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Philosophical Papers --- 4/24/2020

With volition you can either say it’s an illusion and hence determinate (as some neurological studies have attempted to do) or you can say that it is based upon a  universe that is ultimately non-determinant as evidenced by things like quantum theory, or you can say it is a contradiction between the determinant and non-determinant.  Let’s examine each of these positions. I will state the positions simply then delve into a more serious analysis.Volition is the faculty of willing.

Free Will is an Illusion (The Universe Including Volition is Determinate)

Here there is the judgement that the universe is determinate.  And a volition is just part of the causal chain of neurological events.  I.e., what appears indeterminate is actually determinate. This is the view of most neuroscientists (See the Libet’s Experiment: ).  This experiment shows that there are action potentials before there is consciousness of intending to act.  The reasoning is hence “intention” follows a decision already made by the brain to act, i.e., “intention” is caused (part of a causal chain).  We could reason also that this evidence shows that willing is a lengthier process than we realized and perhaps it is not completely a conscious act or involves some deliberation before knowing that we have decided to act. At any rate it is not a conclusive experiment as many neuroscientists would have you believe.

Sapolsky and Sapolsky’s Book:  Brain, Free Will, and Law

Sapolsky has a view that free will doesn’t exist because the brain influences us through dispositions and former experiences encoded in the brain etc… My general answer is biological influences to a decision don’t DETERMINE a decision or intent and for there to be no free will they have to DETERMINE the intent.  Kant deals with such things as dispositions influencing decisions which he calls inclinations which do not determine a free decision.

This seems to be Raymond’s view. He said volition is caused.  If you believe that then free will is an illusion.

Determinate Physicalist

Anomalous Monism --- Determinate and Physicalist yet Unpredictable (Non-Nomological)  Similar to a Chaos System in some respects

Consequences of Free Will as Illusion Legal and Otherwise

Note that holding this view you would have to free all murderers, because if volition is an illusion then nobody is responsible for anything they do, i.e., their actions are just part of a determinate causal chain.


Free Will Exists because the Universe is Non-Determinate

E.g. Quantum Mechanical interpretations of free will. Klaus seems interested in this account of free will.

One must assume here that the universe is actually non-determinate and that the randomness of quantum events are not merely epistemological and hence illusory.


Free Will is a Contradiction to a Determinate Universe

Some rendition of this may be Klaus’ view.  I know Klaus to be somewhat of a Kantian.

My stance of volition as causing but not caused.  This is a contraction maintaining that there is an indeterminate thing, namely volition in an otherwise determinate universe.

Kant  --- we don’t know how free will exists in a determinate universe, i.e., it exists but limits of our knowledge prevent us from knowing how.

Kant’s Third Antimony:  Free Will is Undecideable

It should also be noted that “free will” is Kant’s Third Antimony.  An Antimony is a line of reasoning that cannot be conclusively proven as there is an equally valid counter-argument, i.e., reason cannot decide it. Remember the Critique of Pure Reason is among other things about the LIMITS of Reason.

Thesis:  “Causality in accordance with laws of nature is not the only causality from which the appearances of the world can one and all be derived.  To explain these appearances (the appearance of free acts) it is necessary to assume there is also another causality, that of freedom (or attributes of mind which are not strictly in the succession of events and chain of causation).”

Antithesis:  “There is no freedom; everything in the world takes place solely in accordance with the laws of nature.”  I.e., the universe is strictly determined and free will is an illusion.

There are equally valid proofs of each position, hence, it is undecideable.

Thesis Argument: “(a lengthy quotation and a reductio ad absurdum) Let us assume that there is no other causality than that in accordance with laws of nature.  This being so, everything which takes place presupposes a preceding state upon which it inevitably follows according to a rule.  But the preceding state must itself be something which has taken place (having come to be in a time in which it previously was not); for if it had always existed, its consequence also would have always existed, and would not have only just arisen.  The causality of the cause through which something takes place is itself, therefore, something that has taken place, which again presupposes, in accordance with the law of nature, a preceding state and its causality, and this in similar manner a still earlier state, and so on.  If therefore everything takes place solely in accordance with laws of nature, there will always be only a relative and never a first beginning and consequently no completeness of the series on the side of causes that arise the one from the other.  But the law of nature is just this, that nothing takes place without a cause sufficiently determined a priori.  The proposition that non causality is possible save in accordance with the laws of nature, when taken in unlimited universality, is therefore self-contradictory (reduction ad absurdum); and this cannot therefore be regarded as the sole kind of causality. We must then assume a causality through which something takes place the cause of which is not itself determined (similar to prima causa) in accordance with necessary laws by another cause antecedent to it, that is to say an absolute spontaneity of the cause whereby a series of appearances which proceeds in accordance with laws of nature begins of itself.  This is transcendental freedom without which even in the ordinary course of nature the series of appearances on the side of the causes can never be complete.”

Antithesis Argument: “Assume that there is freedom in the transcendental sense, as a special kind of causality in accordance with which the events in the world can have come about, namely, a power of absolutely beginning a state, and therefore also of absolutely beginning a series of consequences of that state, it then follows that not only will a series have its absolute beginning in this spontaneity, but that the very determination of this spontaneity to originate the series that is to say an absolute beginning, there will be no antecedent through which this act in taking place is determined in accordance with fixed laws.  But every beginning of action presupposes a state of the not yet acting cause and a dynamical beginning of the action if it is also a first beginning presupposes a state which has no causal connection with the preceding state of the cause that is to say in nowise  follows from it.  Transcendental freedom thus stands opposed to the law of causality and the kind of connection which it assumes as holding between the successive states of the active causes renders all unity of experience impossible.  It is not to be met with in any experience and is therefore an empty thought-entity.  In nature alone, therefore, not in freedom, must we seek for the connection and order of cosmical events.  Freedom from the laws of nature is not doubt a liberation from compulsion but also from the guidance of all rules.  For it is not permissible to say that the laws of freedom enter into the causality exhibited in the course of nature and so take the place of natural laws, it would not be freedom; it would simply be nature under another name.  Nature and transcendental freedom differ as do conformity to law and lawlessness.  Nature does indeed impose upon the understanding the exacting task of always seeking the origin of events ever higher in the series of causes, their causality being always conditioned.  But in compensation it hold out the promise of thoroughgoing unity of experience in accordance with laws.  The illusion of freedom on the other hand offers a point of rest to the enquiring understanding in the chain of causes conducting it to an unconditioned causality which begins to act of itself.  This causality is however blind and abrogates those rules through which alone a complete coherent experience is possible.”

Kant’s Concept of Free Will in a Determined Universe

As I reread my Kant, and remember why my view of free will in determined nature is like Kant’s I will restate Kant’s position here.

“Man who knows all the rest of nature through the senses only (true all science of nature is grounded in observations or sensuous recordings of natural phenomena, remember phenomena means that which is appearing) knowns himself through mere apperception also and this in actions and internal determinations which he cannot ascribe to the impressions of the senses.”  The actions of man’s faculties “cannot be ascribed to the receptivity of sensibility.”  Kant calls these faculties not derived from sensibility Reason (I just call them mind).  We weigh our decisions by ideas (which are not sensible, however, the empiricists would say derive from the sensible as faint copies).  Now neuroscience may say that sensation, perception, and ideas are all derived from the senses and stored in the brain as faint copies.  Kant also argues that all of nature occurs in time and temporal successions whence we see causality (x appears after y in all instances and we say y causes x).  However, he argues, elsewhere in the critique, that the understanding and Reason do not exist in temporal succession for we could not apprehend time and space if our understanding and reason were themselves grounded in time and space and the succession of events.  Our ideas do not have a beginning because they are not part of a temporal succession as are natural events.  Kant says “pure reason as a simple intelligible faculty is not subject to the form of time, or to the conditions of the succession of time.”  (Elsewhere in the Critique he gives the reason for this, I will have to look it up again.)  He goes on to say “The causality of reason in its intelligible character does not arise or begin at a certain time in order to produce an effect, for in that case it would be subject to the natural law of phenomena, which determines all causal series in time and its causality would then be nature and not freedom. (The neuroscientists are supposing that it does begin at a certain time and is subject to the succession of causal events)” He continues “What therefore we can say is that is f reason can possess causality with reference to phenomena, it is a faculty through which the sensuous condition of an empirical series of effects first begins.  For the condition that lies in reason is not sensuous, and therefore does itself not begin. (in other words it is extra-temporal)”Now I would have to say that there is a such a thing as the succession of thoughts however it seems to me these are not a necessary succession causing one another and we can interrupt our succession of thoughts and proceed to an unrelated thought whenever we want.  It certainly seems that things like mathematical ideas are timeless not subject to the succession of events or natural causes.  More on this from Kant: “That reason therefore acts freely, without being determined dynamically in the chain of natural causes by external or internal conditions, anterior in time.”

Volitions causes but is not caused:  my support from Kant: “That freedom must then not only be regarded negatively, as independence of empirical conditions (for in that case the faculty of reason would cease to be a cause of phenomena), but should be determined positively also, as the faculty of beginning spontaneously a series of events.  Hence nothing begins in reason itself, and being itself the unconditioned condition of every free action, reason admits of no condition antecedent in time above itself, while nevertheless its effect takes its beginning in the series of phenomena, though it can never constitute in that series an absolutely first beginning.”  Volition is like a prime cause but since it is timeless itself it is not exactly a prime cause but causes a success of events in the phenomenal world without itself being caused.  More support of my view from Kant:  “Reason it is supposed is present in all the actions of man in all circumstances of time and always the same, but it is itself never in time, never in a new state in which it was not before, it is determining, never determined.”  Elsewhere “reason in its causality is subject to no phenomenal and temporal conditions.”  In my philosophy I might just substitute mind for reason.  Kant gives his resolution to the apparent contradiction of determined nature and freedom of will, in that volition or the willing faculty of mind is non-temporal whereas all natural phenomena are temporal and occur in a causal succession.

Why Kant believes the mind or ‘reason’ is non-temporal.  Stated elsewhere in the Critique.  From Kant:  “Time is not an empirical concept that has been derived from any experience.  For neither coexistence nor succession would ever come within our perception if the representation of time were not presupposed as underlying them a priori.”  “We cannot in respect of appearances in general remove time itself, though we can quite well think time as void of appearances.  Time is, therefore, given a priori.  In it alone is the actuality of appearances possible at all.  Appearances may one and all vanish, but time cannot itself be removed.” I.e. we don’t induce time from a certain number of experiences, it is not empirical.  Any experience presupposes time. 

Kant’s view in some sense that the mind which can apprehend time cannot be IN time itself, that can apprehend the succession of events cannot itself be IN the succession of events (the phenomena). This may not be right that Kant is saying this.  Neuroscientists would disagree.  I desperately need a book on “Kant and Contemporary Science,” to be able to interpret Kant according to contemporary neuroscience, Newton, Relativity Theory (for example relativistic concept of time) and Quantum Mechanics!  I can find NO SUCH BOOK!  Klaus and I should write it!  What do contemporary Psychophysical time perception studies say about time? In my own philosophy I contend that in one sense time is contained in the mind as Kant says or experience is contained in a framework that is given by the mind or brain which must exist prior to perceptions, but in another sense the mind is contained in time, we certainly have a flow of percepts which is a temporal succession which in many ways defines consciousness.  On the other hand, I see Kant’s point that our APPREHENSION of time cannot be contained in the succession of events, i.e., the mind has to have a temporal capability that preceeds the apprehension of a succession of events.  I have to think about this. If I want to be speculative I would say we are finite beings contained in space and time which have an extratemporal and extraspatial mind/brain component that preexists our apprehension of spatio-temporal events and successions. Also note science and Kant agree that there is no time sense organ, therefore time is not sensed as are visual objects and sounds.  Time perception in that sense is not sensual.  Empiricists would say time is perceived as an extraction from sensory input such as a series of visual inputs, whereas Kant says this isn’t how time is perceived.

Time would be a good philosophical paper topic, as there are physical conceptions of time, and multiple ones like Newton’s versus Einstein’s and then there are the psychophysical and biological (neuroscientific) conceptions of time, and then there are the philosophical conceptions of time, as Kant’s.  How do these all relate and is there some common underlying conception that can be agreed upon?

I am a Kantian to some extent but I also question Kant.  I do not believe man is just a rational creature that follows Reason (again I think Kant is just saying if we live properly we accord ourselves with Reason but that we are not always reasonable), man can be highly irrational, as I mentioned in my thesis, a study of subjective consciousness.  I am listening to the words of a song “I’d like to know, can you tell me, please don’t tell me, it really doesn’t matter anyhow.”  Does that sound like a mind that is based upon Kantian Reason? We are rational and irrational.  We are complex.  We are not exactly the creatures that Kant describes.  He is one of the greatest philosophical geniuses of all time, and said significant things about our perception of time, that there has to be something prior to experience that enables us to understand succession and simultaneity, a temporal facility.  Now this may be in the brain, and examining Kant’s theory of perception and the modern facts of neuroscience would be very interesting.

This was not a good presentation of Kant.  I need to rewrite this.  All Kant is talking about is time PERCEPTION.

 Copyright Eric Wasiolek 4/24/2020


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