Free will ~ A product of imagination

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Quantum Quack, Apr 8, 2014.

  1. cluelusshusbund + Public Dilemma + Valued Senior Member

    It works beter if you shout the word "POOF" (for mis-direction)

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  3. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    The disappointing thing is when people seem to accept that such things as imagination, freewill etc are processes that fully adhere to the various universal laws, but then still try to argue for them somehow separating us from machines beyond mere complexity. Yes, it depends on what you define "machine" to be, but in the grand scheme surely anything that can only ever do what it does according to some laws and nothing else, even if it gives an outward appearance of self-determination etc, is still just a "machine" (in perhaps the broadest sense)... just a machine that happens to be complex enough to display what we consider to be "imagination", or "emotion" etc.
    So as soon as one concludes that freewill, emotion, imagination etc are merely the laws of the universe in action / not in defiance of them, then I can not see how it is anything other than complexity that differentiates those that have the appearance of these things, and those that don't. Certainly one can not argue both sides: that these things are not in defiance of the laws of the universe AND that they differentiate us from machines, unless one is using these things as a proxy for "complexity".
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  5. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Indeed. Too many confuse the argument from adhering to universal laws with being predictable. You'll often see them argue against the former by stating that things can be unpredictable, without seeming to appreciate that chaos even within a strictly determined universe would lead to unpredictability. And that's before you introduce any element of randomnes.
    CC seems to miss the point that while humans produce their own motions/thoughts/conclusions etc, that these are merely the outputs of those laws that seem to be disliked so much. That the brain is a necessary part of that, that can turn external inputs into seemingly complex and self-determining outputs (through memory, internal wiring, DNA etc) is actually missing the mark. It is like saying that a car produces its own motion... remove the engine, the car won't move. But all the engine does is transfer external input (fuel, foot on the accelerator etc) into an output, but does it through the complexity of the engine.
    The human brain similarly takes external inputs and, through complexity, produces emotions, movement, thought, conclusions. And it can also feed itself, keep itself alive (to an extent) etc.
    But this does not address how the brain does these things... whether it is fully adherent to the universal laws (with nothing added), or whether it does it in defiance of those laws, as others have claimed.
    So while I don't disagree with CC's argument, I think it is missing the point and rather focussing on what it means to be "self-determining" and the ilk.
    This is a fair point in trying to establish how one can be seen to be self-determining while beholden to the laws, but to me this just reduces to being a matter of appearance, which I (and you, and others) have argued all along.
    But then I may have the wrong end of the stick as to what CC is arguing.
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  7. Dazz Registered Senior Member

    Sure, i will try my best.
    And to be honest Q Q, it seems to me that we agree on the huge part of this subject, as for the clarification.
    I was referring to the fact that whatever we may feel like doing when we see that wall, we know that we can't cross it.
    We may picture ourselves going green and yelling "HUULK!! SMAAASH!!" but we are not doing that. Unconsciously, we know that that wall is not going to let us throught because physics.
    We have the choice to do whatever we want with the wall, but that "free will" goes as far as our imagination goes, and if we try to pull it of we are going to see how far it can go.
    " it is not revealing to itself the physical
    contraptions of the observable world around
    itself, like when we unconsciously think
    something when we see anything that triggers
    our instincts.

    The Hulk was just one exposition we have suffered that may influence our free will but it will not grant us a real choice. As the faith in telekinesis may grant us another choice, we can move the wall away with our minds, but since telekinesis has yet to be proven real, we may surrender this option as well. In the end, the free will we have can go as far as imagination goes.

    " If imagination is what affords us our freewill
    then there is no reason to consider freewill to
    be in defiance of the "laws of physics" in fact
    one could consider that freewill is "enshrined"
    by the laws of physics

    This conveys it perfectly.
    But as to what Sarkus has asked. To begin with, we are not going to see machines having this kind of discussion unless they become sentient some day in the future, and start experiencing humane feelings such as hatred, passion, love, empathy, and the like. And even so, they might not be anything close to human.

    " Why do you think Angelus' post put a limit on,
    or inaccurately represent, the size/scope of
    human creation? Maybe you simply
    misunderstand what he means by what "is not
    in their nature to think or create"?
    A robot that was built for the sole purpose of creation, its nature is of creation. We may program it to do whatever we want it to do, write lines and lines of coding for it to have the liberty to create yet, it will lack one simple thing: emotion.
    And as far as a work of art, per example, may go, most of the artist's feelings will be represented on his/her work. And as far as the robotic creational purpose may go, it will still be limited by the lines of code we have implemented, while we humans have the whole human experience to rely on when we create. Sure a robot can emulate it, but it is generic, it is not genuine.
    And this intrinsically differentiates us from machines, and to relate it to the topic, we creative humans, have the option to not create stuff, while a robot that was made to create, does not have such an option. We have the free will to choose to not have free will in the end.
  8. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    well said IMHO!

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    It and the posts by Sarkus bring to mind the irony of what he is suggesting with his "overly complex" machine created by us, to suffer the illusion of freewill. A sort of sad, sadistic reflection of his attitude to his own "apparent" creation by what he may consider as "finite" evolution perhaps?

    An ironic story [Got a bit of time and feel inspired]:

    A Professor by the name of Dusseldorffe, decides to build a machine,
    an android, that has all the "material" capacities of a human being. He builds in it his
    own reflection using quantum data storage that is massively larger than anything we
    have currently. So this robot's programming is massive, finite but verging towards the infinite.
    One day the robot approaches Prof. Dusseldorffe and in a well performed parody of a Scottish
    brogue accent asked him a question.
    "Och, me God Dusseldorffe, why do we no have freewill?"
    And God Dusseldorf smiled at the incredible irony and with tears of realization replied,
    "Because I created you that's why and you do exactly as I programmed you to do." and
    continues with,
    "Because you are a finite being and can not subscribe to the infinite",
    "Your determinism is finite and not infinite and no matter how powerful your storage is it
    will always be finite."
    The robot processed this for while and from prerecorded data files spoke in a cleverly
    crafted Italian accent,
    "Prof. Dusseldorffe-ah, how can I-ah achieve-ah the infinite-ah?"
    To which the professor answered,
    "You can't my little dear Pinocchio, you can't because to do so you have to be alive and I would have to
    not be your creator."
    "Your data storage device would have to become the entire universe and all that it is, including yourself"

    Any ways as profoundly inane all the above may seem there is as vast (infinite) a difference between complex machinery and a single organic skin cell as there is like wise with the human capacity to imagine, his own self determination. [God hood]
  9. Dazz Registered Senior Member

    Your story pretty much summarizes everything.

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    And to think that, as far as it goes, human experience is still a limited thing... a narrow perspective that is.
  10. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    But only because we humans are too embroiled in daily living, a lack of time etc to get too involved in what we take for granted and that being the universe (infinite) is in the palm of our hands.

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    And it is our desire for "Order" rather than Chaos, that generates the need to place "finite" boundaries on our existence. The more fear of loosing control, the more need to enforce finite-ism upon our lives.
    Freewill in absolute terms is utter chaos...insanity, is the premise. We place our own blocks, as another member suggested earlier in this thread, so that we can have an illusion of control over our lives and lives of others.
    And I might add IMO until science can accommodate the infinite better those blocks are going to stay more or less as they are.
  11. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    Do you think a machine can ever be built that can "imagine" the infinite?

    As an example:
    When a machine uses a word it applies a predefined definition that is explicitly stated in a data base glossary.
    When a human uses a word he makes use of a glossary but due to the infinite nature of the meaning he wishes to convey the glossary is only a guide for the finding of "common ground" as to what he wishes to communicate and not an explicit definition.
    Example word:
    Machine definition may be "to feel an attraction towards something etc...
    A human ... can't define it explicitly and can only imply a definition using metaphor, poetry, music, actions etc...
    To the human the definition is infinite. To the machine it is and has to be finite for it to function.
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2014
  12. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    There's more to it than simple variation in responses. Free-choice shouldn't be confused with uncaused or random events. Free-choice suggests that our actions come about as the result of our own decisions, in accordance with our own motivations and purposes.

    Free-will is usually contrasted with and perceived as being opposed to determinism, not causation. (Often that distinction isn't appreciated, since causation is often conceived of as being deterministic by its nature.)

    I don't think that the idea that all of our mental states have preceeding causes represents very much difficulty to free-will, unless we start insisting that all our motives, purposes and decisions are all pre-determined by the external environment.

    I'm not going to put words in CC's mouth. She's very astute philosophically and definitely has a mind of her own. (Sadly, she's currently banned and can't speak in her own behalf.) But I do think that I might be arguing in a parallel direction.

    There may indeed be chains of causation linking events in the distant past to our mental states and decision processes now. (The idea that every event has a cause, and that every cause in turn has its own cause, is something of an article of metaphysical faith, I guess.) I don't want to dispute that and we needn't argue about it.

    What I'm less convinced about is whether states of the external environment are correlated in some deterministic law-like way with the details of our motivations, purposes and decisions.

    I don't know how we could make decisions for ourselves, or have the purposes and motivations upon which those decisions are based, if we didn't have brains. So brains, or something functionally equivalent to brains, certainly seem to be necessary in order for free-will to exist.

    The idea of free-will (the idea that we make our own decisions) might be analogous to saying that a car moves under its own power, as opposed to being blown around by the force of the wind as a leaf might be. (To employ CC's analogy.)

    That's a job for the neuroscientists. As things stand, neither the free-will side or the determinist side are doing a whole lot to address how the brain does what it does. It's kind of a 'black box' at this point.

    If somebody thinks that they can come up with deterministic laws whereby knowledge of the state of a person's external environment makes all of that person's ideas and decisions perfectly predictable, good luck. That kind of model works a lot better for billiard-balls than for people, I think.

    I think that I agree with CC in thinking that's precisely the crux of the argument. 'Free-will' basically means that our decisions come about as the result of our own deliberations and internal decision process, as opposed to their already being pre-determined for us by the state of the external environment surrounding us.

    That needn't mean that our internal states are uncaused, but it does seem to require that the results of our internal decision processes (however causal they might be) not be precisely determined by the surrounding environment.
  13. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Why the qualificaion of "by the external environment"?
    And it need not be pre-determined (i.e. strict determinism) but any form of interaction in which there is no ability to manipulate the outcome at microscopic levels - e.g. probabilistic, indeterminism etc.
    Again, why the fixation on external environment?
    If the brain is akin to a black box, it is enough that each interaction within it is unable to defy the universal laws, and by adhering to them there is no possibility that they can be anything other than they end up being (albeit with a touch of randomness).
    What we then consider freewill is then merely the appearance that the "decision" occurs within the black box. I'm not sure any proponents of the illusory freewill would dispute that. It is not a matter of where the freewill occurs, but the mechanism.
    This is why I think that CC and your parallel line, miss the point. You are not really addressing the mechanism but the location. And then some strawman about not being predetermined by external environment.
    It is the mechanism that, at least to the proponents of the illusory free will, is key: if the mechanism adheres to the laws (the actual laws as opposed to what we currently consider them to be, so as to avoid confusion) then the output, even if not determined (i.e. the laws may allow for indeterminacy / randomness), can not be altered from what it ends up being.
    That the "decision" occurs within the brain, and takes our internal environment (thoughts, memories, emotions etc) into account, does not alter this.

    So while your compatabilist view certainly seeks to provide an idea of "freewill" that focuses on where the decision is taken and what it takes into account, it does not address the key issue that us "illusion" proponents are making.
    Sure. The brain is the most complex thing we know of, and it is this complexity that gives rise to what we deem emotions, intelligence, freewill, consciousness etc.
    And in this we only address where the mechanism is located and not what the properties of the mechanism.
    But there can be rational positions taken based on what we do know. For example, we know - despite what others might have you believe - that nothing has ever been evidenced that defies the laws as we currently understand them. And if we consider the objective laws (i.e. the laws as they actually are, and not necessarily as we currently understand them) then nothing can defy them.
    If we accept this then we can rationally conclude that whatever is in the black box, whatever its actual mechanism, it does adhere to the laws.
    Again, noone is arguing that it is the external environment that is the cause. This has never been the argument put forward.
    And again you argue for the location of the mechanism being key, rather than the properties of the mechanism (once we ignore the strawman of the "external environment"

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    This seems to be where we differ.
  14. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    So other than complexity, is there anything else? You seem to think that emotions and feelings are within the scope (even if unlikely), so I'm confused how you seem to accept/conclude that it is a matter of complexity, but then not follow this through in your other arguments.
    So you don't think this creativity is merely a matter of complexity?
    You seem to have concluded / accepted previously that such things as sentience, emotions etc are just a matter of complexity.

    You seem to accept it one moment and then ignore it in your next argument.
  15. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    Perhaps your iggy is working really well and maybe someone else can mention it to you if they could be bothered.
    You have failed to address this point raised and choose to only argue, ignoring the refutation of your pseudo determinist views.
    You appear fixated on a failed line of argument.. why?
    Need I remind you that the thread title is:
    Freewill - A product of imagination.
    Have you got something to say about the imagination and freewill?

    Or are you going to ignore the topic of imagination completely?
  16. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    This is an interesting point and worth emphasizing IMO.
    It is after all the individual and not the "laws of physics" that is indeed making the decisions. [ aka "self" determination"]
  17. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    Noone here seems to be arguing from a strictly determinist viewpoint.
    But allow for randomness etc.
    Hence it is cause rather than determinism that is often more crucial.
    The important thing would be not whether the effect could have been different (an indeterministic universe would suggest it could have been), but whether the output can be selected.

    So noone here is arguing freewill vs determinism and to equate those who argue against a freewill as being arguing for determinism seems to be flawed.

    And as Sarkus has pointed out above, noone is arguing that actions are only driven by external environment.

    Those who consider freewill to be an illusion would all argue that the process leading to the appearance of freewill is almost entirely internal to the self.
    If this is the extent of what one considers to be "freewill" or "self-determination" - i.e. the location of the process, and where the majority of factors reside - then there is no argument, but it does not address the nature of the process.
    And the question of whether there is any actual "freedom" in the decisions reached.
    I.e. there is still an argument as to whether the decision itself is anything other than an illusion - i.e. could we really choose anything other than what we did.
    Whether the process predominantly uses internal factors or external is not of importance.
    Those of us who think freewill illusory are looking at the nature of the mechanism.
    Not its location, or the factors it takes into account (internal v external).
    Since if the mechanism follows the universal laws, of what significance is the input to the mechanism?
    Especially if the internal inputs are themselves merely products of processes following the same laws?
    Unless one intends to go down the argument of suggesting humans do not follow the universal laws?
    Perhaps you also think that standing up somehow defies the law of gravity?

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  18. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    I can only write what I wrote about Sarkus's line of argument.

    Perhaps your iggy is working really well and maybe someone else can mention it to you if they could be bothered.
    You have failed to address this point raised and choose to only argue, ignoring the refutation of your pseudo determinist views.
    You appear fixated on a failed line of argument.. why?
    Need I remind you that the thread title is:
    Freewill - A product of imagination.
    Have you got something to say about the imagination and freewill?

    Or are you going to ignore the topic of imagination completely?
  19. Beaconator Valued Senior Member

    I would give it another 5-10 years before that happens and our problem becomes mixing this world of emotion with the imagination of the universe. Freedom appears to me to be a sickness without proper controls.
  20. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    The free-will intuition seems to be something along the lines of 'I could have chosen differently if I had wanted to'. That 'if I had wanted to' seems to be perfectly consistent with assuming that the person wouldn't have chosen any differently than they actually did if their purposes and motivations weren't sufficiently different. So free-will seems entirely consistent with causation and even with causal determinism taking place inside the chooser's head. In their brain and nervous system in other words. Not only does free-will seem to be consistent with that kind of determinism, it presupposes it. It's what ties the person's actions together with his/her will, purpose and motivation and makes human action something different, more goal-directed and purposeful, than seizures that merely cause the body to jerk around.

    Free-will only seems to be threatened if we assume that the proximate determination occurring inside the person's head is in turn entirely determined by more spatio-temporally remote states of the universe and by the inexorable laws of physics. The free-will-is-an-illusion assumption has historically been that everything that happens in the universe, including all of a person's purposes and motivations inside their heads, has always been predetermined by the preexisting states of the universe and by the laws of physics.

    Since I'm arguing for compatibilism, I want them to agree with me. (Why in the world would I want them to disagree?) But why is it merely an appearance? Why is the word 'decision' in full quotes?

    Unless the person, whose decision process it is, wanted to do something different instead. In which case the causal process would have gone in a different direction, would have involved different internal goals, purposes and motivations, and people would probably be insisting that different path is the only way that things could have unfolded.

    It's necessary that whatever happens is what happens. But that doesn't mean that whatever happens necessarily had to happen. To reach that conclusion, we would need to add an additional deterministic assumption.

    That sounds like a statement of metaphysical faith to me. But that's neither here nor there, since I don't think that anything important rides on it.

    Ok, let's agree to that for the sake of argument. I generally agree with it myself, even if it is an item of metaphysical faith in my case.

    Ok, let's agree with that one too. I fully expect that whatever neuroscience eventually discovers in the 'black box' of the brain/mind, it will be entirely physicalistic.

    So if we agree that the rest of the universe along with the laws of physics aren't determining what human behavior must be, then what do you think is determining what it eventually is? If it's a person's own on-board decision process that's steering their behavior, however naturalistic and causal that process might be, I don't see why I should conclude that free will is just an illusion. The person is still behaving in accordance with his/her own goals, desires, purposes and motivations. He/she isn't being coerced.

    Maybe part of the difficulty here is that I (and perhaps CC as well) were addressing philosophy's long-standing free-will/determinism problem.

    And maybe some here are really arguing about a different question, about the existence or non-existence of supernatural souls. Perhaps 'free-will' is being collapsed together and identified with belief in the existence of souls. Which suggests that if somebody can successfully make an argument that what happens inside people's heads is entirely natural, entirely in keeping with and ultimately explainable by the principles of natural science, so that there aren't any ghostly supernatural influences reaching in and moving things around, then free-will must therefore be an illusion. Or something.

    It kind of looks that way to me, the way that people talk about causation somehow contradicting free-will (it arguably might, if people equate 'cause' with 'determine') while stoutly insisting that determinism has nothing to do with it.

    For the record, I don't believe in the existence of supernatural souls either. I hypothesize that our decision processes will turn out to be entirely physicalistic. But I do think that our free-will intuitions are a lot more than illusions, precisely because I think that they can successfully dodge the determinism difficulty. Souls have nothing to do with it.
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2014
  21. Dazz Registered Senior Member

    That is a really tough question you see. As a human, our comprehension can be as finite as it can be considered infinite. Due to one thing called subjectivity it can range from a prism of determinism to an eloquent dabbling in stoicism.
    We may have every single personal definition of "love" from every person on this planet. This would have given us a wide range of choices for us to partake in our own definition of "love" per example, still, we would still be opressed by the vices and malices of the human timespan and experience. In a lifetime we can't define life, what to say about its intricacies?
    I can say althought, that a machine, made by a mind that suffers from such quiddities, may have as much as it may not have, the ability to "imagine" the future, to back this up, i might mention the infinitude that the algorythms present us. Mathematics is a humane science, still, it has proven itself to be the thing that lets us take a glimpse at the infinitude.
    Imagine a number (can be any number you wish), per example 2.356.124, now, multiplicate this number by itself as many times as the number implies. Whenever we are able to build a machine that can make such an equation infinitely, we would have gazed into the infinite ourselves.
    But it seems to me that, whatever comes out of imperfection, is doomed to imperfection, as perfect as it may seem to be, it will still not be perfect because our sense of perfection implies imperfections, like "something is perfect even with its flaws" and so, by having flaws it is not perfect.
    Infinitude is just as perfection and as such, is unattainable to a human mind and, whatever is the outcome of an imperfect creator, is an imperfect creature.

    Defining anything that is concrete per example a chair, a chair is a concrete thing, much easier to define (not less likely althought to fall into the same pit), is a much easier task, when it is about an abstract thing, like an emotion, an idea, a thought, it falls short of completeness of meaning, whatever we may say, will always be lacking a full sense of the word. What is a thought per example? A thought is psychoneural reaction. Just that? Nope, it is also an expression of sentience. Is that it? No, it is also the start of a creative enterprise. And so on and so on. After all this has been said and understood, we will still be lacking a definite .. definition? Conclusion that is (as redundant as it is).
    And if we look in the dictionary
    Past tense and past participle of think .
    1. The act or process of thinking;
    2. A product of thinking. See Synonyms
    at idea.
    3. The faculty of thinking or reasoning.
    4. The intellectual activity or production
    of a particular time or group: ancient
    Greek thought; deconstructionist
    5. Consideration; attention: didn't give
    much thought to what she said.
    a. Intention; purpose: There was
    no thought of coming home early.
    b. Expectation or conception: She
    had no thought that anything was
    That is what gets closer as to how a machine would define thought per example. Add this to all that the human experience might conceive as for the definition of "thought" and we still will be lacking the cheesiest elaborations of the word made by hippies, poets and philosophers alike.
  22. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    I once, years ago, did an exercise [ I had some time to kill and the idea amused me at the time. ]

    I took the word LOVE and found a dictionary that defined it. [Only took the first definition]

    Google definition: LOVE
    1. a strong feeling of affection.

    I then sought to define the individual elements of definition.
    1. "a" = "used when mentioning someone or something for the first time in a text or conversation."
    2. "Strong" = "having the power to move heavy weights or perform other physically demanding tasks."
    3. "feeling" = "an emotional state or reaction."
    4. "of" = "expressing the relationship between a part and a whole:"
    5. "affection" = "a gentle feeling of fondness or liking."

    I then went on to define the definitions of the definition
    1] "a" =>
    "used" =
    "when" =
    "mentioning" =
    and so on...

    2] "Strong" =>
    "having" =
    "the" =
    "power" =
    and so on...

    and then did the same again and again and again.. until I finally got bored and arrived at the pseudo end result by finding a common "descriptive" denominator, that determined that the actual definition of the word LOVE after defining all the definitions was simply:

    "Love" = "thing"

    An aside: Which reminded me of that song
    "A crazy thing called love" by Queen - Freddie Mercury 1979

    Imagines complex machines organic or not, attempting to sing this song and know or comprehend the meaning of it... [chuckle]

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    and all this proved to me, in relevance to this thread, is that language and the choices we make and decisions we take regarding it's usage are pure fiction.

    So a machine no matter how complex could be claimed to never be able to define the word LOVE nor apply it accordingly with out resorting to the fiction that is programmed into it...a fiction that has no end [infinite]
    and to decide what it means and choose how to use the word is even more impossible.
  23. Dazz Registered Senior Member

    Well, i have nothing else to add so far

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