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Free Will
Posted: 31 January 2012 11:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]  
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A nice set of posts softwarevisualisation.  A good summary.  But it doesn’t really give the topic anywhere to go before Sam’s essay is released next month.  I guess the basic assumption could start with a hard determinist point of view and then try to punch a hole in it, if possible.  How could we go about doing this?  Like you, I think there are opportunities but nothing I could be sure about either.


For instance, like you said, QM tells us this is not a clockwork universe, but a probabilistic one.  Which pretty much means that sometimes, at some levels, the one cause can have uncertain and different effects.  This means disorder does not always have to remain disorder.  For instance this universe may have emerged, with all its order, from a foaming quantum disorder, without any intervention from an outside source.  And the models that posit such a claim arise from a study of neural networks found in the human brain!  So I think feedback (e.g. between subconsciousness and consciousness in both directions), complexity and emergence are very interesting pieces of this puzzle.  Can emergence, i.e. order from disorder as distinct from new inputs or prior, stored inputs or modified (amplified or attenuated) inputs or fedback inputs, be directed in the human brain?  Now there’s a question!  And even if this was possible, would that direction be ours?


The fact that we build mind maps and act on those maps rather than reality directly is an interesting issue.  When we are babies we would all probably agree that we lacked free will; we also lacked those adult mind maps.  So as we grow are we acting on something that is more “ours” than when we were younger?  Is it an illusion to say this time I live in is mine or this place I sit in is mine or this body with all its unwanted imperfections is nevertheless mine or this mind with its fallible maps is mine?  They’re all just disputable claims really.  But maybe its just the claim that’s important (or amazing) rather than the detail buried in the emergent subconscious or circumstance.  “I think therefore I am”!  Interesting - let me mull that over in “my” mind…

[ Edited: 31 January 2012 11:59 PM by Michael Kean]
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Posted: 01 February 2012 01:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]  
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OK I think you’re mixing two issues together. One is free will. The other is omnipotence. Unless you’re careful,. you’ll liable to start expressing ideas which imply that if we don’t have omnipotent free will, then we must have none at all. I think you’re doing that above.

Omnipotent free will is what this discussion is about, and what Sam Harris’ posts were about, and what his book is probably about.  Any other definition of free will is not interesting at all because it would be defined as something other than what basically everyone means when they use the term “free will.”

Just because there are things we cannot change about the world, or ourselves, this doesn’t imply that there is no time frame / scope / activity in which we have free will. <—- recently corrected for double negative error!!

Again, if you redefine free will as something other than what basically everyone really means when they use the term, of course we can still have it.  But that’s not the definition implied by Harris or the original poster here.  We don’t cause our thoughts or actions, so we are in fact powerless to change things about ourselves and the world.  Things will either change or they won’t, but we have no say over the matter.

I am not proving we have free will. I am saying that just because we can’t do X doesn’t imply we have no free will under any circumstances.

There’s no halfway.  We either have free will or we don’t (unless, once again, you redefine it).  Sam Harris says we don’t.  I agree with him.  In fact, trying to imagine it any other way doesn’t make any sense.

The reason people believe we have no free will is because they believe the entire universe is deterministic down to the final spin on the final electron that composes the atom that’s a part of the molecule that’s a part of peptide which was synthesized in the soma and transmitted down the axon and into the synaptic divide which fired the neuron which event , we believe,  is synonymous with thought and consciousness in all its forms including decisions making. .

Not true.  I don’t believe the entire universe is deterministic.  It might be, but whether it is or isn’t has no bearing on free will.  Harris has addressed this as well on his blog.  Whether my choices are a part of a deterministic chain or whether they come about randomly, I’m not the source of them so I have no free will regardless.

The rest of your post seemed pretty irrelevant to the topic.  Determinism has very little to do with the free will that the original poster was talking about, if anything.  There is no ghost in the machine, and as Sam Harris says, our thoughts (even the conscious ones) just arise continuously, without us “causing” them in any way.  There is no room for free will.

[ Edited: 01 February 2012 01:49 AM by clfst17]
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Posted: 01 February 2012 01:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]  
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Michael Kean:

When we are babies we would all probably agree that we lacked free will;

I call this the unification of baby mind hypothesis.. somehow or other we’re all alike in the beginning…but then things change… just noticing this appeared again… not sure what I think of it but everyone seems to assume it’s true. Just on observation.


Kubrik’s A Clockwork Orange was really an extended mediation on just this topic as it intersected with behaviourism , operant conditioning, criminality and society. The image of a “clockwork orange” was a encapsulation of the idea that, to science,  we’re organic but still as determined as clockwork.  The idea is, if we understood our internals well enough, we can   predict and control ourselves. Furthermore, if Skinner was to be taken seriously, we could do this without reference to any kind of “thoughts” or “mind stuff” which he specifically denied even existed.


Cog Sci specifically rejected Skinner. I recall my profs giving us the algorithm - the mental trick-  to solving the Towers of Hanoi and saying that just the fact that we were now able to solve this problem quickly whereas before he spoke the trick to us, we were fumbling around in state space for a solution, just that fact was a sort of mini refutation of behaviourism, which by then was already well dead anyways.


Yet from this impoverished framework came Skinner Boxes and operant conditioning and oh, we’re all somehow the same ( the unification of baby mind again )  but society makes us bad. But wait!  We can undo all that badness if we apply the right conditioning technique .


Kubric seemed to be mocking this constellation of ideas - Alex goes back to what he always was the first good conk on the head he gets.


Yes it’s interesting and it will be more interesting if any new information ever seems to effect the arguments. For now I think they’ve all been stated as well as they can be stated. Like I said if you look at the publication dates of the books on your wall,  this idea seems to go in and out of being interesting to philosophers. Maybe it’s on the upswing right now.

[ Edited: 01 February 2012 02:24 PM by softwarevisualization]
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Posted: 01 February 2012 02:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]  
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Omnipotent free will is what this discussion is about, and what Sam Harris’ posts were about, and what his book is probably about.  Any other definition of free will is not interesting at all because it would be defined as something other than what basically everyone means when they use the term “free will.”

Really? So everyone means to assert that they can will themselves to do anything (they are capable of doing in the first place)  under any circumstances, no matter how dearly those circumstances may press ,  and they will themselves through their day moment by moment, or they could do so, at least in principle.


Really? And how did you come into this certain knowledge?


My own idea is that people don’t know what they mean by it other than it’s a kind of shorthand for saying that 1) there is an “I” and 2) that I makes decisions which 3) that I could have decided some other way if that I saw fit.


Really I think most people who even understand the question at all would NOT say they have infinite free will because they’d recall some time or other when they seemed to act against their better judgement and they would count this as being compelled, i.e. not free.


I’ll bet most people would tell you they have free will “if they tried”, on tap, at least most of the time but perhaps not all.  Or some crazy construct like that.


Now if we’re going to talk about the idea of freewill as it exists in the academic / scientific / intellectual community and not what the average person would produce for an answer if you pressed them on the subject as they were schlumping back from the grocery store with two bags of groceries and a kid, then I think it’s fair to calibrate what exactly we mean by free will and be careful not to unconsciously mix in two ideas: free will and omnipotence. 

Again, if you redefine free will as something other than what basically everyone really means when they use the term, of course we can still have it.

Whoa whoa whoa there cowboy I didn’t say say we have it (I confess I think I do) what I said was these two ideas are two different things. I think we can all agree to throw free will of the omnipotent variety under the bus, especially in light of last weekend’s activities… .


I’m sure you agree.


And I don’t agree that redefining it to mean non-omnipotent free will automatically gets us free will of any other sort,  which is what you seem to be saying. I think we have to work harder than that to substantiate it.

But that’s not the definition implied by Harris or the original poster here.  We don’t cause our thoughts or actions, so we are in fact powerless to change things about ourselves and the world.  Things will either change or they won’t, but we have no say over the matter.


Sorry this is really too strong for me still. There’s an I in your assertion that you can’t specify or define. That missing definition is not a trivial detail; it goes to the very heart of the issue of free will, as in “I have free will” . 

In fact, trying to imagine it any other way doesn’t make any sense.


I’ll give you this, the whole issue is cloudy and not just because of the way I tease apart the entangled concepts. Good sir, I accuse you of false clarity of the “luminiferous aether” type. In other words I doubt we have the right concepts in which to frame an answer to this question or even ask the question clearly.


I’m sorry but my Spidey senses are tingling and when that happens I know something’s just not right in the proposed explanation. As I once said to my prof after six interminable weeks of having the “accepted” theory of an aspect of cognition presented to us in class, “um.. something doesn’t quite fit together here”... to which she replied, bless her, “Just one thing?”. 

Harris has addressed this as well on his blog

Obviously I have to read this. 

Whether my choices are a part of a deterministic chain or whether they come about randomly, I’m not the source of them so I have no free will regardless.


Yeah there’s that I again which is neither defined clearly nor are it’s properties known. Yet you accuse ME of defining things to suit my preferred answer!!!! My god!...  *looking around* .... is there no referee in these parts????


The I and it’s properties you continually refer to in your arguments and which are essential to it (<—that’s important ) ....this I is whatever you want it to be in order to make your hypothesis true.. You’re gerrymandering the nature of the thing you’re talking about so it will fit with your conclusion.  The particular way you’re gerrymandering it is by leaving it blithely unspecified.


Referring to the above post to another poster, this is what Skinner did. He dispensed with the I altogether, and all of cognition with it, because his theory required it be defined away.


The definition or theory of I that is actually interesting is the one that fully accounts for my subjective experience of being in the world since that seems to me- at this time at least, but be sure to check back often- to be an essential component of being an “I”.


It goes without saying this is a different demand from just random demands to account for random subjective experiences (“why do I feel Jesus if he’s not real? ”  ).


Subjectivity , having a self, is the essence of “I-ness”, not an accounting detail, and the details of it, the phenomena as it is experienced,  needs to be explained.

 

Determinism has very little to do with the free will that the original poster was talking about, if anything.


The above makes no sense whatsoever. Sorry.  Determinism is exactly why people suppose there is no free will. As I did say earlier , the non-deterministic accounts of the universe are deemed irrelevant by the people who deny free will not because determinism is irrelevant to their argument- it’s the entire basis of it but because that non-determinism is not supposed by them to in any way interact with our selves and our thoughts and decisions.

Sam Harris says, our thoughts (even the conscious ones) just arise continuously, without us “causing” them in any way.

 

This is true to an extent,  but there’s no reason to suppose we understand the relationship between some alleged self and it’s alleged thoughts any more clearly than we understand any other aspect of I-ness and consciousness.  I’m not going to credit Sam with having this as his argument without seeing him make it for myself. 

 

Look, everyone always wants to suppose that they live at just the time when the final answers are going to be delivered thanks to progress and science. Now we KNOW. Mmmm people should maybe try harder than they do to resist this impulse.

[ Edited: 01 February 2012 02:22 PM by softwarevisualization]
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Posted: 01 February 2012 03:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]  
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Really? So everyone means to assert that they can will themselves to do anything (they are capable of doing in the first place)  under any circumstances, no matter how dearly those circumstances may press ,  and they will themselves through their day moment by moment, or they could do so, at least in principle.


Really? And how did you come into this certain knowledge?

Yes, really.  People really do believe that.  I know it seems crazy, but it makes a little more sense when you realize how many people also still think the earth is ten thousand years old. 

My own idea is that people don’t know what they mean by it other than it’s a kind of shorthand for saying that 1) there is an “I” and 2) that I makes decisions which 3) that I could have decided some other way if that I saw fit.


Really I think most people who even understand the question at all would NOT say they have infinite free will because they’d recall some time or other when they seemed to act against their better judgement and they would count this as being compelled, i.e. not free.


I’ll bet most people would tell you they have free will “if they tried”, on tap, at least most of the time but perhaps not all.  Or some crazy construct like that.

Right, they probably would say that.  But if they thought about that idea any further, they’d realize that doesn’t make sense because there is an infinite regress (Harris also talks about this in one of his blog posts and his “Ask Sam Harris Anything #2” video).  Most people don’t care to think about it further.  This is fine, but it results in wrong answers to questions regarding free will.

Now if we’re going to talk about the idea of freewill as it exists in the academic / scientific / intellectual community and not what the average person would produce for an answer if you pressed them on the subject as they were schlumping back from the grocery store with two bags of groceries and a kid, then I think it’s fair to calibrate what exactly we mean by free will and be careful not to unconsciously mix in two ideas: free will and omnipotence.

You can talk about it as it exists in those communities, but you should realize that’s not how the original poster intended to talk about it and that’s not how Sam Harris has been talking about it.  Again, those communites redefine “free will” to mean something other than what the general population means by it (in my opinion, the philosophers and scientists shouldn’t even call it “free will,” because there’s nothing free about it).  Harris’ target audience is the “average person in the grocery store with a kid” as he’s a New York Times Bestselling Author.  He’s trying to reach out to the general public, not just to philosophers and scientists who already basically agree with him.   

Again, if you redefine free will as something other than what basically everyone really means when they use the term, of course we can still have it.
Whoa whoa whoa there cowboy I didn’t say say we have it (I confess I think I do) what I said was these two ideas are two different things. I think we can all agree to throw free will of the omnipotent variety under the bus, especially in light of last weekend’s activities… .


I’m sure you agree.


And I don’t agree that redefining it to mean non-omnipotent free will automatically gets us free will of any other sort,  which is what you seem to be saying. I think we have to work harder than that to substantiate it.

Well, I don’t think of the non-omnipotent free will as free will at all, as I said above, but philosophers still call it that, which confused me for quite a long time when I first became interested in the subject. 

But that’s not the definition implied by Harris or the original poster here.  We don’t cause our thoughts or actions, so we are in fact powerless to change things about ourselves and the world.  Things will either change or they won’t, but we have no say over the matter.

Sorry this is really too strong for me still. There’s an I in your assertion that you can’t specify or define. That missing definition is not a trivial detail; it goes to the very heart of the issue of free will, as in “I have free will” .

You have a point here, but I’m not the only one who can’t define it too well; I doubt anyone really can.  The best I have to offer is that the “I” in my assertion is my conscious experience.  This consciousness seeminly separates my body and brain from causality at times (although we know this is also an illusion) and so it seems I am a self, or an operator somewhere behind my eyes that is capable of making free, uncaused choices.  Really, there is no “I” in that sense.  Only consciousness which produces the feeling of “I”.

Sorry.  Determinism is exactly why people suppose there is no free will. As I did say earlier , the non-deterministic accounts of the universe are deemed irrelevant by the people who deny free will not because determinism is irrelevant to their argument- it’s the entire basis of it but because that non-determinism is not supposed by them to in any way interact with our selves and our thoughts and decisions.

People who think determinism would be/is the reason there is no free will are flat out wrong.  Even if everything was completely random, there’d be no free will as long as there is no ghost in the machine.  Non-determinism interacts with our brains the same way determinism does, only non-determinism is a lot less predictable.  Either way, there is no room for free will as traditionally understood and defined.  I said it before and I’ll say it again: determinism is completely irrelevant to the topic at hand.  I’ll also add that when people bring determinism into free will discussions it drives me insane.

Look, everyone always wants to suppose that they live at just the time when the final answers are going to be delivered thanks to progress and science. Now we KNOW. Mmmm people should maybe try harder than they do to resist this impulse.

Some people were around when germs were discovered to be the cause of disease.  Some people were around when it was discovered that the earth wasn’t the center of the universe.  The fact that it might subjectively seem strange that we happen to be around when it the evidence against free will is piling up doesn’t mean we should resist the impulse to make claims based on that evidence.

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Posted: 01 February 2012 05:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]  
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YEs I agree just because we are living in a time when evidence is piling up etc.. I agree. I just dont’ think this is that time. is all.

People who think determinism would be/is the reason there is no free will are flat out wrong.  Even if everything was completely random, there’d be no free will as long as there is no ghost in the machine.  Non-determinism interacts with our brains the same way determinism does, only non-determinism is a lot less predictable.

 

I still disagree-  but am enjoying the riposte.


OK I see the confusion. Anyone who says free will is not dependent on determinism is mistaken. Proof by cases:


First, observe that in the presence of strict determinism there is no chance for free will on account of that fact alone. So in this way, free will is eliminated as a hypothesis exactly and only because of determinism.


Now we’ll take the case of non determinism. Events still happen; what determines their outcome for any given system ? Chance,  you say. For the specific system of the self, the other hypothesis is “free will” . You don’t like that hypothesis you say? You think it’s chance? That’s fine, but it’s also you assuming the consequent. What was to be proved- the non-deterministic case also impels the fact of no freewill-  is just assumed by you,  without proof.


So what do we know?


In the case of determinism, there can be no free will on account of that determinism.


In the case of non-determinism , the possibility of free will exists however little anyone likes it or thinks it’s likely.


The way Sam (apparently- still haven’t read his book ... but I will!) is using non-determinism is as a sort of “random determinism “.

If it’s determined that the outcome is the result of sheer randomness, then this is just another way of saying the cause of the outcome is determined to not be the self . 


But that was what to be proven. He’s importing his conclusion into his hypothesis,. albeit subtly, as an assumption about the ultimate cause of each specific of non-deterministic outcome .


Free willers can as well say that your inability to predict the seeming random outcome of a deeply embedded precursor to some neural event is a self .


How might THAT work? Somehow, that’ s how.


The thing is, it’s not incumbent on the free willers to show how this works or even that it’s true.


Why not? Because their job is not to establish scientific fact; their job is to disprove the hypothesis that   no free will   flows as a theorem from the axiom of non-determinism. They did disprove that.  QED.

 

How is this fair? It’s not. The bar to disprove this type of necessity is so low, a pig could jump over it. But that’s all they need do.
Oink oink.


I am just open to the mystery of that special intersection between self and experience and the laws of nature. It’s what the Famous Person and I concluded standing in line that day (previous post): Dennett punted in Consciouness Explained.


Say…. there’s a lot of punting going on!  In fact, everyone punts on this issue of consciousness.


I don’t want to come across as having said I know that we are working our wills into the laws of non-deterministic sub atomic events,  because I don’t know that and what’s more I don’t think that if the story could be told, that’s what the story would be.


But if we were something even weirder than that, would it be any weirder than what we know for a fact we have- unconscious matter arranging itself into consciousness using only the laws of nature- including non-deterministic events which eventually aggregate into large deterministic outcomes? I’d say not.


People who deal with this all the time stop seeing its deep, essential weirdness. It’s very, very weird. Why should there be awareness at all? Regardless of what you say about how useful consciousness is,  I can imagine an automaton performing the same feats with zero conscious awareness much like a bunch of tin cans tied together reacting to events in complicated ways.


I don’t see the fact that we’re made of squishy stuff and throw chemical about in our heads as anything that necessarily elevates us above the tin cans; it’s just matter interacting in ways which individually considered are very interesting but not particularly indicative of a budding consciousness.

 

Consciousness truly seems to be sui generis in all the universe (save for the fact that we see it everywhere….)  It seems a thing apart from all other types.


My best guess is that somehow the universe is somehow conscious in some way we can never grasp. So consciousness is built into the fabric of existence at the most fundamental level and doesn’t come from anywhere any more than energy comes from anywhere. It just exists   at an above-squishy-stuff / chemical-tossing level. It is manifest through squish without being dependent upon it . I think Michael Gazzaniga thinks this. I think, but don’t take my word for it.


Now the world of cognitive scientists splits as cleanly as a saltine into two types of people. People who get what I’m getting at and those to whom what I am saying just sounds like a broken chunk of confusion and a good way to ruin a career.  Not saying you’re the second type, but if you are , I know better than to argue with one you guys because for whatever reason, you’ll never grasp (not to say agree, just *grasp* )  the mystery I’m referencing here that needs to be accounted for.


I am not saying I know. People who say they know : input your favorite TV spiritualist new age guru here:  those people bug the shit out of me because I think they’re amputating inquiry and real wonder as badly and abruptly and crudely as any strict reductionist. 


I don’t believe them, they always sound like con artists or at best simpletons who bought their own bullshit and they clearly have little respect for science except in a “tut tut” kind of way.


I am not one of those.


I am just saying, there’s something here and it makes me wonder and no current explanations satisfy me and really,  that’s all.


 

 

[ Edited: 01 February 2012 05:55 PM by softwarevisualization]
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Posted: 01 February 2012 07:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]  
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softwarevisualization - 01 February 2012 05:42 PM

. . .

My best guess is that somehow the universe is somehow conscious in some way we can never grasp. So consciousness is built into the fabric of existence at the most fundamental level and doesn’t come from anywhere any more than energy comes from anywhere. It just exists   at an above-squishy-stuff / chemical-tossing level. It is manifest through squish without being dependent upon it . I think Michael Gazzaniga thinks this. I think, but don’t take my word for it. . . .

What makes you say this? Have you spoken to the man? If not, then please quote him or provide at least some hint of a reference.

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Posted: 01 February 2012 09:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]  
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softwarevisualization - 01 February 2012 05:42 PM

YEs I agree just because we are living in a time when evidence is piling up etc.. I agree. I just dont’ think this is that time. is all.

People who think determinism would be/is the reason there is no free will are flat out wrong.  Even if everything was completely random, there’d be no free will as long as there is no ghost in the machine.  Non-determinism interacts with our brains the same way determinism does, only non-determinism is a lot less predictable.

 

I still disagree-  but am enjoying the riposte.


OK I see the confusion. Anyone who says free will is not dependent on determinism is mistaken. Proof by cases:


First, observe that in the presence of strict determinism there is no chance for free will on account of that fact alone. So in this way, free will is eliminated as a hypothesis exactly and only because of determinism.


Now we’ll take the case of non determinism. Events still happen; what determines their outcome for any given system ? Chance,  you say. For the specific system of the self, the other hypothesis is “free will” . You don’t like that hypothesis you say? You think it’s chance? That’s fine, but it’s also you assuming the consequent. What was to be proved- the non-deterministic case also impels the fact of no freewill-  is just assumed by you,  without proof.


So what do we know?


In the case of determinism, there can be no free will on account of that determinism.


In the case of non-determinism , the possibility of free will exists however little anyone likes it or thinks it’s likely.


The way Sam (apparently- still haven’t read his book ... but I will!) is using non-determinism is as a sort of “random determinism “.

If it’s determined that the outcome is the result of sheer randomness, then this is just another way of saying the cause of the outcome is determined to not be the self . 


But that was what to be proven. He’s importing his conclusion into his hypothesis,. albeit subtly, as an assumption about the ultimate cause of each specific of non-deterministic outcome .


Free willers can as well say that your inability to predict the seeming random outcome of a deeply embedded precursor to some neural event is a self .


How might THAT work? Somehow, that’ s how.


The thing is, it’s not incumbent on the free willers to show how this works or even that it’s true.


Why not? Because their job is not to establish scientific fact; their job is to disprove the hypothesis that   no free will   flows as a theorem from the axiom of non-determinism. They did disprove that.  QED.

 

How is this fair? It’s not. The bar to disprove this type of necessity is so low, a pig could jump over it. But that’s all they need do.
Oink oink.


I am just open to the mystery of that special intersection between self and experience and the laws of nature. It’s what the Famous Person and I concluded standing in line that day (previous post): Dennett punted in Consciouness Explained.


Say…. there’s a lot of punting going on!  In fact, everyone punts on this issue of consciousness.


I don’t want to come across as having said I know that we are working our wills into the laws of non-deterministic sub atomic events,  because I don’t know that and what’s more I don’t think that if the story could be told, that’s what the story would be.


But if we were something even weirder than that, would it be any weirder than what we know for a fact we have- unconscious matter arranging itself into consciousness using only the laws of nature- including non-deterministic events which eventually aggregate into large deterministic outcomes? I’d say not.


People who deal with this all the time stop seeing its deep, essential weirdness. It’s very, very weird. Why should there be awareness at all? Regardless of what you say about how useful consciousness is,  I can imagine an automaton performing the same feats with zero conscious awareness much like a bunch of tin cans tied together reacting to events in complicated ways.


I don’t see the fact that we’re made of squishy stuff and throw chemical about in our heads as anything that necessarily elevates us above the tin cans; it’s just matter interacting in ways which individually considered are very interesting but not particularly indicative of a budding consciousness.

 

Consciousness truly seems to be sui generis in all the universe (save for the fact that we see it everywhere….)  It seems a thing apart from all other types.


My best guess is that somehow the universe is somehow conscious in some way we can never grasp. So consciousness is built into the fabric of existence at the most fundamental level and doesn’t come from anywhere any more than energy comes from anywhere. It just exists   at an above-squishy-stuff / chemical-tossing level. It is manifest through squish without being dependent upon it . I think Michael Gazzaniga thinks this. I think, but don’t take my word for it.


Now the world of cognitive scientists splits as cleanly as a saltine into two types of people. People who get what I’m getting at and those to whom what I am saying just sounds like a broken chunk of confusion and a good way to ruin a career.  Not saying you’re the second type, but if you are , I know better than to argue with one you guys because for whatever reason, you’ll never grasp (not to say agree, just *grasp* )  the mystery I’m referencing here that needs to be accounted for.


I am not saying I know. People who say they know : input your favorite TV spiritualist new age guru here:  those people bug the shit out of me because I think they’re amputating inquiry and real wonder as badly and abruptly and crudely as any strict reductionist. 


I don’t believe them, they always sound like con artists or at best simpletons who bought their own bullshit and they clearly have little respect for science except in a “tut tut” kind of way.


I am not one of those.


I am just saying, there’s something here and it makes me wonder and no current explanations satisfy me and really,  that’s all.


 

Okay, your description of why determinism relates to free will works a lot better for me this time.  There is still a possibility of free will (however small) as long as there is a non-deterministic universe.  That makes sense.

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Posted: 02 February 2012 04:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]  
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nonverbal re: why do I say this?

I posted this way back at he beginning of the thread; it’s out of view now…

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/11/18/free-will-debate-who-s-in-charge.html


I may have misread it, but..mmm maybe I think not….

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Posted: 02 February 2012 07:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]  
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For the sake of discussion then, I’ll assume that the following paragraph influenced your guess about Gazzaniga’s opinion:

“The mind—in ways we don’t yet understand—emerges from the brain, but it can’t be reduced to the brain. It’s not merely some subservient by-product. You can’t predict the mind from the raw ingredients of the brain. The mind is more than the sum of its parts.”


You may be right, S. Physicists especially seem partial to the view of consciousness that includes a-priori phenomena. But keep in mind that G. is not a physicist and he talks about emergence in his new book, which to me translates to the notion that neurological function interacts with culture and other environment in ways that result in mind. That is, the brain, culture and all environmental factors continue to influence and instruct our minds. But, due to the nature of emergent phenomena, the influence is not something that can be readily described. Rather, a new kind of complexity is involved.

At least that’s how I read him.


Peter Hacker, incidentally, sees things in his own way:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Hacker


Softwarev., I’m not going to argue with you about the legitimacy of free will. It’s dead on the vine, but not for the reasons that today’s neuroscientists over-confidently proclaim. Free will is an ancient religious term/concept. It was coined in ignorance and for centuries it’s been used in ignorance. It invites imagined conundrums such as those involving God watching over us and noting when we make decisions that benefit us over others. I’m sorry, but it seems hacky to dwell on the concept of free will with any more gusto (and word count) than what resurrection or praying to saints deserve.

 

 

 

 

[ Edited: 02 February 2012 08:00 AM by nv]
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Posted: 02 February 2012 08:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]  
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Fair enough , actually inclined to agree insofar as I think we don’t have the concepts we need to explain ourselves to ourselves coherently.

>>At least that’s how I read him.

And an intelligent reading it is too. Thanks for the thoughts.

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Posted: 02 February 2012 10:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]  
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softwarevisualization - 31 January 2012 10:18 AM

I need just one thing from you before I can proceed . We’re talking about free will and if a person, you or I say,  have it or not.


Can you define the “I” in the above? I’t s a prerequisite for being able to answer this question.


I would define you or I as the person, set of experiences, contents of consciousness, and so forth, that identify me as a person (or you as person)


That includes my physical body and the contents of consciousness it generates, the psychological history, the memories, and so forth.


Please let me know what you mean by free free will then.


Also, skimming through the above (I can’t read it all unfortunately because a lot of it becomes a wall of rambling tl;dr) I noticed that some think there is a necessary link between determinism and free will; if there is non-determinism, that this gives hope for free will.


Not yet being able to make full sense of what free will really is, I don’t even think that you can have free will in a non-deterministic universe either.  That’s to say, if we grant that the universe is non-deterministic, I don’t see any trivial way to conclude that there’s something like a free will anyway, since you still can’t use my (personally best, and nonsensical) experiment above of going back in time in a non-deterministic universe in order to prove free will.

[ Edited: 02 February 2012 11:02 AM by QuakePhil]
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Posted: 03 February 2012 07:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]  
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cokeninja - 27 January 2012 09:34 PM

To simplify, are our hands forced to make the decisions we do by chance or are our hands just “not our hands” moving without any perceived will at all?


I think its both.  To be sure (in the words of Dan Barker, for example) while we don’t have demonstrable free will, we have the illusion free will, and therefore we should act and be judged as if we had actual free will.


This is one reason why punishment is not important, but protection is.

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Posted: 04 February 2012 12:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]  
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softwarevisualization - 01 February 2012 05:42 PM

In the case of determinism, there can be no free will on account of that determinism.

In the case of non-determinism , the possibility of free will exists however little anyone likes it or thinks it’s likely.

Free willers can as well say that your inability to predict the seeming random outcome of a deeply embedded precursor to some neural event is a self .

Nicely put - but maybe the really juicy way we get to free will & self is like I suggested in my last post - just as subjective yet socio-political claims.  Ancient Egyptian rulers once claimed they were god-kings; and sometimes this idea was groomed from childhood.  It still goes on in some quarters - for example in the case of the current, 14th Dalai Lama.  An interesting quote from Wikipedia on the subject:

“Tibetans traditionally believe Dalai Lamas to be the reincarnation of their predecessors, each of whom is believed to be a human emanation of the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. A search party was sent to locate the new incarnation when the boy who was to become the 14th was about two years old. It is said that, amongst other omens, the head of the embalmed body of the thirteenth Dalai Lama, at first facing south-east, had mysteriously turned to face the northeast—indicating the direction in which his successor would be found. The Regent, Reting Rinpoche, shortly afterwards had a vision at the sacred lake of Lhamo La-tso indicating Amdo as the region to search—specifically a one-story house with distinctive guttering and tiling. After extensive searching, the Thondup house, with its features resembling those in Reting’s vision, was finally found.


“Thondup was presented with various relics, including toys, some of which had belonged to the 13th Dalai Lama and some of which had not. It was reported that he had correctly identified all the items owned by the previous Dalai Lama, exclaiming, “That’s mine! That’s mine!”


So here again, the selection of the current Dalai Lama was based on a property claim of sorts.  And as long as there is an orderly social system to supports such claims, who is going to argue that it is any more illegitimate than the election of the US President by another bunch of socially organised people?


But generally, as humanity advanced, especially in the West, such godly claims by rulers were denied them by the rest of us.  In one way I think this was perhaps the beginning of the end for the self-claim as well!  As I suggested earlier, I claim this space I occupy as my space, I claim the times I live in as my time, I claim the body I inhabit as my body and I claim the mind maps I think with as my mind.  And I claim a self just as I was taught to do since a baby.  But these are all just claims.  The space, the times, the body and the mind maps were all provided for my use by the unfolding of our universe from the big bang.  Everything is connected to, and via, the big bang.  Any individuation of this finite, self-contained and self-organising universe is just a subjective claim by fallible moral beings.  This includes the self claim.


But are these claims to self valid in any way?  Maybe this is the more important question than whether will is innately free or not.  I think the answer is tricky - maybe both Yes and No.  ‘Yes’ in that moral agents have been handed the ability to make claims by evolution in ways not open to entities without moral agency.  ‘No’ in the sense that there is no absolute truth available to fallible moral agents who are the product of evolution or emerging cause and effect rather than creation.  So it seems we have to decide for ourselves.  And we have.  We have made many decisions based on our crude ability to do so.


The next question is what we are going to do with our “will” right now.  We’re reaching peak oil, peak rare-earth metals and peak other resources as well.  We are not sustainable as we are.  So what should we do?  Should we rip down all the normative social laws we have built for ourselves and start again?  Should we re-think even the notion of self?  Should we just run a rake over garden Earth like nature tends to do from time to time with its mass-extinction-causing events?  Or should we take up our fallible moral agency with gusto in more positive ways?  This is what we are discussing in the other thread “Thoughts on biodiversity, social fabric and sustainability”...

I don’t want to come across as having said I know that we are working our wills into the laws of non-deterministic sub atomic events,  because I don’t know that and what’s more I don’t think that if the story could be told, that’s what the story would be.

But if we were something even weirder than that, would it be any weirder than what we know for a fact we have- unconscious matter arranging itself into consciousness using only the laws of nature- including non-deterministic events which eventually aggregate into large deterministic outcomes? I’d say not.

Again - nicely put.  But Dennett’s idea of neural-network pandemonium wherein order emerges out of disorder just like matter emerges from space (i.e. space’s fleeting matter-antimatter pairs) wouldn’t seem to require the marvel of consciousness to occur at the sub-atomic level.  But IMO it probably does, because as you suggest, QM tells us that “non-deterministic events ... eventually aggregate into large deterministic outcomes” all around us and on a routine basis.

People who deal with this all the time stop seeing its deep, essential weirdness. It’s very, very weird. Why should there be awareness at all? Regardless of what you say about how useful consciousness is,  I can imagine an automaton performing the same feats with zero conscious awareness much like a bunch of tin cans tied together reacting to events in complicated ways.

I don’t see the fact that we’re made of squishy stuff and throw chemical about in our heads as anything that necessarily elevates us above the tin cans; it’s just matter interacting in ways which individually considered are very interesting but not particularly indicative of a budding consciousness.

ok - I wouldn’t agree with this view at all.  It seems to me that this not only obviates the human brain, but also the “severe struggle for life” that achieved it and everything else in life’s incarnations.  I agree with Dennett in that consciousness arises everywhere in the brain because of the brain’s configurations and operations and not in spite of them.  But maybe you acknowledge this already.  Maybe it’s just the final issue of how brain becomes mind that you refer to here.  And I agree this is still an issue.  My personal belief is that just as there are real and virtual particles or matter and antimatter, so there is the real brain (a collection of real particles) and the virtual brain which we call consciousness (which is an orderly collection of virtual particles arranged in just the right way by the real brain - for ‘us’ to claim them as ‘ours’).  But yes - pure conjecture.

Consciousness truly seems to be sui generis in all the universe (save for the fact that we see it everywhere….)  It seems a thing apart from all other types.

Yes - I see consciousness as the highest form of interaction.  So first the interactions of the Standard Model (gravity, strong nuclear, weak nuclear & electromagnetic) which, by the way, did not all form at once but emerged in a certain order from the big bang, then life emerging from these interactions and then consciousness emerging from all former interactions (and matter).  So I don’t see consciousness in the big bang itself, just as I don’t see life or the four preceding interactions or the three spatial dimensions in the big bang itself.  But yes - just an alternative to think about…

My best guess is that somehow the universe is somehow conscious in some way we can never grasp. So consciousness is built into the fabric of existence at the most fundamental level and doesn’t come from anywhere any more than energy comes from anywhere. It just exists   at an above-squishy-stuff / chemical-tossing level. It is manifest through squish without being dependent upon it . I think Michael Gazzaniga thinks this. I think, but don’t take my word for it.

ok - again I wouldn’t agree with this view at all.  I’d agree that some kind of virtual particles that give rise to consciousness are built into the fabric of existence at the most fundamental level, but I think they’re just as dumb as the real particles that make up a brain.  That is, it is the marvellous and emergent arrangements and interpenetrations of virtual and real particles that is most important.  It is from this that the behaviours of all things arise.  The actions of the virtual particles are dependent on the real particles and vice versa.  This way no magic is required - just weak emergence from an unstable broth of average nothingness (matter-antimatter pairs etc).  To believe in a kind of cosmic consciousness independent of anything else is like the classical belief that empty space was totally independent of matter.  Now physicists suggest space and matter are dependent on each other for their very existence.  Space provides the virtual particles and matter the real-particle counterparts.  Further to believe consciousness always existed is to believe in something for nothing - and unlike various concepts of conservation of energy, something kind of complex not coming from simpler things.

Now the world of cognitive scientists splits as cleanly as a saltine into two types of people. People who get what I’m getting at and those to whom what I am saying just sounds like a broken chunk of confusion and a good way to ruin a career.  Not saying you’re the second type, but if you are , I know better than to argue with one you guys because for whatever reason, you’ll never grasp (not to say agree, just *grasp* )  the mystery I’m referencing here that needs to be accounted for.

Please don’t just revert to an inability to grasp your idea.  Just share it openly and we can discuss the alternatives.  Exploring mystery and imagination is a wonderful thing to do.  Nothing wrong with that.  Go for it.  This is what we are all doing here in our own ways.  I can grasp your idea - i just disagree with it for the reasons given, that’s all.

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Posted: 05 February 2012 09:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]  
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Back on the subject of free will - a couple of thoughts: I tend to think of the will as just our instinctive animal drives modified by consciousness of self.  Thus the inner drive to survive becomes the personal will to succeed, etc.  Perhaps far more subtly we can speak of an inner pride or dignity (something we seem to see in all animals) as compared to a personal self-esteem or appropriation of high self-worth.


The free part of “free will”, I’d agree, is something far more subjective and shaped by socio-religious views, etc.  Free means unencumbered.  Clearly in a world of cause-and-effect our will can’t be unencumbered - it must be part of a struggle even if we assume partial freedom of some sort.  Nothing evolves without a struggle.  So our will is not totally free.  However in the sense that we are aware of the will, it has a degree of freedom not accorded to purely instinctive organisms.  And that awareness of self modifies our will, as already mentioned.


While on the topic of self again, another way to think of self is not as a dubious claim, but as a pure gift.  Not a gift from an omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient god, but a gift from evolved consciousness-with-instincts, whose beginning was just in dumb real-and-virtual (or direct-and-indirect) particles.  In which case the indirect particles leading to indirect consciousness are not omnipresent (they share their presence with the direct particles of the brain, et cetera), are not omnipotent (their potency grows only in tandem with the emerging arrangements of direct particles) and not omniscient (they are only explicitly learning of themselves through fallible consciousness).  Fundamentally nature is blind, i.e. not all-seeing.  It only moves due to unstable nothingness.  That is, unless I am being way too anthropomorphic, nature seems to be like us, only learning of its deeper purpose (to bring equilibrium or homeostasis or synergy between equally unlikely nothingness and somethingness) in hindsight after it mutates and acts.  And there is no meaning until we assign the acts some meaning.  These are our claims.  This is our gift…


When we think of gifts we think of something freely given, i.e. without expectation of returns.  If a gift is given with some attached expectation of reciprocity then it seems like it is no longer a gift, but rather some kind of social contract.  By this definition some would argue that there are no free gifts - there are no free lunches - just as there are no truly unselfish acts of altruism (at least from the point of view of genes-and-memes).  And maybe this view is correct: Consciousness and self and will are not given to us as a free gift, but as part of a social contract or more broad naturalistic contract we share with all members of Gaia.  If self is part of an unwritten contract rather than a gift or claim then it carries responsibilities as well as rights.  Sometimes we’re too quick to claim our rights but too slow to bear our responsibilities under a contract.  Maybe it’s time not to think we can freely enter into a fraternity with Gaia, but to realise we are already in such a fraternity and that fraternity has obligations attached to it.  Protection of Gaia’s synergistic biodiversity and sustainability, and our own acceptance of our position or social fabric within that deep ecology, is perhaps more our duty rather than just our privilege!  In terms of our social fabric I think we need to really struggle to be our best, not resign ourselves to being our worst.  Sorry - this is again the subject of the other thread “Thoughts on Biodiversity, social fabric & sustainability”...

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