• Daniel Sjöstedt
    24
    I understand that a discussion of free will and consciousness would require thorough definition of a long list of words, and I'm sure that part of the problem lies in an incorrect usage of certain words on my part. But I'm gonna try to phrase it simply, and maybe someone could help me see where I am going wrong:

    Supposing that all actions are deterministic, what is the purpose of cognition, and consciously planning your actions?

    Does the "planning" determine your action, or is the "planning" already determined? If the conscious planning is already determined, is it then merely a way of understanding your actions and communicating them to others?
  • Rich
    3.2k
    Supposing that all actions are deterministic, what is the purpose of cognition, and consciously planning your actions?

    Does the "planning" determine your action, or is the "planning" already determined? If the conscious planning is already determined, is it then merely a way of understanding your actions and communicating them to others?
    Daniel Sjöstedt

    Determinism has all kinds of flavors as deterministic philosophers and scientists try to figure out how to leave some meaning in their lives (they do use the pronoun I when referring to themselves as doing something, not the Laws of Nature). But I guess a strict determinist would say that whole experience of life is just one giant illusion concocted by the Laws of Nature and Natural Selection.

    Thus it follows, it is quite natural for us to feel we are planning even though it really isn't so. The determinists, seeing right through the whole illusion are here to set us straight. As for me, I am still believing that we observe, plan and make choices as we navigate our lives. You might say, I haven't been enlightened yet.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    900

    Correct me if I am wrong, but it sounds like your argument is: If all actions are deterministic, then planning is pointless because the actions will occur whether we plan them or not. If so, then I think this is an error because determinism is still compatible with causality. Thus it could be both that the planning is determining the actions, and the planning was itself determined.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    and the planning was itself determinedSamuel Lacrampe

    By what? And what is it that makes us feel like we are planning and choosing?
  • Wayfarer
    11.9k
    Supposing that all actions are deterministic, what is the purpose of cognition, and consciously planning your actions?Daniel Sjöstedt

    Let me get in early to make the observation that whatever we say about the Universe, presupposes that we are making judgements and inferences about nature. After the so-called 'scientific revolution', it was supposed that the Universe simply existed, irrespective of judgement or intention or any other human cognitive act; that sundering between the (inner, subjective) mind and the (outer, existing) reality was one of the hallmarks of the understanding that grew out of early modern science.

    But it was Kant's Critique of Pure Reason which undercut the 'modernist' assumption of the separation of mind and matter, right at the beginning of the modern age.

    Kant understood that both everyday life and scientific knowledge rests on, and is made orderly, by some very basic assumptions that aren't self-evident but can't be entirely justified by empirical observations. For instance, we assume that the physical world will conform to mathematical principles. Kant argues that our belief that every event has a cause is such an assumption; perhaps, also, our belief that effects follow necessarily from their causes; but many today reject his classification of such claims as "synthetic a priori." Regardless of whether one agrees with Kant's account of what these assumptions are, his justification of them is thoroughly modern since it is essentially pragmatic. They make science possible. More generally, they make the world knowable. Kant in fact argues that in their absence our experience from one moment to the next would not be the coherent and intelligible stream that it is.

    The Continuing Relevance of Immanuel Kant

    The contradiction in a lot of modern thinking is that it presumes that this rational ability is the product of the very thing that it is setting out to explain. In the modern view, 'mind' comes last, as an output of a fundamentally mindless process. That is where I think the roots of your question lie.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    900
    By what?Rich
    I am not a determinist, but I suppose they would say by the same laws that move objects and animals in determined ways, namely our genes and external forces in the environment.

    And what is it that makes us feel like we are planning and choosing?Rich
    Feelings are not infallible. A friend once told me of his experience in being hypnotized. He said that while under, he felt that he wanted to do the things the hypnotist was telling him to do, and only realized that it wasn't his choice once he snapped out of it. Pretty scary stuff.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    900
    Supposing that all actions are deterministic, what is the purpose of cognition, and consciously planning your actions?Daniel Sjöstedt
    Thomas Aquinas has a similar reductio ad absurdum argument for free will:
    If free will did not exist, then all praises and blames, rewards and penalties, would be in vain. But everyone acts as if these concepts are relevant. I personally have yet to find someone who does not. Therefore everyone acts as if free will exists. If the data does not back up the hypothesis, then it is likely be false.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    say by the same lawsSamuel Lacrampe

    Here lies the rub. There are no such laws. What we have are a hodgepodge of equations and theories about certain aspects of matter, none of which come anywhere close to explaining human behavior.
  • Samuel Lacrampe
    900

    This is for my own info: What about animals? I think most people would agree that animals don't have free will, and that their acts are determined by instinct or genes. Wouldn't a determinist say that man is nothing but a complex animal?
  • Rich
    3.2k
    I don't know what is Free Will. I do know that as humans, we makes choices as to the direction of some action, by virtue of will. Choices are not free. They are constrained, and outcomes are always unknown. We are trying to navigate.

    I believe it is likely that all animals are making choices. There are about as many laws for animal behavior as there are for human behavior which is zero. The concept of Laws of Nature are just bandied about hoping that no one will notice that the concept is equivalent to God.
  • Daniel Sjöstedt
    24
    I don't see why free will is necessarily connected to praise / blame. Mostly, the purpose of praise and blame is to negatively/positively reinforce certain behavior, right? We often give praise and blame to our pets, but as you mentioned, they probably don't have free will.
  • Daniel Sjöstedt
    24
    outcomes are always unknown.Rich

    So how do you respond to scientists who have carried out studies where they are able to predict the choices of people, before they have "made the choice"?
  • Wayfarer
    11.9k
    the fact that they're not available to conscious introspection doesn't mean they're not free choices.
  • Daniel Sjöstedt
    24
    Sure, but wouldn't that imply that we have no basis for knowing anything about free choices? A sort of kantian "thing in itself"? And what is the difference then between the concept of free will and dogma?
  • Wayfarer
    11.9k
    No, what I mean is, in relation to the Libet experiments, is that subjects reported that they performed the action before they were consciously aware of having performed it, right? But that may be like a kind of lag in the time it takes to register something consciously even though on another level - the subconscious or unconscious level - you know perfectly well what to do. But because of the way we construe 'freedom of choice' in our culture, we take it that the conscious, discursive aspect of the mind - the ego, basically - is what it is that exercises freedom of choice. However, I think that concept of freedom can be questioned - the conscious ego being the mahoot on the lumbering elephant of the unconscious.

    In many performance areas, both artistic and sporting, you have to train yourself to act 'without thinking' as it were - like, you don't have time to consciously plan what you're doing, you just have to do it. You've internalised a skill to the point where a large part of it is automatic. But there is also a degree of freedom or spontaneity that can be attained through that (for example, with jazz improvisation, which I happen to do.) It's a combination of learned skill and spontaneous expression. And because it's improvised, by definition it's not 'determined'.

    And as has already been said in this thread, it's simply unreal to presume that everything is determined. Reality itself is not like that - chaos and spontaneity is an irreducible aspect of life itself. It's in part determined, and in part chaotic, and many points in between. Perhaps the attraction of it being all determined is that it appears to relieve you of an existential burden.

    Check out this great movie trailer. It's related.

  • Daniel Sjöstedt
    24
    On the contrary, a determined universe seems really terrifying, which is why I am trying to look for a strong counter argument ^^

    But how do you address Laplace's notion - that if you knew the facts about every atom you could predict the future of the universe.

    Even if you introduce chaos and uncertainty as an obstacle to this prediction, is there really any room for a "free choice" in chaos and uncertainty?
  • Rich
    3.2k
    They are measuring some electrical patterns in the brain and calling it the choice. There is no basis to call it such. This is what I mean by goal seeking science.
  • Daniel Sjöstedt
    24
    You believe that the choice has a deeper origin? In the will? What, then, controls the "will"?
  • Rich
    3.2k
    Choice is made by the mind. The electrical impulses are the result of the choice. An analogy would be the transmission if a TV show from a studio precedes the reception in the TV set, the TV set being analogous to the brain. It is erroneous to state the the TV set (the brain) is the source and all TV shows are contained in the TV set , a silly notion but that is precisely the unsubstantiated status the science had assigned to the brain. Why? Science is goal seeking. It wants everything stuffed in the brain so that it can claim control over it, especially in the fields of neurology and medicine.

    Quantum physics says that nothing can be contained anywhere. There are no boundaries.
  • Daniel Sjöstedt
    24
    I think the argument is that the brain recieves information from the outside world, but both the brain and the outside world is deterministic.

    But, your argument, is then simply: there is no such thing as deterministic laws of nature?
  • Rich
    3.2k
    The term laws of nature has no concrete meaning. It is simply some supernatural force that it's omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent, and determines everything. In other words, the equivalent of God. The historical roots of the term, as far as I can tell, was actually religious in nature being used to describe the mortality of God. Determinists simply adopted the term and dropped God for appearances sale.

    It is therefore not surprising that everything being fated is a common thread between Calvinism (and other religious beliefs) and determinism.
  • Daniel Sjöstedt
    24
    I think that the laws of nature have been pretty well defined.

    And I don't think I'm ready to dispense with them without some sort of alternative.

    Do you have an alternative view to how the world is being run, or are you just "anti science"?
  • Rich
    3.2k
    Then define the laws of nature that comprehensively determines everything.
  • Forgottenticket
    200
    Neat question, an eliminativist would just say humans are big machines and that our notions of conscious planning, direct perception ect are confused pre-scientific notions. Although this is in contradiction which a lot of other science and naive realism ect.

    And there are closet-eliminativists like Dennett who say consciousness, free will ect are only terms to cut down processing time. IE: we pretend we have these things because it makes things easier. So you could pretend a machine has free will to save looking at how it is wired up and we do the same for humans. (Because we can't account for the 86 billion neuron interactions).
    This is where the Zombie problem arises from since there is really a phenomenological world (first person view) attached to it also that is really real.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    Do you feel that Newton's Laws comprehensively determine and can predict everything in the Universe? Is it your position that Newton's Laws is equivalent to the Laws of Nature?
  • Daniel Sjöstedt
    24
    Sorry for any confusion; English is not my first language.

    The laws I am talking about are the laws that determine the motion of bodies in the universe.
  • Daniel Sjöstedt
    24


    Is your view that there is something immaterial about consciousness?

    Or that there is at least something about it that does not follow the classical laws of mechanics?
  • litewave
    472
    My view is that all our actions, including our cognition and planning, are indeed ultimately completely determined by factors over which we have no control, whether this determination is causal or non-causal. It may be disconcerting but in a sense our illusion of ultimate control is similar to our illusion that the sun moves around the earth. We still refer to the sun as if it rises in the east and sets in the west even though we know that this is an impression we get from the earth's rotation.

    Our illusion of having ultimate control over our actions seems to stem from our not being conscious of all the factors that completely determine our actions. This illusion is probably more pronounced in the Western culture because this culture places more emphasis on the autonomy of the individual and is generally more analytic than holistic.

    Cognition and planning are simply an internal mechanism that enables the organism to perform complex external behaviors. This internal mechanism and the resultant external behaviors evolve via random mutations and non-random natural selection.
  • litewave
    472
    The contradiction in a lot of modern thinking is that it presumes that this rational ability is the product of the very thing that it is setting out to explain.Wayfarer

    I don't think this is a contradiction. It's more like circular reasoning - we assume that reality is rational, in the sense that it is built on the principle of non-contradiction: every thing is identical to itself and different from other things. But we don't have any other option than to acknowledge that reality is indeed rational in this sense (that is, non-contradictory). Any other option would automatically refute itself.
  • Daniel Sjöstedt
    24
    Seems fair so far, but what then is the role of consciousness? Couldn't all of this be done without conciousness? Or would it be impossible?
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