That is the topic of the latest post on Big Questions on Line. It is sure to be of interest to those who are interested in that sort of thing.
My review of a book edited by the author of the post is available here.
Your review is spot-on. The sweeping incompatibilist assumptions of scientists' discussions of FW constitute one huge tsunami petitio. I'd agree that many philosophers are better informed as interdisciplinary participants.
The on-line piece is boggling in other ways. Many physicists interested in FW focus almost exclusively on (thought and real) experiments--double-slit, Schrodinger's Cat, EPR, etc--but fail to deal with more commonplace quanta phenomena that have huge effects on the macro-world. Naturally-occurring radioactivity has affected evolution through mutation, produced cancers likewise and affected social as well as biological evolution, and certainly affected the evolution of the memes of science as a discovered phenomenon. To think that FW has some significance in producing these phenomena only can lead to some non-naturalistic track of explanation because of the assumption of the significance of choice in controlled experiments that is thus expanded universally.
Note that in the on-line article, for example "the 2012 Geneva experiment demonstrates that: first, the most basic principle ruling the material world, the conservation of energy, would not work without a nonlocal (non-material) coordination coming from outside space-time". But this statement is wrong on at least possibly three counts. First, the most basic principle ruling the material world is not the conservation of energy, but the conservation of *mass-energy*. Second, the move from "non-local" "co-ordination" as "non-material" is unwarranted since any non-local system is defined by physically significant parameters, and those parameters at least include some spacetime volume inclusive of all events described (even if Newtonian simultaneous-space surfaces), and thus the system is in some sense as spacetime is completely naturalistic. Third, the confusions in the previous two points overlook a possibility that there may be a more basic interpretation of the conservation of mass-energy that underlies non-local phenomena: since mass-energy *just is spacetime*, and we are not talking about theoretically empty spacetime (there are spacelike-separated quantum phenomena assumed), might there be lawfully adjusted phenomena that are observationally non-local (not all observations can take place at the same spacetime point) but physically instantiated as the preservation of the conservation law across all of the relevant spacetime system, even if that system has only non-causal spacelike separation of the quantum events? Conservation is thus preserved, but at the cost that spacetime adjustments can be faster than light. (Sounds like Bohm contra Einstein or some such, sure.) But--no necessary involvement of observers, any kind of FW, or anything of the like. It's a possibility at least, and so deductive conclusions about the primacy of FW in quantum explanations is certainly by no means necessary.
V. Alan White |
07/23/2013 at 10:35 PM
Nice review Neil! (I like the claim that the pro-free-will physicists are the mirror image of the anti-free-will neuroscientists, both sadly naive about the philosophical debates, both entirely ignoring compatibilism.) I'd read the somewhat silly Big Questions piece and considered posting something about how it supports the Story of my last post.
What do you think about this: Is it plausible that physicists and neuroscientists are, because of their fields, more likely to think their sciences seem to establish a type of reductionism that leaves out a role for (conscious) mental states (the level they study is supreme and explains everything), and then some of the physicists see an opening for mental states in quantum physics' indeterminism and/or uncertainty (and being otherwise reductionists they fill this opening with a non-physical mind), while most of the neuroscientists see no such opening so they go willusionist? If so, is it fair to say they seem more focused on the problem of bypassing than alternative possibilities or sourcehood?
Peter Tse seems to follow in the tradition of Eccles and Popper (and Penrose?) in getting the "quantum opening" into the brain (to be clear, not in the way Kane does).
Somewhat related: Craig Callender has a nice piece in NYTimes debunking the misuse of the Uncertainty principle: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/21/nothing-to-see-here-demoting-the-uncertainty-principle/?_r=0
And here's a quote from neuroscientist David Redish in a piece titled "The Dangers of Dualism": "Determinism says that free will is an illusion, that our actions are all predetermined by the laws of physics and the state of the world."
Eddy Nahmias |
07/24/2013 at 09:38 AM
The reductionist story is a plausible one, Eddy. Like all scientists, neuroscientists tend to specialize in relatively narrow topics. That presents a temptation: if the mechanism in which you're interested is clearly causally involved in behavior, then assume that the account of the mechanism is an account of the behaviour. I see this in the addiction literature all the time: addiction is a disorder of the mesolimbic dopamine system say many researchers, while others say no its all about opponent processes and homeostasis. Clearly it is not *all* about any of these things.
Another review by me you might (just) be interested in: of Peter Tse's new book:
07/24/2013 at 09:29 PM
Possibly commenting on the same blog entry
David Duffy |
07/24/2013 at 11:35 PM
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