Re: Conway's Free-Will Theorem (was Geddes's final hurrah)

From: Mitchell Porter (
Date: Sat Aug 06 2005 - 10:07:23 MDT

Randall Randall said

>On Aug 5, 2005, at 11:34 PM, Mitchell Porter wrote:
>>I had not heard of this before. If we accept the paraphrase advanced on
>>this page - "if some experimenters are able to behave in a way that is not
>>completely predetermined, then the behavior of elementary particles is
>>also not a function of their prior history" - then the "theorem" gives
>>determinists absolutely no new reasons to believe in free will, as it
>>boils down to this: "if some events have no causes, then certain other
>>events also have no cause". But why would you believe of any event that it
>>has no cause?
>I don't have an opinion on the elementary particles
>version of this, but your "boils down to" isn't the
>same as the paraphrase you quote.
>Instead of "if some events have no causes, then
>*other* events have no causes", the paraphrase seems
>to boil down to "if some events have no causes, then
>at least some of the lower level events that these
>are shorthand for have no causes".
>Just to be clear.

No - the elementary particles being referred to are NOT part of the
experimenter. Descriptions of the experimenter's behavior may be shorthand
for (unavailable) descriptions of large numbers of elementary physical
processes in the experimenter, but the elementary particles referred to in
the second clause above are in the experiment itself, not the experimenter.
Conway's thought experiment (like a number of philosophically interesting
quantum experiments) involves an experimenter making measurement choices,
and then measured systems responding in ways that are difficult or
impossible to explain using a "local hidden variables" theory. He is
actually proposing a corollary to the Kochen-Specker theorem:

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