• praxis
    6.2k
    A better question is: have you been able to shape your world so that it's a paradise you roam in? Or is it a hell you constantly fight against?frank

    Makes you wonder. If we had free will it seems like we wouldn’t make so many bad choices.
  • Vera Mont
    3.8k
    If we had free will it seems like we wouldn’t make so many bad choices.praxis
    Well, there's other stuff at play. Stupidity and ignorance limit the range of freedom to choose. So do physical constraints and emotional entanglements. Sometimes the choice as we perceive it is not the real choice available, and sometimes reason is the least significant factor in a decision.
  • praxis
    6.2k


    Isn’t our will not free because of limits, constraints, and entanglements?
  • Lionino
    2.1k

    0 citations, 10 downloads. Not shocking.
  • Captain Homicide
    48
    It depends on your definition. You have free will in the practical sense that you make conscious decisions without coercion but you don’t have free will in the ultimate sense that you’re the sole cause of your actions and your nature or could have done otherwise. You certainly aren’t morally responsible enough to warrant desert based punishments. In any kind of logical reality where causality exists that kind of free will could never exist.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2.3k


    Certainly, there are isomorphisms between leading theories of consciousness, but there are nonetheless many and it's not common to see conferences with 6+ different theories being advanced: HOT, various forms of CMU, (e.g., GWT), IIT, re-entry, Bayesian Brain theories, various quantum brain theories, biosemiotics versus pan-semiotics, recoveries of formal (and thus final) causation through thermodynamics, panpsychism, pancomputationalist spins on the aforementioned, etc. These theories are also often in conflict to some extent. For example, per pancomputationalism, everything can be thought of as a "computer" of sorts and so the special explanatory value of CMU becomes somewhat hazy.

    TBH, I think the isomorphisms are more due to everyone working off the same suggestive research findings than all of these sharing some sort of deep connection.

    I forget who it was, but I recall one conciousness researcher likening the field today to the vast proliferation of theories drawn up to explain the findings that led Einstein to GR/SR in physics. In a mature fields, people don't announce a new paradigm shift every year or so—evolutionary biology for example has one major power struggle that has slowly built around the same lines for decades now.

    Of course, there are a great many partisans who claim that their camp has already solved problem, but they can't even seem to even convince their own teammates of this fact, let alone the other camps.

    I would agree that challenges to representationalism have gained market share, but representationalism remains, I would guess, still a majority paradigm for looking at perception. Folks like Bickerton, Hoffman, etc. Even if it isn't, it's still a quite popular way to think about things. Vision in particular is very often described in this manner.

    Hence, while I find this area interesting, I'm not sure it's a particularly profitable way to analyze freedom. I think it's enough to point out that an explanation of consciousness where our experiences and volitions have no causal role in our behavior faces a host of issues and shouldn't be assumed. Attempts to describe awareness in terms of neurology themselves seem prone to slipping into the mistake of positing that "brains = minds," which in turn abstracts the enviornment out of the analysis. But brains won't produce any conciousness if placed into the vast majority of environments that exist in the universe (e.g. the bottom of the sea or the surface of a star).
  • Pantagruel
    3.4k
    Doesn't the condition that there is no free-will exclude the possibility of the instrumentality of belief, and therefore of knowledge? And yet knowledge clearly has instrumental value.

    Also, what would be the practical consequence of knowing that one has no free-will? It would seem that the answer must be, none.

    Finally, what is the motivation for even asking the question? The only one that I can think of is "denial of responsibility for the consequences of ones' actions."
  • Joshs
    5.4k


    These theories are also often in conflict to some extent.
    Count Timothy von Icarus
    I would hope they would be in conflict, just as is the case with contemporary philosophical positions. It’s nice to have so many alternatives to choose from. But that diversity seems to bother you, as though you need a consensus of significant size in order to take a theory seriously.

    In a mature fields, people don't announce a new paradigm shift every year or so—evolutionary biology for example has one major power struggle that has slowly built around the same lines for decades now.Count Timothy von Icarus

    Evolutionary theory has undergone a number of significant transformations since Darwin presented it, no less so than cognitive science, which has evolved from its origins in the 1950’s. Enactivism is one of its most recent incarnations. But all ‘ mature sciences’ must start somewhere. Are you suggesting that we ignore scientific approaches that aren’t ‘mature’? Do you think their maturity protects them from eventual replacement? Since you’re borrowing Kuhn’s term, you might take a page from his philosophy, which holds that the maturity of a science says nothing about its truth in relation to the way things really are, only that it generates productive research for a period of time.

    TBH, I think the isomorphisms are more due to everyone working off the same suggestive research findings than all of these sharing some sort of deep connection.Count Timothy von Icarus

    This is not true of the leading figures of enactivism. Writers like Shaun Gallagher, Matthew Ratcliffe, Hanna De Jaegher, Francisco Varela, Evan Thompson, Thomas Fuchs, Dan Zahavi, Jan Slaby and Anthony Chemero all agree on the importance of phenomenology, hermeneutics and pragmatism in structuring the concepts of enactivism. One can find such shared philosophical commitments as well among the leading lights of active inference.

    while I find this area interesting, I'm not sure it's a particularly profitable way to analyze freedom. I think it's enough to point out that an explanation of consciousness where our experiences and volitions have no causal role in our behavior faces a host of issues and shouldn't be assumed. Attempts to describe awareness in terms of neurology themselves seem prone to slipping into the mistake of positing that "brains = minds," which in turn abstracts the enviornment out of the analysis. But brains won't produce any conciousness if placed into the vast majority of environments that exist in the universe (e.g. the bottom of the sea or the surface of a star).Count Timothy von Icarus

    I suggest it would be a more profitable way to analyze freedom if you could take the lead from the enactivist writers I mentioned above and see how they integrate scientific naturalism with the phenomenology of perception that Merleau-Ponty , Heidegger and Husserl introduced. Slipping into the mistake of positing that "brains = minds”is precisely what enactivism does not do. As Thompson writes:

    Mental life is also bodily life and is situated in the world. The roots of mental life lie not simply in the brain, but ramify through the body and environment. Our mental lives involve our body and the world beyond the surface membrane of our organism, and therefore cannot be reduced simply to brain processes inside the head.
  • BC
    13.4k
    Seems to me I can control what I can or can’t do or decide to do or not do in the future.kindred

    This is the sort of self-confidence that makes the Universe laugh. In my humble but highly valued opinion, we should just shut the fuck up about "free will" -- not because we certainly do (or do not) possess it, but because we can never be in a position to prove it, one way or the other.
  • Ourora Aureis
    36


    Free will is not just the ability to make choices. If thats how you define it then even computers have free will, as choices are made by machines all the time, we program them to do so via algorithms or even with AI models we cant understand.

    The ability to choose is will. *Free* will is the ability to choose without influence from any other thing. However, the problem you face is that such a process is impossible. The form and function of an entity which can choose is dependent upon factors it did not decide. Computers can make choices, but they did not program themselves, they have no choice but to do as they decide from their very nature.

    Now we are not programmed, but our existence is nevertheless influenced by factors outside of our control, since we did not bring ourselves into existence. Our personality, preferences, economic environment, social environment, and health, are factors we do not decide and yet are the foundation of our choices. Hence, while we have will, it is not free. A person who shoplifts chooses to steal, but they did not choose to want to steal.
  • Vera Mont
    3.8k
    Isn’t our will not free because of limits, constraints, and entanglements?praxis

    Among other things. There is all that previous cause-and-affect stuff threading through the universe since its inception - bang or whimper, who knows? There are all the other influences, noticed and unnoticed, that have affected our thinking, perception, judgment and desires. There are a million things we don't know about that may have a bearing on every decision we make, every action we take....

    I have no faith in the freedom of will, but I live as if it were a constant reality - because: What are the options?
  • Fire Ologist
    493
    I have no faith in the freedom of will, but I live as if it were a constant reality - because: What are the options?Vera Mont

    Interesting - we have no choice but to live as though we make choices.
  • frank
    14.9k
    Doesn't the condition that there is no free-will exclude the possibility of the instrumentality of belief, and therefore of knowledge? And yet knowledge clearly has instrumental value.Pantagruel

    What's instrumental value? Could you give an example?

    Finally, what is the motivation for even asking the question? The only one that I can think of is "denial of responsibility for the consequences of ones' actions."Pantagruel

    It's an intellectual challenge in its own right.
  • Vera Mont
    3.8k
    Finally, what is the motivation for even asking the question? The only one that I can think of is "denial of responsibility for the consequences of ones' actions."Pantagruel
    Good and successful ones as well as bad. And everyone else's. There is no advantage to be gained.
    The motivation is an irresistible human drive to ask questions, even the silly ones, the too-diffucult ones and the ones that have no answers.
  • Igitur
    24
    My go-to argument for the free will question is this:
    Yes, you do have free will.
    Also yes, your choices are determined by your brain-state and many factors. How could they not be? To call these your "will" is not completely accurate. I would argue that your will is the power you possess to make choices. Even if everything is deterministic, that doesn't mean you don't have the power to make choices, so you have will. Whether your will is free is another question, one that is more involved in this argument.

    I would ask someone who believes you don't have free will "What is stopping your will from being free? What is stopping you from making the choices you want to make? The fact that many factors determine the choice you will end up making?"

    If this isn't free will, I don't know what is. What would free will look like then?

    If you believe we don't have free will (whether or not everything is predetermined, which is also a scientific question) and can't define what free will is, then what is your argument?

    Consider this as spoken to an arbitrary person who believes there is no free will.
  • Vera Mont
    3.8k
    If this isn't free will, I don't know what is.Igitur

    Does anyone?
  • Tarskian
    301
    What would free will look like then?Igitur

    Imagine that you install an app on your phone that can tell you minute by minute what you will be doing at any point in the future along with all possible details?

    The existence of this app would prove that you are just an automaton, i.e. a robot. In that case, it would be ridiculous to claim that you have free will.

    Conversely, you can prove the existence of free will by proving that it is impossible to construct such app. Hence, the existence of free will is a mathematical problem. It is effectively about an incompleteness proof.
  • frank
    14.9k

    Free will is about possibility. If you're going to make a choice, there must be multiple possibilities, as if time is a branching thing and you can choose the path you'll take.

    But every event has only one outcome. That outcome was the only one that was actually possible. All the others were merely logically possible. Hence the existence of free will is about actuality.
  • Tarskian
    301
    Free will is about possibility. If you're going to make a choice, there must be multiple possibilities, as if time is a branching thing and you can choose the path you'll take.frank

    I was using the constraint of incompatibilism to define free will:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incompatibilism

    Incompatibilism is the view that the thesis of determinism is logically incompatible with the classical thesis of free will.

    I am not doing this because I necessarily believe or disbelieve in incompatibilism but because it is eminently actionable. As far as I am concerned, a good definition does not need to be entirely correct. First and foremost, it needs to be predicable. In that sense, a predicable definition is better than a correct one.

    So, by defining free will as incompatible with predeterminism, it is possible to investigate the matter as a computer science problem:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predeterminism

    Predeterminism is the philosophy that all events of history, past, present and future, have been already decided or are already known (by God, fate, or some other force), including human actions.

    We can define free will in other ways, but there is a risk that we won't make any progress if we do that.
  • frank
    14.9k

    You define the terms for the sake of progress?
  • Tarskian
    301
    You define the terms for the sake of progress?frank

    For the sake of keeping things predicable. If it is not predicable, we cannot implement it. Nothing will be actionable. So, we have no other option than to build on the best predicable definition.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2.3k


    Are you suggesting that we ignore scientific approaches that aren’t ‘mature’?

    No, and diversity doesn't "bother me." I said it doesn't make sense to try to define "mental life" and "freedom" in terms of particular neurological theories, when such theories remain highly speculative and the point being made doesn't involve the particular details of any of them.

    I think we are just talking past each other because enactivism is much broader than accounts that try to posit some specific 'mechanism' by which first person experience emerges. I may have misunderstood what you were asking about in the first place.

    To my mind, representationalism, indirect realism, enactivism, etc. are all broad enough to allow us to be much more confident in our analysis than something very specific like brain wave oscillation theories or quantum conciousness or what have you.
  • Pantagruel
    3.4k
    What's instrumental value? Could you give an example?frank

    Sure. If you know Archimedes principle of the lever then you can lift something you otherwise couldn't. Practical knowledge is inherently instrumental. In doing so, it creates a greater "degree of freedom" in the system - i.e. it expands the phase space of the system that includes it.
  • Pantagruel
    3.4k
    I would ask someone who believes you don't have free will "What is stopping your will from being free?Igitur

    I agree. The evidence is so overwhelmingly on the side of freedom of will (it is the basis of all law, qua responsibility for actions, which is the foundation of civilization) that the burden of proof is certainly on the side of the unfree....
  • flannel jesus
    1.7k
    I would ask someone who believes you don't have free will "What is stopping your will from being free? What is stopping you from making the choices you want to make? The fact that many factors determine the choice you will end up making?"Igitur

    I take it you're a compatibilist?

    A lot of people don't intuit, for various reasons, a compatibilist take on free will, so for those people, the thing stopping them is, I guess, the fact (they would believe it's a fact, anyway, whether they're right or wrong) that their actions are the consequence of things like "physics" happening - things which their will has no control over.
  • Vera Mont
    3.8k
    The evidence is so overwhelmingly on the side of freedom of will (it is the basis of all law, qua responsibility for actions, which is the foundation of civilization)Pantagruel

    Doesn't that seem circular to you? The proof for free will is in the institutions predicated on the presumption of free will.
    Yes, we feel, think and act 'as if' - so we may as well believe it. Whether it is objectively true makes no difference to our subjective experience.
  • frank
    14.9k
    Sure. If you know Archimedes principle of the lever then you can lift something you otherwise couldn't. Practical knowledge is inherently instrumental. In doing so, it creates a greater "degree of freedom" in the system - i.e. it expands the phase space of the system that includes it.Pantagruel

    I guess you mean that if I have the knowledge to build a bridge, it makes it easier for me to cross the river, and so I'm more free?
  • Pantagruel
    3.4k
    Doesn't that seem circular to you? The proof for free will is in the institutions predicated on the presumption of free will.Vera Mont

    The proof isn't in the institutions, it is in my immediate perceptions. If I tried to lift my arm, and it didn't elevate, then I would wonder. If I was paralyzed, then if I tried to think a thought, and I didn't think that thought, then I would wonder. Except no, I wouldn't wonder, because, per the thought experiment, the intention of the thought and the realization of that intention would not coincide. Ergo I would not be thinking the thought I am thinking. Which is absurd. Cogito ergo sum.
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