Free Will Redux: A Question

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This topic contains 225 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  Unseen 7 months, 1 week ago.

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  • #35337

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    The Buddhists say that the mind is a sense organ, I believe.  In a way, all sense data is an illusion.

    #35338

    Unseen
    Participant

    The Buddhists say that the mind is a sense organ, I believe. In a way, all sense data is an illusion.

    “We live in illusion and the appearance of things. There is a reality. We are that reality. When you understand this, you see that you are nothing, and being nothing, you are everything. That is all.” —Gautama Buddha

    Buddhism has a view of reality that goes beyond the view of consciousness as illusion as held by certain philosophers and neuroscientists who view the illusion as an artifact of the way we perceive. Buddhists mean that reality itself is an illusion, that the reality we find ourselves figuratively swimming in is simply unreal. No world. No individual people. Nothing really happening.

    So, I would say not the same thing at all. For scientists, the illusion is simply a fact of how a flesh and blood being is in touch with the world, for Buddhists, it’s metaphysical. Scientists and philosophers, generally, do not claim the world is unreal, the Buddhists do. Am I wrong about Buddhism the way you understand it?

    Another distinction is that the self of the Buddhists and the Western psychologists are not even close to the same thing. The Buddhist personal self is an aspect of a larger cosmic self, only individuated due to the illusion of Maya, a notion that would have most mainstream psychologists scratching their heads. Most would probably assent to a definition like “The self a system of social, psychological, neural, and molecular mechanisms.”

    #35424

    Unseen
    Participant

    The Buddhists say that the mind is a sense organ, I believe. In a way, all sense data is an illusion.

    Karma, if you think about it, raises a dilemma. On the one hand, it operates on an engine of cause and effect, since your rebirth is caused by your conduct during your life. But it implies a kind of conceptual dualism, since to earn your rebirth, you supposedly make free choices.

    Here are the thoughts of a Buddhist thinker (Buddhism doesn’t have theologists):

    In an article in the Journal of Consciousness Studies (18, No. 3–4, 2011), Author and Buddhist practitioner B. Alan Wallace said that the Buddha rejected both the indeterministic and deterministic theories of his day. Our lives are deeply conditioned by cause and effect, or karma, refuting indeterminism. And we are personally responsible for our lives and actions, refuting determinism.But the Buddha also rejected the idea that there is an independent, autonomous self either apart from or within the skandhas. Wallace wrote:

    “Thus, the sense that each of us is an autonomous, non-physical subject who exercises ultimate control over the body and mind without being influenced by prior physical or psychological conditions is an illusion.”
     
    That pretty much refutes the western notion of free will.

    (Source: An Examination of Free Will and Buddhism)

    #35425

    Unseen
    Participant

    More to think about:

    #35427

    Our lives are deeply conditioned by cause and effect, or karma, refuting indeterminism…Quote 35424 above.

    That reminded me of a PDF I read a long time ago.

     

    It is enough to point out that the whole theistic fallacy rests here on the assumption that we are dealing with two things, when as a matter of fact we are dealing with only one. Cause and effect are not two separate things, they are the same thing viewed under two different aspects. When, for example, I ask for the cause of gunpowder and am told that it is sulphur, charcoal, and nitre, or for a cause of sulphuric acid and am given sulphide of iron and oxygen, it is clear that considered separately these ingredients are not causes at all. Whether charcoal and sulphur will become part of the cause of gunpowder or not will depend upon the presence of the third agent; whether sulphide of iron will rank as part of the cause of sulphuric acid will depend upon the presence of oxygen.

    In every case it is the assemblage of appropriate factors that constitute a real cause. But given the factors, gunpowder does not follow their assemblage, it is their assemblage that is expressed by the result. There is no succession in time, the result is instantaneous with the assemblage of the factors. The effect is the registration, so to speak, of the combination of the factors.

    Now if what has been said be admitted as correct the argument for the existence of God as based upon the fact of causation breaks down completely. If cause and effect are the expressions of a relation, and if they are not two things, but only one, under two aspects, “cause” being the name for the related powers of the factors, and “effect” the name for their assemblage, to talk, as does the theist, of working back along the chain of causes until we reach God, is nonsense. Even if we could achieve this feat of regression, we could not reach by this means a God distinct from the universe. For, as discovering the cause of any effect means no more than analyzing an effect into its factors, the problem would ultimately be that of dealing with the question of how something already existing transformed itself into the existing universe. A form of a very doubtful Pantheism might be reached in this way, but not theism.

    But here a fresh difficulty presents itself to the theist. A cause, as I have pointed out, must consist of at least two factors or two forces. This is absolutely indispensable. But assuming that we have got back to a point prior to the existence of the universe, we have on the theistic theory, not two factors, but only one. The essential condition for an act of causation is lacking. A single factor could only repeat itself. By this method the theist might reach “God.” But having got there, there he would remain. He is left with God and nothing else, and with no possibility of reaching anything else.

     

    The free ebook is worth a read –  here – first published in 1921.  To paraphrase Bill Maher “I don’t know it for a fact, I just know it to be true…that Hitchens read this book at some point before he wrote “God is not Great”

     

    #35428

    Unseen
    Participant

    My take is that cause and effect are tags describing ways of looking at a physical transaction, because every cause was once an effect and thence becomes a cause for some other effected event. It’s not like you have two distinct boxes, one full of causes which will always be causes and another full of effects which will always be effects.

    One of the biggest differences between Buddhism and most other religions, but especially, for us, the Abrahamic religions, is that there is no eternally enduring self or soul in Buddhism. While it believes in karma whereby a soul moves on to another body based on its actions, in the end, the soul will merge with a non-individuated self like a raindrop falling into an ocean, thus ending samsara (the cycle of birth-death-rebirth, etc.). Every soul faces eventual extinction in the form of nonindividuation, in other words, and achieving that extinction sooner rather than later is the reason for living a good life. “Merging with The One” isn’t just New Age woo, it’s Buddhist doctrine.

    • This reply was modified 7 months, 1 week ago by  Unseen.
    #35432

    jakelafort
    Participant

    The little guy inside my brain is telling me i have read that initially the universe was without cause and effect. It took a few hundred thousand years to have matter assume its present form and for the laws of physics to be determined. If i am mistaken it aint my fault.

    And if that is so it does nothing to bolster the god argument. It is parallel to indeterminism as it relates to free will.

    #35433

    Unseen
    Participant

    The little guy inside my brain is telling me i have read that initially the universe was without cause and effect. It took a few hundred thousand years to have matter assume its present form and for the laws of physics to be determined. If i am mistaken it aint my fault.

    And if that is so it does nothing to bolster the god argument. It is parallel to indeterminism as it relates to free will.

    The operations of the early universe were probably governed almost entirely by subatomic physics rather than the physics we know from everyday experience.

     

    #35434

    _Robert_
    Participant

    The “closer to the truth” video they have the “either/or” of hard determinism or 100% random/chaos both which buck free will. However even in a hard deterministic universe, randomness is still present because it is hierarchical.

    Take the Nazi enigma machine as an example. It takes a very non random series of letters and words and adds randomness (noise) to the sequence so that those tenacious Brits will not know when and where the next bombing raid will be headed across the channel. To the Brits the signal appears as noise, but not the the German air command. Until the Brits unlocked the code. Therefore randomness is in the eye of the beholder and it matters not if noise is deterministic to the overarching system.

    Evolution utilizes “random” mutations to enrich the diversity of life. The human brain may also use electrical or some other noise to enrich our ability to determine choices to help our survival.

    #35436

    _Robert_
    Participant

    Another interesting point I have run across..if you search the internet you will see many studies that conclude that prolonged child abuse (no direct physical brain injury) actually changes brain structure compared to children that were not abused. This is a very interesting feedback system….experiences and thought  patterns impact physical structure.

    #35442

    jakelafort
    Participant

    Robert you present some interesting ideas.

    Is randomness relativistic? I have no clue. My gut says no but then says maybe. If it is what does that imply for free will?

    As to prolonged child abuse there is a crap load of literature on that. And anecdotally i have known so many women who were abused and every one of em is fucked up. I also remember reading about Jewish women in the Ukraine or somewhere in Eastern Europe who were hiding from the nazis and under incredible stress. A study was done on the now adults and they all had issues.

    #35443

    jakelafort
    Participant

    addendum…pregnant jewish women

    #35444

    Unseen
    Participant

    Evolution utilizes “random” mutations to enrich the diversity of life. The human brain may also use electrical or some other noise to enrich our ability to determine choices to help our survival.

    But in everyday life above the subatomic level, doesn’t random mean no effing idea (no available data to crunch)? True randomness, WTF is that? All the sciences we use in our world of everyday life assumes that everything has a cause, that experiments mean nothing if they aren’t repeatable.

    To take your evolution example, what do we think causes “random” mutations. A gamma ray hitting a strand of DNA. Chemicals are known to trigger mutations. We may need to assume that we’ll never know the reason, but if you ask a biologist specializing in evolution “Do you think mutations just up and happen for no reason,” don’t be surprised to hear a loud guffaw.

    • This reply was modified 7 months, 1 week ago by  Unseen.
    #35446

    Unseen
    Participant

    Is randomness relativistic? I have no clue. My gut says no but then says maybe. If it is what does that imply for free will?

    Is quantum randomness itself determined? A question no one seems to want to ask. We may be forced to use statistical methods to examine these “random” events, but do we really believe that they are uncaused and that there is no pattern to them beyond statistical? or is it more likely due to the fact that we simply don’t know and may never know the physics behind them?

    #35448

    _Robert_
    Participant

    Evolution utilizes “random” mutations to enrich the diversity of life. The human brain may also use electrical or some other noise to enrich our ability to determine choices to help our survival.

    But in everyday life above the subatomic level, doesn’t random mean no effing idea (no available data to crunch)? True randomness, WTF is that? All the sciences we use in our world of everyday life assumes that everything has a cause, that experiments mean nothing if they aren’t repeatable. To take your evolution example, what do we think causes “random” mutations. A gamma ray hitting a strand of DNA. Chemicals are known to trigger mutations. We may need to assume that we’ll never know the reason, but if you ask a biologist specializing in evolution “Do you think mutations just up and happen for no reason,” don’t be surprised to hear a loud guffaw.

    Experiments are only repeatable if you whack off some digits. Even then there will be outliers if you take enough readings. That’s when statistics come in.. so you can draw probabilities of outcomes. Randomness is always there. It’s the snow on your old TV tube, it’s the static on your AM radio. It’s the frame freeze on a digital TV. It’s the waves on the ocean. All because seas are running 3-4ft that doesn’t mean you won’t get the odd 8 footer. That 8 foot wave had a cause…in fact you can even describe the situations that would cause an 8 foot wave when seas are running 3-4ft, but good luck predicting any individual 8 foot wave. It is in-the-noise to our ability.

    Your brain operates on relatively tiny electrical signals and that noise is in there and as far as your brain is concerned it is in no way deterministic. And mistakes will happen (the 8 foot wave). There is always a cause, but is it really always deterministic? A yes answer could be a most meaningless yes. We live in a universe of causal probabilities and that is why I question framing the free will mystery in such a binary fashion.

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