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Dennett's Freedom Evolves (Take II)
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Here's another review of Dennett's book, by Ronald Bailey of Reason (via Motley Cow).

Free will is often thought of as a kind of uncaused cause that people generate within themselves. At the moment of decision, a kind of miracle occurs and a choice between alternatives is made. As neuroscience advances we have begun to understand that human brains contain many subsystems, most of them unconscious, all which are amenable to being described in terms of their physical characteristics, leaving less and less space for miraculous occurrences. Still, some philosophers and others want to argue that free will, an ability to make an uncaused choice, must somehow lurk in phenomena like quantum indeterminacy. Dennett shows these attempts to bolster miraculous notions of free will are incoherent.

And yet, Dennett's own attempts to demonstrate how this miraculous "uncaused cause" evolved sound pretty incoherent themselves.

Selves, whatever they are, occur in human brains. Dennett argues that a self is a metaphor for our bodies and brains as they exist over time that provides each of us an outlook on what is going on in our own brains and in the brains of others. Selves, according to Dennett "wouldn't exist if it weren't for the evolution of social interactions requiring each human animal to create within itself a subsystem designed for interacting with others. Once created, it could also interact with itself at different times." A self then is an efficient shorthand subsystem devised by our brains to monitor and interact with our own intentions and the intentions of others.

Got that?

I still don't see how these complex cognitive interactions break human beings (or any other thinking being) out of the causal chain.

A chess-playing program that has a complex internal environment in which is assess how its opponent will react at some time in the future based on how it moves now...well, does the complexity of the program make it any less of a causal system? A computer can "weigh" various "choices" and ultimately "decide" on a given option, but would anyone actually argue that the program is "free" in any sense?

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