do metaphysics: impossible contradictions which you just have to force yourself to live with in one way or another.What was overwhelmingly striking was that Strawson was quite happy to dismiss indeterminism on the grounds that it isn’t provable but equally happy to embrace determinism even though he admitted that it, too, was unprovable. What seems to draw people to determinism is the fact that scientific laws are deterministic, and science, as we all know, has been so fantastically successful and predicting and controlling events that we’ve all come to take it for granted that the world must have the same form that scientific laws themselves take. But this is largely an instance of confusing the object represented with the means of representing it. Yes, scientific laws are deterministic; that is science’s way of engaging with the world. But the idea that because science has been so successful in understanding and controlling the physical world, to which its means of representation is particularly suited, it will naturally be as successful in understanding the life and human worlds is actually misconceived. Science has not even begun to show that organic behaviour, leave alone human behaviour, is predictable in the way that non-organic matter is. The belief that it will in time arises from conceptual confusion not reasoned extrapolation.This view, by the way, has nothing to do with vitalism or Cartesianism. It just seems to be a fact that what we call ‘matter’ evolved into living organisms that are, what Michael Polyani used to call ‘centres of self interest’ that can direct and control their own activity. To say that the extraordinary creativity of the living world is fully determined is a claim on exactly the same level as saying that it is all done by God, which is to say that there is no way in principle of ever knowing whether it is true or not. And for some philosophers, something that one could never know even in principle doesn’t belong to the domain of rational knowledge at all.I’m limited in my capacity to express this, but there are many respectable, serious working philosophers from whom I derived these ideas. One of those on the panel might have made for a more balanced discussion. Fri 11 Mar 2011 17:01:35 GMT+1 richard freewheeling Someone with the knowledge and understanding of a new-born child but the physical and intellectual capacity of an adult confronts a landscape crossed by innumerable paths. He must walk into it; and every day must continue walking. He has no destination and knows no route. He takes a path which appears easy and agreeable. He comes to a junction and takes the turning which appears easy and agreeable. He does this, time and again, for days and weeks and years and gradually learns that some aspects of a route usually lead into dense jungle; some routes lead into waterless desert; some into gardens full of fruit and clear springs. There is a tendency for each possible route, at a junction, to indicate the conditions it leads to, so the wanderer frequently chooses a path which he has learned will lead to food or water, or which will lead to easy walking, and rejects those which experience has shown lead to cliffs and deserts and dangerous places. He is now a man with experience. One day he takes a path which leads to a large house; the door he opens takes him to a room full of beautiful young men and young women, sitting around a large table on which is displayed a notice saying: “Today’s discussion is about freewill”. The wanderer has been through a variety of establishments on his journey and realises he has stumbled on a seminar for students of philosophy. “The problem is this”, says a woman with blonde hair: “every event is caused; no event springs up, untouched by the past and naked to the world, without antecedents; and since this is a simple truth, any and all events are moments in a continuous chain which leads back to the Big Bang; or beyond. Everything is determined.” “In your case”, says her boy friend, “you were naked but not at all untouched. And very determined.” They exchange brief, loving kisses. “When you came into my bed, you appeared to act freely but I see now that a million decisions and actions: forces acting in the world and others acting in your brain and body, impelled you to sin quite beautifully; though you regret it now! Could you have done differently?” The wanderer half raised a hand and, hesitantly, said: “I arrived here by a path I neither knew nor understood. Were I of a different era, I would introduce myself as Sir Lancelot and seek the pleasures of this lady” – he indicated a girl with short dark hair sitting to his right. She smiled “This is a philosophy seminar, she said. Afterwards...” “I arrived here as a result of a million decisions which, as I travelled, I made with a growing degree of understanding and wisdom. I came to know the implications of each decision I took when confronted by a choice of routes and now, given any choice, any question, I apply that knowledge. I would argue that, in so doing, I introduce myself – that is, my knowledge and experience – into the factors which are impelling me to a decision. You ” – - addressing the blonde student – “say a choice is determined by everything that has gone before but I introduce myself into that net – those inter-weaving chains - of antecedent events and so I am now influencing my own actions. Does that not make me to an extent un-determined; and if something is even partially un-determined, it is not determined. Ergo, I am free”. “But your knowledge arose from previous events; your knowledge was determined,” said the girl with blonde hair. “True”, said the wanderer, “but each influence on me, each happening which shaped my mind, had to get through the gatehouse of my knowledge and experience. I was not a blank slate. What I learned was mediated by my knowledge and experiences. I hear and see according to my prejudices and understanding; I am one of the forces at work, making the experience take whatever form it did in my consciousness. I helped to make myself and I continue so to do. I might mention”, he added, “as this is a philosophy seminar, that Rousseau said something of this. Also, that prejudice is a bigger problem and I could destroy my own argument by introducing the enigma of self-deception But let’s not go there.” “So,” said the girl with short hair quite impressed,”when a woman murders her man, having thought long about it, she is both free and culpable. She chose wrong (let’s call it that) and all his brutality did not determine her action.” “She didn’t have to do it”, said a voice. “All the abuse counts as reasons but not as the determinant.” “But if you could rewind her brain, perfectly I mean, nano-second by nano-second, and see every impulse flicking on and off, you would see that she did have to. At the point where she could have desisted, she already had the knife in her hand, arm raised, brain blinded, blood up, panting for breath, unaware... She couldn’t stop herself”, said the blonde girl. “I think I was being a bit pure and over-simple”, the wanderer said. I put forward a case in which I could bring myself into my decision and, since I was helping to make my own choice – perhaps dominantly - I was manifesting my free will. Perhaps most decisions are made with the irrationality of the murderer. But she could have brought her experience into the event and have chosen not to do the dreadful deed. Free will is a fact, I think, but not a simple one. “What about self-deception?” asked a young man. “You know that it is impossible, logically and factually - and tautologically - to be conscious of your own self-deception.So when you apply your experience in making choice, you can’t be certain that that is the free you, freely doing it. “The point is, you say that when you are influenced by an idea, you contribute to the nature of that influence so you make yourself in a way. But you can’t get complete control of your responses; you do things you aren’t aware of and respond in ways you havn’t thought through. You don’t know exactly what your mind is registering, or what gets into your memory and what doesn’t. So you havn’t got control of the way things influence you; in the end you can’t know to what extent self-deception got into the mixing bowl (your brain, I mean).You don’t know you and you don’t make you” “But,” said a voice, “it’s like he said before: sometimes you don’t deceive yourself. Maybe you don’t know when but you can be sure that sometimes you don’t, which means that the free you sometimes determines what you learn and sometimes acts honestly; so you are sometimes free.” The wanderer rose to his feet. “I don’t know if that hole is big enough for a very small, minimally free mouse to escape through .I came in here with an idea I quite liked. It has faded away in the heat of your intellect to little more than a grey cloud in a grey mist. But if one of you would like to come with me to examine a little closer the nature of self-deception” - he caught the eye of the girl with dark hair – “I’m free.” Fri 11 Mar 2011 15:54:11 GMT+1 dougal31 This post has been Removed Thu 10 Mar 2011 22:04:19 GMT+1 jontanner The human condition is like that of a robot - a body based on a fairly simple skeleton, controlled by an extremely complex control system. Our actions are the result of decisions made amongst the neurons and synapses of our brains. Of course, it seems to us that they are made in 'the theatre of (our) consciousness' but that has surely been shown to be an illusion. We must accept that we are accountable for our actions; but are we RESPONSIBLE for them? Only if we are responsible for the people we are at the moment we performed them, which, of course, we are not. In fact, we are the people resulting from a string of accidents, beginning with the accidental fertilization of an egg with a sperm, and continuing with every random or determined event that has affected us since then.I agree that In Our Time is the crown jewel of Radio 4, itself the crown jewel of the BBC. Thank you Melvyn. Thu 10 Mar 2011 20:45:05 GMT+1 PJ46 Surely, it is possible for determinism and freewill to coexist - like goodand evil - the one being the antithesis of the other.Take for example the case of an actor playing a role in a play. The textof the play will have already been determined by the writer, but the actor will be free to lnterpret his character as he chooses within thelimits set out by the dramatist. A good actor will be faithful to the intentions of the author, whereas a poor actor would be capableof creating havoc - which, as an amateur actor, I've found to my cost!Another analogy could be that of a video game. The basic design ofthe game will have been decided by the inventor, but the player will be free to make his own choices. The player who makes wise choices will most probably win the game.Incidentally, there was no mention in the programme of the Principle of Karma. A serious ommision - but it may be that it wasn't sufficiently "scientific" ! Thu 10 Mar 2011 20:32:21 GMT+1 James Baring A superb discussion on free will, worthy of the 500th edition of In Our Time. The team were up to the challenge and quite rightly they refrained form a simple or absolutist answer and they covered nearly all the relevant points correctly and avoided big pitfalls. Some collective ends are predestined because of their containment in time and space. For instance if there was no friction or heat loss or air resistance on a snooker table, one shot would get all the balls, eventually, into the pockets. That is dependent, contained determinism without autonomy. The human condition and supposed free will is at the other extreme; the challenge life sets each person is endless and the debate today will have helped a lot of people to think about that. When one understands it, it gives insight into every mystery there is. Don't worry about the quantum stuff and hidden variables - unless that is your bag of course - but the 'answer' to that comes along with the package. The future of humanity on this planet is determined to some extent though we have different ways of playing it. Individual free will is all too often very much a delusion for people who are reactive and take little part in self-formation or reformation. Thu 10 Mar 2011 20:04:53 GMT+1 Howard Was this really the 500th programme? According to my list this week was the 501st episode, and the website holds 502 episodes, but I think one programme is held on the website in both the 45 and 30 minute versions so it has only 501 *different* episodes. Of course "Catharism" (episode 127) and "William Wilberforce" (episode 325) aren't available because of rights problems so maybe you don't count them.Howard Shaw. Thu 10 Mar 2011 19:57:03 GMT+1 Chris Miller It is not necessary to invoke quantum mechanics or complex environments such as global weather to produce physical systems that are non-deterministic. I have a desk toy that consists of a pendulum with a magnet at the end suspended over a circular metal disk on which are placed a number of magnets. If I use just two magnets that are arranged to attract the pendulum to opposite sides of the disk, then I can ask the question: "for any given initial position of the pendulum, if I release it from a stationary start over which magnet will it come to rest?"Now, for many initial positions (e.g. ones that start with the pendulum just over or very close to one of the magnets) the answer is completely deterministic. There are, however, positions from which it is impossible to predict which 'choice' the pendulum will make - it will come to rest over one or other of the magnets, but which one? It can be shown mathematically that some starting positions have a fractal nature - however accurately I measure the initial conditions the slightest variation may reverse the outcome. Note that there are only a small number of components, all the forces involved are quite simple and well-understood, but the resulting outcome cannot be predicted, no matter how accurate our measurements.It is not hard to imagine something analogous going on inside our heads. Some decisions are very simple and predictable - e.g. would I torture a stranger to death for £100. But some are much more difficult or marginal and we (or I, at any rate) can 'feel' our minds hunting between a yes or no answer. Thu 10 Mar 2011 19:49:28 GMT+1 RobW Is there any posibility that you could examine the origins and precedents of the Abrahamic faiths and their relationship to Zoroastroism, Hinduism etc. I would love to know what people believed in before these. It might even help to bring together some of the current different viewpoints, although I won't hold my breath on that. Thu 10 Mar 2011 18:52:50 GMT+1 PaulM I wonder how many times out of 500 episodes the long suffering studio table has been an important part of an explanation. Today was no exception. Thu 10 Mar 2011 18:14:52 GMT+1 cataract All this is very odd. If your programme contributors, and indeed your commenters, were not free to decide whether to speak and what to conclude, why should we take any notice of them? Except of course we have no choice but to take notice in the way we happen to do.Talk about nonsense on stilts! Thu 10 Mar 2011 18:11:21 GMT+1 Melchizedek Does the fact that determinism cannot be proved or disproved mean that we can abrogate moral responsibility? Answer; no we can’t. Does Gödel's incompleteness theorem disprove determinism? Answer no; but it’s our consciousness that is needed to complete any system. Without the observer there is nothing. It’s amazing to think that modern philosophy and physics will end up, like the liar paradox, by eating itself. So maybe the Zen masters were right all along; and their koans were perfectly valid! And Jesus was right to preach that we should not judge but love our neighbour. I do love wisdom! Thu 10 Mar 2011 16:10:53 GMT+1 James Carey After the mental gymnastics of the contributors in their attempts to find some way of accepting “free will”, I thought that an extra comment or two might be instructive.How we act depends on what we are and the influences acting on us at any given moment. What we are, physically and mentally, is a set of convulsive reflexes which are the manifestation of countless billions of changes at the sub-atomic level, triggered by stimulating chemical signals from the sensory nerves in reaction to external and internal events with which we have this extremely tenuous connection.A newborn baby is not a human being, but rather a template in which a new man or woman – a mind – will be formed through countless mind-altering events over a whole lifetime, but most significantly in the very early years when “character”, “intelligence” and “emotions” are established. That is what we are. Think of the implications for humanity in general, in which children are raised like domestic pets, and where there is no consciousness whatsoever of the damage that is being done to the forming mind, through neglect, abuse, the influence of media, etc.We do not make ourselves. Neither are we responsible for what we do. This is irrefutable. Our anger, resentment, etc. exist inside of us and are animal defence mechanisms. “Punishment”, with its implications of “responsibility”, is unreasonable. That does not stop us from “correcting” or “controlling” the actions of disruptive individuals, but reasonable people are bound to make allowance, in this process, for the history and resulting nature of the offender (he/she is not “to blame”).The most important question is always “why?” – what is the infinite chain of events that has led to the event in question. Jailing the Jamie Bulger killers was quite wrong.If the “free will” discussion causes a few more people to ask “why?”, we will have nudged universal evolution in the right direction – or rather universal evolution will have nudged us in the right direction. James Carey Thu 10 Mar 2011 14:38:51 GMT+1 johno Also, according to WEastaway we should only believe things because of the nice conclusions, as opposed to being based on truth and evidence for which determinism is head and shoulders above free will for. Even if you believe in dualism, that mind and body are separate and not causally related, you still have major problems. Your mind / soul would still have to adhere to laws in order to exist in a framework that allowed them to be labelled a soul or mind. To have properties of being X or Y, X and Y must stay being X and Y by having laws that govern that those properties can be distinguished as being X and Y. Something must keep those properties in place, to stop them floating off into the ether so the souk can stay being a soul, and can be identified and therefore labelled as a soul as opposed to anything else. The only framework that can enable this is a law-like one. Thu 10 Mar 2011 13:53:46 GMT+1 johno I am a determinist who has written a book (Free Will? An investigation into whether we have free will of whether I was always going to write this book). I have not yet listened to this hopefully fascinating programme. I felt compelled (!) to comment becuase some people seem to think Godel's Incompleteness Theorem (GIT)invalidates determinism. This is simply question begging. If GIT is true as you claim, then determinism has been proved false. However, no serious philosopher or mathematician claims this. Uou simply cannot apply GIt to the universe. I am no expert in this field, but "Godel’s Proof is valid only for mathematical formal systems and is not generally applicable to the superset of “all systems of rules”." Here is a great discussion of your claim: realistically, determinism still holds. Moreover, every bit of neuroscience, genetics, behavioural psychology coming out these days supports determinism.Moreover, as most philosophers accept, the definition / idea of free will is nonsensical and fundamentallly flawed. As of the Philpapers 2009 study some 13.6% (or something) of philosophers adhere to libertarian free will. Thu 10 Mar 2011 13:47:12 GMT+1 Valadon This was really frustrating programme – three philosophers, who all seemed to agree with each other, endlessly talking about determinism / non-determinism as absolute, simplistic positions, with ‘proof’ offered through very specific examples (along with a mention that it is unprovable anyway). It felt like listening to three members of the same sect talking about religious diversity. I suppose I believe in determinism at a very close distance (the snooker ball), but just as forces recede dramatically as distances increase, I suspect the same is true here. But no hints of randomness or complexity or variations in degree were allowed in their argument. Free will was actually talked about rather little, with nothing emerging from Melvyn’s suggestion at the start of the programme about new insights from neurological research. There was no mention of consciousness, and their seeming dismissal of phenomenological issues (implying that our perception of the world bears no relation to their conclusions) was odd - will is a phenomenological experience, after all - though it did briefly spark at the very end. What discussion there was about free will focused on whether we should punish people, which is not really about whether free will might exist, but what legal status it should have. So much promise, and ultimately so dull. Thu 10 Mar 2011 13:18:32 GMT+1 Ganymede I felt I had no choice but to listen Thu 10 Mar 2011 13:03:50 GMT+1 tony free will in any circumstance is obviously within the limitation of the awareness of the individual as the field of choice in the formation of predilection, as beyond that awareness there is no availability of choice, there is only ever limited free will.... Thu 10 Mar 2011 12:35:42 GMT+1 malusi mycatscantype comments usefully on Godel's Incompleteness Theorem. This is compatible with the Christian view that man is not confined in his nature to a closed material universe in which God has determined all events in a cause and effect system. Into this system God has introduced man with a capacity for free choice, "Our first parents, being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the estate wherein they were created, by sinning against God" (the Calvinistic, Westminster Catechism). The freewill problem cannot be resolved by presupposing reality is a closed system, which is what the professors were assuming. They unfairly dismissed Augustine and Calvinists for purely personal reasons (aren't we all hypocrites at heart?). Thu 10 Mar 2011 11:45:49 GMT+1 malusi This post has been Removed Thu 10 Mar 2011 11:25:03 GMT+1 bahzob Congratulations on the 500th edition of the best programme on radio (or anywhere else).Its a shame about this programme though. Free will is a topic that goes far beyond philosophy. It would have been so much better to mark the event with a slight break from the norm and get experts from complementary fields to discuss.For example Roger Penrose could have given a real insight into what the indeterminacy at the heart of our understanding of, say snooker balls, has to say on simplistic determinism And Steve Jones would have been fascinating. The discussion opened with an example or raising your arm. Which begs the question of what is the difference,in terms of free will between when you raise your arm and a chimp raises his? (and prof Jones could have explained the reason why you may choose to turn down £100 to stroke a spider)Indeed had you also added say Gemma Calvert to give a perspective of what is happening in the brain when we exercise free will it may have been possible to have a philosopher free discussion of free will. Now there's a thought, the conclusions would have been interesting. Thu 10 Mar 2011 10:29:40 GMT+1 MyCatsCanType I can't believe you had a discussion on determinism without mentioning Gödel, an omission which invalidates the entire exercise. For the benefit of James Carey above, Gödel's incompleteness theorem proves that for any axiomatic system (which a deterministic universe certainly would be) then if that system is provably consistent then it is necessarily incomplete (and that if the system is provably complete then it is necessarily inconsistent). Result: determinism collapses like a house of cards - and there is no room for experimental error, it is a purely mathematical proof (or, more accurately, meta-mathematical). Thu 10 Mar 2011 10:02:32 GMT+1 bahzob This post has been Removed Thu 10 Mar 2011 10:00:34 GMT+1 Ian Johnson You said at the end of the programme that you wanted suggestions for future programmes. I cannot find where to make a suggestion so I am putting it here. Can we explore "the influence of Islam on the Reformation in Western Christendom"? Most of the leading reformers possessed the Quran translated into Latin and Islam was popular in Southern Italy and spain and there must have been a comnsiderable influence. Thu 10 Mar 2011 09:58:25 GMT+1 tomattic This post has been Removed Thu 10 Mar 2011 09:51:48 GMT+1 James Aston Whitworth In spite of the attemps of some of the philosophers to put their uncertainties in a quantum context they fail to understant that at a Quantum level both choices exist (See the single slit experiment for a single photon) therefore for a chioced to be made a choice has to be madwe. That is until a positive choice is made both options exist (this is also clear to Shroedingers cat though in his case the outcome may be said to be free of the cas free will it is not made until the experimenter takes the decison to open the box which implies free will for an individual but his can affect the options for others. (If Idecvide to drive my car into you to kill you it is not a choice of your free will but mine. But free will stillexists for both of us until you die. Thjink of the patients at the Stffordshire hospital killed by the management or the soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan as a result of the choices and misinformation givenby Tony Blair. Free will exists.So, for Tony Blair , does the future opportuniyty for Hell. Thu 10 Mar 2011 09:51:43 GMT+1 Mike K I find this helpful: Thu 10 Mar 2011 09:40:42 GMT+1 James Carey Paris, FranceFree will. I am totally frustrated by the comments of your female contributor in particular. It is very simple.ALL events are interconnected. No event can be different unless ALL other events are different. For any one event to occur, ALL other events (not only those preceding it) must also occur as determined from the beginning.We are ALL driven - totally - by the circumstances of our lives - past and present. You react to events because of what you are and the forces that are acting on you.Free will is an illusion. Whether this affects our "responsibility" is irrelevant. You are merely rationalising in order to assuage your "feelings". EVERYTHING is explained - fully - by the determinist view. The "randomness" in science is due to errors in the theory. E.g. the "Uncertainty Principle" is due to our current lack of understanding. Free will is just the sensation we get as we witness the unfolding of events. James Carey. Thu 10 Mar 2011 09:34:24 GMT+1 WEastaway As a Christian, I have to believe in free will. After all, if everything were predetermined, why would it have been necessary for God to send his son to Earth to teach people how to live? Thu 10 Mar 2011 09:27:35 GMT+1