The illusion of free will

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by barcelonic, Feb 12, 2014.

  1. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    That's ok. I'm going to back out of my conversation with Sarkus for now to allow others here to take place. I didn't mean to dominate your thread like this. Note this is totally an act of freewill on my part.

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  3. barcelonic Registered Senior Member

    No thats fine -- Sarkus & I share the same position on this anyways, tis better to have folk on both sides
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  5. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    I know they're not the same. My point is that they are not mutually exclusive: a system subject to randomness may or may not also be chaotic. You seemed to be suggesting that a chaotic system being indterminate ruled out it also being so due to randomness.
    Not proof - just logical conclusion from the assumptions stated (which can not be "proven"). If the assumptions are incorrect, fair enough - just suggest why they are incorrect. But if you hold to the assumptions and disagree with the conclusion, show where the line of argument is flawed.
    Why would the generation of freewill be "for no reason at all"?
    What if it is merely an aspect of self-awareness? After all, to be self aware but not have a conscious notion of the ability to choose would lead us to consider ourselves mere passengers in a shell.
    No, it is jumping to a massive unwarranted conclusion to think that the idea that is an illusion suggests that our brain creates the illusion "for no reason at all".
    It may not in and of itself. But if it is an aspect of consciousness, or at least of self-awareness, then it is part and parcel of the same advantage that that offers. And I do think it that is a necessary aspect of self-awareness, otherwise we would be aware of having no control - which would be a prison-sentence. Possibly to avoid us going insane, but to retain the advantage of self-awareness, it developed this overriding illusion.
    But this is neither here nor there, as you are arguing from conclusion, rather than following the logic from the assumptions.
    That it is an illusion follows from the assumptions given. It is demonstrated in the same manner as anyone who claims it is genuine would see it demonstrated.
    The "reality" is logically only if you define freewill to already build its applicability, its nature, to that which is perceived. I.e. as soon as you say that freewill is evidenced through our ability to make a choice, or some such, you limit the definition of freewill as only that which it appears to be. And thus holds whether it is illusory or not.
    It's just a matter of following the assumptions through to their conclusion: the assumptions being that the universe is probabilistically deterministic, and that cause and effect hold other than for uncaused but random events.
    It's not a matter of "hand wave away". Whether it is an illusion or not, it operates at the conscious level in exactly the same way. This is inescapable. All illusion means is that how it operates at the lower levels is not how it consciously appears. That is all it is. It in no way diminishes how we consciously perceive it, because we can do no different than perceive it as we do.
    Sure - and throughout, from the first post onward, I have stated that the key aspect is how one defines freewill. If one defines freewill differently then of course one can come to a different conclusion.
    No, this is not the case.
    In a deterministic world a chaotic system is inherently predictable IF the measurement is accurate.
    The indeterminism in such systems arise from our inability to measure accurately.
    This is a very different matter from true indeterminism arising from a deterministic process.
    As Lorenz is oft quoted as summarizing: "Chaos: When the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future."
    ONLY if one defines the mirage as being what it is perceived to be.
    If one defines the mirage as akin to "the bending of lightwaves to produce a displaced image..." then it is very real.
    As such the mirage is REAL but it is an ILLUSION of water.
    It can be both an illusion AND real - depending on what one defines it to be.
    So the lightwaves aren't real? The pattern of activity is not real? Are the lightwaves an illusion? Is the pattern of activity of those lightwaves themselves an illusion?
    Or is the illusory nature of mirages ONLY applicable when interpreted by our consciousness, and we perceive something (e.g. the water) that is not actually there?
    Then you accept that magicians really are pulling rabbits out of thin air? That is how the consciousness perceives it, after all.
    Because your denial and your subsequent arguments don't match, in so far as I have defined the definition of freewill that I consider to be illusory. As said, if you define freewill differently then (a) you are taking my arguments out of context; (b) you will probably/possibly come to a different conclusion.
    None of the quote counters anything I have said, given that it allows for exactly the state of intederminacy that is advocated, albeit specifically random in origin. I have never advocated strict determinism throughout any of this discussion, but have always allowed for such indeterminism.
    This is captured within the output adhering to a probability function: the direction of a horse is not entirely random but governed by a probability function, with that function determined by the infinite inputs.
    It is not illusory in the regard that it appears to act according to its appearance... but that again just builds "appearance" into the definition. It seems you are misunderstanding, throughout, what is meant by "illusory".
    Eh? An illusion exists whenever we perceive something to be dfferent than how it actually does, due to the way our brain operates (rather than through misunderstanding etc). I have never said it is real in itself. What you are looking at exists; what you perceive is an interpretation of that thing and differs to the reality of that thing.
    E.g. A magician performs illusions: we perceive things to disappear, because the reality of what is happening is hidden from us.
    No, in an otherwise deterministic universe (i.e. not including randomness) it's due to inability to accurately measure.
    But it will do according to its probability function. That is why a die does not turn into an elephant, but instead rolls onto a side to reveal a 1-6, with a probability function that (usually) gives each face an equal chance of occurring.
    It's shown from taking the assumptions and following them through logically. That you don't see it seems to be the definition of freewill you work from (or possibly what you consider to be illusion) - despite saying initially that one's conclusion depends on definition of freewill that one is working with.
    If you start with a different definition, don't then argue that what I say is flawed when it might not be applicable to your own definition.
    And this is merely probabilistic determinism (i.e. x could cause y, z, a, b, c or any other outcome and do so in accordance with its probability function).
    Yet this type of indeterminism does not allow for the freewill that my argument suggests is nothing but an illusion.
    Indeed, but they are also initially caused by the bottom up process, even if only until the first feedback occurs and becomes the dominant influence on the overall system.
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  7. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    At least that is how you consciously perceive the situation!

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    I've only just seen this, but I will withdraw as well - although feel free to respond to the post I just made... wouldn't want you to feel I was deliberately stealing the last word.
    I think the two of us have rehashed old ground on the matter, although it's good to see new arguments as well since last time, even if I think my position still holds against this new input. (Yes, I'm that arrogant!!

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  8. Gage Registered Senior Member

    Except Ha Ha I was right!

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

    Is it worth to interject and throw "the constant pursuit and maintenance" of "freedom" on the table and how this relates to the "ideal" of achieving freewill that IMO certainly exists but is typically unattainable by man due to egoistic competition and conditioning?
  10. elte Valued Senior Member

    The concept of free will is largely a remnant of past religious times when people were believed to have supernatural souls that were the essence of their individual beings.

    At any tiny slice of time and particular location, the configuration of the universe will proceed to the next tiny slice of time according to the laws of the universe at that time and place. The configuration in question includes the precise location of every physical particle (quarks, neutrinos, photons, bosons, etc.) So, if these conditions could be precisely saved for a later time, and if they were to be reestablished at such a time, the behavior of the person would be identical to what would have occurred earlier.
  11. Quantum Quack Life's a tease... Valued Senior Member

    It is funny [strange] that you should refer to this particular belief, as if it is in the minority today.
    The belief in freewill and the soul is probably held by about 6 to 7 billion of the 8 billion people on this planet. Certainly a vast majority.
  12. elte Valued Senior Member

    I think the trend will be away from that if knowledge can continue to advance. One could consider that most of the people in the world don't have an advanced education in science.
  13. barcelonic Registered Senior Member

    Indeed, and it's also worth remembering the other 'vast majority' which is people who believe in gods, angels, afterlife, reincarnation and a whole host of other supernatural stuff. Apparently 50 million elvis fans can be wrong

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    Last edited: Feb 16, 2014
  14. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I don't believe in the existence of souls. But I do believe in the existence of free-will.

    By 'free-will' I don't mean immunity from causation and I certainly don't mean randomness. I use the phrase 'free-will' to refer to choices that are the result of my own internal decision processes, and not imposed on me from outside.

    I'm not convinced that's true. Specifically, I'm not convinced that all the micro-scale stuff (the quarks, neutrinos, photons, bosons etc.) have all of their physical variables precisely defined at all times. Seemingly some of what's happening down at that scale is probabilistic. (Assuming that hidden-variables theories aren't correct.) If the probabilistic interpretations are in fact correct, then even if we reran a scenario with every variable as identical as physically possible, the result still might not be precisely the same.

    I don't really want to argue that the behavior of the human brain is essentially quantum-mechanical, though there are some who do make that argument. (All that would seemingly do is add an element of randomness.) But I think that I do want to argue that the present state of the universe, and everything that's presently happening in it, wasn't precisely predetermined in all of its details at the initial big-bang. I speculate that there's an element of unpredictability and novelty inherent in how the universe evolves.

    So I'm inclined to think that what happens around me and my decisions in response to those events weren't always fated from the very beginning to occur in precisely that way. It's more of an organic data-processing system's ad-hoc real-time response to novel events.

    In other words, what I'm opposing my idea of free-will against isn't determinism so much as it's fatalism.
  15. barcelonic Registered Senior Member

    May we talk about those "internal decision processes"?

    Reasonably speaking, at any time in our lives we always have an infinite number of options. So when you decide to do something are you considering every one or do only a few come to mind?
    If only a few appear in your consciousness then did you select which ideas appeared there?

    If I asked you now to think of a random word and type it, which would you select? Let us say you thought of 'apple' but several flashed through your consciousness and let's say they were 'chair', 'hospital' and 'ice'.
    No doubt you selected 'apple' rather quickly.

    So in this example, would you say that you vetted every one of the words you've learned in your lifetime and 'pre-approved' those four words for selection? And if you didn't, then who did?

    I can understand that you believe you would have selected apple of your own volition but is it such a stretch to concede that all five decisions were beholden to the same laws of decision-making?

    I'd be keen to hear how you approach this, thanks

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

    ahh you beat me to it... great!

    yes if you believe in "infinity" then free will is an obvious outcome.
    If you were cognizant of infinite opportunity then you would have infinite choice.
    If you have infinite choice and apply a finite set of conditions [ your subconscious, dreams, loves and attachments ] then you are choosing to not have freewill. [self oppression]
    Ultimately this leads to the notion that freewill in practice is utter insanity.
    [ as no preconditions are being applied and everything you choose is impulsive and a state of improvisation ]
    You listen to the worlds best Jazz players and how they improvise and even in the most extreme cases, deliberate preconditioning is present. [ if not the player will not be able to play and stand mute]

    A good test for this is "word dis-association" instead of word association.
    [which btw is a great way of broadening the inherent conditioning]

    Think of a word that is least associated/related and you becomes more aware of that conditioning.
  17. barcelonic Registered Senior Member

    Ye jazz is a good example because with jazz people tend to judge how good or bad it is based on how much it deviates from what we're expecting to hear.
  18. Undefined Banned Banned

    Hi everyone.

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    I have a few minutes before leaving for Sydney, so....

    Many more years ago that I care to recall, I posed a simple scenario which demonstrated quite clearly and straightforwardly that the human brain-mind intellect DOES possess and exercise FREE WILL at every turn, whether consciously/deliberately OR sub-consciously/unwittingly.

    The simplest exercise, that removes all the unnecessary extraneous overlays and complications from considerations, is as follows, and one which you can perform for yourself:

    Pre-decide that you will toss a coin to see whether you turn right or left at the next t-junction. Further pre-decide that you will turn left if tails and right if heads. Proceed.

    After a few instances of that procedure. You further pre-decide that NEXT instance you will do the opposite of what the coin-ross tells you to do (based on the prior pre-decision of tails-left, heads-right). Proceed.

    After a few instances of that 'wilfull contrariness' reversal of the initial coin-toss conditions/results/choices/turns taken, you NOW decide that you will STOP AND TURN BACK and whence you came no matter what the coin toss says. Proceed.

    See? You have the power to pre-decide where YOU will be going, and what YOUR COMPONENT/IMMEDIATE SURROUNDING components of overall the universal re-arrangement of matter-energy will be from moment to moment (coin toss to coin toss).

    You have pre-decided the choices. You have pre-decided the adherence or contrariness of your responses to the coin tosses in the different pre-decided choice OPTION CHANGES you have created for yourself WILFULLY, without any external predeterminism coming into play at all in the initial conception of the exercise, the running of it and the changes made and the universal effects of it according to YOUR free will actions/decisions and nothing else (assuming you didn't accidently abort the exercise by crashing your car and killing yourself and so re-arranging the overall universal energy-space content in a more messy way that you intended!

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    All else is philosophical overlay on a simple and readily objective observable of humans having free will. Some are more/less 'susceptible' to suggestion/stimuli than others. So will exhibit more/less level of free will thought/word/action than others. This is especially observable during early childhood before the (healthy more matured) brain-mind construct had developed the variously useful exercise of controls over its subconscious and conscious life and the free will and responsibilities/needs for its survival produce the behaviour according to the environment/circumstances it finds itself in, and which may affect the degrees of freedom which the individual may have open to it to express from time to time and situation to situation.

    Sorry, taxi's here. Gotta go. Interesting discussion. Enjoy your further discussion. Cheers.

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


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    hee he

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

    I believe Archimedes may have pondered this one:
    "If you have a universe that is infinite in size any point you choose will be it's center."
    It is only when the universe is deemed finite that only one point is a center.

    Ahh...Such is the nature of human egos; to apply conditions and finite-ness [self-oppression] to ensure that they are the center of their own universe. [heliocentricity]
  21. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    This is indeed ample evidence of the appearance of freewill, whether it is deemed genuine (appearance = reality) or illusory.
    Here you are defining freewill as how it appears, and thus it can be nothing but real according to your definition.

    But at the level below appearance, there is the question of what caused you to select X or Y.
    What caused you to perform the exercise, to decide to do it, to read this forum, to open your browser etc.

    Your experiment only goes back as far as how it appears to us, and at that level no one can dispute that freewill as defined in that way is real.
  22. elte Valued Senior Member

    Yeah we disagree, seeing that I don't believe we are really free agents that can will changes that override what is going to happen. The ultimately predictable (but not to us now, at least, anyway) nature of the universe isn't predetermined as a divine plan, but as a chain of causation occurring through infinitesimally small time slices, going back who? knows how far.

    I think randomness is an illusion, too. The probabilism we think is there appears so because there are too many variables for us to know about or comprehend. Likewise, the really incomprehensibly detailed intricacy of our brains, and everything in the universe acting on them, is involved in the illusion of freewill. I'm not surprised that the human brain has been called the most complex thing in the universe.

    If every single aspect involved in dice rolling could be accounted for and analyzed correctly, then we could always determine the outcome. The probabilistic appearance of some situations isn't because of the nature of the universe having that property at times (apparently), it's because of our inability to successfully eliminate our own uncertainty of all that is happening. I think it was cool how you brought up probabilism along with freewill, since I see similarities between them.
  23. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Do you not think randomness is inherent even at the quantum level, albeit within constraints of a probability function?
    I know Einstein didn't believe in it, as he held there were merely hidden variables, as you suggest above. And I think the debate is still out on whether it is all just hidden variables.
    But ultimately I'm not convinced it makes too much difference to my position on freewill, which seems similar to yours.

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