Free Will Redux: A Question

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  • #35133

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    what do YOU mean by “objective morality”? Morality based on principles built into reality itself?

    That’s what I mean.  It’s an illusion.

    Much of what we do isn’t even handled by the brain. It’s taken care of automatically by the autonomic nervous system. When you duck a flying object, it’s not even really a decision, it’s a pure response, no thinking needed.

    But at other times, we consciously deliberate using our mind, to weigh different courses of action.

    #35134

    Unseen
    Participant

    But at other times, we consciously deliberate using our mind, to weigh different courses of action.

    That we do, but it happens preconsciously. Every thought that runs through your mind, was thought some small time in a part of your mind over which you have no control.

    “Your brain makes up its mind up to ten seconds before you realize it, according to researchers. By looking at brain activity while making a decision, the researchers could predict what choice people would make before they themselves were even aware of having made a decision.” Read full article here.

    #35135

    Davis
    Moderator

    That is a grossly broad interpretation of a set of experiments which have been highly critiqued by neuroscientists.

    #35136

    Unseen
    Participant

    That is a grossly broad interpretation of a set of experiments which have been highly critiqued by neuroscientists.

    What critiques? (I can google them, but I’d like you to argue with me rather than throwing stones for a change.) Convince us. How conclusive are these “critiques.” Or do they just introduce doubt?

    #35137

    Davis
    Moderator

    Daniel Dennet has argued over the methodology of the experiment, especially over the methods use to determine when an agent is aware of a decision which was based on several assumptions

    Raymond Tallis (a neuro surgeon) with the overly broad application of the results of the experiment (reducing a decision down to one single moment with one identifiable area of the brain)

    Robert Kranes book on Free Will (not the best theory however an extremely good critique of the experiments) extensively critiques not only the experiments but the rash generalisations made by them and particularly documenting the popularisation of the “conclusions” of the experiments and how it has gotten completely out of control developing its own mythology (which is totally true).

    The very authors of the original experiment are themselves extremely frustrated by the popularisation of the experiment as proof that the brain makes decisions before we are conscious of them when it reality they believe all it proves is that the brain has a more complex internal process

    Libet’s subsequent experiement was also critiqued by neuroscientists such as Aaron Schurger who claimed that the peak of brain wave activity could be explained as “noisy data” and that the activity could be explained simply as part of the decision making process (involving a series of peaks of activity) rather than one quick decision.

    A recent study based on Schurgers theory suggested that in fact this was the explanation.

    ___________

    In other words the original experiments certainly presented some seriously difficult questions that needed to be answered with subsequent research but the conclusions drawn were preposterous knee-jerk reactions, perhaps reasonable, but nowhere near approaching scientific explanations.

    ___________

    It boggles my mind that you don’t know a single thing about the critiques of these experiments (I’ve only listed a few) it actually doesn’t require reading an entire book to learn about the criticism of these experiments. Now that I’ve done some of your homework for you (for free)…perhaps you’ll research it a bit more accessing high quality literature on the topic? You are capable of even reading short journal articles at least? You can borrow my academic journal account and password if you like.

     

    • This reply was modified 4 months, 1 week ago by  Davis.
    #35139

    Unseen
    Participant

    It boggles my mind that you don’t know a single thing about the critiques of these experiments.

    There’s the expected ad hominem, which has become virtually pro forma by now.

    All you’re saying is that some people have their doubts, and it seems to me that a lot of these doubts are attributable to special pleading, because nobody wants to admit that we basically function like every other physical thing, according to the same laws that govern everything else. We still like to think that we aren’t like chimps, dogs, and cats. We’re the ones who are moral beings because we have free will. I was hoping for something with some meat on its bones. It’s hard to criticize mere doubts. How do they handle the sufficient conditions question, for example?

    Doesn’t it strike you as strange that some people have doubts that human behavior is just as caused as everything else, driven by antecedent conditions that amount to sufficient conditions? I find it quite weird.

    And also, there is an obvious solution (two really), the first is dualism: the idea of a ghost in the machine who is simply defined to be free and who can miraculously overrule the laws of the universe at will.

    Also, I think I probably speak for Jake as well in asking: what is Dennett’s free will worth if we have to give up moral agency along the way? What’s left? That’s kind of what it’s all about, isn’t it? If you answer nothing else, answer that. For reference, Dennett is interviewed on page 5 and the relevant moment comes around 5:08 or so.

    Your post is basically a lot of argumentum ad verecundiam, but I don’t find any refutation of hard determinism anywhere there.

    Better luck next time.

    #35143

    PopeBeanie
    Moderator

    Also, you need an additional term to “conscious” and “subconscious,” namely “preconscious.” This is because we know that conscious decisions are made before we are aware of them.

    Certainly preconsciousness must be helping us consciously understand how we’re acting… the preconscious (and even lower processes) has been working out, since birth and according to the being’s contemporarily experienced circumstances, how to make us comprehend and behave such that the consciousness will experience the most joy. I want to win the next point in tennis, and all my muscle memory, hopes, desires, previous experiences will inform me, my conscious self, via my preconscious, how I should attempt to attain my goals. Is there not a more “natural” feeling way to experience this kind of success?

    So what if our consciousness cannot possibly understand all at once, every lower level process that has come, over much time and effort, to make this moment possible? Conversely, how could we possibly be as successful if, in every second, we believed (“accurately”) we have no conscious control and never had conscious control… “what’s the point of even trying”, we might tell ourselves?

    No, let the consciousness feel the success (even if it’s illusory), and let it provide positive feedback down to lower processes such that successes can be reinforced yet again and again. (Wait, would you then steal my joy, maybe by claiming that my consciousness cannot provide feedback to the levels below the preconscious, that inform that pivotal preconsciousness?)

    I do understand how the preconscious (and lower processes) are absolutely necessary for determining how we feel and behave, but then, if consciousness is so enhanced in humans due to their relatively massive frontal lobes, what are those frontal lobes good for, if consciousness itself isn’t relevant to future behaviors and enhanced survivability? I.e., are our frontal lobes, with enhanced consciousness (over other animals), not influencing how we behave at all?

    #35146

    Ivy
    Participant

    @davis

    RE: We don’t even have sufficient information to form a confident theory of consciousness and the best ones are laboriously technical.

    I don’t think (IMHO), For the sake of discussion and argument that it has to be overly complicated. When we are in a regulated state, we are able to think properly. When we are in a state such as fight flight or freeze, we react with our primitive brain.

    @unseen

    RE: Rather, it provides most of the evidence against it, like the fact that your actions (the ones you are conscious of and believe to be free) were decided anywhere from a few seconds to a fraction of a second before you yourself knew what you were “voluntarily” going to do.

    But it’s really not that simplistic. The way you just described that is really oversimplifying the matter. The transfer of decisions from our unconscious to our conscious mind does not mean that we have no control over ourselves.

    I think the simple answer is that all we can do is make the best decisions we can at the time with the information that we have at hand. Whether those decisions are done in a state of calm regulation in a fluffy happy-go-lucky world, or a terrifying event where we are in straight primal mode, either way…I do believe we act in a way that we decide to. However, when you are in primal mode, your decisions may be coming from your unconscious, but that still does not mean that you were not in control. It just means that you may not realize until later what actually happened…Once you have a prefrontal cortex that functions do you have self control. And that means you do have choices.

    So to the question of free well, I would say we have the ability to make choices, and to make the best choice that we can in the moment. That’s free will. However, we are still limited by our circumstances the number of choices that we could make in a given situation. The more resources you have at your disposal, the higher number of options you have to choose from. The less resources you have at your disposal, the fewer options you have.

     

     

     

    #35147

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    Whether those decisions are done in a state of calm regulation in a fluffy happy-go-lucky world, or a terrifying event where we are in straight primal mode, either way…I do believe we act in a way that we decide to.

    Do we not always act in a way that brings us pleasure?  Whether in the short or long term.

    #35154

    So to the question of free well, I would say we have the ability to make choices, and to make the best choice that we can in the moment. That’s free will.

    We don’t choose the choices on offer that we can select from. Having to make the best choice for yourself at a given time is to be forced to make a decision because of events you had no control over. The “choices” on offer are the only choices available because they have be predetermined for you by past events. You will always “freely choose” the one choice that suits you best. Do you really have any other choice? I mean were you really free to choose the choice that would leave you worse off?

    #35155

    _Robert_
    Participant

    So to the question of free well, I would say we have the ability to make choices, and to make the best choice that we can in the moment. That’s free will. We don’t choose the choices on offer that we can select from. Having to make the best choice for yourself at a given time is to be forced to make a decision because of events you had no control over. The “choices” on offer are the only choices available because they have be predetermined for you by past events. You will always “freely choose” the one choice that suits you best. Do you really have any other choice? I mean were you really free to choose the choice that would leave you worse off?

    Well when a monk pours petrol all over himself and lights up, I would say he is worse off for that choice. Yikes. I agree past events are important to choices but there is noise in the system. Memory is often incorrect, for example. Brain functions are compromised in countless ways.

    Hard determinism is crushed by randomness and I do not believe for a minute that if the big bang was rewound back to t=0 and released that the universe would play back the same way. Can you consider subconscious activity as “free will”? I think yes, when compared to inanimate matter. People have even consciously been able to control subconscious organ functions such as heart rate, etc. However this is not really what we mean by free will. If there is fact a delay between a thought’s origin and our ‘awareness’ of that thought it seems pretty bad for classical ‘free will’, however even if the experiments were valid, that assumption could be still incorrect. We have such limited knowledge. In any event there is no evidence for “thoughts” without matter and energy so our will…will always be bounded.

    #35156

    jakelafort
    Participant

    Free will. Neither external conditions nor innate nature are free. Strict determinism forecloses any degree of free will. If Unseen and Davis were always going to do the free will dance then the issue is settled. If this is not the case then it may be because of human limitation in understanding the universe but from my perspective determinism is sufficient to end the conversation.

    Injection of randomness into consciousness will not rescue free will. No need to elaborate this point.

    Free will. In biology there are a myriad of conditions that chain and gag free will. Unconscious and preconscious gifts of evolution give us characteristics of automata just like our single cell forbears. Get herpes and you become horny because the virus wants other hosts. Get a certain cocktail of bacteria and you will become depressed. Have mania and you will have racing thoughts. Get your period and you will have pain and not be yourself. Any mental illness will make you feel, behave and decide in the way that mental illness impacts you.

    The way Dennet defends free will and compatibilism reminds me of Peterson. Both are arriving at a position that represents wish thinking and defending the wish in a tortured way.

    Here is the free will song of the century!

    #35157

    Unseen
    Participant

    So to the question of free well, I would say we have the ability to make choices, and to make the best choice that we can in the moment. That’s free will. However, we are still limited by our circumstances the number of choices that we could make in a given situation. The more resources you have at your disposal, the higher number of options you have to choose from. The less resources you have at your disposal, the fewer options you have.

    And yet, we swim in an ocean of cause and effect where causes have effects, and effects happen inevitably when a certain causal sufficiency is achieved. We accept this everywhere else with only two exceptions: 1) subatomic physics and 2) when it comes to free will. So, naturally, I see defending free will vs. hard determinism as a kind of special pleading on behalf of a belief someone wants to save at all costs.

    #35158

    Simon Paynton
    Participant

    Get herpes and you become horny because the virus wants other hosts. Get a certain cocktail of bacteria and you will become depressed. Have mania and you will have racing thoughts. Get your period and you will have pain and not be yourself. Any mental illness will make you feel, behave and decide in the way that mental illness impacts you.

    These things constrain our free will, but they don’t necessarily erase it.  Knowledge and insight can go a long way to removing constraints on our free will.

    #35159

    Unseen
    Participant

    Hard determinism is crushed by randomness and I do not believe for a minute that if the big bang was rewound back to t=0 and released that the universe would play back the same way. Can you consider subconscious activity as “free will”? I think yes, when compared to inanimate matter.

    Hard determinism is immune to randomness. Randomness operates way down where it doesn’t concern us in our daily lives, at the subatomic level. On the everyday life level, things happen due to antecedents.

    People have even consciously been able to control subconscious organ functions such as heart rate, etc. However this is not really what we mean by free will.

    And if they did so, either it was all cause and effect or a miracle happened. I’ll go for the standard explanation that what happens happens because of sufficient conditions preceding it. We use the standard explanation everywhere except when it comes to free will. That’s just a wee bit suspicious.

    If there is fact a delay between a thought’s origin and our ‘awareness’ of that thought it seems pretty bad for classical ‘free will’, however even if the experiments were valid, that assumption could be still incorrect. We have such limited knowledge. In any event there is no evidence for “thoughts” without matter and energy so our will…will always be bounded.

    This is the “Maybe hard determinism is wrong argument,” which kind of implies that it looks like it’s right.

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