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ata comments on Explaining vs. Explaining Away - Less Wrong

46 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 17 March 2008 01:59AM

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Comment author: ata 22 March 2010 07:24:54PM 5 points [-]

emergent property of certain complex systems

I found two things for you to read!

http://lesswrong.com/lw/iv/the_futility_of_emergence/
http://lesswrong.com/lw/ix/say_not_complexity/

Comment author: fburnaby 23 March 2010 07:11:47PM *  5 points [-]

Thanks for the reading. I'm still playing some catch-up with the community.

Elezier's issue with the word "emergence" seems to stem from the fact that people treat the statement "X emerges from process Y" as some sort of explanation. I completely agree with him that it's actually a nice-sounding non-explanation. I'm in no way claiming or trying to imply that by my above statement that because consciousness is an emergent property that I've explained something. However, being an emergent property is the only alternative to being an essential property. I think my statement above does a good job of spanning the space of possible explanations, which was its purpose.

Please do correct me again if I'm wrong on that, though.

Comment author: ata 23 March 2010 08:07:54PM 1 point [-]

Ah, I see — so you were only saying that in contrast to the possibility of it being a fundamental property. I'm still not sure how that would "leave most current reductionists wrong about free will", though; if you can define in enough detail what free will actually does, then the idea of it being something that emerges from certain complex systems would be agreeable to most reductionists. The only point of disagreement may be over whether to use the term "free will" at all, because of the metaphysical connotations and insufficient denotation it traditionally has.

Comment author: fburnaby 23 March 2010 11:20:07PM 1 point [-]

I think we completely agree about all of this, then. I'm just letting the terminological confusion that was introduced by Ian C's comment muddy my own attempts at articulating myself.

I guess the point I was trying to make was that, regardless of the result -- free will exists, or free will doesn't exist -- there's no reason to think that this result would have anything to do with the question of whether reductionism is a good research programme. We would still attempt to reduce theories as much as possible, even if free will was "magic".

The part about "what current reductionists believe" -- I assumed that most reductionists think of free-will as nonexistent, or an illusion. So the hypothetical case where free will does exist (magical or otherwise) would leave them hypotheically wrong about it.

Myself, I'm a fan of Dennett's stance -- might as well call the thing we have "free will" even though there's nothing magic about it. Sorry for the long string of muddled comments. I'll try thinking harder the first time around next time.