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Author Topic:   Free will but how free really?
Stile
Member
Posts: 4182
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 3.3


Message 16 of 182 (483604)
09-23-2008 1:34 PM
Reply to: Message 15 by Modulous
09-23-2008 12:50 PM


Re: Looking to learn.
Modulous writes:
If being of the mental condition of thinking you have free choice is equivalent to having free choice in your view then that's fine.
I only think this is fine if there is no way to specifically determine if a choice is "free" or "fake-free". If there is a way, then thinking I have free choice is no longer fine. Well, I guess it would be fine if it was determined that we do, in fact, make free-choices.
From your first post, I was under the impression that you could identify such a way. But I think that, after reading your last post, I was mistaken.
It is entirely contingent on the intricacies of the brain.
...and on the definition of "free" and "choice" I'm beggining to see your point, I think.
Ultimately though, whether you take that job 300 miles away is going to be decided by the same mechanics as the socks.
As to this, I sincerely agree. Whatever the mechanics are, they are (basically) the same for all decisions.
But what 'free' choice is, might (almost certainly is, I'd say) be quite different than how we perceive it.
Again, I fully agree.
But, without some deterministic way to identify what a free choice actually is like (in comparison to an illusion of that free choice), I am at a loss in understanding either one way or the other. Perhaps I leaned towards "free-choice" a little too easily. Perhaps the only way to discover if we have free choice or not, is to discover if the universe is deterministic or not. Or, almost, anyway.
If the universe is deterministic, then we do not have free-choice. That is, well, just the way it is.
If it is not deterministic, then it is possible that we have free-choice. It is still possible that our choice-mechanism may be a deterministic one (since deterministic things still exist even if the universe itself is not entirely deterministic), but at least the possibility of non-illusory free-choice still exists. In which case, we would need to develop some means of comparing a real free choice against an illusory free choice. Such a thing seems a daunting task.
Wiki on Compatibilism writes:
For example, one could define a free act as one that involves no compulsion by another person. Since the physical universe and the laws of nature are not persons, actions which are caused by the laws of nature, would still be free acts, and therefore it is wrong to conclude that universal determinism would mean we are never free.
I don't think I like the idea of this Compatibilist notion. Simply changing a definition to make yourself feel better, and in so doing including "lightning striking a metal pole" as a free choice... just seems like lying, to me.
Whichever way it is, I think I'm an incompatibilist.
And, for now, I'll stick with "my feeling of free choice may as well mean I have free choice" until some more verifiable information is uncovered. In the lines of "if we can't tell the difference, it doesn't matter (to us) if one actually exists".
However, I will change my attitude of "I definitely have free-choice" to one of "I'm not sure if free choice actually exists or not".

This message is a reply to:
 Message 15 by Modulous, posted 09-23-2008 12:50 PM Modulous has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 17 by Modulous, posted 09-23-2008 4:42 PM Stile has replied

  
Modulous
Member (Idle past 1531 days)
Posts: 7789
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005


Message 17 of 182 (483651)
09-23-2008 4:42 PM
Reply to: Message 16 by Stile
09-23-2008 1:34 PM


Re: Looking to learn.
But, without some deterministic way to identify what a free choice actually is like (in comparison to an illusion of that free choice), I am at a loss in understanding either one way or the other.
We get to decide what free choice means. Once we've done that, we can go looking for it. You might want to try flicking through the preview of Elbow Room by Dan Dennett, though I'm sure there are 'better' authors - I always found Dennett's 'intuition pumps' enlightening. He is a compatabilist, for what its worth.
If it is not deterministic, then it is possible that we have free-choice. It is still possible that our choice-mechanism may be a deterministic one (since deterministic things still exist even if the universe itself is not entirely deterministic), but at least the possibility of non-illusory free-choice still exists. In which case, we would need to develop some means of comparing a real free choice against an illusory free choice. Such a thing seems a daunting task.
Indeed - how does one even begin to study something that does not rely on cause and effect or something similar? It's the quantum physics of philosophy (and some rather over-zealous types have postulated that the analogy is no coincidence).
But still, what does it even mean for a decision to be made in a non-deterministic way? Doesn't imply that some or even all decisions are made at least partly for no rhyme or reason? Isn't this almost random decision making just as terrible as its absence?
I don't think I like the idea of this Compatibilist notion. Simply changing a definition to make yourself feel better, and in so doing including "lightning striking a metal pole" as a free choice... just seems like lying, to me.
I wouldn't go so far as lying, but it is absurd equivocation in my opinion.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 16 by Stile, posted 09-23-2008 1:34 PM Stile has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 20 by Straggler, posted 09-23-2008 7:29 PM Modulous has replied
 Message 42 by Stile, posted 09-24-2008 2:05 PM Modulous has replied

  
Syamsu 
Suspended Member (Idle past 5017 days)
Posts: 1914
From: amsterdam
Joined: 05-19-2002


Message 18 of 182 (483678)
09-23-2008 6:20 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by Stile
09-22-2008 3:33 PM


Re: It's not going to be easy...
In courts of law, if a suspect acts freely then they are generally held accountable for their actions, but if not acting freely then they would generally not be held accountable.
So basically we do differentiate between acting freely and being forced all the time. Obviously I would never want you to be judge at my trial, or anybody who doesn't understand freedom.
I suggest if you want to learn something about it, you should just take the knowledge about it seriously. I mean quite clearly you are all just meandering, you can't reasonably expect to gain some basic understanding this way.
And being serious means to formalize, generalize, and cut down to essential parts your ideas about freedom. There shouldn't be any problem with this, except motivational problems, that you don't want to know.
Very learned scientists / intellectuals are confused about alternatives being in the future, or in the present. But that issue seems to me more like a slight hobble to take intellectually rather then the conundrum they make it out to be. So I think knowledge about freedom is not about being a genius, the basics of it are very much more easy then calculus, it is about wanting to know it. How do you get that motivation. Obviously you all don't have it, and that's why you are meandering.

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bluescat48
Member (Idle past 3616 days)
Posts: 2347
From: United States
Joined: 10-06-2007


Message 19 of 182 (483692)
09-23-2008 7:01 PM
Reply to: Message 18 by Syamsu
09-23-2008 6:20 PM


Re: It's not going to be easy...
Very learned scientists / intellectuals are confused about alternatives being in the future, or in the present.
What alternatives. As for the future, who knows the future.

There is no better love between 2 people than mutual respect for each other WT Young, 2002
Who gave anyone the authority to call me an authority on anything. WT Young, 1969

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Straggler
Member (Idle past 395 days)
Posts: 10332
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 20 of 182 (483699)
09-23-2008 7:29 PM
Reply to: Message 17 by Modulous
09-23-2008 4:42 PM


Re: Looking to learn.
I've been following your answers. This is a fascinating subject.
Indeed - how does one even begin to study something that does not rely on cause and effect or something similar? It's the quantum physics of philosophy (and some rather over-zealous types have postulated that the analogy is no coincidence).
Roger Penrose proposed a whole 'thesis' on conscious freewill and it's possible relation to QM. As I understand it this has been largely refuted. Do you know of any more recent QM based theories or speculations regarding conscious freewill? Is this area considered as much of a dead end by most as you seem to imply?
But still, what does it even mean for a decision to be made in a non-deterministic way? Doesn't imply that some or even all decisions are made at least partly for no rhyme or reason? Isn't this almost random decision making just as terrible as its absence?
What can we learn of freewill from experimentation on brains and human subjects. The link below relates to experiments that seem to show the brain having "decided" simple choices before the subject was consciously aware of the choice that they had apparently made freely. Scientists could seemingly predict whether a test subject would press a left or right button based on brain activity before the subject themself "knew" or had "decided".
Brain Scanners Can See Your Decisions Before You Make Them | WIRED.
Also I understand that split brain patients can be shown to make "decisions" that they consider to be of their own free violition by providing stimuli to one half of the brain but not the other. Have you heard of these cases and what implications, in your opinion, do these cases have for the subject of conscious freewill?

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Agobot
Member (Idle past 4957 days)
Posts: 786
Joined: 12-16-2007


Message 21 of 182 (483771)
09-24-2008 7:01 AM
Reply to: Message 20 by Straggler
09-23-2008 7:29 PM


Does randomness exist?
It's truly a fascinating topic. I'll give you a figurative example of what i had in mind starting this thread. Maybe we can discuss it and find out how free we are:
Let's say you are a beggar and you are about to steal someone's purse. You stop before doing it and ponder. You have a moral dilemma - to do it or walk away? But do you really have a chioce? Is the choice that you will make truly yours or was it the result of your DNA shaping your brain in a specific way and environmental infuence? If you were able for a moment to look at us from outside this world and suppose you were able to notice and take account of all events taking place with the greatest precision(knowing with high precision speed, weight, time, coordinates, acceleration, etc.), wouldn't we look like complete robots with every event being pre-determined? I don't think randomness exists, we just don't know with great precision the properties of the events taking place and thus we cannot 'Guess' the outcome of events.
PS. There is guy from Canada who was trying to sell a device made by himself a couple of years ago. The device was used in Casinos around the world to guess with near 100% success rate the outcome at Roulette. It just took measurements of the speed of the ball at 3 points while in rotation, calculated the deceleration rate and spit out a number that was near always correct. With greater precision measurement, 100% guess rate should be quite possible.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E67h-sa48QA
What if we knew the amount of force the dealer exerts with his hand on each spin? We'd prove there's no randomness but just lack of information for us about all the forces in action.
If there is no randomness then there is no real "Me" to us but pure pre-determinism.
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Modulous
Member (Idle past 1531 days)
Posts: 7789
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005


Message 22 of 182 (483783)
09-24-2008 8:07 AM
Reply to: Message 20 by Straggler
09-23-2008 7:29 PM


experiments in free will
Roger Penrose proposed a whole 'thesis' on conscious freewill and it's possible relation to QM. As I understand it this has been largely refuted. Do you know of any more recent QM based theories or speculations regarding conscious freewill? Is this area considered as much of a dead end by most as you seem to imply?
A theory on Quantum Consciousness was developed by Penrose and Hameroff. Hameroff is still working on it with a passion. I don't think he has a lot of support. I'm not sure, but I think Penrose went back to pure Physics/Mathematics some time after Tegmark's critique. The wiki article on Penrose states:
quote:
Penrose and Stuart Hameroff have speculated that human consciousness is the result of quantum gravity effects in microtubules, which they dubbed Orch-OR (orchestrated objective reduction). But Max Tegmark, in a paper in Physical Review E, calculated that the time scale of neuron firing and excitations in microtubules is slower than the decoherence time by a factor of at least 10,000,000,000.
I won't pretend to understand the critique, but I do know that being off by 10 orders of magnitude is rarely considered a success in science
What can we learn of freewill from experimentation on brains and human subjects. The link below relates to experiments that seem to show the brain having "decided" simple choices before the subject was consciously aware of the choice that they had apparently made freely.
Indeed, there are some good experiments out there. I like Dennett's description of some of key (pre-1991 I think) experiments described in 'Consciousness Explained', many of them are variations on button pressing. I'll try and dig it out and describe some of them later.
Have you heard of these cases and what implications, in your opinion, do these cases have for the subject of conscious freewill?
I'm not totally familiar with them, but I have heard of the general idea. The biggest implication I think is that free will and decision making is not at all like what it seems to us experientially. When we combine that with other things about the conscious mind, this conclusion is reinforced.
Take visual experience: It seems to us that everything is in focus and clear, but only a small part of our eye is capable of seeing this well - the fovea. The rest of our visual field is actually rather indistinct, but that's not how it seems to us. The significant difference between the way things are and the way they seem to us when it comes down to experiences should drive us to caution about trying to use 'it seems this way to me' as a way to determine the reality of affairs.

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Agobot
Member (Idle past 4957 days)
Posts: 786
Joined: 12-16-2007


Message 23 of 182 (483791)
09-24-2008 8:36 AM


Perception of reality
The picture below is not moving.
Edited by AdminModulous, : tidied up the image code
  
Agobot
Member (Idle past 4957 days)
Posts: 786
Joined: 12-16-2007

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Message 24 of 182 (483795)
09-24-2008 8:52 AM


Lack of information
If we know the state of every molecule in the universe at every point in time since the Big Bang, wouldn't those DNA mutations that led to the survival of life, become unavoidable and pre-determined?We simply don't know what mutations happen in the copying of DNA, so we model that as a random process due to a lack of information.
Knowing every molecule's state in the universe would easilly wipe the floor with the thesis that there is free will in humans.
So is there order in chaos? I would argue that there is more order in chaos than in order itself. True randomness would be something that cannot be predicted at all, even if you knew all the variables. But such randomness does not appear to exist and as soon as we know the variables, there is no randomness at all.
The little evidence we have, says free will is an illusion.
PS. I don't really like the above ideas, as they kind of open the door for the God squad(or another super power). So how do you spell FATE?
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ikabod
Member (Idle past 3920 days)
Posts: 365
From: UK
Joined: 03-13-2006

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Message 25 of 182 (483797)
09-24-2008 9:22 AM
Reply to: Message 24 by Agobot
09-24-2008 8:52 AM


Re: Lack of information
If we know the state of every molecule in the universe at every point in time since the Big Bang, wouldn't those DNA mutations that led to the survival of life, become unavoidable and pre-determined? Knowing every molecule's state in the universe would easilly wipe the floor with the thesis that there is free will in humans.
a very big If , and the answer is still no .. all you would know is what happened THAT TIME you ran history ... only if you could show that no other version of history could possible occur would you start to show some limits
...then you would need to show that the past locks into the future and there is only one possible version of the future
.. this then leads to the absents of NOW ..if there is no now .. then there can be no free will .. however that means time is also an illusion ...which means we are not what we think we are ...
PS never worry about the god squad... they are easy to defeat ..as follows
either i have free will or its all gods plan and therefore his/her fault

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Agobot
Member (Idle past 4957 days)
Posts: 786
Joined: 12-16-2007

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Message 26 of 182 (483799)
09-24-2008 9:29 AM
Reply to: Message 25 by ikabod
09-24-2008 9:22 AM


Re: Lack of information
ikabod writes:
a very big If , and the answer is still no .. all you would know is what happened THAT TIME you ran history ... only if you could show that no other version of history could possible occur would you start to show some limits
No, no, if you know ALL the forces acting on all molucules in the Universe and you have the processing power to process all that information in a timely manner, YOU WILL DEFINITELYY KNOW THE OUTCOME. Those same values of the variables that determine the outcomes of every single event in every moment in time in the Universe are there, but we just don't know them to make 100% correct predictions. Randomness appears as randomness only to the limited human mind.
Edited by Agobot, : No reason given.
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Agobot
Member (Idle past 4957 days)
Posts: 786
Joined: 12-16-2007

Agobot Posts Only

Message 27 of 182 (483801)
09-24-2008 9:35 AM
Reply to: Message 25 by ikabod
09-24-2008 9:22 AM


Re: Lack of information
ikabod writes:
...then you would need to show that the past locks into the future and there is only one possible version of the future
Cause and effect principle. There is only one verson of the future when you know all the variables.

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Agobot
Member (Idle past 4957 days)
Posts: 786
Joined: 12-16-2007

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Message 28 of 182 (483802)
09-24-2008 9:41 AM
Reply to: Message 25 by ikabod
09-24-2008 9:22 AM


Re: Lack of information
ikabod writes:
then there can be no free will .. however that means time is also an illusion ...which means we are not what we think we are ...
I don't know what perception you have of us humans, but my perception is that we are robots with a pre-determined past, presence and future. In that sense what i am writing here is also pre-determined, perhaps it's time we learn who we are. The "flair" of "I" that everyone possesses is nothing but an illusion.
However, as i've said earlier, this idea opens the door for all kinds of gods, deities and santa clauses.
Either we have to accept that at least one of them might exist(and we are puppets on strings), or the Universe is totally incomprehensible to a human mind.
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Modulous
Member (Idle past 1531 days)
Posts: 7789
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005

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Message 29 of 182 (483815)
09-24-2008 11:19 AM
Reply to: Message 26 by Agobot
09-24-2008 9:29 AM


Re: Lack of information
No, no, if you know ALL the forces acting on all molucules in the Universe and you have the processing power to process all that information in a timely manner, YOU WILL DEFINITELYY KNOW THE OUTCOME.
I submit that anything with the power to calculate all that with the necessary accuracy at the required speed would simply be the universe. But yes, this is the position of the determinists. Whether or not they are right is the question. It cannot be said determinism is definitely true, though we can have some confidence in the proposition.
While we are talking ludicrously powerful machines capable of describing all the molecules in the universe, if we could describe the universe fully in all its 4D glory (or however many there turn out to be), then we wouldn't need to worry about calculating the 'future' - it would be as much a part of our model as the states of all the molecules at one given moment in time were in yours.
If we were in a position to conclude with certainty that the universe can only exist in this state, then the determinism question becomes moot. We could even test for free will to be sure: Simply work out what action should happen with regards to a simple experiment with a hypothesized free agent involved: let's say deciding between pushing a red or blue button. If our total universal model dictates they will press the red button we tell the subject that they must press the blue button and become a billionaire or press the red button and they and their family will die.
A free agent that cares about money and family should surely choose to press the blue button, but the future is fixed: which wins?

This message is a reply to:
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Agobot
Member (Idle past 4957 days)
Posts: 786
Joined: 12-16-2007

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Message 30 of 182 (483819)
09-24-2008 11:44 AM
Reply to: Message 29 by Modulous
09-24-2008 11:19 AM


Re: Lack of information
Modulous writes:
If we were in a position to conclude with certainty that the universe can only exist in this state, then the determinism question becomes moot. We could even test for free will to be sure: Simply work out what action should happen with regards to a simple experiment with a hypothesized free agent involved: let's say deciding between pushing a red or blue button. If our total universal model dictates they will press the red button we tell the subject that they must press the blue button and become a billionaire or press the red button and they and their family will die.
A free agent that cares about money and family should surely choose to press the blue button, but the future is fixed: which wins?
You've said it, the future is fixed, i.e. there is no real human free will. In the abscence of free will, we are just servants of the "Masterplan"(puppets on strings) and we cannot exhibit any free will and so cannot press the Red button, if the values of the variables that move the universe are not determining/dictating that pressing the Red button is the only choice.
I don't think Free will is possible in a world with fixed past, present and future. Those concepts are mutually exclusive.
Edited by Agobot, : No reason given.
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