Free Will: An attempt to make sense of it.

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Techne, Sep 28, 2011.

  1. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    I don't know it. I have reasoned it, and it seems the most rational explanation. That is as far as I can push it on my understanding.
    Knowledge of it, though, is something else.

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  3. Emil Valued Senior Member

    I'm back.
    For me it is a matter of theory vs. practice or principles vs. action (behavior).

    If there is no free will then it is useless the legal system.
    It is also unnecessary the authority. There is no anarchy because everything is predetermined.

    But I am against anarchy and I'm for the rule of law. In such condition, if I say that there is free will then I am illogical but if I say that there is no free will, then I am dishonest.
    I prefer to be illogical.

    Also evidence, senses, instincts say there is free will. Logic says there is no free will.
    But my logic cannot be wrong? That which I cannot explain logically means there is no?
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  5. Arkonos Registered Senior Member

    I'm super glad you said this, I sometimes find it hard to combat stupidity all on my own.
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  7. ughaibu Registered Senior Member

    This is quite unsatisfactory and contrary to usage. Willed actions are intended, voluntary actions, they are volitional. Desires needn't be willed, as one's willed actions are actions which have been assessed as preferable, and as this assessment requires an evaluation system which includes desires, desires are pre-will.
    Free will requires at least the following three things:
    1) a finite set of realisable options
    2) an agent to consciously select from the option set
    3) a means by which the agent can evaluate the options relative to each other.
    From the above considerations it is clear that Srawson-type objections to free will, on the lines that the agent has no free will because they dont choose their desires or their identity, have no force.
    A simple and comprehensive definition of free will is that an agent has free will on any occasion when that agent makes and enacts a conscious choice from amongst realisable alternatives.
  8. arfa brane call me arf Valued Senior Member

    There's always the same kind of problem with discussions like this one: that humans have a sense of freedom of action which is kind of multi-layered.
    But the question of whether free will is real or not appears to hinge on whether the universe is deterministic or not.

    Apart from the physical reality, we accept that people are responsible for their actions. But responsibility also has a legal meaning, and laws assume things like freedom of will, for instance, to bring a suit against a third party or not. Laws exist for social reasons which are much more complex as "problems" than whether the universe is or isn't deterministic.

    Since we may not be able to tell (ever) if the universe is or isn't deterministic, we can believe that free will exists because we can't tell otherwise. That's ok with me, and I'm probably crazy.
  9. Pineal Banned Banned

    I think we can have a deterministic universe - with a kind of exception - and free will. In a multi-verse, the universes are always branching off, non-deterministically - since QM, much to Einstein's consternation is indeterministic or probabilistic - so the self can choose which branch to follow at each bifurcation. Within each branch there is determinism.
  10. SciWriter Valued Senior Member

    Based on one's self, as it is?
  11. wellwisher Banned Banned

    The underlying foundation for free is human subjectivity. Instincts are an objective standard by which animals react to their environment in a cause and effect way. Free will allows humans to depart from the objective order of instinct, for better or worse.

    One way to understand how free will stemmed from subjectivity, is to look at an emotional valence, which is a complex biochemical signal that one can feel and become conscious of. For example, we all can appreciate beauty based on a complex mixture of feelings and body sensations that beauty will induce. When you see beauty, there is a certain emotional and physical sensation; emotional valance.

    Although the emotional valence of that beauty feeling is common to all humans, the sensory input or mental image that induces this common feeling is very diverse. We can a lll agree there is beauty out there, based on the feeling induced, but each will pick something different. One person may think tall is beautiful and another short. Some like tanned other like not tanned, etc. The cerebral and sensory placeholder is diverse but the emotional valence is very much uniform. The emotional valence, in turn, is a based on a complex blend of bio-chemicals within the blood and brain, as well as sensory cortex feedback.

    With humans, these bio-chemical blends and emotional valence are uniform. However, when this chemical blend is in the human brain, it can induce a wide variety of cerebral inductions. For example, musicians often write about that collective human feelings called love. They think about love to trigger the chemical blend and emotional valence. This collective chemical blend is able to induce endless variation of cerebral output; music from the heart. This is called emotional thinking, where a feeling (complex chemical blend) can trigger cerebral activity and output diversity.

    Emotional thinking is the original foundation for free will, since the same emotional valance, by leading to diverse output, sort of optimizes a wide range of people differently; each sees beauty differently. There is no longer any uniform objective choice, such as instinct. The particular choice of an individual may be objective to themselves, creating sort of their own personal instinct from which that sense of self called the ego would appear.

    Early free will was sort of an illusion in the sense that each person was being objective to their own biochemical thalamus-cerebral inductions; emotional thinking and firmware dynamics. Since this personal objectivity would often deviate from the learned and conditioned choices of the group, a person would appear to have free choice apart from the herd. For example, someone might like bugs due to their emotional thought loop. To others the same loop triggers different output. This choice to like bugs looks like free will to the other person; magic.

    With the development of objectivity, the diversity of personal and human choices stemming from emotional thinking could be weighed in terms of rational optimizations, thereby creating a more reality version of free will in terms of an objective standard common to all instead of one.

    I often make use of the dynamics of emotional thinking to generate ideas. I focus to get various chemical blends going in the brain. These blends will trigger spontaneous thought via cerebral firing and thalamus-cerebral loops. The output diversify allows me to be different while also generating new ideas. The negativity that is often triggered in some (he is a witch) will change the emotional chemical blend to more defensive chemicals. This triggers different output, unless I am able to restore the blend that I need for the task. Having the free will to generate the biochemical triggers makes it easy for me to observe and report how emotional thinking works.
  12. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    "Probabilistic" still does not allow for "choice" within the process unless you introduce something outside the operation of the rest of the process with which to make that choice.
    Otherwise it is merely randomness within the probability function. And randomness does not equal "choice".

    So unfortunately your line of thinking seems to be a non-sequitur.

    Random is but one type of indeterministic process, so "indeterminism" may allow for "choice" - but then you would need to explain the process, and show how it is not deterministic or random.

    Just to say that "the universe may be indeterministic... therefore allow choice" is merely a statement of possibility - the same way that it is possible that an invisible pink elephant roams the outer realms of our galaxy, eating all the aliens it can find that would otherwise invade our planet.
  13. Pineal Banned Banned

    I disagree.
    I cannot explain a mechanism that is likely not a mechanism, but that was not my intent. I was specificially responding to the idea that one had to go against determinism in order to have free will. By interpreting quantum probability in a multiverse context, each universe is deterministic, but there still could remain a kind of freedom of choosing lines, each lined being determined.

    You read my post as a full bloomed theory of what that freedom would be. That was not what it was. It was showing how what turn out to be local determinisms can - which is the precise verb I used - be a part of something that has room for freedom.

    I do think there is an irony in expecting freedom to be explainable, given that in a sense it is a lack of mechanism, a gap in causal chains or lack thereof and most of our explanations use terms based on cause and mechanisms.

    I actually think what I wrote is rather clever, this idea of freely choosing between determined lines. I realize this is not a fully conceived hypothesis for what free will is, but nevertheless interesting as a possibility way the possibility of free will need not be ruled out by (local) determinism.

    The section I bolded above is not something I asserted. In fact it seems like QM says the universe IS NOT deterministic. Further, what you state as my argument is not my argument there, in fact I end up arguing that each universe, in the multiverse is deterministic.

    And that last making it sound silly - with the elephant - is just unnecessary and misses the point, since it was clear, via my verb use, that I was specifically speaking about possibilities. Pointing out that perhaps something is NOT ruled out by (local) determinism.

    Rasing a possibility IS a useful idea when it is countering what is posited as an impossiblity or necessary limit. In that context it is not silly at all.
  14. ughaibu Registered Senior Member

    No, there is no requirement to explain the process. Observation precedes explanation, so, demonstrations of freely willed actions stand as facts. Whether facts can be explained or not, they remain facts.
    Also, you need to distinguish two different notions of randomness. A determined world is, in principle, fully describable mathematically, no feature of such a world is mathematically random. But mathematical randomness doesn't conflict with free will, the kind of randomness that conflicts with free will is better characterised as lack of control. To make this clearer; for each word in this post, assign a zero if that word has an even number of letters and a one if it has an odd number. Preserving the order, concatenate and append to "0.", this generates the prefix of a real number. The probability of the further expansion of this number, as continued in my subsequent posts, being computable, is zero, it is mathematically random, but I have written what I intended to write, my actions weren't random in any sense which threatens free will.
    If you want an explanation of free will, you will need to be clear about what manner of set of statements you're looking for. As far as I'm aware, answers to how-questions take the form of algorithms which are either purely deterministic or appeal to probability, but freely willed behaviour is neither determined nor a matter of chance, so it seems, on the face of it, that no explanation is possible.
  15. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    But each universe is NOT deterministic. i.e. if you rewound events and replayed them, QM suggests that things would turn out differently. i.e. not deterministic.

    Further, if every possible scenario exists in one of the many multiverses, then how does that allow for "freedom" - given that every option is taken somewhere. There is still no choice.

    And I disagree with it, regardless of intent.

    Now you're just blowing smoke... the "it's mysterious" card to cover up shortfalls in the concept.
    If you want to believe that we have genuine free-will that is more than just an emergent property of our consciousness, sure, that's your right.
    If you want to believe there is something that goes counter to the laws of physics as we currently understand them, that is your right.

    Every concept of genuine free-will requires the choice to be made by someone/thing that sits outside the process that gives rise to the options.
    E.g. process A selects from the options created within process B. In such a scenario the choice is "free" from influences within process B. So those within process B can say that the choice was "free".
    So our consciousness would be able to act with genuine free-will if it operates outside the rest of the workings of the physical universe.
    If consciousness is part and parcel of the physical universe then it is process A selecting from options within process A - and this selection process is caught by all the influence and cause/effect of the rest of it.

    I think it is not clever, as you miss the rather key aspects of what does the choosing, where it resides (if not within those determined lines), and that if all options exist somewhere then how is anything free?

    You do know that "can" is not a verb that suggests probability at all, but it suggests ability.
    "Can you do this?" - Yes, I can.

    Perhaps you meant to use the word "might" - which does suggest the probability you are after. "Can you do this?" - I might be able to.
  16. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Sure - but the issue is that we don't know if the observation is "of freely willed actions" or of actions driven entirely by unwilled mechanisms.
    To immediately assume the observation is as you have interpreted it is fact is question begging.

    So, again, one would need to explain why their interpretation of the observation is "of freely willed actions".
    No one disputes the observation - just the interpretation.

    Or would you have us believe in magic as well? After all, magicians clearly pull things out of thin air. That's the observation, and my interpretation of "it's done by magic" is (according to your line of thinking) fact. And according to you I don't even need to explain how it is done for it to remain a fact!

    Not really, as long as it is understood that randomness does not in and of itself allow free-will.
    Is this your cry of "it's magic!"

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    You still need to show that the interpretation of magic "freely willed" is correct, and the fact that you seem to think it is. And to do that you would surely need to show that it can not be explained through any other mechanism.
  17. ughaibu Registered Senior Member

    Definition: an agent has free will on any occasion when that agent makes a conscious choice from amongst realisable alternatives.
    The following are essential principles of science:
    1) general induction; all things being equal, things are as they were and will be as they are
    2) experimental repeatability; all things being equal, a researcher can repeat an experimental procedure
    3) fact is the ultimate arbiter; in any clash between theory and observation, theory is refuted.
    I am presently conscious, you'll need to take my word for that, or you can perform this demonstration yourself.
    I can type 01 and I can type 10. In conjunction with principles 1 and 2, I have hereby established a set of realisable options.
    Definition: a choice is the construction of a single element proper subset of an option set.
    Definition: a conscious choice requires that the agent imagine a set of futures, one for each member of the option set. The agent evaluates these possible futures against each other, selects an element from the option set, constructs the choice set and performs the action indicated by the element of the choice set.
    I have constructed my choice set and I type 01.

    This is a straightforward demonstration of a conscious choice from amongst realisable alternatives, an act of free will. Free will deniers are committed to the rejection of at least one of the essential principles of science employed.
  18. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Your definition is adequate if you only wish to assess free-will from a conscious perspective... i.e. what our consciousness understands. But it speaks nothing to whether what we are interpreting as "choice" or "realisable alternatives" are illusory or not.
    And your definition can not.
    It is therefore inadequate.

    This inadequacy shows itself in your attempt to assess what is a "realisable alternative"... and you deem them to be what your consciousness can conceptualise about possible future outcomes... you can select X or Y.
    But this is a conscious conceptualisation, and our consciousness is not capable of determining whether we genuinely are able to select X or Y.

    Yes, you could type 01 or 10, but could you really, at the given moment you typed 01 have instead typed 10? You would do rather well to demonstrate that under the exact same conditions you would have been able to do differently, or that any difference is not driven merely by randomness (with no conscious input).
    And by the "same conditions" I genuinely do mean every atom in exactly the same place, all energies in exactly the same place, such is the complexity of the interaction between things, and the effect of chaos within the system.

    So unfortunately you have demonstrated nothing, and shown nothing other than how you, like most other people, merely look at free-will as a conscious interpretation of a pattern of activity - yet do not look at what drives that activity.

    You see magic and say "magic exists!" - which it does do if you define Magic as activity that appears to defy the laws of physics.
    The word "appears" thus negates the need to actually look at what does go on and enables "Magic" to exist in the world.
    But given that we do know what goes on... the underlying activity... we can see that there is no defiance of physics etc... and that Magic is illusory.
    But it still exists if you define it as "activity that appears to defy the laws of physics."

    Likewise free-will, when defined along the lines of: "an agent has free will on any occasion when that agent makes a conscious choice from amongst realisable alternatives" removes itself from the need to look at what goes on at the underlying levels of activity. It limits itself to the conscious perception (of what causes the selection, and of what gives rise to our conscious assessment of what is a realisable alternative).

    Free-will deniers are not denying the existence of free-will at the conscious level... we see options, we make a choice.
    What free-will deniers are doing is looking at the underlying activity and saying: what our consciousness actually perceives is illusory. The illusion exists but is somewhat different to our perception of it.

    It is precisely because they do not reject any principle of science that they reach this conclusion at this time.
  19. wellwisher Banned Banned

    There is a difference between will power and free will. Free will contains the word "free" , because it is a special limiting case of will power, where any willful choice have no cost, allowing one to freely choose between alternatives. Will can make the same choices as free will, but there will often be a price to pay for some choices. Therefore this is not free will.

    For example, if there was chocolate and vanilla cake on the table, I have the will to choose either. If I prefer chocolate over the vanilla, choosing vanilla would mean there is a price for this choice, which is this cases is less satisfaction. Free will would have no such price, since either choice would feel the same way; no loss or no gain.

    Will power often has a price. Having will power means one is able to over the potential associated with the choice, so we can willfully make that choice. We can use will to eat bugs. But to do so, you need to overcome an inner resistance because this is grouse. With free will, there is no cost, or no need to overcome any potential. The choice is free and easy, without price or cost.

    Will power only requires we know how to overcome any unconscious bias or resistance and then be able to handle the cost of the choice. Free will takes this even further by neutralizing all the unconscious bias and resistance so there is no potential or cost.
  20. ughaibu Registered Senior Member

    1) my definition is standard.
    2) all understanding is conscious or arrived at consciously.
    1) the question is whether or not there was a truth about which I would choose before I decided, not about the moment that I typed my choice.
    2) unless we reject the principle of experimental repeatability, yes, of course I could choose either.
    3) science rejects the notion of magic, nothing magically interferes to prevent me from repeating either procedure.
    1) whether I would do the same or different says exactly nothing about whether or not my action was freely willed.
    2) this "objection" is usually stated in terms of winding back time, as such it smuggles in an assumption of determinism.
    3) in short, it's a pseudo-objection and negligible.
    1) if this were a genuine requirement, there would be no scientific repeatability.
    2) you appear to be attempting the fallacy of special pleading, the principles involved are essential to science, end of story.
    1) I have demonstrated what I set out to do.
    2) further considerations are metaphysical, the denier has recourse to those, but as this demonstration establishes, the denier loses recourse to science.
    1) this is covered by the third principle.
    1) their conclusion, in that case, refutes itself by reductio ad absurdum.
    2) free will denial is irrational and irrational views, by their very nature, are rarely abandoned by those who hold them.
  21. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    The standard definition limits itself to conscious perceptions of patterns of activity, yet speaks nothing of the interactions of those perceptions.
    If you wish, for the sake of philosophical discussion, to limit yourself to that definition, then yes, free-will exists.
    No denier of free-will would say otherwise.

    Yet you fail to demonstrate that at that precise moment there truly was "realisable alternatives". Saying that they were, and limiting their identification to what one consciously perceives merely makes the case for the limitation of your definition of free-will.
    When one is discussing notions of cause/effect at the microscopic level and the interactions thereof, your claim of there being experimental repeatability at a gross level to support your stance is irrelevant.
    Provide it at the level that is relevant, and then you may have more than your confidence to support your position.
    Other than the ability to reverse entropy? Or perhaps just the ability to put all your synapses at the same position they were, not to mention even just your physical position.
    It does not smuggle in an assumption of determinism. It merely highlights how difficult (possibly impossible) it is to prove that you could have made a different choice to the one you made.
    You can state that you could have made a different choice, yet the circumstances are no longer the same.
    You thus limit yourself again to free-will being nothing more than a conscious perception of activity, yet your understanding can say nothing about whether that activity is determined or not, free or not... simply because your understanding does not look beneath the bonnet.

    Scientific repeatability is always with respect to what is being tested.
    Any process that claims not to be deterministic or random must be able to show that given exactly the same starting conditions then different outcomes can emerge, and that those differences are not random. It must be able to repeat the same experiment under the same initial conditions. And when you are talking about a mechanism that operates at the microscopic/quantum level (or possibly smaller, should such be revealed) then due to potential chaos within the system one would need to run experiments that have the same starting conditions at that same level.

    Yet you do nothing but fail to identify the limitation of your view of free-will, and then cry foul when it is pointed out to you.
    There is no special pleading.
    There is merely a pointing out of the limitation of a view of free-will that caps itself to conscious perception of activity yet fails to look at the underlying activity.

    You have demonstrated that your view of free-will limits itself, and as such you will claim free-will to exist, as will anyone who similarly limits themself.
    There has been no such demonstration, and you have failed to show how the denier loses recourse to science.
    All that has been demonstrated by you is that you limit yourself to a view of freewill that caps itself at conscious perception of activity rather than at the underlying activity itself.

    So you assume your interpretation of observations is factual, and so you believe in magic. That's cool.
    How so? They have studied interactions of the microscopic and they can see randomness within probability functions. There is no will, nor freedom.
    Unless you propose that consciousness somehow exists outside of this mechanism then consciousness itself is driven by the same (i.e. no freedom).

    As they say, you think you have free-will because you have no choice but to think that.

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    Noone denies free-will exists as you have defined it... i.e. at the conscious perception... and if you wish to limit yourself to that view then do so.
    Free-will deniers do so because they look at the underlying activity and see nothing free about it.
    And if one holds that we are nothing more than a complexity of those underlying interactions then it stands to reason that any conscious perception of freedom is illusory.

    - If you wish to argue that it is irrational to hold that the underlying activity (e.g. interaction between molecules, atoms, quarks etc) has no freedom then please do so.
    - If you wish to argue that it is irrational to hold that we are merely a complexity of those interactions, then please do so.
    - If you wish to argue that it is irrational to hold both the previous positions yet still hold that we are "free" at any level other than a conscious perception, then please do so.

    At present you haven't, and so to consider free-will denial as irrational merely demonstrates that you do not understand their position. It may be irrational to you, but demonstrate that you understand their position before making such a generalisation.
  22. ughaibu Registered Senior Member

    1) all deniers deny free will as defined.
    2) determinists deny that there are realisable alternatives.
    3) Wegner, et al, deny that there is conscious choice.
    4) anyone denying free will under and only under some other definition, doesn't understand the issue and is playing with a straw man.
  23. SciWriter Valued Senior Member

    The will is dynamic, meaning ever changing, but it would still be fixed at the moment of 'choice', having a basis in the brain. It's one of those things that has to be, although it still doesn't sit well.

    If there is such a thing as 'random' and quantum randomness enters in somehow, like when there is no clear choice among what's know, or when nothing is known, but a choice still had to be made, then this defeats repeatability, but it is not in any way what we would call 'free'—and independent and useful mini first cause. And, surely, the will's determination suddenly fits real fine when one considers its opposite, that of all decisions depending on nothing (random) at all—undetermined.

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