An Introspective Look at Choice

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RG1
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An Introspective Look at Choice

Post by RG1 »

Could I have chosen differently than what I actually chose?

At first glance, this question seems silly, as it feels very obvious that I have the power to choose as I please and therefore could have chosen differently than what I had actually chose. This inner power, that I call free-will, allows me to freely exert my will so as to be the intentional self-causer of my choices. In other words, free-will is the power that allows me to freely choose as I so please.

Could I have chosen differently than what I actually chose? Well, first I need to take a closer look at a simple choice to try to see what all is going on. How about the choice that I am confronted with when I walk into a McDonald's and ask for an ice cream cone? The counter girl will then ask me "vanilla or chocolate?", and then shortly thereafter, I will verbally proclaim my choice. It is during this time period of 'shortly thereafter' that my power of free-will emerges and exerts itself as the causer of my choice, and it is here where I need to take a closer look.

My main problem here is trying to recall all that which transpired in that very short period of time, between the counter girl's question and the proclamation of my choice. In football's 'instant replay', they simply rewind the tape, playback in slow motion, and zoom in to take a closer look, so as to clearly see and review all that what really just happened. This is a bit tricky for me because the only playback tape that I have exists as my memory, which fades with time, becoming unclear and fuzzy if I wait too long to recall and replay it. Also, my memory only records my conscious events. As for the unconscious events, I have no memory of them.

Since free-will choices, such as choosing between vanilla and chocolate, are consciously (knowingly) made, then a memory should exist that I can then recall and review. Choices made unconsciously (without my knowledge), or caused by unconscious events, are not of my free-will. Since I don't control my unconscious, I therefore do not control the choices made by my unconscious.

Great chess players have the ability to clearly see many moves forward. How many moves backwards can I clearly see? Can I recall and clearly see all the moves that led up to my choice? Can I enact 'instant replay'? Without instant replay, the actual events (thoughts and feelings) that led up to my choice, those that occurred in that time period of 'shortly thereafter', seem to be bundled up in fuzziness. In my mind, I seem to quickly equate this fuzziness as the power of my free-will in action. I tend to associate, or even justify, this fuzziness as my free-will. But, aren't these, 'fuzziness' and 'free-will' different things, or are they the same, but with different names? If I could clear away the fuzziness to expose all that which occurred during this time period, would free-will still be there, and if so, where, and how would I know?

Okay, back to McDonald's. Since I'm not really there right now (as I am writing at the moment), I will have to use my imagination to simulate the making of this choice, and then attempt to create an 'instant replay' tape by very quickly recalling my memory of making this choice. Here goes. The counter girl just asked me "vanilla or chocolate?". --- "Hmmm..." I say, "Chocolate it is!". --- (approximately 2 seconds transpired in making this choice). So now I quickly recall my memory and playback in slow motion to try to catch all the events that occurred during these 2 seconds. Here they are: "Hmmm", "vanilla is healthier, but chocolate tastes better, but in case I drop some on my white shirt, vanilla won't stain as badly as the chocolate, but chocolate has caffeine and I am really tired, and chocolate makes me feel better. 3 for chocolate, 2 for vanilla, therefore chocolate wins", "Chocolate it is!".

The fuzziness has cleared, and I can now see the conscious events that led up to my choice. Playing my memory tape backwards, I can see that this choice (chocolate) was actually caused by a reason (chocolate 3 > vanilla 2). And I see that this reason was caused by a reasoning process. And I see each of the variables of this reasoning process; an algorithm (majority rule) and 5 factors (1- vanilla is healthier, 2- chocolate tastes better, 3- vanilla won't stain as much, 4- chocolate has caffeine, and 5- chocolate makes me feel better). But that is it, that is all. This 2 second tape has completely rewound to its beginning. There are no more conscious events to be seen on this tape.

So where's the free-will? Where on this tape did I exert my power of free-will? What event did I cause or choose? Where did I get to say "Shazam!" and be the causer of this choice? Or at least cause an event that caused this choice? According to my memory, 'I' haven't chosen anything. This choice of chocolate was caused by its reason, which in turn was caused by its reasoning process. And this reasoning process was determined by its variables. So where does free-will fit in, where in here do 'I' choose and make this choice mine? Okay, I need to relax and look at this rationally. If I didn't directly choose my choice or its reason, then I must have chosen the reasoning variables that did ultimately determine my choice of chocolate. So yes, it was I that chose to consider these particular factors, and it was I that chose to let majority rule dictate the outcome of my choice. And because of this, I can now claim this choice as mine.

But wait, if I did 'choose' all these reasoning variables, then shouldn't I have some knowledge or memory of doing so? But I don't. I have no memories of choosing any of these reasoning variables. So where did they come from? Why did I choose what I did? Why did I choose these particular factors and not others? And why only 5 factors, why not 3, or 10? And why did I choose to let majority rule dictate my reasoning process? Shouldn't I have assigned a higher value to that which is healthier for me, or better yet, why not just let my strongest feeling dictate my choice? I don't know, it just is what it is, as I did not consciously choose any of these variables. It's as if they just popped into my head, into my awareness, at that split moment in time when I needed something to reason with.

On a side thought, even if I were able to knowingly 'choose' each of these variables, then wouldn't each of these new choices then themselves require a reason? For how is it possible to consciously choose anything without some reason? And furthermore, how is it also possible to consciously derive a reason without considering things (i.e. other choices)? So then, it would seem that choice requires a reason, and reason requires choices, and these new choices then each require their own reasons, and each of these new reasons then each require their own choices, and so on for-ev-ver. At some point this potentially endless chain of mental deliberations must originate from a point outside my conscious control, otherwise I would never be able to make a choice as it would consume an infinte amount of time and memory to do so.

Okay, so have I been just kicking the can down the road, delaying the inevitable originating cause of my choice as the one flowing from my unconscious? How far back must I go before I realize that the source of my choices ultimately emanate from something beyond my conscious means? Looking backwards, I can see and follow the chain of events that led up to my choice, but only until it submerges into my unconscious. I can only recall that which is consciously available. Looking upwards into a waterfall, I can try to see the source of the onward streams of water but only until it disappears into its feeding source. Thus, it appears that my choices are ultimately determined by that which I have no control over.

The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once said "A man can do what he wills, but cannot will what he wills". To restate, "I can choose as I so desire, but I cannot choose my desires". The underlying assumption here is that my desires (or will) emanate from my unconscious. And since I do not control my unconscious, I therefore do not control my desires (or will), and therefore nor my choices.

So, AFTER FURTHER REVIEW, it appears that the power of free-will is simply a mirage, an illusionary feeling created by the 'fuzziness of the facts'. I, the conscious me, am only the beneficiary of my choices, and therefore had no choice but to choose as I chose.
chaz wyman
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Re: An Introspective Look at Choice

Post by chaz wyman »

Time moves forward and events pile on upon the other. When the time for a choice is past, it is gone forever. In this sense you can never go back and change your choice. Once a choice has been made it cannot be undone. You can make a new choice in a new time, with new information, but to change the original choice would need a time machine and there is no such thing available.
So this question, often asked by those wanting to promote a notion of 'free will', is often asked but it is in effect a meaningless question based on a misconception of reality. We can never have done otherwise.

For each moment in time, your brain has a set of notions, beliefs, and motivations. The environment and the conditions available is also set in place. The 'choice' is the next possible action and is fully determined by the foregoing and antecedent conditions. Hind-sight and later considerations do not play a part in the decision.
When a chess player makes his move he could not have done otherwise. Though he had several options, his decision was final and based on a chain of causal events leading to that move.
His move is only free in the sense that he was not compelled by another person to make a choice, but that is not what is usually asserted by those that insist upon free will.

Free will is a fantasy given to us by the church. It is supposed to implicate us all in our own 'salvation'. It pretends that we have a choice to open the door to Christ. Yet god is supposed to be omnipotent? If this is the case he has to know even before I was born that I will die a sinner. So why did he make me so that I cannot believe? Why did he place evidence of himself that only a idiot would believe and make me intelligent?
Free will was designed by the church to allow god to wash his hands of his responsibility for suffering. It has no merit.
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RG1
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Re: An Introspective Look at Choice

Post by RG1 »

chaz wyman wrote:Time moves forward and events pile on upon the other. When the time for a choice is past, it is gone forever. In this sense you can never go back and change your choice. Once a choice has been made it cannot be undone. You can make a new choice in a new time, with new information, but to change the original choice would need a time machine and there is no such thing available.
So this question, often asked by those wanting to promote a notion of 'free will', is often asked but it is in effect a meaningless question based on a misconception of reality. We can never have done otherwise.

For each moment in time, your brain has a set of notions, beliefs, and motivations. The environment and the conditions available is also set in place. The 'choice' is the next possible action and is fully determined by the foregoing and antecedent conditions. Hind-sight and later considerations do not play a part in the decision.
When a chess player makes his move he could not have done otherwise. Though he had several options, his decision was final and based on a chain of causal events leading to that move.
His move is only free in the sense that he was not compelled by another person to make a choice, but that is not what is usually asserted by those that insist upon free will.
Yes, I agree with you here
chaz wyman wrote:Free will is a fantasy given to us by the church. It is supposed to implicate us all in our own 'salvation'. It pretends that we have a choice to open the door to Christ. Yet god is supposed to be omnipotent? If this is the case he has to know even before I was born that I will die a sinner. So why did he make me so that I cannot believe? Why did he place evidence of himself that only a idiot would believe and make me intelligent?
Free will was designed by the church to allow god to wash his hands of his responsibility for suffering. It has no merit.
Although I agree with what you are saying, we can't blame the church, as even the church's decision to impose this 'free-will' on us was without their free-will. :)

Also, regarding God's omniciensce and man's free-will, I ask then "Is it possible to choose other than what God already knows? If I come to a fork in the road, is it possible for me to choose left when God knows I will choose right?" If not, then man does not possess free-will, -- if so, then God does not possess omniscience (all-knowing). God's omniscience and Man's free-will are mutually exclusive (they cannot both be true), so then either one is true, or neither is true (my view).
chaz wyman
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Re: An Introspective Look at Choice

Post by chaz wyman »

RG1 wrote:
chaz wyman wrote:Time moves forward and events pile on upon the other. When the time for a choice is past, it is gone forever. In this sense you can never go back and change your choice. Once a choice has been made it cannot be undone. You can make a new choice in a new time, with new information, but to change the original choice would need a time machine and there is no such thing available.
So this question, often asked by those wanting to promote a notion of 'free will', is often asked but it is in effect a meaningless question based on a misconception of reality. We can never have done otherwise.

For each moment in time, your brain has a set of notions, beliefs, and motivations. The environment and the conditions available is also set in place. The 'choice' is the next possible action and is fully determined by the foregoing and antecedent conditions. Hind-sight and later considerations do not play a part in the decision.
When a chess player makes his move he could not have done otherwise. Though he had several options, his decision was final and based on a chain of causal events leading to that move.
His move is only free in the sense that he was not compelled by another person to make a choice, but that is not what is usually asserted by those that insist upon free will.
Yes, I agree with you here
chaz wyman wrote:Free will is a fantasy given to us by the church. It is supposed to implicate us all in our own 'salvation'. It pretends that we have a choice to open the door to Christ. Yet god is supposed to be omnipotent? If this is the case he has to know even before I was born that I will die a sinner. So why did he make me so that I cannot believe? Why did he place evidence of himself that only a idiot would believe and make me intelligent?
Free will was designed by the church to allow god to wash his hands of his responsibility for suffering. It has no merit.
Although I agree with what you are saying, we can't blame the church, as even the church's decision to impose this 'free-will' on us was without their free-will. :)

Also, regarding God's omniciensce and man's free-will, I ask then "Is it possible to choose other than what God already knows? If I come to a fork in the road, is it possible for me to choose left when God knows I will choose right?" If not, then man does not possess free-will, -- if so, then God does not possess omniscience (all-knowing). God's omniscience and Man's free-will are mutually exclusive (they cannot both be true), so then either one is true, or neither is true (my view).
The more obvious alternative; the idea of god is as absurd as free-will. That would make me a determinist atheist.
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RG1
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Re: An Introspective Look at Choice

Post by RG1 »

chaz wyman wrote:The more obvious alternative; the idea of god is as absurd as free-will. That would make me a determinist atheist.
:D Well, that is not yet quite as obvious to me.

If I were to wonder where all this stuff (reality/existance) came from, then I think it could only be one of two answers, either 1) this stuff has always been here, or 2) a God created it all. But then the question arises, if a God created all, then where did this God come from? So, in the end, either a God has always been here, or all this stuff has always been here. Both are 'equally' plausible (or implausible?). So this is the dead end I reach, not knowing if existance has always existed or a God that created the existance has always existed. There appears to be no basis to believe one way over the other, so I am deadlocked into saying "I don't know".
chaz wyman
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Re: An Introspective Look at Choice

Post by chaz wyman »

RG1 wrote:
chaz wyman wrote:The more obvious alternative; the idea of god is as absurd as free-will. That would make me a determinist atheist.
:D Well, that is not yet quite as obvious to me.

If I were to wonder where all this stuff (reality/existance) came from, then I think it could only be one of two answers, either 1) this stuff has always been here, or 2) a God created it all. But then the question arises, if a God created all, then where did this God come from? So, in the end, either a God has always been here, or all this stuff has always been here. Both are 'equally' plausible (or implausible?). So this is the dead end I reach, not knowing if existance has always existed or a God that created the existance has always existed. There appears to be no basis to believe one way over the other, so I am deadlocked into saying "I don't know".
"God" does not add any explanation or any information. I can't see the point in offering a bogus explanation, especially one that is counter intuitive in the sense that the evolution of the universe is characterised by increasing complexity. Suggesting that it all started with the most complex and perfect being flies against every piece of evidence.
reasonvemotion
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Re: An Introspective Look at Choice

Post by reasonvemotion »

If man does not have free will, why does man have a Conscience.
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Re: An Introspective Look at Choice

Post by chaz wyman »

reasonvemotion wrote:If man does not have free will, why does man have a Conscience.
Non sequitur.

A conscience is determined by a range of causes. Many of them genetic by which man's basic ethical sense and feeling for others is generated like a bitch and her puppies. Beyond that in the cultural realm humans learn patterns of behaviour, and codes by which we are taught to live our lives.

If we had free will we would be as likely to reject all morals and ethical codes through choice.
reasonvemotion
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Re: An Introspective Look at Choice

Post by reasonvemotion »

If we had free will we would be as likely to reject all morals and ethical codes through choice.

Millions do choose to reject all morals and ethical codes, and

Millions do not.


It is our choice (the power of choosing) and what our conscience (an inner feeling viewed as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one's behavior) as it is determined for each individual.
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RG1
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Re: An Introspective Look at Choice

Post by RG1 »

reasonvemotion wrote:If man does not have free will, why does man have a Conscience.
I don't see the connection here. Conscience is what creates the guilt feeling we experience. If anything, this provides a biasing to choose one way over an another. Free-will is the ability to choose without influence, bias, or constraints, so that the choice is not pre-determined. Conscience may bias me to always choose the good choice instead of the bad choice, so therefore my choice would always be determined and predictable, and not at all free, as my conscience would compel me to choose one way over the other.
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Notvacka
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Re: An Introspective Look at Choice

Post by Notvacka »

Ah, the ever popular question of free will! :D

Free will is the experience of having choices, alternatives to choose from, and of being the one doing the choosing.

Yes, free will is this experience, a fundamental aspect of human existence. We make choices every day, and experience them as real.

However, choices do not exist in reality. But that doesn't matter much, because human existence is what we experience it to be. Reality might be important, but it's not that important. Because we don't live our lives in reality. We know that reality is out there, but we can't get at it. We all live in a shared illusion. And though we share it, it's not even the same illusion. Each of us have their own version.

Knowing that choices don't exist in reality doesn't prevent you from choosing. It doesn't even enable you not to choose, because choosing not to choose is also a choice. We are stuck in the illusion of free will, though there is nothing "free" about it. It's easy to expose the illusion as such, but impossible to escape it. In other words, you don't have a free will, but free will has you.
chaz wyman
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Re: An Introspective Look at Choice

Post by chaz wyman »

RG1 wrote:
reasonvemotion wrote:If man does not have free will, why does man have a Conscience.
I don't see the connection here. Conscience is what creates the guilt feeling we experience. If anything, this provides a biasing to choose one way over an another. Free-will is the ability to choose without influence, bias, or constraints, so that the choice is not pre-determined. Conscience may bias me to always choose the good choice instead of the bad choice, so therefore my choice would always be determined and predictable, and not at all free, as my conscience would compel me to choose one way over the other.
Indeed is it so.
Which case makes one rather puzzled at the working of the Theist mind.
chaz wyman
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Re: An Introspective Look at Choice

Post by chaz wyman »

Notvacka wrote:Ah, the ever popular question of free will! :D

Free will is the experience of having choices, alternatives to choose from, and of being the one doing the choosing.

Yes, free will is this experience, a fundamental aspect of human existence. We make choices every day, and experience them as real.

However, choices do not exist in reality. But that doesn't matter much, because human existence is what we experience it to be. Reality might be important, but it's not that important. Because we don't live our lives in reality. We know that reality is out there, but we can't get at it. We all live in a shared illusion. And though we share it, it's not even the same illusion. Each of us have their own version.

Knowing that choices don't exist in reality doesn't prevent you from choosing. It doesn't even enable you not to choose, because choosing not to choose is also a choice. We are stuck in the illusion of free will, though there is nothing "free" about it. It's easy to expose the illusion as such, but impossible to escape it. In other words, you don't have a free will, but free will has you.
I think this seeming paradox is solved by considering that we humans, are ourselves causative agents able to affect the world in particular ways, and that although from an outward perspective our will is indeed part of a wider deterministic world, that within we at least have a will which though determined is, at least, our will. And that we may do as we will, though not will as we will.

Were were not determined by ourselves, our education and our genetics (ad inf...), then our actions would not be ours but would be the will of something else.
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Notvacka
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Re: An Introspective Look at Choice

Post by Notvacka »

Yes. I could not have chosen differently, but somebody else could. Had I chosen differently, then I would have been somebody else. It's common to speculate about what one would have done, had one been somebody else. Unfortunately, we are stuck with being ourselves. And, for instance, had you been Anders Behring Breivik at Utøya, then you would have done what he did.
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Bernard
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Re: An Introspective Look at Choice

Post by Bernard »

I think the idea of choice comes from the fact that there are witnesses to our acts. I'm looking at an apple and an orange at the table knowing I'm going to pick up and eat that apple, but someone watching has no idea of what I'm about to do so they will have to ask me which one I'm going to eat, and I'm going to have to tell them what my 'choice' is. And so when it comes to willing we never really ask ourselves 'what am I willing to do in this particular instance?' especially when no one else is involved in what we are doing, either directly or in our thoughts. Will is just a matter of capacity - either we've got it or we don't for what we need to do; its just when it comes to communicating what we are engaging ourselves in the idea that our will is either constrained or free has any valence, and this becomes really amplified when it comes to mass communication. If we recall any of the situations in our life where a decision was particularly heavy and difficult to arrive at, it will have a directly proportional degree of weight to the weight of social responsibility involved in the choice.
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