• bahman
    530
    The importance of this question comes to my mind after the discussion in this comment.
  • Pseudonym
    1k


    One of the leading theories is that consciousness is simply the brain's model of all the competing stimuli-respone actions going on that it uses to keep track of everything.

    The advantage of being able to 'watch over' these responses is (rather ironically) that illusory stimuli can be more easily identified as such because they do not concur with other stimuli. The only way the brain can do this (so goes the theory) is to 'expect' all received stimuli to concur. That feeling is what we describe as consciousness.
  • David Solman
    48
    i think what is most interesting about this is, who is making decisions? if every decision that is made is just a product of sub conscious that's very odd because everything that you have done up until this point has been chosen by something that you're not even aware of. the sub conscious is what acts first but it acts without your contribution and so what does this mean for us? are we even able to make a choice? does the brain create the illusion that we're making the decisions when in fact we play no part at all? and more importantly, who is pulling the strings? if all this true then what about the bigger picture, the population of the entire world experiences the same as i do and all of those decisions made by everyone to bring us to this point in human evolution has just been a product of zero conscious thought? is everyone is just riding a train to experience what our inner conscious feels is the right and wrong way to act?
  • bahman
    530
    One of the leading theories is that consciousness is simply the brain's model of all the competing stimuli-respone actions going on that it uses to keep track of everything.

    The advantage of being able to 'watch over' these responses is (rather ironically) that illusory stimuli can be more easily identified as such because they do not concur with other stimuli. The only way the brain can do this (so goes the theory) is to 'expect' all received stimuli to concur. That feeling is what we describe as consciousness.
    Pseudonym

    So you believe that the feeling of free will is an illusion but it exists just because there is a stimuli for it?
  • tom
    1.5k
    The importance of this question comes to my mind after the discussion in this comment.bahman

    It does seem utterly wasteful and counter-evolutionary to claim that consciousness and free-will are illusions. For this to work in evolutionary terms, then consciousness and the awareness of free-will must have a physical effect, which means that the illusions must be causal.

    So, we have certain illusions, that must be caused by something physical, that must cause something physical, that must render the illuded fitter for survival. Very odd indeed!

    Perhaps illusion is the wrong descriptor?
  • bahman
    530
    i think what is most interesting about this is, who is making decisions? if every decision that is made is just a product of sub conscious that's very odd because everything that you have done up until this point has been chosen by something that you're not even aware of.David Solman

    I think we need consciousness for adopting our subconscious mind to a stimuli so subconscious mind can perform a specific task automatically and properly. Think of deriving.

    the sub conscious is what acts first but it acts without your contribution and so what does this mean for us? are we even able to make a choice? does the brain create the illusion that we're making the decisions when in fact we play no part at all? and more importantly, who is pulling the strings? if all this true then what about the bigger picture, the population of the entire world experiences the same as i do and all of those decisions made by everyone to bring us to this point in human evolution has just been a product of zero conscious thought?David Solman

    Yes. That seems odd.

    is everyone is just riding a train to experience what our inner conscious feels is the right and wrong way to act?David Solman

    Yes. Sometimes we are even blindly follow our feeling regardless if they are right or wrong.
  • bahman
    530
    It does seem utterly wasteful and counter-evolutionary to claim that consciousness and free-will are illusions. For this to work in evolutionary terms, then consciousness and the awareness of free-will must have a physical effect, which means that the illusions must be causal.tom

    Yes, I agree. But you then have the tension between body and consciousness which this leads to improbable situation. This was subject of another thread. Please see the link in OP for further discussion.

    So, we have certain illusions, that must be caused by something physical, that must cause something physical, that must render the illuded fitter for survival. Very odd indeed!tom

    Yes.

    Perhaps illusion is the wrong descriptor?tom

    I cannot resolve the problem which stated in this thread and the other thread if I accept that the mind is byproduct of brain activity.
  • tom
    1.5k
    Yes, I agree. But you then have the tension between body and consciousness which this leads to improbable situation. This was subject of another thread. Please see the link in OP for further discussion.bahman

    Why, when there is such a straight forward resolution?

    I cannot resolve the problem which stated in this thread and the other thread if I accept that the mind is byproduct of brain activity.bahman

    The mind is a byproduct of brain activity in the same way playing Go is a byproduct of computer activity.
  • bahman
    530
    Yes, I agree. But you then have the tension between body and consciousness which this leads to improbable situation. This was subject of another thread. Please see the link in OP for further discussion.
    — bahman

    Why, when there is such a straight forward resolution?
    tom

    I don't understand what you are trying to say. Do you agree or disagree with my comment?

    I cannot resolve the problem which stated in this thread and the other thread if I accept that the mind is byproduct of brain activity.
    — bahman

    The mind is a byproduct of brain activity in the same way playing Go is a byproduct of computer activity.
    tom

    I don't understand your comment. Do you mind to rephrase?
  • tom
    1.5k
    I don't understand your comment. Do you mind to rephrase?bahman

    According to known physics, the brain is a universal computing device. All such devices are equivalent. So, the program running on your brain (or any other universal computer) is the entity that creates consciousness as a feature. Consciousness, and free-will are software features, not hardware features.

    Playing chess, is no more a feature of the computer hardware than consciousness is a feature of the brain.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.8k
    I don't know the answer to this question, but I'll speculate and say that not everything evolution produces has to be functional and positive for the organism's persistence. There are some things that have evolved that are detrimental to the survival of an organism/species but not so much that it actually purges them. Or it takes many generations for the extinction to actually happen. There are also some traits that evolve that are completely accidental and neutral in functionality, that exist by chance and have no bearing on the survival of the organism.

    The experience of free will may be an instance of a neutral trait. Though I'm also speculating that it may have arisen through a complex mental evolution, which might have taken many generations of fragile mental instability where many members of the species went insane, mad or otherwise "broke" mentally. I think it might be reasonable to say that the proliferation of mental illnesses today is only a fraction of what it would have been thousands of years ago, when the mind was still developing. Back then the mind may literally have been a chaotic maelstrom. Or the appearance of a "free will" experience may have come accidentally and only after the appearance of failed "free will" experiences.

    It can be difficult to wrap one's head around the amount of time that took place in the evolution of biological life on Earth. It's a ton of time, with plenty of opportunities for accidental developments, most of which would have resulted in failure.
  • Pseudonym
    1k
    So you believe that the feeling of free will is an illusion but it exists just because there is a stimuli for it?bahman

    No, that's not quite what I'm saying. The theory is that conciousness is the effect of the brain monitoring the stimuli it has received from all the different sources and expecting them to be coherent. That expectation is the sensation that we are one entity, aware of all our actions and responses. The evidence pretty clearly shows that we are not. Scientists can tell you 'you' are going to move your arm before you actually decide to move your arm, it's pretty irrefutable, it doesn't matter how hard it is for anyone to understand or get how such a thing might have evolved. 'You' are not in charge.
  • TheMadFool
    2.3k
    Look at how animals behave. They're driven by what could be called emotions or, perhaps better, base desires. They're behavior consists of feeding and mating. Everything animals do can be reduced to the two activities I've mentioned. One might say that animals exercise choice in the type of food or mate but these two are modulated through the senses which are nothing more than chemical receptors. We don't attribute free will to an ameba whose activities are entirely controlled through chemicals do we? So, animals, clearly, lack freedom of will. Their choices are determined through signals that have never enter the light of consciousness.

    Humans are animals too. If so then how can it be that we should be so different, invested as it were, with free will? We do engage in mating and feeding and in that we're the same as animals - driven by visual cues, taste, smell, etc.

    Point to note is mating and feeding are pro-life i.e. preserves, nurtures, and propagates life. We engage in mating and feeding to prolong life or to bring new life into the world. So far so good.

    However, humans have a distinct ability, not found in animals - we can do things that are detrimental to life. We can harm ourselves or choose a course in our lives that is painful and dangerous. This type of behavior is absent in animals. Does this mean we truly have free will? After all we can do something that is not driven by our base instincts. Surely this must mean something!
  • bahman
    530
    According to known physics, the brain is a universal computing device. All such devices are equivalent. So, the program running on your brain (or any other universal computer) is the entity that creates consciousness as a feature. Consciousness, and free-will are software features, not hardware features.

    Playing chess, is no more a feature of the computer hardware than consciousness is a feature of the brain.
    tom

    Well, the another software is laws of nature. If we accept that then we see that there is either tension between laws of nature and conscious decision or not depending on whether consciousness is active or passive. We cannot act in the first case and we observe deviation from what we expect. Both of these cases we have never observed. So we are dealing with a problem.
  • charleton
    1.2k
    Evolution doesn't care.
    It allows an infinite possible number of traits. Evolution is the result of a process in which useful traits are promoted by successful reproduction, but more exactly the elimination of traits that are actively injurious to successful reproduction.
    Evolution is not a process which creates or selects traits at all. Evolution is the end result of living things having viable progeny. Between the two extremes of positively useful and negative traits there exists a whole host of traits that, not impeding the result of viable progeny confer not particular advantage or disadvantage of viable progeny.
    Natural selection, does not select FOR traits in any sense. It is the result of the selection of living things that have useful traits and neutral traits.

    In the matter of conscious sexual selection by humans of their mates it can be argued that those that believe in free-will are likely to select a mate who also has such a belief. In this way free will is adaptive in that it is attractive.
    This argument can also be offered for a range of myths, beliefs and other cultural artefacts. That they persist in culture passed to children through knowledge.
  • bahman
    530

    I think that the probability for a neutral trait drops by time and become insignificant in a course million years for such complex phenomena, illusion of free will.
  • Harry Hindu
    1.2k
    i think what is most interesting about this is, who is making decisions? if every decision that is made is just a product of sub conscious that's very odd because everything that you have done up until this point has been chosen by something that you're not even aware of. the sub conscious is what acts first but it acts without your contribution and so what does this mean for us? are we even able to make a choice?David Solman
    I find it very strange to say that you aren't making decisions, when YOUR subconscious is making decisions.

    I think we do make conscious decisions as well as sub- or, unconscious, ones. I think one of the reasons consciousness evolved in humans was because it provides fault tolerance for those sub- and/or unconscious decisions (instincts). There are often times where those instinctive decisions would produce dire consequences in complex social environments. Conscious decisions provides that extra layer of fault tolerance and reasoning, allowing one to override some of those instinctive responses, and to be able to fine-tune one's responses to it's environment.

    This also provides the feeling of turning one's awareness back on yourself - of observing one's own behavioral responses for the purpose of fine-tuning the decision-making process.
  • bahman
    530
    No, that's not quite what I'm saying. The theory is that conciousness is the effect of the brain monitoring the stimuli it has received from all the different sources and expecting them to be coherent. That expectation is the sensation that we are one entity, aware of all our actions and responses. The evidence pretty clearly shows that we are not. Scientists can tell you 'you' are going to move your arm before you actually decide to move your arm, it's pretty irrefutable, it doesn't matter how hard it is for anyone to understand or get how such a thing might have evolved. 'You' are not in charge.Pseudonym

    So you entirely believe that conscious activities have no role in our lives?
  • bahman
    530
    Look at how animals behave. They're driven by what could be called emotions or, perhaps better, base desires. They're behavior consists of feeding and mating. Everything animals do can be reduced to the two activities I've mentioned. One might say that animals exercise choice in the type of food or mate but these two are modulated through the senses which are nothing more than chemical receptors. We don't attribute free will to an ameba whose activities are entirely controlled through chemicals do we? So, animals, clearly, lack freedom of will. Their choices are determined through signals that have never enter the light of consciousness.

    Humans are animals too. If so then how can it be that we should be so different, invested as it were, with free will? We do engage in mating and feeding and in that we're the same as animals - driven by visual cues, taste, smell, etc.

    Point to note is mating and feeding are pro-life i.e. preserves, nurtures, and propagates life. We engage in mating and feeding to prolong life or to bring new life into the world. So far so good.

    However, humans have a distinct ability, not found in animals - we can do things that are detrimental to life. We can harm ourselves or choose a course in our lives that is painful and dangerous. This type of behavior is absent in animals. Does this mean we truly have free will? After all we can do something that is not driven by our base instincts. Surely this must mean something!
    TheMadFool

    Well, I have to say that I am amused and confused.
  • Pseudonym
    1k
    So you entirely believe that conscious activities have no role in our lives?bahman

    No, I believe that conscious activities do not exist. Deciding on a course of action is not something that a single unified process does and it's certainly not the process that we're aware of.

    Deciding on a course of action is done by several competing parts of the brain, some of which we are aware of, others we're not. After the resultant message is sent to the muscles, the bit of the brain responsible for the sensation we call consciousness tells us a story about how 'we' decided to do it, as if 'we' was some unified thing.

    Read Bruce Hood's The Self Illusion, it's a real eye-opener.
  • bahman
    530

    So what is the point of consciousness?
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