Flannel Jesus wrote:The whole "Ultimate Source" part.
I didn't think your counterarguments were very persuasive. The way you talked about the "tree makes a sound" debate makes me think you're actually closer to agreement with him than you think. You ask, "Let's just assume for a second that there is an I. How is that I not caused, also!?" He doesn't argue that the I is not caused. Read the article Thou Art Physics. Perhaps you'll find your answers in there. He is as much a determinist as you are, including regarding his own self -- he explicitly recognizes, as do all determinists, that the particles that compose a human are subject to the laws of physics as much as the particles that make a rock. The only difference between your view and his, really, is that you think because everything in the universe is determined, there's no room for you, no room for me, no room for individuals. In Thou Art Physics, he explains eloquently why he doesn't think that's necessarily the right approach. I beseech you to read that one if you haven't already. I found it enlightening.
I think this is, again, a case of two people who agree with each other almost completely, but you read something that didn't immediately click with your present world-view and you took that and ran with it. I think upon close reading, you really will find that you and he have enough in common to at least consider the ideas he has that you don't hold in common.
That was, I think, the only text I hadn't read.
I do not deny that human beings are causal agents. Clearly, actions have consequences.
And I agree with him that human beings are part of physics, that's exactly why they are causal agents. And that is why determinism, if it is true, should not be mistaken with fatalism.
However, there's a huge difference
between saying that you are a causal agent, that is, that your actions lead to outcomes and that you play an active role in your life; and saying that you have authorship. That despite the fact that you are fully caused, you can still be held responsible. Notice that you are fully caused regardless of determinism being true or false. He too agrees that causality exists regardless of what kind of universe we live as seen here:
My position might perhaps be called "Requiredism." When agency, choice, control, and moral responsibility are cashed out in a sensible way, they require determinism—at least some patches of determinism within the universe. If you choose, and plan, and act, and bring some future into being, in accordance with your desire, then all this requires a lawful sort of reality; you cannot do it amid utter chaos. There must be order over at least over those parts of reality that are being controlled by you.
At the end of the day he's just toying around with semantics:
But if the laws of physics control us, then how can we be said to control ourselves?
Turn it around: If the laws of physics did not control us, how could we possibly control ourselves?
Of course we can control ourselves. That is one of the results of being a causal agent, or as he puts it, an integral part of physics/nature. But what is controlling oneself ? It's simply an action, that leads to an outcome. One doesn't have to possess contra causal free will in order to control one self.
The future is determined by physics. What kind of physics? The kind of physics that includes the actions of human beings.
People's choices are determined by physics. What kind of physics? The kind of physics that includes weighing decisions, considering possible outcomes, judging them, being tempted, following morals, rationalizing transgressions, trying to do better...
Everything he says here is true, but how does conceding that we are biological organisms capable of insanely complex processes justify or even hints at free will? It's a total nonsequitur.
The thoughts of your decision process are all real, they are all something.
Of course the decision making process is real. Not believing in free will does not mean that we don't believe in the processes of the mind.
And that process does serve a very important function. It's been studied for decades. I'm sure you have heard of Daniel kahneman's work.
But, at not point does any of this hints at free will.
Also, I couldn't help but notice how you said that he was a determinist like me. To be honest, I really couldn't care less if he is or not. None of my views about free will, agency and authorship are contingent on determinism being true. Absolutely none.
Here's a very simple explanation by Harris on how the determinism vs randomness debate is completely irrelevant when it comes to the free will debate:
If the laws of nature do not strike most of us as incompatible with free will, it is because we have not imagined how human action would appear if all cause-and-effect relationships were understood. Consider the following thought experiment:
Imagine that a mad scientist has developed a means of controlling the human brain at a distance. What would it be like to watch him send a person to and fro on the wings of her “will”? Would there be even the slightest temptation to impute freedom to her? No. But this mad scientist is nothing more than causal determinism personified. What makes his existence so inimical to our notion of free will is that when we imagine him lurking behind a person’s thoughts and actions—tweaking electrical potentials, manufacturing neurotransmitters, regulating genes, etc.—we cannot help but let our notions of freedom and responsibility travel up the puppet’s strings to the hand that controls them.
To see that the addition of randomness—quantum mechanical or otherwise—does nothing to change this situation, we need only imagine the scientist basing the inputs to his machine on a shrewd arrangement of roulette wheels, or on the decay of some radioactive isotope. How would such unpredictable changes in the states of a person’s brain constitute freedom?
All the relevant features of a person’s inner life could be conserved—thoughts, moods, and intentions would still arise and beget actions—and yet, once we imagine a hypothetical mad scientist dispensing the appropriate cocktail of randomness and natural law, we are left with the undeniable fact that the conscious mind is not the source of its own thoughts and intentions. This discloses the real mystery of free will: if our moment to moment experience is compatible with its utter absence, how can we say that we see any evidence for it in the first place?
And finally another quote by Harris that I think completely encapsulates why free will is not feasible:
All of our behaviour can be traced to biological events about which we have no conscious knowledge.Apparent acts of volition merely arise, spontaneously (whether caused, uncaused or probabilistically inclined, it makes no difference), and cannot be traced to a point of origin in the stream of consciousness. A moment or two of serious self-scrutiny, and you might observe that you decide the next thought you think no more than you decide the next thought I write