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Saturday, December 10, 2011

A New Theory of Epistemic Freewill

The two figures will be added later when I find a compatible way to add them.
         Because internalist (ITR) and externalist (ETR) theories of reference lead to mutually exclusive intuitions about freewill and ITR underlies the current understanding of epistemic freewill, ETR would yield a different account of epistemic freewill. Since the type of theory of reference inspires these intuitions about freewill, they are not intuitions in the proper sense (i.e. being pre-theoretical), so I refer to them as improper intuitions. ITR places the burden of correctly referring on adhering to a description, while ETR places the burden on something external to how the individual perceives the world like causal relations. Sometimes these different views are characterized as being the first-person and third person perspective respectively.
Origin of Metaphysical Freewill in Theories of Reference:
First is ITR and its notion of freewill. The internalist utilizes the mind's eye in referring to many phenomena directly relating to subjectivity. Since there are limits to introspection, it seems as if thoughts come out of the nether for internalists. It is impossible for the mind to have access to where thoughts come from. This leads to an absence of evidence of thoughts having origins. This does not mean there is evidence of absence, but the internalist is justified by their own theory that it seems to be the case that thoughts and intentions come from the nether of the self. This “nether” is well described by Nagel in his The Self as a Private Object:
The concept of the self seems suspiciously pure—too pure—when we look at it from inside. The self is the ultimate private object, apparently lacking logical connections to anything else, mental or physical.1
The “ultimate private object” view is the origin of the short-lived philosophy called Existentialism, which had many anti-extropection themes about questions about humanity and freewill. Sartre made the view that the self is nothing famous in his work Being and Nothingness. This is relevant because Sartre's extreme internalists views demonstrate who ITR's improper intuitions of this nothingness applies to many metaphysical phenomena, especially freewill.
When a person refers to freewill, ITR identifies freewill with this assumed metaphysical status of indeterminacy. This leads to the improper intuition that Metaphysical Freewill (f) is identical with being a Uncaused Thinking Being (-D). The underlying argument for this belief is:
There is an opening to question whether the transmission principle can logically apply to beliefs, but what is important that this is the underlying assumptions of the internalistic freewill. Since freewill is identified with indeterminism, the internalist is committed to the belief that if things are not as they seem and humans are completely determininistic beings, there is no freewill. In a way, the internalist puts an external condition on metaphysical freewill.
When a descriptor changes, the referent changes in ITR. For externalists, the metaphysical status of the referent does not change when its description changes. The focus is on underlying facts about the world of which a person may not be aware. In Self as a Private Object, Nagel defends the externalist approach:
I may understand and be able to apply the term “I” to myself without knowing what I really am. In Kripke's phrase, what I use to fix the reference of the term does not tell me everything about the nature of the referent.2
Nagel proceeds to argue that from the externalist position, when the word “I” is used, it refers to the rigid designator the brain. Following the same formula, the externalist fixes the referent of freewill to some activity in the brain without knowing precisely the nature of that activity.
Science is a major part of externalism, and the findings of science help in precision of what the referent is. Science has demonstrated that the universe is both materialistic and deterministic and that the referent for thought is rooted in the brain. Neuroscience has found many physical origins for human thought. These combined facts lead many externalists to identify freewill with a proper causal history rather than indeterminacy.3
While there are externalists who identify indeterminacy as part of their theory of freewill, their attempts to bring indeterminacy to the level of human cognition is unfounded. Robert Kane has one of the best arguments for naturalistic freewill based on indeterminacy:
There is a tension and uncertainty in our minds at such times of inner conflict which are reflected in appropriate regions of our brains by movement away from thermodynamic equilibrium—in short, a kind of stirring up of chaos in the brain that makes it sensitive to micro-indeterminacies at the neuronal level. As a result, the uncertainty and inner tension we feel at such sou-searching moments of self-formation is reflected in the indeterminacy of our neural processes themselves.4
While this is definitely externalist in language, the method is not. Kane does recognize that most of the time humans act deterministically, and there is evidence for this, but there is not enough evidence for this agency freewill that Kane proposes. Until there is evidence that micro-indeterminacies can bubble up to the cognitive level and be identified with the referent cognition for freewill, the externalist must restrict freewill to deterministic causal history.
Since the externalist identifies freewill with proper causation (i.e. particular cognitive activity correlating with consciousness), the externalist's improper intuitions lead to the conclusion that indeterminism would undermine freewill. As in Figure 1, external causal histories that lead to human actions like both a branch that causes a person to trip and indeterminism would not be proper causation, sothe externalist considers both unfree conditions. Indeterminism implies the Luck Principle, which Kane defines as:
If an is undetermined at a time t, then its happening rather than not happening at t would be a matter of chance or luck, and so it could not be free and responsible action.5
Figure 1

The only route left for externalist after accepting the intuition of proper causation is a deterministic story of how causes in the brain lead to free and responsible action. The matter of how external causes conspired to bring about that particular brain state is irrelevant to the degree that it does not undermine the rationality and responsibility of the agent.
There is an internalist improper intuition that critiques this aspect of determinism. How can one be free if events before his or her birth decided what he or she does now? The internalist sees this as obvious objection because the internalist places a condition on freewill on when the choice is made rather then how it comes about. Since a choice seems to originate within the self, the internalist identifies freewill with this act of choice. The externalist does not have this strict notion of when the choice becomes set, so this objection does not undermine externalist freewill.
A similar objection to determinism is that it takes away agency in the process of developing ones beliefs. If determinism is true, unintelligent forces have brought the agent to his or her beliefs. These beliefs cannot be considered reliable because they were not arrived to by reason. This objection contains the internalist improper intuition of how reasoning works. The internalist identifies reliable beliefs as coming through a process of consideration of possible beliefs. The externalist may make an analogy here to computers. We do not consider computers to have counter-causal freewill but often think that a computer's calculations are reliable. Though brains are not the same as computers, if thinking follows logical rules, its conclusions should be considered valid. Since the externalist can identify the Law of Non-contradiction in human cognition, the internalist would have to reject this law if he or she completely rejects the foundation of deterministic human thought.
The point here is not to prove internalism or externalism but to demonstrate that the both views have very different understandings freewill and the issues surrounding it. Some have attempted to demonstrate that these differences between the two views reveal a underlying metaphysics, especially concerning property dualism. The basic argument is that not only are internalist and externalist accounts have irreducible differences but actually these differences indicate that there are phenomena only discoverable in one of the two views. Before I can move forward with my thesis that internalism and externalism have different intuitions about the same phenomenon because these intuitions are improper, I must prove that using both a internalist and externalist theories of reference does not justify positing two phenomena.
Dualism and adopting both theories of reference:
There are three major arguments that stem from the combination of internalism and externalism, and they end up advocating metaphysical positions, most notably for property dualism. First, in What Is It Like to Be a Bat?, Thomas Nagel presents a novel Modal argument, which attempts to demonstrate that the truth-makers for the mind and brain are different and the difference is non-physical. Second, in Epiphenomenal Qualia, Frank Jackson presents the classic Knowledge argument which also carries the name Mary argument because of his essay. Jackson attempts to demonstrate that there are two real kinds of truth-makers because some facts cannot be accounted for in a strictly externalist approach. Third, John Searle, in Reductionism and the Irreducibility of Consciousness, and Nagel, in What Is It Like to Be a Bat, present irreducibility arguments. While the first two arguments attempt to demonstrate the need to adopt both theories of reference by finding a limit in externalism, this last argument is the most relevant for it directly utilizes both theories of reference to come to the same conclusion.
In his Modal argument, Thomas Nagel argues that since it is conceivable that a brain without a mid could exist with all the same external (that is, physical) facts as a brain with a mind, the mind is not identical with external references. In other words, the mind has more truth conditions than the brain since the brain is not sufficient for a mind. This argument translates:
  1. m=>B
  2. B>m
      3. B+x=>m
      B+x=>m implies that there is something more (x) to the mind (m) than the brain (B), which is the point of Nagel's model argument. The internal account has a reference to this x which the external does not, and according to Nagel, this demonstrates metaphysical reality.
Patricia Churchland has an excellent externalist argument against this. Since the externalist does not have the improper intuition that the mind has these private objects, externalists like Churchland have arguments against any commitment to non-externalist definitions. She asserts that “what neurophilophy is really interested in is the actual empirical world,” so “a proper explanation must foreclose logical possibilities.6 Churchland demonstrates that since externalists attempt to fix the reference in the actual empirical world, that arguments like Nagel's modal argument are irrelevant to metaphysical conclusions. Churchland proves this point by using the same logic of Nagel's modal argument to reach an absurd conclusion. She imagines another world where the speed of particles increase but temperature does not.7 Does this justify believing that temperature and kinetic motion are not identical in this universe? “No,” says the externalist.
Second, in the Knowledge argument (aka the Mary argument), Frank Jackson argues there are propositions that have first-person truth-conditions. Jackson provides a thought expierment of a person named Mary who knows all the physical facts about what happens in the brain when red is experienced.8 She has never actually experienced the color red, but when she does, she learns the color red. Since she learns a new fact that she did not have before and she had all the physical facts, she must have learned a non-physical fact.
Paul Churchland's argument against Jackson's Knowledge argument is neither convincing nor actually defending physicalism. Paul Churchland argues that if Mary new all the physical facts, she could visualize the color red.9 It seems very unlikely that Mary could visualize the color red if she had no impression of that part of the spectrum. Churchland's claim that Mary could somehow cause “spiking frequencies in the nth layer of [her] occipital cortex (or whatever)” through the imagining of a the proper brain state is ludicrous.10
A better argument against Jackson comes from John Perry in his Time, Consciousness and the Knowledge Argument paper. In that, Perry argues that if the truth-makers for the proposition “Mary has seen red” are physical, Mary has not learned a non-physical fact. Perry uses an example of a man named Larry who does knows all the relevant facts about an Interstate Road Map but does not know where he is.11 When Larry learns his location on the map, he is not learning a non-spatial fact even though he knew the road map, rather he learned an additional physical fact (i.e. his physical location). Perry relates this to Mary, claiming in typical externalist fashion, that though Mary has the road map to the mind, Mary's new knowledge of red is only the universal external fact “A person named Mary had brain state A”.12 Since the externalist has a method of finding externalist truth-makers for internalist propositions, arguments like Jackson's cannot demonstrate that there are two real kinds of truth-makers.
The last argument appears in both Nagel's What Is It Like to Be a Bat? and Searle's Reductionism and the Irreducibility of Consciousness and deals with properties. If extropection comes to one set of properties and introspection comes to another set, Nagel and Searle believe that this is grounds for claiming a form of property dualism. Paul Churchland originally breaks down Nagel's version argument in two forms.13
First as:
  1. The qualia of my sensations are directly known by me, by introspection, as elements of my conscious self.
  2. The properties of my brain states are not directly known to me, by introspection, as elements of my conscious self.
  3. The qualia of my sensationsthe properties of my brain states
              Second as:
              1. Fa
              2. -Fb
              3. a≠b14
              This argument most directly addresses the issue of using introspection and extrospection to arrive at the conclusion that there are two unidentical phenomena. Nagel concludes that a objective phenomenology is only possible for those with a similar brain as humans which integrates the subjective and the objective.15 Searle concludes with a form of Emergentism.16 Both conclude that objective cannot contain all the facts alone and that the subjective adds something to the story that is also real.
This form, according to Paul Churchland, commits the intensional fallacy.17 The intensional fallacy occurs when the difference between two ways one thing is recognized, perceived, or known under some specific description is used to conclude that there are in fact two things.18 A classic of this is as follows:
  1. Lois Lane believes that Superman can fly.
  2. Lois Lane does not believe that Clark Kent can fly.
  3. Therefore Superman and Clark Kent are not the same person.
The problem with intensional fallacy critique is that it exists only in externalism because in internalism description distinguishes referents. Something very much like the intensional fallacy is committed. In this case, the very theories of references is where the disagreement occurs.
While I used the first two arguments to demonstrate that it is not necessary to adopt both theories of reference in order account for supposed gaps in externalist account of phenomena, this third argument is a direct result of adopting both theories. Is it fallicous to utilize two opposing theories to make a metaphysical conclusion? Here, it is important to recognize that internalism and externalism could be made one theory if one assumes that they are compatible, so this formation of the question (i.e. “opposing theories”) is premature.
The best way usually to demonstrate any theory is false is that it is either self-contradicting or leads to absurdities. In the case of this combination approach, it leads to an infinite regress. Take the internalist and externalist stories about the stars the internalist calls the Morning Star and Evening Star and what the externalist calls Venus. Here, the internalist seems to come upon knowledge of two phenomena that externalists do not have (two stars instead of one). The fact that there are two stars becomes non-physical while the fact that there is one star becomes physical because of the irreducible conflict between the two kinds of reference. This process of dividing reality into objects of experience and objects beyond experience eventually leads to two distinct metaphysical realms.
While the Kantians may not be as disturbed by this division as its so far been described, the division starts leading to absurdities and impossibilities. A whole host of important metaphysical concepts get doubled. Since the externalist and internalist have two different accounts of the self, two selves exist (the object of experience self and the physical self). This means the idea of one-to-one identity must be thrown out if this is all within the same reality and there is come connection between the two selves. The combination must claim that the selves exist in one reality or the presumption that there are one distinct thing could not be used to two demonstrate two things.
The internalist self gets doubled again. Since the externalism can give account of objects of experience, the internalist self now has externalized internalist self.19 The externalization of internal phenomena does not rereference the internal phenomena but create a new phenomena, so this process continues create new phenomena ad infitum. This infinite regress is the absurd by product of the commitment to both views.20 Since it would be better not to combine externalism and internalism, it should be considered that the difference between externalism and internalism is not a by-product of a metaphysical difference but the theories themselves. This is not to say that there must be one phenomena behind any disagreement between the two theories, but only that the disagreement does not entail dualism. Dualism will have to proven another way other than simply from theories of reference. Back to the thesis, this means the intuitions used on the concept of freewill can be improper since they are from the theory of reference.
Epistemic Freewill:
Any theory of freewill that places emphasis on the metaphysical consequences of knowledge is an epistemic theory of freewill. The regular theory of epistemic freewill has internalist improper intuitions, so it parallels the idea of not having causes with no having knowledge. This is parallel is not intuited but based on the resultant behavior. In Figure 2, the resultant behavior for not having knowledge of one's determinacy is the same as if one was indeterminant, so the internalist concludes that Behavior B is what it means to be free.
Figure 2

I call this Negative Epistemic Freewill because it is based on the absence of knowledge.
There are powerful improper intuition pumps at work under this version of freewill. Many distopias have been imagined to articulate the unfreedom being predestined through a perfected science of genetics, neuroscience, and psychology, but one does not even have to go that far. The internalist need only bring up the affect of knowing ones future. The individual no longer has any chaos in his or her life and in a sense become trapped by the future. Take a roulette. It is completely determined, but the players do not know its determined future. Without the epistemic chance that one might win, the roulette wheel loses its attraction. The same could be said for life when it loses its epistemic possibilities. The result is that people become robots following a script. This roboticness is the resultant behavior of knowing ones determined future.
The new theory from the externalist position I call a Positive Epistemic Freewill because it depends on a proper positive knowledge of ones causation. In this case, Behavior B is associated with being unfree, while Behavior A is associated with freewill. For Positive Epistemic Freewill, it is not enough to be properly caused, but one must also know about this causation.
Powerful improper intuition pumps exist in this version as well. The externalist argues that if one does not know what will happen when they act, it is indistinguishable from erratic, irresponsible behavior. Take a button that makes hot chocolate. One person knows what it does, the other does not. The first does not press the button because she does not want that drink now, but the second not knowing what it does presses it guessing it might give him tea. For the second, the result could just have been any drink because he did not know what the button did. There was epistemic chance involved. With epistemic chance comes an epistemic Luck Principle.
A strong criticism of the positive account can be articulated in the form of John Locke's thought experiment of a man locked in a room. In one case, the man does not know he is locked in the room but he wants to be in the room nonetheless so does not check. In another case, the man knows he is locked, and despite wanting to be in the room, he no longer acts as if he had a choice to be in the room. If knowledge of ones determinism works like this, how does the positive account provide a sense of freewill?
The way a defender of the positive account can defend this position against the negative's critiques is by flipping it around a bit. Go back to the room again, but this time, the man who does not know tries to open the door only to frustrate himself. The one who does know instead optimizes his time doing what he wants (i.e. staying in that room). A person who knew everything would simply accomplish more of what he or she wants, and his or her knowledge would be part of the causal chain of completing those tasks. Understood like this, the positive account has a sense of freewill as anyone who is competent at what he or she does has.
While both theories do not disprove each other, they evade each others criticisms by not having the improper intuitions that drive them. There might be intuitions about freewill that both theories of reference share, but those will not be the source of conflict for any theory that is completely consistent with those intuitions. Positive Epistemic Freewill will have benefits in addressing some of the conservative arguments against transhumanism and the like so will become a valued member of the group of freewill theories that philosophers will use to construct arguments as humanity gathers more and more knowledge of its own determinism.
1The Self as a Private Object 201
2Self as a Private Object 207
3This only applies to externalist who do not think that freewill is merely a folk psychological construct of internalism.
4Responsibility, Luck and Chance: Reflection on Free Will and Indeterminism 419
5Responsibility, Luck, and Chance: Reflections on Free Will and Indeterminism 415
6Dualism and the Arguments against Neuroscientific Progress 324
7Ibid. 325
8Epiphenomenal Qualia 295
9Reduction, Qualia, and the Direct Introspection of the Brain 310
10Ibid. 310
11Time, Consciousness and the Knowledge Argument 78
12Ibid. 78-79, 81-82
13Nagel claims that the version of the argument he is defending is the modalized version. The reason for bringing up this formulation is not to address Nagel but Searle. Since this formation has deeper consequences to my thesis, I will not address the other version.
14Reduction, Qualia, and the Direct Introspection of the Brain 307
15What Is It Like to Be a Bat​? 291
16Reductionism and the Irreducibility of Consciousness 317
17Reduction, Qualia, and the Direct Introspection of the Brain 307
19Kantians will not have this problem because they do not combined externalism and internalism, though recognizing the possibility of external reference called the noumenon.
20Nagel uses what he calls his Dual Aspect Theory differently for identity than for the mind-body issue. Nagel would probably object to claim that this theory always entails two metaphysical phenomena, but as far as I can tell, the theory would be inconsistent if conflicts between extrospection and introspection did not always entail two distinct phenomena accessible each of the methods respectively.

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