MAR 10

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14: MAR 10: Free Will and Culture


  • Dennett, Daniel. Chapter 2: "A Tool for Thinking about Determinism" Freedom Evolves. (300) (25-63)

Dennett, Daniel. Chapter 2: "A Tool for Thinking about Determinism" Freedom Evolves.

  • Chapter 2: A tool for thinking about determinism
  • People go wrong in thinking about determinism. Three claims:
  • 1. Determinism doesn't imply inevitability.
  • 2. Indeterminism doesn't give you freedom or free will.
  • 3. In a deterministic world there are "real options".
  • Laplace's demon -- first modern expression of scientific determinism, idea of being able to predict all future states of a system from knowing the position and movement of everything at some moment.
  • Dennett suggests we design a "toy problem" to think about this image of the "demon". Draws on Quine's concept of "democritean universe". Really trying to model a "design space" (term from Darwin's Dangerous Idea) in the Library of Babel and the idea of "Vast" and "Vanishing"
  • 34: You could makes some Universes deterministic and some indeterministic. read. Indeterminate universes exclude Laplace's Demon. Determinism is just one kind of regularity a universe can display. Eliminable vs. Ineliminable probabilities.
  • 36: To make the point a different way, he turns to Conway's Life World research. (Artificial life.)
  • translation rules are like physics in a real world.
  • Initially, the deterministic "life worlds" look like our stereotype of determinism. boring.
  • But with more translation rules, we get more complex events. At the design level, we have persistent objects in motion, contingencies ("usually this happens").
  • 43: Some objects in the life world have powers just by virtue of their shape (and the "physics").
  • Persisting might include "avoiding" impending harms that are predictable. "The birth of avoidance."
  • In this model, you still have "hacker Gods" designing the creatures. You could eliminate the hacker Gods by building the "r&d" into the creature. This is a move from the design stance to the intentional stance. This is also a feature of an evolutionary "life world". You might just need life worlds that can have "Universal Touring Machines" -- which means they can solve any computable problem. Conway shows that his life worlds can instantiate Touring machines. (48)
  • necessary ingredients for "avoiders" (Whom we might hold responsible?)
  • 51: describes a feature of genetic history of dealing with parasitic genes: design problem, solution in design space, "actions taken".
  • 53: A process with no foresight can invent a process with foresight.
  • read at 54.
  • 56: Objections and Replies
  • 1. It's not real avoidance because the object's fate was never in doubt.
  • Determined avoidance is real avoidance. What's the diff?
  • 2. It's not real avoidance. Real avoidance changes something that "was going to happen" into something that doesn't happen.
  • depends upon meaning of "going to happen". Avoiding a baseball coming at you is real avoiding even if the ball was never going to hit you because of your avoidance system. You can also avoid avoiding (get hit by the ball on purpose to get on base). And so on... avoid avoiding avoiding.
  • 3. It's not real avoidance. Real avoidance changes the outcome.
  • you can only change anticipated outcomes, and that's what we are doing in "determined avoiding".
  • 4 (60). The creatures in the life world have their powers "inevitably" thanks to the determinism of that world. They are just what they are due to their starting points and events.
  • This is exactly the link between "determined" and "inevitable" that D wants to break. Our powers are determined by the past, but that doesn't mean our actions are inevitable.
  • Bonus argument: inevitability is also a feature of indeterminist worlds. You can't dodge an undetermined lightning bolt. (That suggests we are packing something illicit into the term when we think it only spoils free will in a determinist world.)
  • 60: Determinism is the friend of those who dislike inevitability.