Why we think we have free will

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Why we think we have free will

Post by Dimebag » Mon Feb 19, 2018 12:47 pm

If you ask most people who haven't thought very much about free will what they think free will is, they will tell you something similar to a libertarian free will, that is, a person who freely made a particular choice could have chosen differently, even if nothing about the past prior to the moment of choice had been different.

To those who have discussed this topic, probably to death, and who are basically materialist in viewpoint, they will view the libertarian viewpoint of free will as incompatible with a materialist philosophy. I myself am one of those people, although I still reserve my judgement upon the ultimate nature of consciousness, I hold that the brain is entirely responsible for our experiences, and our actions in the world.

However, it is not entirely obvious that this is the case. When you observe your own sensation of making decisions it certainly seems as if you could have made a different choice, at least under some circumstances, it's just that ultimately you finally decided upon the choice which you acted out, for whatever reason.

We have within our experience, the sensation that multiple possible courses of action exist for a given response or choice point. Only a single action can be chosen from this plethora of possibilities, however, until we make that choice and carry out that action, it could be said that there are actually many different possible choices we might enact. Because of the nature of our predictive minds, and the fact that the subsystems of our mind can work independently of one another, it is the case that multiple possible actions could be enacted within our motor cortex.

If we imagine these possible actions as simulations within our mind, we can then imagine how our physical actions will affect the world, and we do indeed do this. We run multiple simulations of actions, trying to predict the possible outcome of the action, and when we weight up the desired outcome, and balance that with the limitations we place upon ourself (viewing the self model as more of a system for tracking our possible limitations for action in the world - risk taking vs conservative, confident vs meek, proactive vs reactive), coupled with a risk vs reward circuit, we start to narrow down the options we see as viable to us until we are left with an obvious choice, which, when it is deemed the ideal time to act, is executed, and we observe ourselves carrying out one of the possible actions which existed in that bank of initial possibilities.

This is how I perceive my process of "willing", but only for certain situations. There are many, many, many times in the day when I encounter situations where habitual behaviours will completely suffice, and the environment does not require any further simulations to be run.

When I look at this process of willing which I have laid out, it has certain hallmarks of free will, there are multiple possibilities. It is only in hindsight that we can run things backwards and see the single choice which was made was the result of a cascade of billiard ball like occurences, one after the other, which make the process of deliberation seem like the running of a computer program. But what the process is really like is, if a computer ran simulations of possible scenarios, and, given its ability to accurately predict the outcomes of its possible actions, was able to in effect, see what is the most appropriate scenario, in an almost evolutionary type way, kulling the dead ends and keeping the desirable simulations.

I think this can account for people's instinctual feeling that they could have done otherwise, even though we know they couldn't have, but during the process of choosing, there were multiple possibilities occurring to them. It is only due to the nature of their character that they might choose one possibility over another. Because the self model is what narrows down the possible choices based on a persons character and demeanour, they might instinctually take ownership of the reducing of possibility, as if it was a result of them choosing freely.

This is of course a hypothesis, but it has actually been shown that the belief in free will, or the belief in determinism and no free will can actually have measurable affect on a persons actions, in the negative sense. Without a sense of responsibility, and ownership of their actions, people will inherently act more deceptively and make choices which are more self serving. There may be a group cohesive affect of believing in free will from an evolutionary perspective. I wonder if our sense of free will has evolved for the purpose of the invention of the concept of responsibility for ones actions, and in affect, the creation of civilised society and culture. We view people as responsible for their actions, as entities which are capable of doing otherwise.

I may be off the mark there, but it just occurred to me about that last point.

Anyway, feel free to add, critique, etc.

I would like to ask that we try not to devolve into a free will vs determinism debate, as that line of reasoning is actually not necessary even though the topic broaches the debate.

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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by Gawdzilla Sama » Mon Feb 19, 2018 12:58 pm

Philosophy is the religion of atheists.
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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by Dimebag » Mon Feb 19, 2018 7:54 pm

Gawdzilla Sama wrote:Philosophy is the religion of atheists.

That statement is incorrect.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy

However, your opinions on philosophy are actually not relevant to this topic.

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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by Gawdzilla Sama » Mon Feb 19, 2018 8:00 pm

Dimebag wrote:
Gawdzilla Sama wrote:Philosophy is the religion of atheists.

That statement is incorrect.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy

However, your opinions on philosophy are actually not relevant to this topic.

You can only imagine how mortified I am to know that.

:roll:
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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by Dimebag » Mon Feb 19, 2018 8:22 pm

Gawdzilla Sama wrote:
Dimebag wrote:
Gawdzilla Sama wrote:Philosophy is the religion of atheists.

That statement is incorrect.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy

However, your opinions on philosophy are actually not relevant to this topic.

You can only imagine how mortified I am to know that.

:roll:

Do you have any opinions on the topic?

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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by Gawdzilla Sama » Mon Feb 19, 2018 10:02 pm

Dimebag wrote:
Gawdzilla Sama wrote:
Dimebag wrote:
Gawdzilla Sama wrote:Philosophy is the religion of atheists.

That statement is incorrect.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy

However, your opinions on philosophy are actually not relevant to this topic.

You can only imagine how mortified I am to know that.

:roll:

Do you have any opinions on the topic?

Oh, yes.
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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by Nikki Nyx » Tue Feb 20, 2018 1:08 am

I don't think we have free will, but only the illusion of it. The decisions we make are dictated by circumstances both within and beyond our control, as well as unthinking emotional reactions. The person who can make a logical decision objectively, based solely on the facts, is rare. And even that person is limited by circumstances. Frankly, it seems like most people make decisions so arbitrarily that they remind me of random number generators. :mrgreen:

Even an unimportant decision is dictated by necessity and guided by emotion. For example, what to have for dinner:
• Objective facts: What food is on hand? Does my stove/oven work? What cookware is clean? Can I afford to go to a restaurant or order food delivered?
• Subjective perceptions: What do I feel like having? How much time am I willing to invest in cooking? Am I even hungry?

The person who made a choice would probably make the same choice again, if the circumstances and perceptions were identical, and s/he was not allowed to make use of information learned subsequent to the decision, something everyone would love to do.

An example of how learned information affects our decision-making process:
When I was younger, and had planned to go out on a Friday night, it didn't matter whether there was a blizzard; I still went out, a decision clearly made solely based on emotion. Now, if the weather is sufficiently inclement to make driving risky, I choose the wiser course and stay home, a decision clearly made solely based on factual data. Younger people tend to have the attitude that a particular time or event is both unique and crucial to their experience. People with mature prefrontal cortices know that there will be another Friday night in a week, that it's not worth the risk, and that the week will pass so fast that "last Friday" will be utterly irrelevant.

Don't get me wrong: I am still responsible for the decisions I make, regardless of my lack of absolutely free will. I still have to make the best decision with the information I possess, or invest time in researching necessary information. But I recognize that some decisions I make are inevitable, based on the circumstances of the situation.
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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by Dimebag » Tue Feb 20, 2018 1:49 am

Gawdzilla Sama wrote:
Dimebag wrote:
Gawdzilla Sama wrote:
Dimebag wrote:
Gawdzilla Sama wrote:Philosophy is the religion of atheists.

That statement is incorrect.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy

However, your opinions on philosophy are actually not relevant to this topic.

You can only imagine how mortified I am to know that.

:roll:

Do you have any opinions on the topic?

Oh, yes.

Okay, well I can only take your unwillingness to engage with the discussion as a sign that you believe there is nothing worthwhile to be said on the topic.

The matter of the fact remains, even despite what seems to be entirely clear that free will is an illusion (which I do not disagree), that we have the direct sensation of choice. This sensation begs for an answer. What I am attempting to outline here is, how within the philosophical framework of an essentially deterministic world, organisms such as ourselves can feel as if we have free will, and I am attempting to form a neurological explanation of it.

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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by Gawdzilla Sama » Tue Feb 20, 2018 9:57 am

"a sign that you believe there is nothing worthwhile to be said on the topic."

Well duh.
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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by Dimebag » Tue Feb 20, 2018 7:49 pm

Gawdzilla Sama wrote:"a sign that you believe there is nothing worthwhile to be said on the topic."

Well duh.

Gosh you are a real charmer :lol:

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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by mirror93 » Thu Mar 08, 2018 8:56 pm

Dimebag wrote:If you ask most people who haven't thought very much about free will what they think free will is, they will tell you something similar to a libertarian free will, that is, a person who freely made a particular choice could have chosen differently, even if nothing about the past prior to the moment of choice had been different.

To those who have discussed this topic, probably to death, and who are basically materialist in viewpoint, they will view the libertarian viewpoint of free will as incompatible with a materialist philosophy. I myself am one of those people, although I still reserve my judgement upon the ultimate nature of consciousness, I hold that the brain is entirely responsible for our experiences, and our actions in the world.

However, it is not entirely obvious that this is the case. When you observe your own sensation of making decisions it certainly seems as if you could have made a different choice, at least under some circumstances, it's just that ultimately you finally decided upon the choice which you acted out, for whatever reason.

We have within our experience, the sensation that multiple possible courses of action exist for a given response or choice point. Only a single action can be chosen from this plethora of possibilities, however, until we make that choice and carry out that action, it could be said that there are actually many different possible choices we might enact. Because of the nature of our predictive minds, and the fact that the subsystems of our mind can work independently of one another, it is the case that multiple possible actions could be enacted within our motor cortex.

If we imagine these possible actions as simulations within our mind, we can then imagine how our physical actions will affect the world, and we do indeed do this. We run multiple simulations of actions, trying to predict the possible outcome of the action, and when we weight up the desired outcome, and balance that with the limitations we place upon ourself (viewing the self model as more of a system for tracking our possible limitations for action in the world - risk taking vs conservative, confident vs meek, proactive vs reactive), coupled with a risk vs reward circuit, we start to narrow down the options we see as viable to us until we are left with an obvious choice, which, when it is deemed the ideal time to act, is executed, and we observe ourselves carrying out one of the possible actions which existed in that bank of initial possibilities.

This is how I perceive my process of "willing", but only for certain situations. There are many, many, many times in the day when I encounter situations where habitual behaviours will completely suffice, and the environment does not require any further simulations to be run.

When I look at this process of willing which I have laid out, it has certain hallmarks of free will, there are multiple possibilities. It is only in hindsight that we can run things backwards and see the single choice which was made was the result of a cascade of billiard ball like occurences, one after the other, which make the process of deliberation seem like the running of a computer program. But what the process is really like is, if a computer ran simulations of possible scenarios, and, given its ability to accurately predict the outcomes of its possible actions, was able to in effect, see what is the most appropriate scenario, in an almost evolutionary type way, kulling the dead ends and keeping the desirable simulations.

I think this can account for people's instinctual feeling that they could have done otherwise, even though we know they couldn't have, but during the process of choosing, there were multiple possibilities occurring to them. It is only due to the nature of their character that they might choose one possibility over another. Because the self model is what narrows down the possible choices based on a persons character and demeanour, they might instinctually take ownership of the reducing of possibility, as if it was a result of them choosing freely.

This is of course a hypothesis, but it has actually been shown that the belief in free will, or the belief in determinism and no free will can actually have measurable affect on a persons actions, in the negative sense. Without a sense of responsibility, and ownership of their actions, people will inherently act more deceptively and make choices which are more self serving. There may be a group cohesive affect of believing in free will from an evolutionary perspective. I wonder if our sense of free will has evolved for the purpose of the invention of the concept of responsibility for ones actions, and in affect, the creation of civilised society and culture. We view people as responsible for their actions, as entities which are capable of doing otherwise.

I may be off the mark there, but it just occurred to me about that last point.

Anyway, feel free to add, critique, etc.

I would like to ask that we try not to devolve into a free will vs determinism debate, as that line of reasoning is actually not necessary even though the topic broaches the debate.
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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Thu Mar 08, 2018 10:08 pm

Got a decision to make? Make a list of all the acceptable alternatives, or those close enough. Have a friend assign random numbers to them. Then...have a different friend select the page and entry number of a list of computer generated random numbers. Pick and do the alternative that is closest or farthest from the random number.

Aka: put it in God's hands.
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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Thu Mar 08, 2018 10:10 pm

Free Will: what hoomans experience when they make a decision. Simple. Is the Universe chaotic in a way that makes it not determined? It sure looks like it....but it doesn't make any difference since all we hoomans do is "experience" it.
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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by Dimebag » Thu Mar 08, 2018 10:29 pm

mirror93 wrote:who is thinking? who is the who? who is the knower? who is the knower of knowing? do you truly exist? if so, who is the one who knows about it?
Are you genuinely asking those questions, or just filling in for placid? ;)

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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by Dimebag » Thu Mar 08, 2018 10:31 pm

bobbo_the_Pragmatist wrote:Got a decision to make? Make a list of all the acceptable alternatives, or those close enough. Have a friend assign random numbers to them. Then...have a different friend select the page and entry number of a list of computer generated random numbers. Pick and do the alternative that is closest or farthest from the random number.

Aka: put it in God's hands.
or just flip a coin, it's easier, and cooler. :P

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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Thu Mar 08, 2018 11:57 pm

Coin flips can be influenced.
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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by Dimebag » Fri Mar 09, 2018 4:22 am

bobbo_the_Pragmatist wrote:Coin flips can be influenced.
True. But I find it interesting that you would bring the concept of randomness into the concept of choice. I would have thought that the more random a choice is, the less it could be said to be an informed one.

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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Fri Mar 09, 2018 7:13 am

The topic is free will (vs determinism) and has NOTHING TO DO WITH informed. Contra: the informed comes when you select what the acceptable alternatives are. that may still be "determined." "Way back when" in school, I remember there was a discussion about how computer generated random numbers could still be the result of cause and effect....but I think it came too soon after a similar discussion on "Do we exist" ... so I tuned it out.

The key still is the "experience" of reality.....and it feels like free choice....so, close enough.
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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by SEG » Wed May 16, 2018 8:10 am

Interesting topic Dimebag. I think that we are flesh covered robots. I play table tennis as a competitive sport and train 5-6 days per week doing drills, practising serves and playing games. By the time I get on the court for match play I feel primed to get into subconscious mode. As the play is very quick, there is hardly time to make conscious choices for a lot of the game. I play best when I switch off thinking too much about the game and the crowd watching, I go on "automatic". So yeah, I think that free will is an illusion too.
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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Wed May 16, 2018 8:33 am

LMFTFY: "Interesting topic Dimebag. I think that we are flesh covered robots sacks of meat."

the subconscious does not take away from free will at all, especially in your example of practiced repetition. Why did you choose to play table tennis(lets get real) ping-pong. "It's fun" is totally sufficient. I also like shuttlecock. Both sports very engaging: should YOU CHOOSE to make them so. Thats what free will is all about: the choices you make.
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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by SEG » Wed May 16, 2018 9:16 am

bobbo_the_Pragmatist wrote:LMFTFY: "Interesting topic Dimebag. I think that we are flesh covered robots sacks of meat."

the subconscious does not take away from free will at all, especially in your example of practiced repetition. Why did you choose to play table tennis(lets get real) ping-pong. "It's fun" is totally sufficient. I also like shuttlecock. Both sports very engaging: should YOU CHOOSE to make them so. Thats what free will is all about: the choices you make.
Ah, but my point is, at some stages, the choice is taken away from you when you play the stroke. It's what some players call being "in the zone". When you are in that zone, the choices are taken away from you, you have no free will. Sure you can choose to play whatever game you like, how you like. But in hard determinism, those choices are made for you too.

BTW, garage players play "ping pong'. Real manly men play table tennis.
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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Wed May 16, 2018 9:19 am

SEG: you are missing a clear and simple point: You CHOSE to train yourself to be in the zone, and when in the zone....you can CHOSE to break out of it anytime you want to. You DON'T WANT TO, so you stay in the zone that you created by your CHOICE to train your body to that level.

Its no where near the interesting issues of free will.
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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by SEG » Wed May 16, 2018 9:40 am

bobbo_the_Pragmatist wrote:SEG: you are missing a clear and simple point: You CHOSE to train yourself to be in the zone, and when in the zone....you can CHOSE to break out of it anytime you want to. You DON'T WANT TO, so you stay in the zone that you created by your CHOICE to train your body to that level.

Its no where near the interesting issues of free will.
So what influences those choices? Sorry, there is no Homunculus inside my head. I'm off to play some matches, get back to this later :D
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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Wed May 16, 2018 9:51 am

Your choice. Both times.
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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by mirror93 » Mon Jun 25, 2018 6:53 pm

think deeply about that, the one who thinks is the one who owns it, or maybe free-will isn't entirely true, or maybe I don't know what I know, maybe I'll ask Placid
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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by Major Malfunction » Tue Jun 26, 2018 2:18 pm

Our thought processes are strongly influenced by biological and chemical parameters.

I'll try to avoid the ire of feminists by not using their menstrual hormonal cycle as an example. Instead I'll use sugar ingestion, which we can all relate to.

We all know after eating some sweet food product we feel a "rush", like we're full of energy and can perform barrel-rolls. And when that runs out we get irritable and "hangry".

Like Jamie oft says to Adam when he gets cranky in Mythbusters, "Have a cookie".

So next time you're in a bad mood, maybe think about the reasons why you might be. Low sugar, drugs, hormones? Maybe even not enough sleep or sunlight?

They're all physical mood factors, which impact thought processes...

But having said that, I don't think we don't have any free will. Just it can be strongly influenced by biology and chemistry, and the more self aware you are of that, the more free will you will be able to exercise.
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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by mirror93 » Tue Jun 26, 2018 10:12 pm

Major Malfunction wrote:Our thought processes are strongly influenced by biological and chemical parameters.

I'll try to avoid the ire of feminists by not using their menstrual hormonal cycle as an example. Instead I'll use sugar ingestion, which we can all relate to.

We all know after eating some sweet food product we feel a "rush", like we're full of energy and can perform barrel-rolls. And when that runs out we get irritable and "hangry".

Like Jamie oft says to Adam when he gets cranky in Mythbusters, "Have a cookie".

So next time you're in a bad mood, maybe think about the reasons why you might be. Low sugar, drugs, hormones? Maybe even not enough sleep or sunlight?

They're all physical mood factors, which impact thought processes...

But having said that, I don't think we don't have any free will. Just it can be strongly influenced by biology and chemistry, and the more self aware you are of that, the more free will you will be able to exercise.
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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by mirror93 » Tue Jun 26, 2018 10:15 pm

Nikki Nyx wrote:I don't think we have free will, but only the illusion of it. The decisions we make are dictated by circumstances both within and beyond our control, as well as unthinking emotional reactions. The person who can make a logical decision objectively, based solely on the facts, is rare. And even that person is limited by circumstances. Frankly, it seems like most people make decisions so arbitrarily that they remind me of random number generators. :mrgreen:

Even an unimportant decision is dictated by necessity and guided by emotion. For example, what to have for dinner:
• Objective facts: What food is on hand? Does my stove/oven work? What cookware is clean? Can I afford to go to a restaurant or order food delivered?
• Subjective perceptions: What do I feel like having? How much time am I willing to invest in cooking? Am I even hungry?

The person who made a choice would probably make the same choice again, if the circumstances and perceptions were identical, and s/he was not allowed to make use of information learned subsequent to the decision, something everyone would love to do.

An example of how learned information affects our decision-making process:
When I was younger, and had planned to go out on a Friday night, it didn't matter whether there was a blizzard; I still went out, a decision clearly made solely based on emotion. Now, if the weather is sufficiently inclement to make driving risky, I choose the wiser course and stay home, a decision clearly made solely based on factual data. Younger people tend to have the attitude that a particular time or event is both unique and crucial to their experience. People with mature prefrontal cortices know that there will be another Friday night in a week, that it's not worth the risk, and that the week will pass so fast that "last Friday" will be utterly irrelevant.

Don't get me wrong: I am still responsible for the decisions I make, regardless of my lack of absolutely free will. I still have to make the best decision with the information I possess, or invest time in researching necessary information. But I recognize that some decisions I make are inevitable, based on the circumstances of the situation.
Even if you believe that free-will isn't entirely and absolutely true, you must have a certainty that you do have a % of what is called absolute free-will, and you must have to, otherwise you would have to believe you're like a player in the sims believing you are doing things on your own but there is actually a player above you controlling you giving you the illusion of free-will. We are strongly influenced by many things, but the final choice is yours, even if you're almost forced internally to choose it and choose it almost on automatic, it still you who chooses, it can't be nobody and nothing else. there's a % of your free-will, even if a bit of it
Last edited by mirror93 on Tue Jun 26, 2018 10:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by Gawdzilla Sama » Tue Jun 26, 2018 10:20 pm

Still wondering why this is even a question.
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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by Major Malfunction » Tue Jun 26, 2018 10:28 pm

mirror93 wrote:FINALLY someone who gets it. It's rare to see such thing
What do I win?
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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by mirror93 » Tue Jun 26, 2018 10:35 pm

SEG wrote:
bobbo_the_Pragmatist wrote:SEG: you are missing a clear and simple point: You CHOSE to train yourself to be in the zone, and when in the zone....you can CHOSE to break out of it anytime you want to. You DON'T WANT TO, so you stay in the zone that you created by your CHOICE to train your body to that level.

Its no where near the interesting issues of free will.
So what influences those choices? Sorry, there is no Homunculus inside my head. I'm off to play some matches, get back to this later :D

First no one ever accepted this false premise that there must be a "homunculus" inside your head for you to have free-will, and that's ridiculous. Secondly, how would it be like to have a homunculus in your head and how it even relates to the topic of you having free-will ? Nothing. You will tell me what all the others say.. "Well ie don't find myself hwen ie louk for myself" .. but yes, you won't find yourself when you "look" for yourself if are you trying to find yourself like you find an object. This is ridiculous, do you really want to remove your brain and try to look for a "person" inside it? The one who is searching is the one who you want to find, and that one, possess free-will...trying to find you looking for outside is beyond goofiness
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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by Major Malfunction » Tue Jun 26, 2018 10:57 pm

I have a whole Parliament in my head. Noisy bastards won't let me get to sleep, sometimes. They're always bickering about this and that.
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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by Gawdzilla Sama » Wed Jun 27, 2018 4:08 pm

Major Malfunction wrote:I have a whole Parliament in my head. Noisy bastards won't let me get to sleep, sometimes. They're always bickering about this and that.
Image
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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by ElectricMonk » Wed Jun 27, 2018 4:18 pm

The voices in my head are not a democracy. Those with the good ideas are way too quiet.

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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by Major Malfunction » Wed Jun 27, 2018 4:22 pm

It's true. I've asked them why I'm the Prime Minister? And they all say I'm probably the best captain of this ship. Going by what we have at our disposal.

But other ministers can step up when circumstances require. :)

The Minister of Love, for example.
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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by SEG » Wed Jul 25, 2018 2:07 pm

mirror93 wrote: First no one ever accepted this false premise that there must be a "homunculus" inside your head for you to have free-will, and that's ridiculous.
Ok, if you don't think that there must be a "homunculus" inside your head (I certainly don't), what do you say "free will" actually is? Some mysterious force inside you that you control? I say the same as Major, it's just chemistry and physics working and you have no control over them. Outside influences also controlled by chemistry and physics also come into play. How would you describe this mysterious force that enables your free will?
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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by mirror93 » Wed Jul 25, 2018 3:53 pm

SEG wrote:
mirror93 wrote: First no one ever accepted this false premise that there must be a "homunculus" inside your head for you to have free-will, and that's ridiculous.
Ok, if you don't think that there must be a "homunculus" inside your head (I certainly don't), what do you say "free will" actually is? Some mysterious force inside you that you control? I say the same as Major, it's just chemistry and physics working and you have no control over them. Outside influences also controlled by chemistry and physics also come into play. How would you describe this mysterious force that enables your free will?
Now you''re giving your own premises to make it looks like free-will is nonsense, a tactic a hard deterministic use...no, there is no need to be a "mysterious force", and free-will is subjective to you, I can take nootropics that will change my brain chemistry, yet the 'continuous' me' that witnesses and experiences it is the one who owns it, the nootropics will influence 'me', my brain chemistry will changes, but I witnesses its change, it changes 'me', yet I would still be the one who's changing and know about it because I'm witnessing my own chemistry change', yes I'm somehow dependent on it but I clearly can witnesses it changing and the 'continuous' 'me' precedes it, the 'me' is the one who possess free-will. (That's why neo-advaita loonies attack the 'me' so much, because they literally HATE free-will, and they know EXACTLY where free-will resides)
Free-will is subjective, if you're honest you'd know it's subjective.
(I'm not saying it's utterly true, I'm just being honest on what I almost sure know to be true)
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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by SEG » Thu Jul 26, 2018 2:06 am

mirror93 wrote:Free-will is subjective, if you're honest you'd know it's subjective.
(I'm not saying it's utterly true, I'm just being honest on what I almost sure know to be true)
I think that you are confusing “free will” with agency, that is, the ability to make decisions? We all make decisions, even computers make decisions. To prove you have "free will" you will need to rule out causality, and I'm not sure how you would do that?

You are pre-wired to do what you do, ever since you were conceived. This is coded inside our genes. Ever come across someone that you KNOW for sure what they will do in certain circumstances? They don't have much choice doing what they do, do they? Are they responsible for their actions? Not really, it's already been pre-determined. This article may be of interest to you on the subject:
No, You Don’t Have Free Will, and This is Why

Slate recently featured an article written by Roy F. Baumeister, Do You Really Have Free Will? In it, he claims that human do indeed have free will, something that regular readers will know that I have emphatically argued against.

Baumeister doesn’t make any supernatural appeals in this article; he does not appeal to some sort of mystical “uncaused cause”. So how does he make the case? He does it by confusing “free will” with agency, that is, the ability to make decisions, especially those that involve human-level “self-control” and response to socially constructed rules:

Arguments about free will are mostly semantic arguments about definitions. Most experts who deny free will are arguing against peculiar, unscientific versions of the idea, such as that “free will” means that causality is not involved. As my longtime friend and colleague John Bargh put it once in a debate, “Free will means freedom from causation.” Other scientists who argue against free will say that it means that a soul or other supernatural entity causes behavior, and not surprisingly they consider such explanations unscientific.

These arguments leave untouched the meaning of free will that most people understand, which is consciously making choices about what to do in the absence of external coercion, and accepting responsibility for one’s actions. Hardly anyone denies that people engage in logical reasoning and self-control to make choices. There is a genuine psychological reality behind the idea of free will. The debate is merely about whether this reality deserves to be called free will. Setting aside the semantic debate, let’s try to understand what that underlying reality is.

There is no need to insist that free will is some kind of magical violation of causality. Free will is just another kind of cause. The causal process by which a person decides whether to marry is simply different from the processes that cause balls to roll downhill, ice to melt in the hot sun, a magnet to attract nails, or a stock price to rise and fall.

Baumeister does latch on to a meaning of free will that lay people who defend its existence often embrace. However, before I go into what’s wacky about this article (some of which should already be obvious), let me start with some of the things I like about it:

Living things everywhere face two problems: survival and reproduction. All species have to solve those basic problems or else go extinct. Humankind has an unusual strategy for solving them: culture. We communicate, develop complex social systems, engage in trade, accumulate knowledge collectively, create giant social institutions (governments, hospitals, universities, corporations). These help us survive and reproduce, increasingly in comfortable and safe ways. These large systems have worked very well for us, if you measure success in the biological terms of survival and reproduction.

If culture is so successful, why don’t other species use it? They can’t—because they lack the psychological innate capabilities it requires. Our ancestors evolved the ability to act in the ways necessary for culture to succeed. Free will likely will be found right there—it’s what enables humans to control their actions in precisely the ways required to build and operate complex social systems.

What psychological capabilities are needed to make cultural systems work? To be a member of a group with culture, people must be able to understand the culture’s rules for actions, including moral principles and formal laws. They need to be able to talk about their choices with others, participate in group decisions, and carry out their assigned role. Culture can bring immense benefits, from cooked rice to the iPhone, but it only works if people cooperate and obey the rules.

….

But very few psychological phenomena are absolute dichotomies. Instead, most psychological phenomena are on a continuum. Some acts are clearly freer than others. The freer actions would include conscious thought and deciding, self-control, logical reasoning, and the pursuit of enlightened self-interest

This is pretty accurate. Baumeister avoids “blank slatist” thought and recognizes that human abilities arise from the unique cognitive systems that humans possess. He makes it quite clear that these abilities don’t emerge from a vacuum but are the product of untold generations of evolution.

As well, as HBD Chick has noted, some actions and thoughts (or, more specifically some people) are more “free” than others – at least by this definition. Some people have greater ability to respond to externally imposed rules.

But, on that point, Baumeister doesn’t get into individual or group variation in these evolved processes that make decisions and regulate behavior (which vary greatly between individuals and groups). However, I will return to this point.

First I must address where Baumeister is clearly quite wrong. Particularly (and I suppose, unsurprisingly), like everyone who tries to defend free will in one fashion or another, Baumeister gets some facts about the world glaringly wrong (emphasis mine):

Different sciences discover different kinds of causes. Phillip Anderson, who won the Nobel Prize in physics, explained this beautifully several decades ago in a brief article titled “More is different.” Physics may be the most fundamental of the sciences, but as one moves up the ladder to chemistry, then biology, then physiology, then psychology, and on to economics and sociology—at each level, new kinds of causes enter the picture.

As Anderson explained, the things each science studies cannot be fully reduced to the lower levels, but they also cannot violate the lower levels. Our actions cannot break the laws of physics, but they can be influenced by things beyond gravity, friction, and electromagnetic charges. No number of facts about a carbon atom can explain life, let alone the meaning of your life.

These causes operate at different levels of organization. Even if you could write a history of the Civil War purely in terms of muscle movements or nerve cell firings, that (very long and dull) book would completely miss the point of the war. Free will cannot violate the laws of physics or even neuroscience, but it invokes causes that go beyond them.

Seriously? No, Dr. Baumeister (obviously not a physicist). Emergent properties – qualities that arise only in complex systems when many sub-units interact – are fully dependent on the properties of those sub-units. Life is completely explained by the “facts about carbon atoms”, “gravity and electromagnetic charges” (and the other fundamental forces). Let’s not forget, how these particles interact with each other are themselves facts about these particles. You’d just have a hard time describing and predicting the behavior of systems comprising these particles from their simple attributes as how they’re commonly thought of and taught.

Our description of events at higher levels of organization are merely shorthand for all the sub-forces that comprise them, such that if you wrote “a history of the Civil War purely in terms of muscle movements or nerve cell firings” it’d be a “very long and dull book”. It wouldn’t “completely miss the point of the war.” The point of the war would just be lost in the minutia.

Nothing in the universe “goes beyond” the laws of physics, and nothing about human brains or behavior “goes beyond” the “laws” of even neuroscience. It’s merely difficult to express descriptions of certain activities in terms of our commonly used wording of these basal laws.

You might argue that this is me being overly pedantic, but I think it’s important not to muddy the waters on these points.

Now what about Baumeister’s ideas about free will? I will show why even his new attempt to rescue free will by equivocation and redefinition still does not work.

The evolution of free will began when living things began to make choices. The difference between plants and animals illustrates an important early step. Plants don’t change their location and don’t need brains to help them decide where to go. Animals do. Free will is an advanced form of the simple process of controlling oneself, called agency.

In general, throughout this piece, Baumeister appears to be confusing “free will” with decision making, especially the sophisticated kind. Sure, scientists who criticize the concept of free will don’t deny that humans can make decisions. But here he makes a great effort to reinsert the “free” part in that process, a point made explicit here:

Does it deserve to be called free? I do think so. Philosophers debate whether people have free will as if the answer will be a simple yes or no. But very few psychological phenomena are absolute dichotomies. Instead, most psychological phenomena are on a continuum. Some acts are clearly freer than others. The freer actions would include conscious thought and deciding, self-control, logical reasoning, and the pursuit of enlightened self-interest.

This is where he gets into trouble, and runs into conflict with thinkers like me on this topic. Even for the most sophisticated and profound choices, how “free” are they when the outcome of these choices can be predicted (at least statistically) by behavioral genetics?

As we might recall, all human behavioral traits are heritable:

T1.large_

genes-and-political-attitudes1

Heritability table political beliefs

Human beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, decisions, and behaviors are all influenced by genes. Those things range from big things to small things – from trivial things to profound things. From the nebulous to the concrete, no matter what you think of, genes are in there somewhere. These include major life outcomes, as was seen in my previous posts on heredity and parenting. These outcomes that Baumeister would like to attribute to “conscious thought and deciding, self-control, logical reasoning, and the pursuit of enlightened self-interest” all turn out to be a smoke screen for path heavily set on its course by one’s DNA.

HBD Chick has said this perfectly:

from all the behavioral studies that are coming out of neurology these days, i just don’t see where humans are rational. that truly must be one of the greatest myths of our time. sure, some people are occasionally able to engage in some semblance of logic when they think about certain things, but the vast, vast, vast majority of humans are really running on autopilot — and even those of us who might just possibly have one or two neurons that can string together a logical thought — even most of us run on autopilot most of the time, too.

This process can even be demonstrated in real time as well. A clip from the ABC News program “Twintuition” featured behavioral geneticist Nancy Segal giving tests of shared thinking to twins:



The freaky concordance between identical twins in a variety of traits must give anyone pause before thinking their own actions are in any sense “free”. As Steven Pinker put it in The Blank Slate (emphasis added):

Identical twins think and feel in such similar ways that they sometimes suspect they are linked by telepathy. When separated at birth and reunited as adults they say they feel they have known each other all their lives. Testing confirms that identical twins, whether separated at birth or not, are eerily alike (though far from identical) in just about any trait one can measure. They are similar in verbal, mathematical, and general intelligence, in their degree of life satisfaction, and in personality traits such as introversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, conscientiousness, and openness to experience. They have similar attitudes toward controversial issues such as the death penalty, religion, and modern music. They resemble each other not just in paper-and-pencil tests but in consequential behavior such as gambling, divorcing, committing crimes, getting into accidents, and watching television. And they boast dozens of shared idiosyncrasies such as giggling incessantly, giving interminable answers to simple questions, dipping buttered toast in coffee, and — in the case of Abigail van Buren and Ann Landers — writing indistinguishable syndicated advice columns. The crags and valleys of their electroencephalograms (brainwaves) are as alike as those of a single person recorded on two occasions, and the wrinkles of their brains and distribution of gray matter across cortical areas are also similar. (p. 47)



the genes, even if they by no means seal our fate, don’t sit easily with the intuition that we are ghosts in machines either. Imagine that you are agonizing over a choice — which career to pursue, whether to get married, how to vote, what to wear that day. You have finally staggered to a decision when the phone rings. It is the identical twin you never knew you had. During the joyous conversation it comes out that she has just chosen a similar career, has decided to get married at around the same time, plans to cast her vote for the same presidential candidate, and is wearing a shirt of the same color — just as the behavioral geneticists who tracked you down would have bet. How much discretion did the “you” making the choices actually have if the outcome could have been predicted in advance, at least probabilistically, based on events that took place in your mother’s Fallopian tubes decades ago? (p. 51)

People do indeed take in information from their environment and the act of decision making is a very complex, intricate process that neuroscience has yet to unravel. Despite all this, this process occurs in predictable ways. This is because the space of possible outputs (i.e., decisions) is bound by the constitution of one’s brain, which itself is partially specified by one’s genes.

Hence, no matter, how you redefine it, calling this will “free” is simply unworkable.

OK, so how about the practical significance of this? Sure, we know that people aren’t completely “free” agents, but the thing most people care about when invoking “free will” is about responsibility. How “responsible” are people for their actions? Well, strictly speaking, people aren’t “responsible” for their actions at all. Even if the heritability of behavior was zero, since all actions have causes (such as, for example, the precise motion of the particle constituting one’s brain) which themselves at outside our ability to control, we can’t actually “control” what occurs.

But that’s from the perspective of contradicting the notion of the uncaused cause, which Baumeister agrees does not exist. What about on a more local level, with the idea that the concept of “responsibility” is meant to impinge on the decision making system of the brain and get it to modify its future behavior accordingly. As Baumeister describes:

Self-control counts as a kind of freedom because it begins with not acting on every impulse. The simple brain acts whenever something triggers a response: A hungry creature sees food and eats it. The most recently evolved parts of the human brain have an extensive mechanism for overriding those impulses, which enables us to reject food when we’re hungry, whether it’s because we’re dieting, vegetarian, keeping kosher, or mistrustful of the food. Self-control furnishes the possibility of acting from rational principles rather than acting on impulse.

Here is the crux of Baumeister’s whole argument. He is trying to weasel “free will” into being somehow synonymous with “complex” and “socially/morally considerate”. This is very much the idea most people have in mind when they invoke free will – that is, those who don’t invoke it for religious reasons. Unfortunately, as I’ve shown in this post, it doesn’t work that way.

As the previous data should make clear, “complex” doesn’t mean “mutable”. “Socially and morally considerate” doesn’t mean “not instantaneous”. Indeed, human decisions on even the most deep moral arguments can have a very “knee-jerk” quality to it, as the reaction times above make clear. To believe that “impulses” are somehow “unfree” but our more calculated, thoughtful decisions are somehow “more” free is to ignore the mountain of evidence we have the contrary. We are indeed running on “autopilot” most of the time, as HBD Chick would say.

But what about our ideas of “personality responsibility” and that oh so popular idea of “will power”? Well, the nonexistence of free will, even in this “Beaumeistian” sense, has significant implications there. We have rules and we have consequences for breaking those rules in our society because they do, impact the behavior of the people in our society (to varying extents)). Knowledge of the rules and more importantly, knowledge of the consequences for breaking those rules, enters into the decision making systems of the individuals in our society and gets the vast majority of them to follow the rules, most of the time. But we’d be fooling ourselves if we thought that we could simply “legislate” ourselves to any behavior we wanted. The existence of criminals demonstrates that individuals vary greatly their ability to respond to the incentives we have put in place to affect their behavior. Sure, we could get different results with different incentive, but the key point is that there are stiff limits to what we could accomplish with such.

The belief in the unlimited or at least much less limited plasticity of human behavior and decision making underlies many wrongheaded ideas in our society. Certainly ideas of diet fall under that category (for example, “fat shaming”). No matter how “free” you think people are, including yourself, you’re simply not. You’re a slave to your genes, your environment, and the circumstances you happen to be in.

(And I do mean environment. This post should not be taken to mean genes determine everything, which they clearly don’t. But as noted, you don’t need heredity per se to obviate the possibility of free will. If the “nuturists” were correct, and environment was the primary or sole determinant in behavior, your behavior would be largely “environmentally determined”; you’d be a slave to whatever circumstance in which you were reared. In short, you’re a slave to the wiring of your brain; how it got that way is secondary to this fact.)

Of course, while I say you can predict people’s behavior with behavioral genetics, you don’t really need science to see this in action. All you have to do is “know” people. All of us, when referring to someone we’re highly familiar with, has said that “I know [x person]” – meaning, we have a good idea how that individual will react – often in a detailed way – to a given circumstance. This, among many other things, should be a clue that free will, in any meaningful sense, simply doesn’t exist.
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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by mirror93 » Thu Jul 26, 2018 2:43 am

SEG wrote:
mirror93 wrote:Free-will is subjective, if you're honest you'd know it's subjective.
(I'm not saying it's utterly true, I'm just being honest on what I almost sure know to be true)
I think that you are confusing “free will” with agency, that is, the ability to make decisions? We all make decisions, even computers make decisions. To prove you have "free will" you will need to rule out causality, and I'm not sure how you would do that?

You are pre-wired to do what you do, ever since you were conceived. This is coded inside our genes. Ever come across someone that you KNOW for sure what they will do in certain circumstances? They don't have much choice doing what they do, do they? Are they responsible for their actions? Not really, it's already been pre-determined. This article may be of interest to you on the subject:
No, You Don’t Have Free Will, and This is Why

Slate recently featured an article written by Roy F. Baumeister, Do You Really Have Free Will? In it, he claims that human do indeed have free will, something that regular readers will know that I have emphatically argued against.

Baumeister doesn’t make any supernatural appeals in this article; he does not appeal to some sort of mystical “uncaused cause”. So how does he make the case? He does it by confusing “free will” with agency, that is, the ability to make decisions, especially those that involve human-level “self-control” and response to socially constructed rules:

Arguments about free will are mostly semantic arguments about definitions. Most experts who deny free will are arguing against peculiar, unscientific versions of the idea, such as that “free will” means that causality is not involved. As my longtime friend and colleague John Bargh put it once in a debate, “Free will means freedom from causation.” Other scientists who argue against free will say that it means that a soul or other supernatural entity causes behavior, and not surprisingly they consider such explanations unscientific.

These arguments leave untouched the meaning of free will that most people understand, which is consciously making choices about what to do in the absence of external coercion, and accepting responsibility for one’s actions. Hardly anyone denies that people engage in logical reasoning and self-control to make choices. There is a genuine psychological reality behind the idea of free will. The debate is merely about whether this reality deserves to be called free will. Setting aside the semantic debate, let’s try to understand what that underlying reality is.

There is no need to insist that free will is some kind of magical violation of causality. Free will is just another kind of cause. The causal process by which a person decides whether to marry is simply different from the processes that cause balls to roll downhill, ice to melt in the hot sun, a magnet to attract nails, or a stock price to rise and fall.

Baumeister does latch on to a meaning of free will that lay people who defend its existence often embrace. However, before I go into what’s wacky about this article (some of which should already be obvious), let me start with some of the things I like about it:

Living things everywhere face two problems: survival and reproduction. All species have to solve those basic problems or else go extinct. Humankind has an unusual strategy for solving them: culture. We communicate, develop complex social systems, engage in trade, accumulate knowledge collectively, create giant social institutions (governments, hospitals, universities, corporations). These help us survive and reproduce, increasingly in comfortable and safe ways. These large systems have worked very well for us, if you measure success in the biological terms of survival and reproduction.

If culture is so successful, why don’t other species use it? They can’t—because they lack the psychological innate capabilities it requires. Our ancestors evolved the ability to act in the ways necessary for culture to succeed. Free will likely will be found right there—it’s what enables humans to control their actions in precisely the ways required to build and operate complex social systems.

What psychological capabilities are needed to make cultural systems work? To be a member of a group with culture, people must be able to understand the culture’s rules for actions, including moral principles and formal laws. They need to be able to talk about their choices with others, participate in group decisions, and carry out their assigned role. Culture can bring immense benefits, from cooked rice to the iPhone, but it only works if people cooperate and obey the rules.

….

But very few psychological phenomena are absolute dichotomies. Instead, most psychological phenomena are on a continuum. Some acts are clearly freer than others. The freer actions would include conscious thought and deciding, self-control, logical reasoning, and the pursuit of enlightened self-interest

This is pretty accurate. Baumeister avoids “blank slatist” thought and recognizes that human abilities arise from the unique cognitive systems that humans possess. He makes it quite clear that these abilities don’t emerge from a vacuum but are the product of untold generations of evolution.

As well, as HBD Chick has noted, some actions and thoughts (or, more specifically some people) are more “free” than others – at least by this definition. Some people have greater ability to respond to externally imposed rules.

But, on that point, Baumeister doesn’t get into individual or group variation in these evolved processes that make decisions and regulate behavior (which vary greatly between individuals and groups). However, I will return to this point.

First I must address where Baumeister is clearly quite wrong. Particularly (and I suppose, unsurprisingly), like everyone who tries to defend free will in one fashion or another, Baumeister gets some facts about the world glaringly wrong (emphasis mine):

Different sciences discover different kinds of causes. Phillip Anderson, who won the Nobel Prize in physics, explained this beautifully several decades ago in a brief article titled “More is different.” Physics may be the most fundamental of the sciences, but as one moves up the ladder to chemistry, then biology, then physiology, then psychology, and on to economics and sociology—at each level, new kinds of causes enter the picture.

As Anderson explained, the things each science studies cannot be fully reduced to the lower levels, but they also cannot violate the lower levels. Our actions cannot break the laws of physics, but they can be influenced by things beyond gravity, friction, and electromagnetic charges. No number of facts about a carbon atom can explain life, let alone the meaning of your life.

These causes operate at different levels of organization. Even if you could write a history of the Civil War purely in terms of muscle movements or nerve cell firings, that (very long and dull) book would completely miss the point of the war. Free will cannot violate the laws of physics or even neuroscience, but it invokes causes that go beyond them.

Seriously? No, Dr. Baumeister (obviously not a physicist). Emergent properties – qualities that arise only in complex systems when many sub-units interact – are fully dependent on the properties of those sub-units. Life is completely explained by the “facts about carbon atoms”, “gravity and electromagnetic charges” (and the other fundamental forces). Let’s not forget, how these particles interact with each other are themselves facts about these particles. You’d just have a hard time describing and predicting the behavior of systems comprising these particles from their simple attributes as how they’re commonly thought of and taught.

Our description of events at higher levels of organization are merely shorthand for all the sub-forces that comprise them, such that if you wrote “a history of the Civil War purely in terms of muscle movements or nerve cell firings” it’d be a “very long and dull book”. It wouldn’t “completely miss the point of the war.” The point of the war would just be lost in the minutia.

Nothing in the universe “goes beyond” the laws of physics, and nothing about human brains or behavior “goes beyond” the “laws” of even neuroscience. It’s merely difficult to express descriptions of certain activities in terms of our commonly used wording of these basal laws.

You might argue that this is me being overly pedantic, but I think it’s important not to muddy the waters on these points.

Now what about Baumeister’s ideas about free will? I will show why even his new attempt to rescue free will by equivocation and redefinition still does not work.

The evolution of free will began when living things began to make choices. The difference between plants and animals illustrates an important early step. Plants don’t change their location and don’t need brains to help them decide where to go. Animals do. Free will is an advanced form of the simple process of controlling oneself, called agency.

In general, throughout this piece, Baumeister appears to be confusing “free will” with decision making, especially the sophisticated kind. Sure, scientists who criticize the concept of free will don’t deny that humans can make decisions. But here he makes a great effort to reinsert the “free” part in that process, a point made explicit here:

Does it deserve to be called free? I do think so. Philosophers debate whether people have free will as if the answer will be a simple yes or no. But very few psychological phenomena are absolute dichotomies. Instead, most psychological phenomena are on a continuum. Some acts are clearly freer than others. The freer actions would include conscious thought and deciding, self-control, logical reasoning, and the pursuit of enlightened self-interest.

This is where he gets into trouble, and runs into conflict with thinkers like me on this topic. Even for the most sophisticated and profound choices, how “free” are they when the outcome of these choices can be predicted (at least statistically) by behavioral genetics?

As we might recall, all human behavioral traits are heritable:

T1.large_

genes-and-political-attitudes1

Heritability table political beliefs

Human beliefs, attitudes, thoughts, decisions, and behaviors are all influenced by genes. Those things range from big things to small things – from trivial things to profound things. From the nebulous to the concrete, no matter what you think of, genes are in there somewhere. These include major life outcomes, as was seen in my previous posts on heredity and parenting. These outcomes that Baumeister would like to attribute to “conscious thought and deciding, self-control, logical reasoning, and the pursuit of enlightened self-interest” all turn out to be a smoke screen for path heavily set on its course by one’s DNA.

HBD Chick has said this perfectly:

from all the behavioral studies that are coming out of neurology these days, i just don’t see where humans are rational. that truly must be one of the greatest myths of our time. sure, some people are occasionally able to engage in some semblance of logic when they think about certain things, but the vast, vast, vast majority of humans are really running on autopilot — and even those of us who might just possibly have one or two neurons that can string together a logical thought — even most of us run on autopilot most of the time, too.

This process can even be demonstrated in real time as well. A clip from the ABC News program “Twintuition” featured behavioral geneticist Nancy Segal giving tests of shared thinking to twins:



The freaky concordance between identical twins in a variety of traits must give anyone pause before thinking their own actions are in any sense “free”. As Steven Pinker put it in The Blank Slate (emphasis added):

Identical twins think and feel in such similar ways that they sometimes suspect they are linked by telepathy. When separated at birth and reunited as adults they say they feel they have known each other all their lives. Testing confirms that identical twins, whether separated at birth or not, are eerily alike (though far from identical) in just about any trait one can measure. They are similar in verbal, mathematical, and general intelligence, in their degree of life satisfaction, and in personality traits such as introversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, conscientiousness, and openness to experience. They have similar attitudes toward controversial issues such as the death penalty, religion, and modern music. They resemble each other not just in paper-and-pencil tests but in consequential behavior such as gambling, divorcing, committing crimes, getting into accidents, and watching television. And they boast dozens of shared idiosyncrasies such as giggling incessantly, giving interminable answers to simple questions, dipping buttered toast in coffee, and — in the case of Abigail van Buren and Ann Landers — writing indistinguishable syndicated advice columns. The crags and valleys of their electroencephalograms (brainwaves) are as alike as those of a single person recorded on two occasions, and the wrinkles of their brains and distribution of gray matter across cortical areas are also similar. (p. 47)



the genes, even if they by no means seal our fate, don’t sit easily with the intuition that we are ghosts in machines either. Imagine that you are agonizing over a choice — which career to pursue, whether to get married, how to vote, what to wear that day. You have finally staggered to a decision when the phone rings. It is the identical twin you never knew you had. During the joyous conversation it comes out that she has just chosen a similar career, has decided to get married at around the same time, plans to cast her vote for the same presidential candidate, and is wearing a shirt of the same color — just as the behavioral geneticists who tracked you down would have bet. How much discretion did the “you” making the choices actually have if the outcome could have been predicted in advance, at least probabilistically, based on events that took place in your mother’s Fallopian tubes decades ago? (p. 51)

People do indeed take in information from their environment and the act of decision making is a very complex, intricate process that neuroscience has yet to unravel. Despite all this, this process occurs in predictable ways. This is because the space of possible outputs (i.e., decisions) is bound by the constitution of one’s brain, which itself is partially specified by one’s genes.

Hence, no matter, how you redefine it, calling this will “free” is simply unworkable.

OK, so how about the practical significance of this? Sure, we know that people aren’t completely “free” agents, but the thing most people care about when invoking “free will” is about responsibility. How “responsible” are people for their actions? Well, strictly speaking, people aren’t “responsible” for their actions at all. Even if the heritability of behavior was zero, since all actions have causes (such as, for example, the precise motion of the particle constituting one’s brain) which themselves at outside our ability to control, we can’t actually “control” what occurs.

But that’s from the perspective of contradicting the notion of the uncaused cause, which Baumeister agrees does not exist. What about on a more local level, with the idea that the concept of “responsibility” is meant to impinge on the decision making system of the brain and get it to modify its future behavior accordingly. As Baumeister describes:

Self-control counts as a kind of freedom because it begins with not acting on every impulse. The simple brain acts whenever something triggers a response: A hungry creature sees food and eats it. The most recently evolved parts of the human brain have an extensive mechanism for overriding those impulses, which enables us to reject food when we’re hungry, whether it’s because we’re dieting, vegetarian, keeping kosher, or mistrustful of the food. Self-control furnishes the possibility of acting from rational principles rather than acting on impulse.

Here is the crux of Baumeister’s whole argument. He is trying to weasel “free will” into being somehow synonymous with “complex” and “socially/morally considerate”. This is very much the idea most people have in mind when they invoke free will – that is, those who don’t invoke it for religious reasons. Unfortunately, as I’ve shown in this post, it doesn’t work that way.

As the previous data should make clear, “complex” doesn’t mean “mutable”. “Socially and morally considerate” doesn’t mean “not instantaneous”. Indeed, human decisions on even the most deep moral arguments can have a very “knee-jerk” quality to it, as the reaction times above make clear. To believe that “impulses” are somehow “unfree” but our more calculated, thoughtful decisions are somehow “more” free is to ignore the mountain of evidence we have the contrary. We are indeed running on “autopilot” most of the time, as HBD Chick would say.

But what about our ideas of “personality responsibility” and that oh so popular idea of “will power”? Well, the nonexistence of free will, even in this “Beaumeistian” sense, has significant implications there. We have rules and we have consequences for breaking those rules in our society because they do, impact the behavior of the people in our society (to varying extents)). Knowledge of the rules and more importantly, knowledge of the consequences for breaking those rules, enters into the decision making systems of the individuals in our society and gets the vast majority of them to follow the rules, most of the time. But we’d be fooling ourselves if we thought that we could simply “legislate” ourselves to any behavior we wanted. The existence of criminals demonstrates that individuals vary greatly their ability to respond to the incentives we have put in place to affect their behavior. Sure, we could get different results with different incentive, but the key point is that there are stiff limits to what we could accomplish with such.

The belief in the unlimited or at least much less limited plasticity of human behavior and decision making underlies many wrongheaded ideas in our society. Certainly ideas of diet fall under that category (for example, “fat shaming”). No matter how “free” you think people are, including yourself, you’re simply not. You’re a slave to your genes, your environment, and the circumstances you happen to be in.

(And I do mean environment. This post should not be taken to mean genes determine everything, which they clearly don’t. But as noted, you don’t need heredity per se to obviate the possibility of free will. If the “nuturists” were correct, and environment was the primary or sole determinant in behavior, your behavior would be largely “environmentally determined”; you’d be a slave to whatever circumstance in which you were reared. In short, you’re a slave to the wiring of your brain; how it got that way is secondary to this fact.)

Of course, while I say you can predict people’s behavior with behavioral genetics, you don’t really need science to see this in action. All you have to do is “know” people. All of us, when referring to someone we’re highly familiar with, has said that “I know [x person]” – meaning, we have a good idea how that individual will react – often in a detailed way – to a given circumstance. This, among many other things, should be a clue that free will, in any meaningful sense, simply doesn’t exist.
Now you're just searching for confirmation bias. I can do the same. You're just seaching for experiments that are after the fact (not prior the fact. which would be where free-will resides, and can't be studied objectively), you really can't access anyone's subjectivity to confirm anything, anything you're trying to prove is after the fact, as I said, whatyou're saying doesn't prove anything. free-will is subjective and you can't access anyone's subjectivity to prove anything. I stand by my words.
Last edited by mirror93 on Thu Jul 26, 2018 9:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Why we think we have free will

Post by SEG » Thu Jul 26, 2018 4:03 am

Ok that's ok by me if that's your opinion, but I can't see how you can sidestep causality anymore than you can choose your parents.
“There are no known non-biblical references to a historical Jesus by any historian or other writer of the time during and shortly after Jesus's purported advent.” His so-called life was a farce.

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