free will-how can it exist?

Is the mind the same as the body? What is consciousness? Can machines have it?

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adge
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free will-how can it exist?

Post by adge »

i've been trying to understand how you have get free will in a deterministic universe, there are compatibilist theories ie Dennett, but i simply don't get them. Seems to me unless you invoke some kind of ghost in the machine (and of course that's problematic to say the least) you're stuck with determinism.

Not sure if this is the correct section for this topic, apologies if it isn't
Dimebag
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Re: free will-how can it exist?

Post by Dimebag »

You first need to understand that the traditional view of free will, being an agent or being within us which is the beginning of the causal chain which produces action from nowhere is a troublesome and useless concept, and one which is nonsensical. The idea that somehow the mind can produce something called free will, which supposedly creates ideas out of pure nothingness, without any help from our senses, our memories, our neural pathways, is utter fantasy and in no way grounded in reality. Think for a second what use a form of free will would be if ithad no help in making decisions from our senses, past experience, and reflex actions. Basically, without these things we are blind to our options, and no amount of planning can aid this. We need content to base our actions on, and we get this from our the aformentioned sources, which are causally connected to the external world. What we do have, which is not some abstract white hole of action, is a SENSE of will. We FEEL like we are the author of our own actions, and that sense that we are producing our own actions is important for our sense of potency and sense of control. If we didn't have this sense of ownership of our actions, we would basically feel like we were watching events unfold, as we sometimes feel when we react to things in the moment and let our unconscious automatic processes take control (for which they do extremely well when they now what to predict). But when we come up against more unexpected circumstances we require the help of all the resources at our disposal, and something needs to be directing the shots, otherwise it might all fall apart (like an orchestra without a conductor). Fortunately the brain is more than capable of achieving everything it needs to do, however it lacks a central author being a grup of many expert cells, with no captain. This is where our sense of conscious will comes into play. Instead of there actually being a controller, the brain and its stockpile of resources are given full reign, however, they are also led to believe there is a controller at work, and the supposed controller (our conscious perception of will) also believes it is in control, however it only thinks it has this potency, and thus acts as a sort of echo chamber to the willings of the brain, and allows the system to be aware of whether it is causing its own actions, or the world is causing them. Basically our sense of will is a sense, similar to our others in the sense (pardon the pun) that is allows us to perceive something which exists in the external world - our brains coordinated actions which affect the world around it. It might be seen as a sort of feedback mechanism which boosts confidnece or shows areas of concern when it comes to actions.

Im not sure if this explanation is entirely satisfactory, but it is basically Wegner's conception of conscious will, which i rather like, as it seeks to explain what is is and why we feel the way we do, rather than outright denying free will and not replacing it with anything (which is why denying free will is such a hard pill to swallow, leaving nothing in its place).
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Notvacka
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Re: free will-how can it exist?

Post by Notvacka »

Free will and identity are what we experience between circumstances and actions.

On a purely subjective level, free will is experienced as having alternatives to choose from. On the same subjective level, identity is experienced as being the one doing the choosing.

For free will to exist in reality, alternatives must exist in reality, but they don't. However, they do exist in our imagination. Here is an example of how it works:

Imagine that you are going on a journey and have the choice of going by car or by train. There could be other options, but for the sake of simplicity, let's only consider these two distinct choices.

The alternatives are:

1. You go by car.

2. You go by train.

The alternatives are not the car and the train, which both exist in physical reality. The alternatives are you going by car or you going by train. Please note the difference.

You can imagine yourself going by car and you can imagine yourself going by train. That is how you experience the alternatives of free will. Both alternatives exist in your imagination.

Then you make your mind up. Let's say that you settle for the train. That is how you experience the decision of free will. The decision exists in your imagination.

Then you actually take the train. That is how you experience the action of free will. The action exists in physical reality.

Note that only one of the percieved alternatives can exist in physical reality. If you go by train in reality, then you can't simultaneously go by car.

Once you're on the train, there is no way for you to know if you actually could have gone by car instead. That alternative only ever existed in your imagination.

What you experienced as free will could possibly have been predetermination (as suggested by the theory of relativity) or random chance (as suggested by quantum physics). Since you can't go back in time and choose differently, there is no way to know. And it doesn't matter. Free will exists in our imagination (which is important to us) but not in physical reality (which is less important).

On the train, you experience having made the morally superior choice, since trains impact the environment less than cars. This is true even if the alternative never existed in reality. :D
ala1993
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Re: free will-how can it exist?

Post by ala1993 »

With my apologies for (possibly) appearing patronising, I have never really seen this argument as anything more than a warm-up or introductory corridor into a clearer manner of critical activity. This was put much better by Kant (many years ago!), but put simply there is enough weight behind either view (whether or not there is free-will/whether or not and to what extent existence is 'determined' and how the two might be compatible ... if at all). Because of this, we can quibble about which approach is 'better' or 'more precise' but the element that would allow us to properly construct an exact theory will always elude us.

One of the ways around this is to look at the problem from a hypothetical point of view i.e. if we are to (e.g.) maintain a society that includes both a judicial and a moral component then we cannot dispense with free-will, but nor can we do away with determinism as without it we have chaos - freedom taken to its extreme, annihilating itself in the process.

Neither freewill nor determinism can be directly experienced, only hypothesized (and our hypothesis cannot be tested to the point where we can accept or reject it). It is so vague as to be almost theological in nature.
chaz wyman
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Re: free will-how can it exist?

Post by chaz wyman »

adge wrote:i've been trying to understand how you have get free will in a deterministic universe, there are compatibilist theories ie Dennett, but i simply don't get them. Seems to me unless you invoke some kind of ghost in the machine (and of course that's problematic to say the least) you're stuck with determinism.

Not sure if this is the correct section for this topic, apologies if it isn't
All you have to do is see the human as a deterministic agent; a self deterministic agent, which can act in deterministic but unpredictable ways. The complexity of the human brain alone is more complex than most determined systems that we have an understanding of.
Even if you have a ghost in the machine you have to ask yourself where it gets its motivation from. There is not way out of this.
If the soul (whatever that is) can act with disregard for the determining factors of environment and so on - then of what possible use would it ever be?
It might be useful to talk in terms of the expression of the will, and that the will is determined by the needs, desires, genes, etc.. of the person. Adding 'free' to it is not only redundant but false. But given the human person as the unit of determination, then the will acts to its own needs and appears 'free' to external forces, able to act in its own interests.
JasonPalmer
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Re: free will-how can it exist?

Post by JasonPalmer »

free will does not exist

see the work of susan blackmore for more info

http://www.susanblackmore.co.uk/
chaz wyman
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Re: free will-how can it exist?

Post by chaz wyman »

JasonPalmer wrote:free will does not exist

see the work of susan blackmore for more info

http://www.susanblackmore.co.uk/
She's a moron.

Having no free will is no substitute for pretending, as she does, that she has found the one and only tool to express the complexities of deterministic causality.
Her 'work' is fashionable bullshit, that will not have the legs to be either useful or meaningful. There are many before her who have done the meme thing with far more eloquence and far more humility; with the realisation that human complexity cannot be boiled down to a single theory. She is stuck in a self-supporting self-fulfilling prophecy that is full of beans but signifies nothing, and has no contribution to human understanding. Like other religionists she can only see what she looks for.
If you see the world as a system of memes, then that is all you will see; empty and devoid of explanation.
JasonPalmer
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Re: free will-how can it exist?

Post by JasonPalmer »

your a moron
chaz wyman
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Re: free will-how can it exist?

Post by chaz wyman »

JasonPalmer wrote:your a moron

I think you mean "You're a moron."

But that is not an argument.
If you were not such a dick-head, you would know that her work ASSUMES determinism; it does not prove it and she has no philosophical argument for or against it.
Last edited by chaz wyman on Wed Jan 11, 2012 1:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
JasonPalmer
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Re: free will-how can it exist?

Post by JasonPalmer »

:lol:
Thundril
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Re: free will-how can it exist?

Post by Thundril »

Can I suggest another approach?
Observe that we, in common with the rest of the primates (and some other animals) are very strongly social. Our responses to situations are not simple reflexes, but involve, inter alia, 'estimates' of the moods, plans, etc of other individual animals, both of our own species and others. We do this estimating largely on the basis of an assumption that the other animal feels much as we would in its situation. (Mirror neurons?)
Our species has developed this 'theory of mind' much further than others. Perhaps alone on earth, our species is capable of conversing about abstract ideas. Development of this skill has had evolutionary advantages for a physically weak and slow ape! So our brains have evolved structures which assemble narratives which can be used to communicate our experiences intentions etc.
These narratives are constructed around a 'person'. In my case, the person is the one I call 'me', and in your case it's the one you call 'me'. And of course our narratives don't include any actual description of the material (neurological) processes through which this individual arrives at its decisions, preferences etc.
To fill this gap, we social creatures develop religions, ethical and political structures. And amongst the ideas we have developed, this one of free will has been useful in enabling us to deal with harmful behaviour in quite brutal ways, whilst ameliorating the recognition that we are being brutal; ie, we pretend the 'wrong-doer' could have chosen to behave otherwise, so it's their fault, not ours, if we find the only way to deal with their transgession is by harming them.
Then it doesn't feel as bad as it would if we had to think 'We know you didn't have a choice, but we're going to exile/beat/kill you anyway.'
artisticsolution
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Re: free will-how can it exist?

Post by artisticsolution »

Well said Thundril. Why do you suppose we even need to justify our behavior? Why do we have trouble admitting that is what we are doing? What possible reason could there be for us to even desire to be free agents? So what if everything is determined? What's the biggie in just accepting it and saying truthfully and accepting honestly, "sorry you were predestine to do such and such....I was predestine to see you don't do such and such."
chaz wyman
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Re: free will-how can it exist?

Post by chaz wyman »

JasonPalmer wrote::lol:
Grinning like a moron is not an argument either.
chaz wyman
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Re: free will-how can it exist?

Post by chaz wyman »

Thundril wrote:Can I suggest another approach?
Observe that we, in common with the rest of the primates (and some other animals) are very strongly social. Our responses to situations are not simple reflexes, but involve, inter alia, 'estimates' of the moods, plans, etc of other individual animals, both of our own species and others. We do this estimating largely on the basis of an assumption that the other animal feels much as we would in its situation. (Mirror neurons?)
Our species has developed this 'theory of mind' much further than others. Perhaps alone on earth, our species is capable of conversing about abstract ideas. Development of this skill has had evolutionary advantages for a physically weak and slow ape! So our brains have evolved structures which assemble narratives which can be used to communicate our experiences intentions etc.
These narratives are constructed around a 'person'. In my case, the person is the one I call 'me', and in your case it's the one you call 'me'. And of course our narratives don't include any actual description of the material (neurological) processes through which this individual arrives at its decisions, preferences etc.
To fill this gap, we social creatures develop religions, ethical and political structures. And amongst the ideas we have developed, this one of free will has been useful in enabling us to deal with harmful behaviour in quite brutal ways, whilst ameliorating the recognition that we are being brutal; ie, we pretend the 'wrong-doer' could have chosen to behave otherwise, so it's their fault, not ours, if we find the only way to deal with their transgession is by harming them.
Then it doesn't feel as bad as it would if we had to think 'We know you didn't have a choice, but we're going to exile/beat/kill you anyway.'
You were right, up to the point you used the phrase 'free will'.
The social practices you mention have been in place long before our concept of free will was invented. Vengeance and pay-back can be seen in apes, with no need for free-will.
FW is of quite recent invention and has emerged most notably from the Xian church to fill the gap between the omnipresent god (that would imply determinism), and the need for having redemption.

Additionally the assertion that positing a determinism some how would undermine the judicial/legal system is wholly bogus.
A penal system that recognises the role in determining factors for the commission of crime would be much better than retributive justice against those committing crime of their own free will (which has no mitigation). Such a system that recognises the role of deterministic factors, would rightly attack the causes of crime, and emphasis correction and rehabilitation to 'cause' the perpetrator to think again by giving him/her choices for alternative life-styles. Such a system is long overdue.
Even determinists need a system of justice. For them it would be one that attacks the act, not the person.
chaz wyman
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Re: free will-how can it exist?

Post by chaz wyman »

artisticsolution wrote:Well said Thundril. Why do you suppose we even need to justify our behavior? Why do we have trouble admitting that is what we are doing? What possible reason could there be for us to even desire to be free agents? So what if everything is determined? What's the biggie in just accepting it and saying truthfully and accepting honestly, "sorry you were predestine to do such and such....I was predestine to see you don't do such and such."
I think the answer would be in how you would choose to 'punish' the criminal.
If you really think that a crime is committed 'freely', then there is nothing you can offer in mitigation and you can be free to eliminate that person.
If you think that there is a complexity of causal factors you might be motivated to challenge the causes of crime, thus reducing the crime rate.
I do not think it is a co-incidence that the US is both the most Xian AND the one with the largest prison population in the free world.

Xians have to believe in free will and so a criminal is thus by pure choice. Not because he comes from a poor neighbourhood and was beaten by his parents. He refuses to see the light, because god has made him free to do so.
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