Free Will Redux: A Question

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

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  • #35075

    jakelafort
    Participant

    Unseen, yes we have a strong sense we know how others feel, even other mammals. BTW not all humans have that strong theory of mind or empathy. Some autistics are mostly lacking in that capability. And now i am reminded of a book i read by Oliver Sacks entitled The Man who Mistook his Keys for his Wife. Lots of interesting case studies of aberrant behavior. It is empathy, it is driven in part by mirror neurons and it is a projection. In terms of evolution among social animals those perceptive of how others feel are at an advantage. So it is fair to characterize it as a biological imperative.

    And then there are the machines that may become sentient, autonomous and Einstein to the 199th power. I am not sure once they have transformed they are still machines. But they are not going to be biological either. Whatever it is that informs their consciousness or creates their consciousness will be so far from what creates and informs our consciousness that you may be right. But but but being that intelligent suggests to me that they will figure it out. However as you have indicated it will not be the way we do it.

    #35076

    Unseen
    Participant

    And then there are the machines that may become sentient, autonomous and Einstein to the 199th power. I am not sure once they have transformed they are still machines. But they are not going to be biological either. Whatever it is that informs their consciousness or creates their consciousness will be so far from what creates and informs our consciousness that you may be right. But but but being that intelligent suggests to me that they will figure it out. However as you have indicated it will not be the way we do it.

    If there is any indication that empathy flows from intelligence with any degree of necessity, I’m unaware of it. Some of the worst human crooks, pathologically ruining the lives of less intelligent people, have done so totally without a hint of empathy. I would expect machine intelligence to be even more ruthless.

    #35077

    _Robert_
    Participant

    Yeah it’s just too early to make conclusions on ‘free will’. It may very well go unanswered to our species. What percentage of the the total breadth of physics and biology do we know and understand? 0.0001%, 10%,  50%, 99.99%. Somewhere between 0 and 100% would be my best guess. We don’t have tons of experience with the physics of extreme environments. And that is most of the universe, like 99.999% of it. We can’t create life nor do we even know if there are worlds full of aliens or gazillions of planets with megagazillions of clueless humanoids just like us.

     

    #35078

    Unseen
    Participant

    What would it be like to live in a world where one was able to ignore sufficient antecedents such that those antecedents were sufficient to cause A, and yet one nevertheless did B? And yet, wouldn’t that describe the only kind of world in which free will existed?

    Our ethical and legal systems are predicated on people acting truly freely. Why? Because if people cannot act freely, they are not responsible for their actions morally or legally. It’s not enough for them to be merely the proximate cause of their actions, they must be the uncaused cause of them.

    You can do what sufficient antecedents cause you to do, which is how the world normally works, or you can step outside the causal chain and do something else, which is what we would normally call either a miracle or free will.

    And if it’s not to be a miracle, then we must explain how we get free will. What causes it?

    #35079

    Davis
    Moderator

    The best theory I’ve ever read on free will is “Freedom Evolves” by Daniel Dennet (one of the four horsemen on atheism writing “Breaking the Spell”). I can lend anyone the ebook if they are interested. I believe Simon Matthews wrote a three page summary of the book some years back and also believe Reg has read it. Covers a fairly up to date theory of consciousness and other neuroscience topics, compatibility, moral responsibility (and moral theory) and of course free will. Highly worth the read.

    #35080

    “Freedom Evolves” is one of those books worth a second read a few years after the first reading. It is probably not a “starter”  book on the topic of Freewill vs Determinism. It was written by an expert after 30 or so years thinking about the topic and I suppose this book could be seen as the evolution of his own thoughts on the subject. I have been fortunate to speak with Dan Dennett (about atheism and the Clergy Project) and attend  a few of his lecture circuit talks over the last 15 years.

    #35081

    _Robert_
    Participant

    One thing we can all agree on. Free will as understood by the masses not a gift to humankind by a god who then judges each individual based on our thoughts and actions. This doesn’t mean atheists have to disprove free will just because theists claim that it explains the “question of evil”. I have always thought arguments that go after the nature of a god as described in  holy books are relatively poor arguments (even if they are fun and highlight the stupidity of it all) compared to lack of evidence arguments.

    #35082

    Ivy
    Participant

    Yes we have free will. With limits. We don’t have choices infinity. We have choices within our own individual realities. Some people have more choices than others. Many choices begin in the subconscious so deep that one could argue we aren’t actually choosing it, it’s choosing us. But if we make a conscious effort to become self aware around any particular issue, that cycle can be broken. So yes. We have free will – to a point.

    #35083

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    But if we make a conscious effort to become self aware around any particular issue, that cycle can be broken. So yes. We have free will – to a point.

    I think this is consistent with the saying “knowledge is power”.

    #35084

    jakelafort
    Participant

    Reg, what is your position on free will in general and Dennet’s position in particular?

    #35085

    In short, we have the illusion of free will but all the options we think we can select from are per-determined by past events. We cannot undo past events that created these options that we are presented with to choose from. You can choose any color you want to so long as it is one of the colors presented to you. Even then, our “decision” is made a few milliseconds before we express it to yourselves.

    Woo, I did keep that short! It is not quite Dennett’s position but I am not in a position to write more on that until later as my freedom to do so is curtailed by work deadlines that I have no control over.

     

    #35086

    Unseen
    Participant

    To me, it comes down to whether decisions are the result of sufficient conditions or if your choices are truly (not in some abstruse sense) free. To be free in any relevant sense, the sufficiency issue must be dealt with.

    Unlike other issues, quantum physics, for example, where the general public is content to take the specialists’ word for it, the question of free will can’t be settled by saying “Believe me, it’s been solved.”

    The reason is that nobody outside physics or the world of serious science appreciators (like me) gives a damn about subatomic physics. By contrast, just about everyone feels they have a dog in the free will fight if only because our beliefs about ethics, morals, and justice depend upon free will being true. Or at least, that’s how it seems.

    Einstein explained his revolutionary theory so that any intelligent person can understand it without even particularly dumbing it down. I can sit down with a friend and explain his new way of conceiving space and time in something like a minute. There can be no real solution to the problem of free will if it can’t be explained with similar facility.

    I hear that there is a solution. I never see it laid out in any language, much less ordinary the intelligent person on the street could understand. If you can’t explain it to ordinary folks plainly, then in their mind the problem will remain.

    #35087

    Davis
    Moderator

    Simon Matthews, a great user here on atheist zone some years back who sort of fizzled away, wrote a 2 page summary of Dennet’s “Freedom Evolves”. I’m not going to search the archives for it (it may even be on think atheist!) but for a book that is insanely difficult to summarise I’d say he did an okay job on the basic premise. The best way to look at it is that thinking of this problem in terms of “free will” as “pure free autonomy” is misguided and that we should look at individual agents as having higher “degrees of freedom” than others.

    #35088

    Davis
    Moderator

    If you can’t explain it to ordinary folks plainly, then in their mind the problem will remain.

    Unseen that is total bullshit. Please explain the theory of relativity in “two sentences”.

    #35089

    _Robert_
    Participant

    To me, it comes down to whether decisions are the result of sufficient conditions or if your choices are truly (not in some abstruse sense) free. To be free in any relevant sense, the sufficiency issue must be dealt with.

    If you decide conditions are sufficient, have you made a choice? Of course your “will” is dependent on a physical brain. When we find a non physical brain (aka god) maybe then you will have your free will. Sometimes a paramecium jumps towards the light, sometimes away. That is probably about the extent of our free will. Way more than a stone, way less than a god.

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