• TheMadFool
    12k
    The jury is still out regarding whether Determinism is true or not, whether we have free will or not and that sums up the status of how much we know regarding one of the biggest issues in philosophy. If we did know which way the scales of truth tips, we would need to undertake a complete overhaul of our way of life.

    I'll not be surprised if people will ignore this post or if they do participate they do only for laughs. That's ok because I haven't really given the matter as much attention and thought as I would've liked. So, be warned, this might be just another half-baked, worthless piece of pseudo-reasoning.

    To get right to the point, what I've noticed and I'm sure everyone has too is the temporal delay between making a choice and acting out that choice. Let me explain. If I were given an option between a Coke and Pepsi can on a tray, I would make a choice depending on my preference which, for all intents and purposes, are beyond my control (absence of free will) BUT I can delay picking up the chosen can. The tray with the Cola cans could be brought to me at 5 PM and even after I make my choice for reasons that I can't control, I can defer/delay the actual act of picking up whichever can I chose to 5:10 PM

    Question 1: What explains this delaying/deferring of actions even after choices have been made?

    From a purely materialistic perspective and in a very basic, almost crude, sense, do we have the power to arrest the motion of particles/molecules in our brain presuming the motions of the particles/molecules determine our choices and the acts that should follow them? If we do possess such an ability, does it follow, by extension, that we can control the motion of particles/molecules in our brain before and during the making of choices, effectively granting us free will?

    Question 2: If we can delay acting out our choices after making them then doesn't that grant us some kind of free will or, if you like, pseudo-free-will? The lives of people are full of so-called missed opportunities which, to some extent, consist of times when the delay between a choice and acting out on that choice is longer than the temporal window-period during which our actions would've made a difference. For instance, if the tray with the two cans of Cola were to be offered to me by a waiter who was going to wait only for 5 seconds for me to pick a can up and I delayed the action of picking up the can for 10 seconds, the waiter would leave and I would be left without a drink, precisely what would've happened if I had gone against/defied my pre-programmed preferences. This is pseudo-free-will because I actually haven't gone against my programming, it's just that I failed to act within the allotted time.
  • Jack Cummins
    3.6k

    I think that missed opportunity do say a lot about free will because being fixed in the moment often means that we are inclined to follow determine pathways, restricting the exploration of the infinite possible alternative, paths, which would open up unconditioned freedom.
  • Janus
    10.7k
    What makes you think we have any more (or less) control over delaying picking up the chosen can than we do over choosing which can? That's the bit of reasoning that seems to be missing here.
  • TheMadFool
    12k
    To delay acting on one's choice is a form of control, no?
  • Wayfarer
    13.6k
    presuming the motions of the particles/molecules determine our choicesTheMadFool

    There's no known law of physics or anything else which demonstrates that voluntary actions are causally determined by molecular forces. It's simply a presumption, something that seems obvious.

    It's worth reading up on Wilder Penfield's Mystery of the Mind. A neurosurgeon, he made observations over decades that convinced him that the mind was not physically 'produced by the brain'.

    [Can we] control the motion of particles/molecules in our brain before and during the making of choices, effectively granting us free will?TheMadFool

    You can think thoughts that have immediate physiological effects. If you think of something sexually arousing, you can become physically aroused. If you recall an incident of violence or someone who evokes strong feelings, you heart rate might increase and your adrenal glands begin to secrete.
  • TheMadFool
    12k
    Wilder Penfield's Myster of the MIndWayfarer

    Thanks for the recommendation. :up:

    What bothers me is that causation usually doesn't have latency periods or if they do have them, the time involved is in the milliseconds or even nanoseconds. By latency period I mean the time-gap between cause and effect. It seems rather unusual for a latency period to extend into the minutes, days, weeks, months, even years and these are actual time spans involved between making a choice and acting on that choice.
  • Janus
    10.7k
    I still cant see any reason to think it would be any more or less an instance of control than making a choice.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    9k
    From a purely materialistic perspective and in a very basic, almost crude, sense, do we have the power to arrest the motion of particles/molecules in our brain presuming the motions of the particles/molecules determine our choices and the acts that should follow them?TheMadFool

    Yes, that's called will power.

    f we do possess such an ability, does it follow, by extension, that we can control the motion of particles/molecules in our brain before and during the making of choices, effectively granting us free will?TheMadFool

    Yes.

    The answers to these questions are very obvious, and it's very hard for me to imagine how anyone could realistically doubt the truth of free will.

    Question 2: If we can delay acting out our choices after making them then doesn't that grant us some kind of free will or, if you like, pseudo-free-will? The lives of people are full of so-called missed opportunities which, to some extent, consist of times when the delay between a choice and acting out on that choice is longer than the temporal window-period during which our actions would've made a difference. For instance, if the tray with the two cans of Cola were to be offered to me by a waiter who was going to wait only for 5 seconds for me to pick a can up and I delayed the action of picking up the can for 10 seconds, the waiter would leave and I would be left without a drink, precisely what would've happened if I had gone against/defied my pre-programmed preferences. This is pseudo-free-will because I actually haven't gone against my programming, it's just that I failed to act within the allotted time.TheMadFool

    I don't see how you reach the conclusion now that free will is "pseudo".

    Here's an experiment you can try. Hold an object (preferably unbreakable) in your hand, and have your mind made up, that you will drop it to the floor. Allow yourself to drop it at any random time, without any external influence causing you to drop it, such that the time when it is dropped is completely a determination of your will. Does this not convince you of the freedom of the will?
  • Pantagruel
    1.8k
    f we can delay acting out our choices after making them then doesn't that grant us some kind of free will or, if you like, pseudo-free-will?TheMadFool

    Organically, this very phenomenon seems to emerge as life complexifies and evolves. Even the very early phenomenon, the formation of a cellular membrane, has the effect of insulating the entity from the most immediate influences of the environment, providing a kind of "breathing room" which opens the door to alternative possibilities. Likewise, the development of neuronal structures (axons, dendrites) is also charaterized significantly by the "feedback delays" engendered.

    So I'd say, yes, the power to suspend action correlates well with a biologically consistent version of free-will.
  • TheMadFool
    12k
    Interesting! How much "insulation" does the brain have I wonder.
  • Pantagruel
    1.8k
    I think that depends on the degree of "will". It does appear that we are not all "equally constrained" though. Or "equally free" I guess.
  • TheMadFool
    12k
    I think that depends on the degree of "will". It does appear that we are not all "equally constrained" though. Or "equally free" I guessPantagruel

    In what sense aren't we "equally constrained" or "equally free"?
  • Pantagruel
    1.8k
    I think in the trivially evident sense that some people appear to possess greater will-power or self-control than others.
  • TheMadFool
    12k
    I think in the trivially evident sense that some people appear to possess greater will-power or self-control than othersPantagruel

    :ok: Will-power. I'm having trouble understanding will-power. What is it exactly? There are two ways of looking at will-power:

    1. It's an ability, a "power", that enables us to control ourselves better - check our impulses and do things we normally wouldn't want to do. There's, in the exercise of will power, a push and pull between the various internal forces that determine which course of action we'll opt for. Under this interpretation, will-power is just and nothing more than forcing ourselves to do/not do certain things. This doesn't involve our higher faculty of rationality.

    2. It's, again, an ability, a "power", to carefully study the pros and cons of an act, a thought, a speech, and making a decision thereafter. Here to there's an internal conflict but it takes place at the level of rationality. We either choose a path we don't like or refuse to choose one that we really like. Quite similar to 1 above you might say. However, there's a crucial difference. Since we've weighed the positives and negatives of our action, this generally means that we've made a choice that has more upsides than downsides. In other words, there's something in it for us in this case - we've thought things through.

    The difference between 1 and 2 can be illustrated with an example. Imagine two men X and Y and both of them are in the same jewellery shop having a look around. Both notice an unattended expensive diamond ring on a table and both realize that if they quietly palm it no one will notice and they could have a diamond ring for absolutely nothing. X's initial thoughts are that he should steal the ring but he tells himself "No! I don't want to steal" and that's about all the thinking that goes on in X's mind. Y, on the other hand, reasons "If I take it, at some point they'll figure out the diamond ring is missing and then they'll inform the police. since I was I here I'll be a suspect. They'll search my house and they'll find the ring. I'll go to jail. I don't want to go to jail. No! I don't want to steal!"

    As must be obvious to you, X isn't constrained by the consequences of his action. He simply says "no!" to stealing. Y, on the other hand, is constrained by the effects of his action. He reasons and concludes "no!" to stealing. Who, X or Y or both, possess will power or has self-control? Why?
  • Pantagruel
    1.8k
    Interesting examples. I think you are correct in couching them in terms of temptation. We are tempted always to take the easy route, the path of least resistance. Which is why I like Aristotle's conception of wisdom as grasping "what is hard and not easy" to understand (as I mentioned in the other thread).

    I think the examples have a bit of a "cooked-up" quality however. Most people aren't on the verge of being tempted to steal. If they are, they've already made up their minds and so example 2 isn't really about willpower, it's just a utilitarian calculation. Case 1 for me characterizes willpower. I interpret it along the lines of Kant's idea of "self-legislation". We are nowhere more free than where we circumscribe our own powers, or desires.
  • TheMadFool
    12k
    You didn't answer the questions
  • Pantagruel
    1.8k
    I did. I don't agree example 2 is a case of willpower, it is simply utilitarian calculation. I think actual willpower applies to situations where one is "teetering on the edge" so to speak.
  • TheMadFool
    12k
    Oh! Sorry. Didn't see it. Damn! My humble apologies.

    I see. I provided you with an inside view - the internal workings of X's and Y' minds - and so, the answer would've been as plain as the nose on your face.

    But now imagine you're the store clerk and you hear X, exercising his will-power, and muttering "no" and then you hear Y, after making his utilitarian calculation, saying, in a hushed tone, "no!". Would you be able to, from just the "no!" both X and Y utter, which one has will-power? :chin:

    Deeply sorry about making you repeat yourself. I zoned out back there.
  • Pantagruel
    1.8k
    lol. No biggie. Mind you, it is such a subjective phenomena, I don't know if you can ever provide a sufficient objective description, IMO. We know that there IS a line where we exercise our willpower, but between unanticipated situations where our responses are totally spontaneous and rote situations where perhaps we labour under a delusive self-perception, describing the exact placement of that line isn't straightforward. I do think we each have an intuitive awareness of it though....
  • Gnomon
    1.7k
    Question 1: What explains this delaying/deferring of actions even after choices have been made?TheMadFool
    I assume you are referring to the Benjamin Libet experiment, which detected indications that a subconscious choice had been made, a fraction of a second before the subject became aware of making the choice. His tentative interpretation was that the Brain had already made its choice, and later informed the conscious Mind of the decision. But, that interpretation has been criticized in detail by other scientists. So, I won't go into the tricky reasoning on both sides about the apparent delayed awareness after the action had been initiated.

    However, here is one scientist's critique. It seems to support my understanding that the Brain, like office staff, processes incoming information, and then presents its recommendation to the CEO for an executive decision. This is not an illustration of absolute FreeWill, but of relative freedom of choice : of freedom within determinism. So, you are free to go-on acting as-if you have FreeChoice --- and that your Vote will count :grin:


    How a Flawed Experiment “Proved” That Free Will Doesn’t Exist : It did no such thing—but the result has become conventional wisdom nevertheless
    https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/how-a-flawed-experiment-proved-that-free-will-doesnt-exist/
    PS___There is another Delayed Choice experiment that raised questions about FreeWill.

    delayed choice quantum eraser shows that free will exists :
    https://www.happyatheistforum.com/forum/index.php?topic=5986.0
  • TheMadFool
    12k
    lol. No biggie. Mind you, it is such a subjective phenomena, I don't know if you can ever provide a sufficient objective description, IMO. We know that there IS a line where we exercise our willpower, but between unanticipated situations where our responses are totally spontaneous and rote situations where perhaps we labour under a delusive self-perception, describing the exact placement of that line isn't straightforward. I do think we each have an intuitive awareness of it though....Pantagruel

    My worry is that determinism could be masquerading as will-power. The top result when you do a google search for "will-power" says that it's strong determination that allows one to do something difficult like quit smoking. Baked into this definition is the idea of will-power as something that enables us to resist or go against our natural proclivities.whatever they may be and that becomes a somewhat adequate foundation to make a case for free will.

    The problem is that every case of will-power in action can be reformulated as one in which one desire overrides another. In the nicotine example, the desire to stop the habit overcomes the desire to continue it. It's not a case of resisting an urge, an impulse, a desire but a case of one urge, impulse or desire being stronger than another. Where desire is involved, determinism is naturally present for as Schopenhauer said, "a man can surely do what he wills to do but he can't determine what he wills".
  • 8livesleft
    126
    The delay itself can be part of the predetermined decision process. But it can also give us a greater sense of agency.

    The amount delay or planning involved can make the difference between making something an accident or a willful act.

    But there's also this thing about higher order decisions such as choosing a college course, getting married, deciding to have kids, etc... These are decisions that require tons of planning and so a lot more "agency" is involved.

    And those paths we chose each have their own predetermined or acceptable modes of behavior that we sort of live through.
  • Pantagruel
    1.8k
    But there's also this thing about higher order decisions such as choosing a college course, getting married, deciding to have kids, etc... These are decisions that require tons of planning and so a lot more "agency" is involved.8livesleft

    Yes, I agree that the degree to which "long-term" as opposed to immediate goals or stimuli influence our decisions is a key element in the will-phenomena.

    edit: thought about it some more.
    Undoubtedly there is some basic empirical truth to determinism in thought - we are subject to various stimuli, we react to them. But that in itself doesn't contradict the subjective reality of ideas. So perhaps will does consist in allowing ourselves to be more influenced by our own ideas rather than immediate, external stimuli. And perhaps the quality of those ideas, the standards to which we hold our own beliefs, also contributes to the efficacy of the will?
  • MondoR
    278
    Consider this, why after eons of evolution would an inanimate thing called a molecule (in actuality a undescribable quantum waves) want to drink a can of Pepsi or Coke, much less delay drinking it? And why would molecules or quantum waves forms want to steal from each other?

    All Determinism has done is squish all human traits, attributes, and definitions into a single cell and called it a Human Cell. It says nothing and solves nothing other than move the definition of a human life from metaphysicians to (pseudo) science. Shrug.
  • TheMadFool
    12k
    Thi
    I still cant see any reason to think it would be any more or less an instance of control than making a choice.Janus

    It doesn't make sense. Causation, as I understand, is one event leading to another in a chain of events in such a way that there's no temporal delay between cause and effect. Of course, if one is to split hairs, there's always a non-zero amount of time that elapses between cause and effect but variations in this duration to the extent possible when we make choices should be impossible.
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