## The Illusion of Freedom

• 307

Not only did your rephrasing of the comment fail to alter its tone, but there is very clearly nothing wrong with the tone of the comment in the first place. If you took offense to what T Clark said there, that's your own fault, not T Clark's.

You want some help understanding one of the most important mathematical results of C21?tom

So, you're not really interested are you.tom

You seem to have a very fragile ego.
• 1.5k
The only Law of Physics that I know of is Quanum Mechanics and it would take a great myth maker to interpret QM into superdetermiminism. In fact, it would take an act of your faith.Rich

That's why 't Hooft, who got the Nobel Prize for instigating and developing the Standard Model is a Superdeterminist.

The Copenhagen Interpretation is entirely compatible with Superdeterminism.

And there are other Laws of Physics - specifically General Relativity, which are Superdeterministic.

So, no faith is required, just some education.
• 307
No, that determinism is false.
• 3k
I was agreeing with you and addressing tom. I feel like that was made perfectly clear.

I reread it and I agree it was clear. Sorry for jumping.
• 3.2k
The Copenhagen Interpretation is entirely compatible with Superdeterminism.tom

Everything is compatible with Super-Duper-Determinism. God is all powerful.

Let's give some credit to those of religious faith. At least they are aware enough of their faith that they don't deny it. Determinists are swimming in their own admitted illusions.

What the heck does GTR have to do with Super-Duper-Determinism?? It's a simple equation to explain some effects of gravity. It is not even compatible with QM and had zero to do with bouncing particles (that don't even exist) somehow, someway determining everything. What's nice about Determinism is, like the Bible, anything can be interpreted and used in any way, to justify their faith. No depth of knowledge or inquiry is required. Just make up stuff on the fly.
• 3k
And you have the audacity to complain about "snottiness"?

Allow me to rephrase:

You misunderstand quantum mechanics and metaphysics.
tom

How is what you quoted from me snotty? For me to say I think you misunderstand something is a perfectly civil and reasonable thing for me to say. I wasn't abusive and I didn't attack you. I don't see how it's disrespectful. I can't think of another way I could have said what I was trying to get across.

I can't say I understand quantum mechanics, although I'm interested and I try. But I do know what QM is - it's science. I also know what free will vs. determinism and causality vs. none are - they're metaphysics. Never the twain shall meet. Well, never the twain should meet.
• 1.5k
Everything is compatible with Super-Duper-Determinism. God is all powerful.Rich

Classical mechanics is not super-deterministic. Or rather, the completion of quantum mechanics, to render it compatible with classical mechanics would not be superdeterministic.

Let's give some credit to those of religious faith. At least they are aware enough of their faith that they don't deny it. Determinists are swimming in their own admitted illusions.Rich

What you could do is demonstrate that the laws of physics are not deterministic.

What the heck does GTR have to do with Super-Duper-Determinism??Rich

According to GR we inhabit a stationary block space-time. This is as super-duper-deterministic as you can get.

It is not even compatible with QM...Rich

In what way is GR not compatible with QM?
• 753
but I could say that this discussion caused the idea of poking myself.

How would you show that?

How is it anything more than speculation?

I could say my intent to poke myself caused me to pick up the pin.

Again, how do you know?

I can definitely say that the pressing of the pin's point into my arm caused a pain signal to reach my brain!

How can you say that?

You are not saying that after A occurred B occurred. You are saying that one caused the other. How do you know?

Did you empirically sense through sight, smell, sound, taste and/or touch the act of one causing the other? Or did you only empirically sense two different occurrences and then add something non-empirical--the act of causing--with your imagination?

There is no gap to be filled, other than the fraction of time it takes for the signal to reach the brain and be interpreted.

If there is no gap to be filled then why do you bring an act of causation into it?
• 3.2k
What you could do is demonstrate that the laws of physics are not deterministic.tom

It's impossible. It would be like demonstrating God does not exist. It is all based upon faith in the Super-and-All-Powerful-Laws of Nature. Inscrutable, impenetrable, undefinable, and inexhaustible. Declaring that QM and GTR explains everything is quite an amazing leap of faith.

[
According to GR we inhabit a stationary block space-time. This is as super-duper-deterministic as you can get.tom

It says no such thing. It's a simple equation. The rest of the story is just made up. In fact, there isn't even time in the equation. It is all about time as expressed in clocks and how acceleration affects then. There is nothing there about human experience of duration. Humans are not clocks.

In what way is GR not compatible with QM?tom

• 1.5k
It says no such thing. It's a simple equation. The rest of the story is just made up. In fact, there isn't even time in the equation. It is all about time as expressed in clocks and how acceleration affects then. There is nothing there about human experience of duration. Humans are not clocks.Rich

Sorry, but GR predicts many things like, the big-bang, time dilation, gravitational waves, and that we inhabit a stationary block universe.

The last refuge of the bull-shitter.
• 3.2k
Sorry, but GR predicts many things like, the big-bang, time dilation, gravitational waves, and that we inhabit a stationary block universe.tom

The Big Bang thing is just Genesis and GTR makes no such prediction. It only concerns itself with measurements by clocks. As it turns out clocks are affected by gravity as are photons. I'm not surprised. So are waves in the ocean.

I love it when Determinists have to defend their faith. You figure all you have to do is throw out you God (Super-Duper-Determinatism) and people are going to fall over trying to be converted? Truly bathing in their own self-admitted illusions. You are living a life of illusions right?
• 1.5k
The Big Bang thing is just Genesis and GTR makes no such prediction. It only concerns itself with measurements by clocks. As it turns out clocks are affected by gravity as are photons. I'm not surprised. So are waves in the ocean.

I love it when Determinists have to defend their faith. You figure all you have to do is throw out you God (Super-Duper-Determinatism) and people are going to fall over trying to be converted? Truly bathing in their own self-admitted illusions. You are living a life of illusions right?
Rich

How does one request a "Mute" or "Block" feature on this forum?
• 753
when two things are connected it means they lead directly to one another with no space in between. I'm saying literally everything in nature is interconnected so that there is no space in between anything.

There is space between chain links, yet they are connected.

And we are talking about events, happenings, occurrences, etc., not about objects. That means we are talking about gaps in and/or between events, happenings, occurrences, not space between objects.

Furthermore, just because one thing is followed by another with nothing in between does not mean that they are connected. It could mean that they are related, but it does not necessarily mean that there is any connection. Something could have, for example, been spontaneously generated.

No I'm not. "Necessarily interconnected" means they cannot be disconnected. Everything is dependent on everything else, nothing can be isolated from the rest...

If we can't isolate two things then we can't say that one caused the other.

With the kind of causation I'm talking about, there are no gaps between events..."

If there are no gaps between events, how can one be an antecedent cause of another?
• 307
There is space between chain links, yet they are connected.

And we are talking about events, happenings, occurrences, etc., not about objects. That means we are talking about gaps in and/or between events, happenings, occurrences, not space between objects.

Your initial statement is rendered irrelevant by the proceeding paragraph, so I'm not sure why you included it.

Something could have, for example, been spontaneously generated.

Give me a real-world example of this; an event occurring spontaneously, without cause. The only time this could possibly have happened was the universe coming into existence.

If we can't isolate two things then we can't say that one caused the other.

If there are no gaps between events, how can one be an antecedent cause of another?

When I consume food, my hunger is satiated. Whether you believe these are actually two separate events or not is irrelevant. This is a clear, demonstrable case of cause and effect. And there are no gaps between them. One leads directly to the other through various biological and physiological processes and reactions.
This is the kind of thing I'm talking about.
• 407
Did you empirically sense through sight, smell, sound, taste and/or touch the act of one causing the other? Or did you only empirically sense two different occurrences and then add something non-empirical--the act of causing--with your imagination?

If there is no gap to be filled then why do you bring an act of causation into it?

You're going to cause me to put you in a class with Rich if you keep going on like this...

Cause isn't a physical thing to be sensed. It's a term describing the link between one thing that happens due to another thing having preceded it. I would even venture to say that a cause need not be true 100% of the time (i.e. if 85% of people who are sexually abused experience depression, I would label sexual abuse as a partial or probable cause of or contributor to depression). Again, cause is a description of a chain of events, not a physical thing to be observed.
• 407
That doesn't mean the idea that there are no causes is wrong. That might make sense in some situations also. As I said, I get it and I think it can be useful.

I think it would be amiss to say there are cases where cause does not exist, at least to some extent. Even if we introduce probabilities, cause is still relevant. Consider a man approaching an intersection when the light turns yellow. This happens 10 times when he is exactly the same distance away, at the same time of day, in the same weather conditions. There are no other cars or pedestrians. If he stops 9 out of those 10 times, we could say that the combination of his innate biological traits, his previous experience in such a situation, and his expectation of results, governed his responses. There may indeed be a random element, but the combination of circumstances is heavily weighted toward stopping.

Now change the experiment, and put a woman in his place. She would probably blow the light 9 times out of 10, because females cause way more accidents.
• 753
Your initial statement is rendered irrelevant by the proceeding paragraph, so I'm not sure why you included it.

Chain links are objects, not events. But they are connected and there is space between them. You said that when something is connected to another there is nothing between them.

Give me a real-world example of this; an event occurring spontaneously, without cause. The only time this could possibly have happened was the universe coming into existence.

How do you know the latter statement to be true?

When I consume food, my hunger is satiated. Whether you believe these are actually two separate events or not is irrelevant. This is a clear, demonstrable case of cause and effect. And there are no gaps between them. One leads directly to the other through various biological and physiological processes and reactions.
This is the kind of thing I'm talking about.

It sounds tautological, or something like that. It sounds like "This effect was caused by that cause because effects are caused by causes".

If we are being intellectually honest, we don't really know why things happen. We just know that certain things, like ice, appear after certain other things, like temperatures dropping below a certain level. We don't know why or how. It could be that an omnipotent being intervened and acts as a middle man or a bridge through which ice appears. Saying that decreased temperatures caused the ice is saying that we know everything there is to know about the relationship between temperature and ice. We don't know if we know everything.

I believe that that is a flaw in determinist thinking. How does a determinist know everything that contributed to a thought, action, state of existence, etc.?
• 307
Chain links are objects, not events.

Exactly, and as you pointed out we're talking about events; not objects.

It sounds tautological, or something like that. It sounds like "This effect was caused by that cause because effects are caused by causes".

That's not at all what I said, you seem to be reading into things what you want to see. The claim was that one event was caused by another event because "one leads directly to the other through various biological and physiological processes and reactions." Like dominoes, one "thing" causes a chain reaction which results in another "thing". Are you saying that the final domino falling down after being hit by the domino before it--and that one before that one, and so on, all the way back to the initial domino--is not a direct result of the initial domino falling down?

I think you misunderstand the concept of cause and effect. If you want to claim that we can't know one thing truly causes another because there could be an omnipotent being intervening and tricking us, be prepared to be taken about as seriously as Descartes when he claimed that an evil demon could be deceiving us about the nature of reality. You're essentially saying the exact same thing. And if you actually took your own claim seriously, you would be completely and totally unable to function in the world. It would mean that humanity should give up on doing science, and throw everything we think we understand out the window, because who's to say that an omnipotent being hasn't been deceiving us this whole time? Why are you typing things on your computer? None of the users here are real. This forum isn't real. Your computer isn't real. It's all just the deception of an omnipotent being.
• 1
Neuroscience of free will, to me implies we really don't have free will.
"One significant finding of modern studies is that a person's brain seems to commit to certain decisions before the person becomes aware of having made them. With contemporary brain scanning technology, other scientists in 2008 were able to predict with 60% accuracy whether subjects would press a button with their left or right hand up to 10 seconds before the subject became aware of having made that choice."

Our premotor cortex moves our bodies before we are even have made the decision to move. I very much think we have an illusion of free will.
• 2.4k

Have you ever watched a skier run moguls? The decisions the skier makes are based on what his body understands, its training, its memory, the same habitual movements. I think the phenomena you are referring to is similar. It does not impinge on the notion of an existential will, in my opinion.
• 3.2k
Neuroscience of free will, to me implies we really don't have free will.
"One significant finding of modern studies is that a person's brain seems to commit to certain decisions before the person becomes aware of having made them. With contemporary brain scanning technology, other scientists in 2008 were able to predict with 60% accuracy whether subjects would press a button with their left or right hand up to 10 seconds before the subject became aware of having made that choice."

Our premotor cortex moves our bodies before we are even have made the decision to move. I very much think we have an illusion of free will.

My guess is that the scientists are suffering from determined illusion.
• 76
If one is contented already with that level of freedom which they already have then more so called freedom than this would only be experienced as less, for with more freedom available to one than one is happy with there is sacrifice of contentment, and contentment is the marker for genuine freedom. Free will should be considered a different topic, and we should all of us here be bright enough to realize that some of us experience more freedom than others. To over look the way that normal functioning people think and feel is to subscribe to only meaningless chatter. Sure on one level, with no free will there can be no freedom, thats for a free will debate, and thats on that absolute level. However, on the level which actually counts for something, on the level where we actually experience it, or not so much as the case may be, freedom is an important topic for discussion. To deal only in absolute values.is to be separate from any valid purpose..
I have just been banned from another philosophy forum for over performance, every thread I engaged ending with my answer?
• 3.2k
I wonder how it must feel to really believe that their own thoughts and actions are totally determined. To be just a puppet of some mystical Laws of Nature. I mean to REALLY believe it and to understand that everything one does and says is absolutely meaningless. Then go through the motions of life and then that's it.
• 4.5k
Our premotor cortex moves our bodies before we are even have made the decision to move. I very much think we have an illusion of free will.

It is worth noting the details. First the task set-up...

The subjects were asked to relax while fixating on the center of the screen where a stream of letters was presented. At some point, when they felt the urge to do so, they were to freely decide between one of two buttons, operated by the left and right index fingers, and press it immediately. In parallel, they should remember the letter presented when their motor decision was consciously made

Note the demand that one or other button should be pushed "on impulse". The urge was to be "conscious" when it happened, but the choice not consciously debated or timed or justified. There was no external complexity to be handled - like make a decision if also X and not Y.

Also attention - that limited high level resource - did have a specific job to do. It needed to note the particular letter in a flow of letters that happened to coincide with the emergence of the urge. So attention was kept out of the button choice as much as possible by the experiment's design.

It was a good test of our ability to dissociate between habitual and attentional level action. But ordinarily, the two might go together in integrated fashion.

Then the more detailed results of what lit up when...

The temporal ordering of information suggests a tentative causal model of information flow, where the earliest unconscious precursors of the motor decision originated in frontopolar cortex, from where they influenced the buildup of decision-related information in the precuneus and later in SMA, where it remained unconscious for up to a few seconds.

This substantially extends previous work that has shown that BA10 is involved in storage of conscious action plans9–11 and shifts in strategy following negative feedback12. Thus, a network of high-level control areas can begin to shape an upcoming decision long before it enters awareness.

So the task demand was to find a way to push the button without a feeling of overtly planning and controlling the act.

And then we see BA10 kicking off a preliminary connection with the precuneus. So this is frontal working memory - a scratchpad for future intentions - talking to the bit of the brain that is concerned with a high level orientation towards locations in space. An intention to go left or right has been warmed up as a coming direction of action.

Next that fires up the SMA, the high level motor area needed to turn an intention in regards to a direction into a physical act - a motor instruction that will drive the hand.

But still no actual go signal. The SMA has to go through the premotor and the motor cortex yet, not to mention recruit all the lower brain anatomy, like the basal ganglia and cerebellum.

And the task shaping the subject's mindset demands some kind of "unconscious" or unattended delay period to ensure that the eventual go signal is not a voluntarily timed act. So the experiment is a test of just how long a future intention can be kept on the back burner using working memory scheduling. Inserting a delay was part of the task demand - of which the subject was thoroughly aware if he/she was listening to the experimenter.

Then the impulse can be held dormant no longer. Something relaxes. The balance tips. At this point, to actually release the action, the motor cortex must broadcast the feeling of what it is going to be like - warn the rest of the brain that your hand is going to suddenly reach out and hit a button.

We have to be told in advance what our body is about to do just so that we know it is "us" who are the cause of some sensation, and it is not the world causing those feelings. So consciousness of the urge is just the standard reafference messaging which must precede all motor acts. We are experiencing at a reportable attentional level the advance warning of an imminent sensation - the feeling of a hand reaching out.

And of course, given the right attentional set-up, we could be keep a close eye on such impulses. There might be - in some other experimental situation - the demand that we be ready to shut down the impulse because the moment is "not quite right" for other reasons, also stored in working memory as part of the intentional mindset.

But again, that is not the case in this experimental set-up which is designed to show how great a dissociation between habit-level and attentional-level control over "decisions" there can be. So here, there is nothing that should stand as a filter on the expression of the urge - except that it was held back without conscious deliberation as long as possible. Long enough not to seem at all controlled or planned. And then attention was kept busy to make that easier. Subjects had to fixate on a stream of letters and catch the one letter that happened to show when the urge also happened to show.

The take-home is thus that we are very clever at meeting experimental task-demands. We can take a normally integrated functionality - a seamless feeling marriage of habit and attention - and turn it into the kind of strongly dissociated outcome that makes people go "wow" in the context of the standard folk psychology notion of the freewill debate.

"Hey. We are meant to actually be the "I" who makes the decisions in here. So it is very disturbing to admit that this "I" is somewhat a fiction."

But a better response is to recognise that this "I-ness" is an integrated combination of all our learnt habits and our attentional capabilities. We are usually conscious of what we want to get out of life in terms of what may happen in the next seconds and minutes. Then we just get on doing that with as little deliberative oversight as we can get away with.

It is inefficient to over-think things. So the brain is cleverly set up to avoid that.

The decisions the skier makes are based on what his body understands, its training, its memory, the same habitual movements. I think the phenomena you are referring to is similar. It does not impinge on the notion of an existential will, in my opinion.

Yep. Indeed, if we didn't let habit do its thing, we would be as helpless as babies still. We completely rely on habits so that we then can do more interesting things with our limited attentional capacities.
• 42
our attentional capabilities
I never can fully understand sleep walkers phenomena. Can the set of habits and attentional capabilities be used to explain them?
• 4.5k
In sleep, you don’t form long term memories. And also there is a dissociation, or lack of integration, more generally. That is why in dreaming sleep, what you are thinking about your dream imagery has only a loose connection to that imagery. You are making up some kind of story, but it doesn’t closely follow “the facts”.

Thus in sleepwalking, you can be semi awake with some confused intentionality that has some very loose connection with the facts, and yet quite capable of acting with awake levels of habit. Some sleepwalkers have got in cars and driven miles.

So the attentional level of forming intentions and remembering consequences might be dazed and confused. But habits just need the eyes open and the body awake enough to respond automatically to a world of familiar clues.

There is this great tale of A.A. Gill cooking elaborate meals during alcoholic blackouts. A similar story... http://www.esquire.com/food-drink/a46904/a-a-gill-memoir/
• 42
so according to your lines, a semi awaker can perform as best as himself awken, because he is exploiting parts of what he has? Are there cases sleep walkers do something they cannot repeat even with huge efforts, having awaken? How do those count in?
PS: will read the article, thanks.
• 1.2k

An excellent idea to scrutinise the details of the experiment. So often people take only the 'headline' and further investigation reveals the experiment actually showed nothing of the sort.

I would like to address a couple of points though where I not sure I entirely agree with the conclusions you draw. It's important to note first that the experiment was set up specifically to address questions raised by the original Max Plank Institute experiment on the precocity of SMA signals so many of the specific details you mention are the result of trying to answer specific questions including trying to rule out the possibility of unconscious higher decision functions other than SMA areas.

Most of the design elements you describe which limit the relevance of the experiment to Free will, in the larger sense are the result of this refinement. As far as these experiments tell us anything about free will, they really should be seen as part of a continuum of study on the neurological markers of decision making processes, rather then in isolation.

Also attention - that limited high level resource - did have a specific job to do. It needed to note the particular letter in a flow of letters that happened to coincide with the emergence of the urge. So attention was kept out of the button choice as much as possible by the experiment's design.

I don't think it's entirely fair to say that attention was kept out of the button choice "as much as possible". The subjects were only given a simple reading task to act as an allocator for their decision, it's not exactly calculus. I gather the experimenters added this part of the experiment to answer the question about higher sub-concious function by adding a potential initiator. They're intention was not to obfuscate by distracting the attention of the subjects, subject paying their full attention to the task had already been tested in the Max Plank experiments so there was no need to repeat that.

In all I agree with your approach to analysis, but I think it's a little unfair to suggest the conclusions of these experiments taken as a whole are just to provide a "wow" factor in the free-will debate. They are collectively very important and this particular experiment furthered some important questions resulting from previous investigations.

Like all proper scientific investigation, it is about hypothesis testing. If your hypothesis is that we have free-will, then this experiment is of no interest to you, be cause it is designed to prove concious functions precede action, hence proving the hypothesis. This experiment is important, however, for anyone whose working hypothesis is that we do not have free-will, because is has helped to support that hypothesis by trying to prove otherwise and failing to do so.
• 42
yeah, it's clearly not resolutely sorted out, such a big problem of free will - because of disagreements in experiments setup, data or conclusions...etc so we still have chance to go on it.
And how will we ever know?
so we will never know is the easiest answer, not in anyway feckless.

Still, exploring a simpler example may help somehow:
A computer programmer knows there's the "runtime" unknowns, at least when the data is not fully predicted as usual. Would we perceive the program has free will, bearing along a lot of if-then-else decisions?

Another second thought:
God knows what you are going to choose
why does he need to know? maybe he can but is he supposed to watch you all around? More probable is if he accidentally follows you, then probably he knows how your will and actions are being laid out, not strictly before or after. What changes would that suggest to the whole dispute then?
• 4.5k
As far as these experiments tell us anything about free will, they really should be seen as part of a continuum of study on the neurological markers of decision making processes, rather then in isolation.

Yes. I’ve been following this story since the 1980s. The important thing is that the subjects are always fully conscious of the experiment’s demand to “let an impulsive choice surface”. And surprise, surprise, we can choose to do just that. We can disengage a sense of oversight.

Readiness potentials were uncontroversial when Kornhuber and Grey Walter reported them. They slotted nicely into the dominant behaviourism of the time. But then Libet came along with his dualistic agenda and managed to create a little sensation in philosophy of mind circles.

So it’s all social history as much as science. ;)
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