• Banno
    19.2k
    I counter that...javra

    Yeah, noted. Looks a bit like a back construction, but might leave it as a moot point.

    Can you elaborate?javra
    Causality, Determination and such stuff. I argued that causation does not imply determinism. Add that to the incoherence of free will, and a preference for some form of anomalous monism...

    But there are other fish here to fry. See
    Are you asking if the mind controls the mind?T Clark
    Of course the mind controls the mind.
  • javra
    1.9k
    Free will would entail that at the moment of choice we do not interact at all with our environment, including the choices we are presented with; [...] No choice I make is fundamentally mine and only mine for that would require that I receive no external influence, at all, no?Daniel

    I don't follow the entailment proposed. As per existentialists such as Sartre, someone could hold a loaded gun to my head and tell me that if I don't choose A rather than B he'll shoot. This being a rather extreme influence upon what choice I make. And yet I still have the existential freedom to choose B over A. So external influences, though notably important, play no essential role in determining whether or not we are endowed with free will.

    I argued that causation does not imply determinism.Banno

    Duly noted. If I remember right, the issue was one of how actions can be physically caused without being physically determined (by their physical causes) - this having nil to do with determinism as an ontological worldview wherein everything is deemed completely determined causally.

    and a preference for some form of anomalous monism...Banno

    Cool. I'm myself preferential to neutral monism when not in my "objective idealism" mood.

    But there are other fish here to fry.Banno

    True.
  • Manuel
    3k


    I don't think it works that way, that is, I don't think that because we can't have two ideas in our minds at the same time - at least not in a very clear manner, does it follow that we can't control our thoughts.

    Put another way, there are times in which we can't control our thoughts: we are obsessing over something, upset, sad and much else. In such moments, we can't do much.

    But a good deal of the time, we can choose how to react to the thoughts we have. Let me consider this from a different angle, perhaps this person is having a bad day instead of being a jerk, and so on.

    In my experience, you can simply say to yourself, I want to think about something interesting: many options open up: music, books, travelling - whatever you like. So free will is untouched here, as far as I can see.
  • Bartricks
    5.9k
    For each individual thought that one thinks, do they have options to choose from for what it will be prior to them thinking it? Where would they get these options from? They could only come from their own mind and thoughts, nowhere outside of themselves. If they don’t have options in the first place, then they cannot choose their thoughts by definition, as you’ve conceded.Paul Michael

    I do not follow your response.

    I think two distinct issues are being conflated. There is what's needed to make a choice. There you have claimed (controversially - I'm not endorsing the view, just accepting it for the sake of argument) that you need to select from options.

    Well, in order, then, to make a choice I simply need options. I do not need to have selected the options. I need only to select from them.

    But the other issue that you are conflating with this one, is that of ultimate sourcehood. My choices will be a product of prior factors, and those of yet earlier factors and so on.

    I take it that the real reason you think we lack free will is because we lack ultimate sourchood - that our choices are the causal product of events external to ourselves. My choices, whatever they may be, are all the product of my having a certain nature in a certain environment. And, ultimately, I did not choose my original nature or my environment. That's the threat to free will, is it not?
  • NOS4A2
    6.3k


    But you are not isolated from your environment. You cannot think freely without breathing oxygen and you cannot walk freely without having a ground to walk on. So why is that slip on a banana peel not your free act?

    I’ve already argued that the actions we take while slipping on a banana peel are myriad, but invariably have to do with avoiding slipping. The moment a slipping action occurs, everything from our inner ear, our brain, our flesh and bone, move to avoid the act of falling and injury. Slipping, falling, colliding with the ground, and breaking one’s arm are not the “free acts” of the agent because those are the actions he is trying to avoid.

    I’m not sure why one has to be isolated from his environment for this to be the case.
  • litewave
    764
    Either way, be it something you’ve previously chosen for yourself of something ingrained that is beyond your choosing, it does not nullify the logical possibility of free will in the choices you do make at any given juncture.javra

    Even if your choice is driven by a goal you chose previously, the choice of that goal itself was driven by something ingrained in you or by another goal which however must ultimately be driven by something ingrained in you too because you cannot have an infinite regress of goals. So ultimately all your choices are completely determined by factors that are out of your control or maybe are partially undetermined, which precludes your control too.

    Nor would the occurrence of free will necessitate that causal determinacy does not take place in the world - it would only necessitate that the world is not one of (complete) causal determinism.javra

    To the extent that your action is not determined by your (ultimately ingrained) goals, it is unintended and therefore unfree. Indeterminacy doesn't save free will, it just makes you do things you don't intend to or hampers your ability to do things you intend to.
  • litewave
    764
    Slipping, falling, colliding with the ground, and breaking one’s arm are not the “free acts” of the agent because those are the actions he is trying to avoid.NOS4A2

    Can the agent choose not to avoid those actions? If he cannot, is he acting freely?
  • NOS4A2
    6.3k


    Can the agent choose not to avoid those actions? If he cannot, is he acting freely?

    Yes.
  • javra
    1.9k
    So ultimately all your choices are completely determined by factors that are out of your control or maybe are partially undetermined, which precludes your control too.litewave

    This topic of concern is not "your choices" but "you (as the agent which enacts your choices)". It's not your choices that are partly undetermined - your choices are here fully determined by you the agent - but, rather, it is you who is partly undetermined in the choices you make. Makes a world of difference, since the latter grants you (at least some meaningful measure of) control in the choices you make.

    To the extent that your action is not determined by your (ultimately ingrained) goals, it is unintended and therefore unfree.litewave

    To try to make this clearer: What I’m suggesting is that there isn’t a strict logical dichotomy between “completely determined (hence no free will)” and “completely undetermined (hence no intentionality)”; that there logically can very well occur something in-between, a “partly determined and hence partly undetermined” state of being that (partly) defines us as agents; and that our free will - if real - would necessarily be of the latter state of affairs: e.g., always partly determined by intents (among other possible factors), but never completely determined. This latter state of being, while of itself being beyond the control of the agent, will yet nevertheless endow the agent the existential freedom to choose otherwise given the same set of intents and cognized alternatives.

    Trying to evidence this is no easy task, I grant. But then I'm only affirming the logical possibility of this being so.

    It is logically possible that we as agents are not completely undetermined, for there is always a telos or teloi that "set limits or boundaries" to what we end up choosing, making our choices intentional; but that neither are we as agents completely determined (causally and in all other manners) in which alternative we end up choosing - making our choosing this alternative rather than that contingent on us as agents, rather than being contingent on the set of all factors which would otherwise be deemed to completely determine us as as agents (as would for example apply in a system of causal determinism).

    Its a variant of compatibilism, though I take it you're not much enamored with the prospect of compatibilism.
  • litewave
    764


    Are you saying that the agent can act freely even though all his actions are completely determined by his ingrained predispositions?
  • NOS4A2
    6.3k


    Is he not his ingrained predispositions?
  • Andrew4Handel
    1.9k
    You can evaluate your thoughts. You have a set of thoughts like propositions and consider which one you are satisfied with.

    Choice is not instantaneous.

    I believe it is wrong to hit children. I hear other opinons over time on the subject and weigh up the different viewpoints and decide what I now believe which may or may not be my original belief.

    A lot of these free will debates simply mischaracterise the phenomenon especially the issue of how choices are made.

    I can book a holiday a year in advance and change my plans anytime over the year. I am not constrained any previous thought or decision I have had. I am not forced to go on the holiday I booked a year in advance.
  • litewave
    764
    What I’m suggesting is that there isn’t a strict logical dichotomy between “completely determined (hence no free will)” and “completely undetermined (hence no intentionality)”; that there logically can very well occur something in-between, a “partly determined and hence partly undetermined” state of being that (partly) defines us as agents; and that our free will - if real - would necessarily be of the latter state of affairs: e.g., always partly determined by intents (among other possible factors), but never completely determined.javra

    Then our actions are partly intended and therefore partly unfree, and also partly unintended and therefore partly unfree too. So they are wholly unfree.

    Its a variant of compatibilism, though I take it you're not much enamored with the prospect of compatibilism.javra

    I think compatibilist version of free will has some merit because it says that we have free will if we can do want we want. But it also admits that our actions may still be completely determined by factors that are ultimately out of our control (we do what we want but our wants are ultimately ingrained in us), which seems to conflict with what we usually mean by free will when we bother to talk about it: a free will that gives us ultimate control and moral responsibility that can override all circumstances.
  • litewave
    764
    Is he not his ingrained predispositions?NOS4A2

    Yes, you could say that the agent is his ingrained predispositions (as well as his experiences in the course of his life). So the agent has free will even though all his actions are completely determined by his ingrained predispositions?
  • NOS4A2
    6.3k


    If the agent determines all of his actions then yes he has free will.
  • javra
    1.9k
    Then our actions are partly intended and therefore partly unfree, and also partly unintended and therefore partly unfree too.litewave

    I never claimed this, did I. Our (intentional) actions are always fully intended. But this does not signify that we are fully determined in what we enact. Intents don't establish which of two or more alternatives we choose (with all viable alternatives being able to satisfy said intents).

    For example, your intent is to learn about subject X; how does this intent of itself establish whether you choose a) to read a book about X or b) to see a documentary about X?

    I think compatibilist version of free will has some merit because it says that we have free will if we can do want we want. But it also admits that our actions may still be completely determined by factors that are ultimately out of our control (we do what we want but our wants are ultimately ingrained in us), which seems to conflict with what we usually mean by free will when we bother to talk about it: a free will that gives us ultimate control and moral responsibility that can override all circumstances.litewave

    It's a different variant of compatibilism. One that is more in-line to my interpretations of Hume - who to my knowledge was to first to propose the impossibility of a) free will devoid of determinacy (but do note that determinacy does not equate to determinism) and b) responsibility devoid of free will.
  • litewave
    764
    For example, your intent is to learn about subject X; how does this intent of itself establish whether you choose a) to read a book about X or b) to see a documentary about X?javra

    I may stumble upon a good book review and then the information from the review together with my intent to learn about subject X create in me the intent to read the book about X and this intent drives me to read the book. Where is free will?
  • javra
    1.9k
    This does not address the question, wherein alternatives to choose among occur.

    So it's said, in my opinion, if there are no cognized alternatives to choose between, then there is no choice being made ... hence, no enaction of free will.
  • litewave
    764
    This does not address the question, wherein alternatives to choose among occur.javra

    What question do you mean?
  • javra
    1.9k
    The one you previously quoted. All the same, never mind.
  • punos
    155


    If ones definition or conception of "free will" has anything to do with violating physical, logical, or mathematical laws then there is no such thing. If on the other hand ones definition were to reflect the natural order of the universe then it would be acceptable. In my opinion the simplest question in regards to "free will" is to ask by what mechanism would it be possible to violate a law of the universe and break the chain of causality? What are the observed instances of such a violation? Even if there aren't any examples of such violations, what could be a possible mechanism (of any type) that would be capable of achieving such a feat?

    Remember that there are two options as to how the universe fundamentally works. Determinism and indeterminism, and neither option leaves room for "free will". If one states that the universe is deterministic then "free will" is precluded because everything would happen according to some universal law or laws including ones will. If one says that it's indeterministic then this also precludes the possibility of "free will" because there would not be enough order if any in the universe (infinite randomness) to even make a determination about anything to even have a will which is contingent on order, and much less "free will".

    There is one will in the universe and it is what the universe WILL do through every part of itself including humanity. To think one has free will is to say that they are free from the confines of the universe.. not so. Not even the universe itself has free will, it has no choice to follow the complexity trajectory it started on at its inception or Big Bang.
  • Andrew4Handel
    1.9k
    Has anyone defined what a thought is and or its relationship to the brain?
  • Jack Cummins
    4.4k

    It is interesting to stop and think about whether it is possible to choose thoughts as a precursor to actions. It may be about the extent which focus is taken in thoughts. They may arise as a stream flowing but it is possible that in the observation of thoughts it is possible to be selective in intent as which to give attention to as an aspect of inner mastery. However, it may be a fairly difficult art because fighting unwanted thoughts may be a hindrance, potentially making them stronger and fiercer, but, at the same time the potential to follow through certain thoughts may be developed as an aspect of inner exploration and in the development of philosophical ideas and insights.
  • punos
    155
    Has anyone defined what a thought is and or its relationship to the brain?Andrew4Handel

    A baby's brain is born pretty much a blank slate in the sense that all it's synapses and connections are initially random. The brain functions in certain emergent ways by virtue of the underlying structure of the nerve and brain cells that make it up. The only information that comes into the brain neural network are signals caused by sense organs mixed with self-generated signals from within the body.

    As the first signals in life come through the brain certain initially random activations occur in the brain network directly correlated with what was received by the sense organs. The newly correlated neural pattern is strengthened and stabilized with every sensory exposure and self-activation. This initial random neural pattern becomes the representation (symbolic interface) of that form in the world, in other words a memory. From this point on we think from the symbolic perspective of our memories (ego formation), we "are" our memories.

    Now that the brain has a catalog of patterns correlated to the outside world and a sense of self it can re-member things in part or in whole and manipulate them by mixing and matching different neural patterns correlated to other past perceptions and pattern activations. The qualia of mental experience is an emergent quality of neural network patterns interacting within the overall brain network substrait (self-interaction = self-awareness). The entire representational mosaic of neural patterns produces the feeling and sense of what you call real.

    In summary: A thought is a neural network pattern interacting with other neural network patterns within the whole network. It is what the brain's activity looks like to the brain's activity. All the emergent properties and phenomena that come out of the brain's activity is called mind.
  • Gnomon
    2.7k
    ‘To choose’ implies that a set of options exists *from which one chooses*.Paul Michael
    Several posters have taken exception to the abstract notion of freely choosing from among equal options : door A, B, or C. One objection is that we don't create the options we are faced with. That's true, but an un-forced situational choice is "free", if it is made with personal needs & preferences in mind. A convict may be given the preferential choice between life in prison (more options ahead) or immediate death (no more options).

    Generally, Nature randomly shuffles the cards from which we must choose : the luck of the draw. In gambling, the blind choice is also random. But more often our choices are not quite so arbitrary. For example, if we encounter a fork in the road, presumably we chose the original road because we assumed it would lead to a willed destination. So, the choice of left or right is made on the same pragmatic basis. It's not a blind draw, but a goal-driven decision made with eyes wide open. In choosing between options, we may decide, for teleological reasons, against the path not taken. Likewise, our various thoughts & feelings may emerge instinctively or intuitively, but we still have the rational choice to act or not.

    SKEPTIC magazine editor Michael Shermer coined the term "Free Won't" to emphasize that often there is no perfect option, so we accept the most promising path, and reject the one that doesn't lead to our goal. Moreover, our goals are not necessarily limited to the destination. For example, sometimes how you get there, a learning experience, is as important as the envisioned objective. So Free Will involves both positive & negative choices from among less than perfect options, for less than clear reasons. :smile:

    Free Won't : Volition as self-control exerts veto power over impulses
    "But if we define free will as the power to do otherwise, the choice to veto one impulse over another is free won’t."
    https://michaelshermer.com/sciam-columns/free-wont/

    The-Journey.jpg
    "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."
    ___Yogi Berra
  • Benj96
    1.3k
    Can we choose our thoughts? If not, does this rule out free will?Paul Michael

    I don't think we can choose our thoughts.

    For example don't think about a pink elephant!

    What are you thinking about right now?

    However, we can choose what value to place on a thought. Whether we believe its worth treasuring (memorising) or discarding as absurd (forgetting).
    We do this by either networking it, making connections and associations between it and the rest of our mentalscape, or we can leave it very temporarily and weakly connected where it is easily lost or overwritten with more important thoughts.

    This can be done involuntarily/subconsciously by strong emotions or it can be done voluntarily through concerted effort/concentration/focus.
  • Andrew4Handel
    1.9k
    As the first signals in life come through the brain certain initially random activations occur in the brain network directly correlated with what was received by the sense organspunos

    I am not sure what this means. Are you saying that sensory signals can preserve accurate and factual information about the world without interpretation?

    I don't know what information means or if it has a strict definition but I think the meaning of information can invoke consciousness or not invoke consciousness. I think mental representations invoke consciousness which is an added layer of mystery and we are conscious of our thoughts quite clearly (which is enabling me to post them here lol)

    I don't know why anything in the brain would become symbolic. For example if we see a foot print in the sand it usually tells us a human has walked by but we are using a non symbol as a symbol and interpreting it through consciousness. We are creating the notion of symbolism.

    Some people have an (incoherent?) epiphenomenal view of consciousness were we have no free will and just observe. It would beg the question of why we would be conscious if we could function as automatons.

    Conditions affecting conscious perceptions do indicate we need consciousness such as how people that don't experience pain injure themselves. That to me proves that we need to freely act on stimulus and need to be consciously aware of it.
  • Andrew4Handel
    1.9k
    All the emergent properties and phenomena that come out of the brain's activity is called mind.punos

    How are you defining an emergent property and its relationship to a substructure?

    A large pile of sand has emergent properties but these are quite similar in some ways to a small pile of sand and with the same physical character of a grain of sand and not particularly mysterious.
    But the kind of properties that thoughts have to be correlated with in neural properties have no similarities. My memories of my Grandmother tell me nothing about neural properties and can not be observed or correlated with neural properties.

    People have advocated a Grandmother neuron where each person and or each aspect of a mental image is directly correlated with an individual neuron. I think these view of thought is to restrictive.

    It would mean you abruptly forgot your grandmother when one neuron or a few were degraded which doesn't tend to happen but also I think for truth to be meaningful we need to be able to evaluate our thoughts so that we can under stand why 2+2 =4 and not just forced to believe 2+2=4 because we are in a particular brain state.

    I think evaluating thoughts is where free will comes in.
  • punos
    155
    Are you saying that sensory signals can preserve accurate and factual information about the world without interpretation?Andrew4Handel

    Yes, the initial neural patterns which are random for the most part at birth serve as the first order of representation within the whole of the network. It is self referential because it has nothing else to refer to than itself within itself. The brain is locked in the skull and has no direct access to the outside world except for signals that come through certain channels... that's it, no more no less.

    It is as it is with language because language is an emergent phenomena of mind and inherits that quality from it. Consider how a word may be created that is correlated to some physical pattern in the world like a tree for example. The symbol that we choose to use to signify a tree is arbitrary, you can choose to scribble a random pattern on a piece of paper and then commit to that scribble as "tree". As soon as this is done the random scribble becomes information and is no longer random from an internal perspective. The next time you want to refer to a tree that's not there you can use that initial random scribble as its representation. More over a random sound can be assigned to the scribble, and then use those sounds to communicate intelligibly with others that agree on the same sounds and scribbles. This is essentially the same process that goes on in the neurology of the brain.

    I don't know what information meansAndrew4Handel

    It's in the word. "In-form-ation" is essentially form, shape, structure, order, and thus function. The meaning of information comes from it's function which is a property of its structure or pattern. Information (order) is born of chaos and processed, modified, divided, and multiplied through time or evolution into more complex forms.

    For example if we see a foot print in the sand it usually tells us a human has walked by but we are using a non symbol as a symbol and interpreting it through consciousness. We are creating the notion of symbolism.Andrew4Handel

    First of all the meaning of "con-scious-ness" is "knowing together". The emergence of consciousness is produced when at least two things that can act and react like charged particles, cells, and people are connected as nodes to each other (simplest network possible). In this way they "know together" and new higher forms of consciousness are produced. In talking about the brain there are billions of nodes (neurons) connected in very complex networks, and the connections number in the trillions resulting in very high order consciousness.

    Memories defined as neural patterns in turn can produce higher order networks within it's own symbolic space (mind) as opposed to the neural space (brain). The brain by virtue of the functioning of its neurons produce or create symbols out of connection patterns. When you see a foot print in the sand you are activating a specific neural network pattern correlated to footprints which the brain uses as a neural symbol that it can manipulate by interacting with other neural patterns correlated to other things.

    It would beg the question of why we would be conscious if we could function as automatons.Andrew4Handel

    I believe that being conscious or being an automaton are not mutually exclusive. What i think you mean more specifically is self-awareness as opposed to just simple awareness. Awareness like in insects lizards and fish is simply the "watcher" while self-awareness is the watcher that watches the "watcher". Self-awareness is a finer and more sophisticated form of conscious functioning (network within the network) developed over the course of evolution to improve our chances of survival. That's what it's for.

    You are going to feel as though you have free will (its the only way anyone knows how to feel), but it is really an illusion in the sense that all the activity in your body and being is determined by physical unbreakable laws. The results of all this activity in the context of a high order consciousness like a human is the feeling of "doing what you want" or in other words "free-will". Of course you are aware of some of what you are thinking (not everything a la the subconscious mind), but that does not mean you have violated any causal principles. Everything would feel natural as if you were free because nothing else can occur to you other than what is already happening in you by natural law.
  • punos
    155
    How are you defining an emergent property and its relationship to a substructure?Andrew4Handel

    Emergence in the universe is fundamental for the production of higher orders of complexity in the following way. Atoms emerge from the interaction of sub-atomic particles, molecules emerge from atomic interactions, cells come about from molecular interactions, then tissues, organs, systems, etc... With every emergent level a new order is formed with new possible interactions not possible at the lower levels of emergence. Emergence is the creative capacity of the universe, and anything that is not fundamental or pure energy is an emergent form.
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