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Since we have no free will, what purpose does/did consciousness serve?


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#301 Strange

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Posted 17 March 2017 - 04:06 PM

Yeah. It was an analogy, poetic license intended. The point remains.

 

 

No, I think the point was just refuted, crushed and disposed of. 


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#302 dimreepr

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Posted 17 March 2017 - 04:18 PM

My personal time is different to everyone else, it appears to agree with everyone else, but time is an illusion.

 

If we can all agree that our sense of now is an illusion, then when do we have free will?

 

Illusions by their very nature are surreptitious and difficult see or pin down, especially when we're told how unique we all are; the same can be said of dogs but they all bark and sniff each others arses and generally behave like dogs.


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#303 Delta1212

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Posted 17 March 2017 - 05:46 PM

We agree that there is a delay. We experience the cosmos as it was, not as it is. That's peripheral to my suggestion that executive function and conscious awareness are required for it to be rightly described as free or within our "control."

We are not ship captains with our hand on the rudder, but are instead drifters being carried by a multitude of currents and proverbial wind gusts. The storm (in this context, that storm is chemoelectrical and expressed across the neural web) controls us, not the other way around.

Much more likely is that specific neural pathways have been etched and fortified, processing speeds improved and myelin layers added since you've been practicing forming and expressing coherent thoughts since your infancy, like continued rains eroding a channel down the hillside....the water doesn't actually know where it's flowing ahead of time...it just flows and follows least resistant paths, but that's peripheral to our discussion.


I think you have missed the point I was making about knowing where the thought is going while I'm still in the middle of it: I am not actually in the middle of the thought. I have already had the thought. Articulating it mentally is how I bring it into focus at the conscious level.

Every thought you have, every feeling, all of your awareness is dictated by the same mental pathways that determine your decisions and actions. There is no independent conscious observer that lacks the ability to make decisions. Those same processes doing all of the puppeting also create the experience of consciousness, because apparently being able to recognize our own thought processes is useful.

In order for you to lack free will in the way you are arguing, there must be a conscious entity that exist separately from the subconscious which is then being manipulated to believe it has control over things that are actually being controlled by subconscious processes.

My perspective, and I think it aligns with the perspectives of some of the other people you are arguing with, is that consciousness is an experience that the subconscious generates for itself in order to better monitor its own thought processes. To say that "consciousness" is not in control then seems to me to be like saying that "vision" is not in control. Or that "hearing" is not in control. And then saying that the self is vision and so we don't have free will.

Thoughts and decisions entering our conscious mind are being delivered up for internal review after we have made them. Your consciousness is something that you do, not what you are. We identify most strongly with the way we experience thoughts because that process is used to analyze our internal state instead of external inputs, but I do think that this is perhaps just as much of a category error when attempting to define the self as assigning that label to any of the other senses.


Adding this, because I think I have a more succinct analogy:

What we experience as consciousness is the story we tell ourselves about our own thought process. The story is not the thought itself, anymore than a map is the terrain, and there is a delay caused by having to tell the story, so by the time we hear the story, the decision it is about has already been made. And because we are hearing the story, we identify as the listener and say "I didn't really make this decision; I was just told a story in which I was the decision maker, but I didn't hear it until after the decision had already been made." But in fact, we are both the storyteller and the listener, and in identifying too strongly with the listener, we are failing to recognize that we are listening to our own story.
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#304 dimreepr

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Posted 17 March 2017 - 06:21 PM

Does a whale decide to beach itself?


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#305 iNow

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Posted 17 March 2017 - 06:39 PM

Delta - I appreciate the way you've articulated your point. We seem to agree in many ways, yet manage to keep talking past one another. I'm not disputing that it is me making the decision. I'm not disputing that our brains made it happen, nor am I disputing that the emergent phenomenon of consciousness is simply telling the story...that it's just one part of a larger whole, all of which are involved in all we do, think, and decide. My challenge all along has been focused on the subjects of freedom and control. We're apparently using different definitions of those terms, hence the impasse and frustration. I'm comfortable accepting the fault here and am happy to concede that I very well could be badly mistaken. Thanks for the exchange.
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#306 Delta1212

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Posted 17 March 2017 - 06:40 PM

Does a whale decide to beach itself?


Does a human decide to drown in the ocean?
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#307 delboy

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Posted 17 March 2017 - 06:48 PM

We are not ship captains with our hand on the rudder, but are instead drifters being carried by a multitude of currents and proverbial wind gusts. The storm (in this context, that storm is chemoelectrical and expressed across the neural web) controls us, not the other way around.
 

 

The problem with this argument is that the ship captain and the currents and winds gusts are one and the same thing. We cannot be carried by the wind because we are the wind - we carry ourselves. The chemoelectrical signals you say that control us are all in our own heads, so they must make up 'us'. So therefore it is us that control ourselves. It might be subconscious, but it's still wind created by ourselves.


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#308 Delta1212

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Posted 17 March 2017 - 06:52 PM

Delta - I appreciate the way you've articulated your point. We seem to agree in many ways, yet manage to keep talking past one another. I'm not disputing that it is me making the decision. I'm not disputing that our brains made it happen, nor am I disputing that the emergent phenomenon of consciousness is simply telling the story...that it's just one part of a larger whole, all of which are involved in all we do, think, and decide. My challenge all along has been focused on the subjects of freedom and control. We're apparently using different definitions of those terms, hence the impasse and frustration. I'm comfortable accepting the fault here and am happy to concede that I very well could be badly mistaken. Thanks for the exchange.


Of course, and I acknowledge that it is to some extent a philosophical discussion about definitions, especially with things as they stand where we have bits and pieces but not really enough information overall to draw any truly informed conclusions about the nature of consciousness and surrounding topics beyond "They have something to do with the brain."

The tidbits in different areas are fun to look at and explore how they support or detracts from specific ideas about how our minds work, but there are just too many open possibilities to come too firmly down on any higher level positions on the subject.
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#309 dimreepr

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Posted 17 March 2017 - 06:58 PM

Does a human decide to drown in the ocean?

 

Fair point, I think this argument comes down to which is more important, the actor or the stage?


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#310 Bender

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Posted 17 March 2017 - 11:15 PM

Yes ;)


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#311 iNow

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 01:58 AM

The problem with this argument is that the ship captain and the currents and winds gusts are one and the same thing. We cannot be carried by the wind because we are the wind - we carry ourselves. The chemoelectrical signals you say that control us are all in our own heads, so they must make up 'us'. So therefore it is us that control ourselves. It might be subconscious, but it's still wind created by ourselves.


Once again, I don't disagree. My challenge has been focused on the suggestion of control, a process I define as an active one and as one requiring executive function/oversight.
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#312 Eise

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 09:49 AM

My challenge has been focused on the suggestion of control, a process I define as an active one and as one requiring executive function/oversight.

 

Well, we have executive function/oversight. The 'apparatus' that gives us this capability is the brain. But it is a category error to require that this is some subsystem in the brain, and that this subsystem controls the brain.


In order for you to lack free will in the way you are arguing, there must be a conscious entity that exist separately from the subconscious which is then being manipulated to believe it has control over things that are actually being controlled by subconscious processes.

 

This is exactly the point I was making all the time. iNow presupposes that 'real free will' needs such a conscious entity in the brain. It is just a modern version of dualism. That is why it called 'soul' or 'magic'.

 

All the facts iNow presented are arguments against dualism, but not against free will. But if you already have a naturalist view point, I think one does not need neurologists to 'discover' that dualism is not true.


Edited by Eise, 18 March 2017 - 04:14 PM.

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#313 iNow

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 10:02 AM

Well, we have executive function/oversight. The 'apparatus' that gives us this capability is the brain. But it is a category error to require that this is some subsystem in the brain, and that this subsystem controls the brain.


I understand that's your position, and respectfully disagree. The executive functions to which I'm specifically referring very much are a cortical subsystem. That is an undisputed fact. The core question here is whether or not it's relevant, not whether or not that's how our brains work.
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#314 Eise

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 12:12 PM

I understand that's your position, and respectfully disagree. The executive functions to which I'm specifically referring very much are a cortical subsystem. That is an undisputed fact. The core question here is whether or not it's relevant, not whether or not that's how our brains work.

 

I agree with this summary. I never disputed your descriptions of how our brains work, and I indeed argue that these inner workings are irrelevant. Any system that has the same capabilities as we have (reflect on future developments, on the effects of its own possible actions on these, on reasons it has, being able to explicate these reasons to other systems with the same capabilities etc etc, on the long term) can be assigned to act freely or not, independent of our knowledge of its inner workings.

 

Just to add: it makes no sense to apply the category free/not free action to systems that do not have afore mentioned capabilities. A planet is not forced in its orbit by the gravity of it central star. (One could also say that a planet wants to be in its orbit, because the presence of its central star. That makes no sense too.) Causal laws are in fact no laws. Laws of nature are not enforced, like human laws. They are descriptions of how natural objects happen to behave. This also applies to the workings of neurons and the brain.

 

But if the system behaves in the way I described above, then this 'spherical cow' expresses very complex behaviour (verbal and non-verbal). But such complex behaviour hardly justifies to call it a 'spherical cow'.

 

Surely, one day neurologists might find out what the difference between free and coerced actions is. But the differences will be in how different subsystems of the brain react on each other and on sense inputs, and not in a conscious 'captain system' in the brain. Every process will be determined all the same.


Edited by Eise, 18 March 2017 - 12:14 PM.

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#315 Velocity_Boy

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 05:56 PM

Since we have no free will, what purpose does/did consciousness serve?

 

For the purpose of this topic, let us assume that free will does not exist.  I do not believe in it, and I am not trying to debate its existence.  And I am not the sharpest knife so don't hesitate to correct me if I am wrong about something.  This is being asked purely from curiousity.

 

I have been very troubled recently, and I have been turning this idea around in my head over and over again.  Doesn't the absence of free will (that is to say that all lifeforms are nothing more than calculating machines) make consciousness pointless?  We are robots whose only purpose is to not die and have sex.  Now, I realize that the social behavior of humans is a great survival mechanism.  I am not saying that personalities are not beneficial to survival.  What I am asking is why such a thing as consciousness is needed for someone to have a personality or feelings.  Couldn't something have feelings and emotions without actually having consciousness.  After all, feelings are just a physical process.  We are all just here "for the ride" and are merely watching as these machines that we are trapped in go about life and attempt to have sex and not die (by proxy of many activities).

 

Why not remove the pointless spectator from each human.  It doesn't seem like anything would change, since our true selves are cold computers acting without our permission.  Yes, we as conscious entities feel things but that doesn't mean that the meat puppets we are inside of don't effectively pretend to feel the things as well.  All that matters really is that another human experiences your behavior.  The internal aspect is entirely unecessary.

 

Say that you are running an internet search.  The search results you get would be there whether or not your search engine thought that it was choosing the results carefully.  It would only think that it chose them.  It is the the same way with humans.

 

I know that humans choose different things randomly, unlike computers, but that is only because we must deal with situations that are much much more complicated than running an internet search.  We must attempt to answer problems for which there are no objective answers.  Our brain sees the world as a bunch of numbers.  Social interaction is reduced to a math problem.  We are left to sit and say that we "should have done this" and we don't realize that "this" was never even a possibility.  What is the point of regretting something that cannot be changed.  I can understand that feeling sad about the outcome of something might be beneficial as it could show that you are in need and the group may help you, but why do you actually need to feel sad.

 

Now, we seek out things meant purely to sooth our conscious self.  This has nothing to do with survival and is often self-destructive.  It would seem that the thing called consciousness is so pointless to survival that it causes people to do things like substance abuse and suicide.  Not only is consciousness not required for social behavior (it is done by the supercomputer behind your eyeballs and not by your superficial thoughts) but it also causes harm to the species.

 

Basically, my question is: What advantage could come from consciousness that would make our ancestors more likely to survive and procreate?

 

Could it be that consciousness was an unrelated side effect of something that was beneficial?

 

Sorry, I quit reading after you claimed that Free Will did not exist. And that we should simply agree with you on that.

 

I think it's impossible to accurately answer of posed question if forced to, right out of the box, agree with something you do not. SO at this juncture I would repectfully ask that you simply spend a fre minutes and tell us in a couuple hundred words or so why you believe the concept of Free Will to be false. Thanks.


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#316 Eise

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Posted 22 March 2017 - 06:24 AM

 

Sorry, I quit reading after you claimed that Free Will did not exist. And that we should simply agree with you on that.

 

I think it's impossible to accurately answer of posed question if forced to, right out of the box, agree with something you do not. SO at this juncture I would repectfully ask that you simply spend a fre minutes and tell us in a couuple hundred words or so why you believe the concept of Free Will to be false. Thanks.

 

You do realise you are asking a question to somebody who wasn't on this forum for 4 years?


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