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

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In what way is assuming that all our decisions arrise from chemical reactions "not very scientific"?

 

Personally, I have no problem with the idea that we aren't more unique than some random statistical variations.

Edited by Bender

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In what way is assuming that all our decisions arrise from chemical reactions "not very scientific"?

 

Personally, I have no problem with the idea that we aren't more unique than some random statistical variations.

 

Well you did say this:

 

 

Sure, our brains do some preprocessing. I guess it is a matter of definition whether a bunch of chemical reactions can be described as emotions even if they never manifest. Even so, the free will is not an illusion, because I conditioned my brain to do the preprocessing how I want it to.

 

So which is it?

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I do not see the contradiction. I also think my toaster has some degree of free will, as it can freely decide to spit out the toast based on the electronic processes in its control unit. There is nothing special about humans, we are just more complex.

Edited by Bender

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I do not see the contradiction. I also think my toaster has some degree of free will, as it can freely decide to spit out the toast based on the electronic processes in its control unit. There is nothing special about humans, we are just more complex.

 

That doesn't argue my point.

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Then please clarify your point rather than posting two quotes that don't contradict each other.

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I assume it was.

Then there is no free will involved. Everything is deterministic.

 

Did you define free will anywhere? If so, point me to the post, if not please tell me your definition. At the moment it appears to be "free will is what you exercise when compelled to make a specific decision as a consequence of prior events and conditions".

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Then there is no free will involved. Everything is deterministic.

 

Did you define free will anywhere? If so, point me to the post, if not please tell me your definition. At the moment it appears to be "free will is what you exercise when compelled to make a specific decision as a consequence of prior events and conditions".

 

I think the key here is that free will and determinism are compatible, though at first sight that sounds illogical.

 

If we see a brain as simply a complex collection of inevitable chemical reactions, then everything we do is deterministic. But a brain at some point develops from these reactions a sense of thought, consciousness and feelings, and this gives us our sense of free will. Even if the free will is only chemical reactions, those reactions all took place inside our brain, so they must be considered as ours.

 

The difficulty arrises because it's not yet been explained how we get from a complex set of inevitable nerve signals to a sense of thinking and consciousness. But if you link the two together, free will and determinism become very compatible.

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I agree that it's not a dichotomy; freewill is some aspect or extension of the machine that is the brain. I think having a thorough knowledge of the phenomena of emergence is key when thinking about mind as a subject; it's like trying to catch smoke with your hands. It's there but you just can't get hold of it.

Edited by StringJunky

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I think the discussion would be more fruitful, if you all get acquainted with some philosophical jargon.

First one must distinguish between compatibilism and incompatibilism. Compatibilists believe that free will and determinism are compatible, incompatibilists of course that they aren't.

Under incompabilists there are two opposing standpoints: one is that free will shows that the universe is not completely determined, that there is, so to speak, a hole in the causal structure of nature. When we decide what we do, we make use of this hole. As Wikipedia puts it:

In particular, libertarianism, which is an incompatibilist position,argues that free will is logically incompatible with a deterministic universe and that agents have free will, and that, therefore, determinism is false.


The second group of incompabilists is the so called hard determinists: as science shows that (for all practical purposes) natural processes are causally determined, we are obviously too. So we might have a feeling of free will, but actually this is an illusion.

On the other hand, the compatibilists state that there is no such opposition. Both kinds of incompatibilists use a definition of free will that is simply said, 'outlandish'. Both presume that free will must be a causal factor that in itself is not caused. Libertarians believe that something like that exists; hard determinists deny that.

Compatibilism however uses different variations of the definition I already gave a few pages back:

A person is said to have free will if he is able to act according his own motivations.

The question where our motivations come from is irrelevant. I have no idea why I like cauliflower and despise Brussels sprouts. I assume it has something to do with my genes. But to act freely means that if I have the choice, I can take the cauliflower, and nobody forces me to eat Brussels sprouts: I can act according to my own motivation. That's it. That's all.

The definition of free will used by incompatibilists, by both camps, is a metaphysical construct: it has no basis in what we in daily life mean with free will, and it has no basis in science. So why would a scientific inclined person adhere to such an outlandish definition of free will? Why would a scientific inclined person think it is necessary to show that consciousness follows brain processes, in order that we have no free will? Of course consciousness has a causal foreplay. What other can a naturalist expect? Magic? A soul?

I can think of two possible reasons why people adhere to such an absurd notion of free will. First a historical one: the problem of evil in the world (the theodicy). This is a real problem for believer in an omnipotent, just, and omniscient God. As a solution theologians came with the idea that God gave us free will: the capability to do good or evil independent of natural causes. God is not responsible for the evil in the world: free humans are, using their gift in the wrong way. Many people might have done away with God, but kept this notion of free will.

 

Second: there is in my opinion a connection with the political ideology also called libertarianism. In libertarianism, everybody is responsible for his own life. If somebody is poor, and cannot get out of his miserable circumstances, it is his own responsibility: he uses his free will badly. So we, successful, relatively rich and good living people, have earned our richness.

 

(Just sayin': the USA has a long history of protestant sects that believed in the inherently goodness of hard working. And that God rewarded them with richness. Richness was a sign of pleasure in God's eyes.)

 

When we get rid of this ideological loaded non-empirical idea of free will, the so called problem of free will evaporates. There is no problem of free will: there is free will in the normal daily sense, and there is no contradiction with determinism at all.

Edited by Eise

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When we get rid of this ideological loaded non-empirical idea of free will, the so called problem of free will evaporates. There is no problem of free will: there is free will in the normal daily sense, and there is no contradiction with determinism at all.

 

Yet the question remains:

 

why does it matter?

 

I think it matters because of the illusion of control and the potential damage that can cause.

Edited by dimreepr

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Then there is no free will involved. Everything is deterministic.

 

Did you define free will anywhere? If so, point me to the post, if not please tell me your definition. At the moment it appears to be "free will is what you exercise when compelled to make a specific decision as a consequence of prior events and conditions".

Eise's last post does an excellent job addressing this. I adhere to his definition of free will, which is essentially the same as mine: "free will is making the decisions you want to make".

 

 

Yet the question remains:

 

 

I think it matters because of the illusion of control and the potential damage that can cause.

What illusion of control? A controller is a unit that has inputs and varies its output based on these inputs and a desired output. e.g. my thermostat measures the room temperature and switches the heating on and off based on the difference between measurement and desired temperature. Clearly, my thermostat is in control, and it is not an illusion, since it does a fine job controlling the temperature.

 

About the question: "why does it matter?". I guess I have fun spreading disillusion by pointing out to people that we are, in fact, not special.

Edited by Bender

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I think it matters because of the illusion of control and the potential damage that can cause.

 

You are a bit dense, dimreepr. We have control. I have argued that several times. We have control over our actions, and so we can e.g. control our car. This is no illusion at all. But we, as persons, have control, as whole organism. One cannot apply the concept of control on the internal workings of the mechanism that exercises the control. That we are determined does not mean that we have no control over our actions.

 

You suffer under the illusion that for control you must omnipotent, even over the conditions that caused you. That is absurd.

 

And why it matters: that we should live in such a way that we can practice to take as much responsibility as we can, to respect others as responsible persons too, and not as objects to be manipulated as puppets; and that we should not be too harsh with others and oneself, knowing that we only partially can determine what and who we are.

 

Seeing free will as an illusion can lead to fatalism and scientism (e.g. Soviet psychiatry).

 

Edit: Just saw that Bender makes the same point about control. If you, dimreepr use this idea, about the illusion of control, again, then you should show us why we are wrong in stating that a thermostat has control.

Edited by Eise

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You are a bit dense, dimreepr.

 

Edit: Just saw that Bender makes the same point about control.

 

That's a little harsh, though you both may have a point.

 

If you, dimreepr use this idea, about the illusion of control, again, then you should show us why we are wrong in stating that a thermostat has control.

 

 

I'm of to bed now, and so my answer will come tomorrow or the day after that (I'll have a good think in spite of my density), but I'll leave you with this question:

 

How philosophical is a thermostat?

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How philosophical is a thermostat?

 

Oh, come on, be serious.

 

Not at all of course.

 

A person is said to have free will if he is able to act according his own motivations.

 

A thermostat has no motivations, is not a person. These are higher order phenomena, that cannot be implemented in such a simple negative feedback system.

 

I already said: having control is a necessary condition of having free will (but not a sufficient condition!).

 

Please follow the discussion.

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How philosophical is a thermostat?

Define "philosophical".

 

I also don't see how this relates to free will.

Edited by Bender

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I already said: having control is a necessary condition of having free will

What control do you have over the chemical processes responsible for your sense of self and the postdictive illusion of choice? By your own logic, absent that you absolutely lack freewill.

 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neural_basis_of_self

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797616641943

http://neurosciencenews.com/decision-making-psychology-4148/

.

Seeing free will as an illusion can lead to fatalism and scientism (e.g. Soviet psychiatry).

Speculating about potential downstream consequences of a conclusion in no way negates the validity of the conclusion itself.

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What control do you have over the chemical processes responsible for your sense of self and the postdictive illusion of choice? By your own logic, absent that you absolutely lack freewill. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neural_basis_of_selfhttp://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797616641943http://neurosciencenews.com/decision-making-psychology-4148/.

Speculating about potential downstream consequences of a conclusion in no way negates the validity of the conclusion itself.

My contention is that I am the physical configuration of neurons and chemical pathways that make up my brain and that determine my decisions. It is true that I may make decisions prior to the fact of the de ion being made filtering through to the process that monitors my own thoughts and decisions, but this is hardly surprising. To claim this means that I didn't really make the decision at all is a bit silly because then what am "I" in this scenario if not the brain that ultimately did make those decisions based on its unique configuration?

 

I didn't choose to have that particular physical configuration, it is true, but if I had a different one, I would be someone else.

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The organic bag of water and bones and chemicals that one calls "self" ... that we collectively call "me"... made the decision, sure. That's not under dispute. It's where our sense of self is localized that warrants further attention and granularity, IMO.

 

I linked to the description above regarding the neural basis of self for a reason. What we generally perceive as self... as "me"... is the outcome of processing in specific brain regions. It is activity in those regions that allows my sense of "me" and self to exist at all. If those regions become inactive, the self disappears... the executive is no longer steering the ship.

 

Imaging studies, however, show that those regions responsible for selfness don't become active until AFTER the "choice" is already made. Activity in those regions is chronologically separated from the activity in regions where the decision processing actually occurs. It's not "me" making the decision, even though where the decision event took place absolutely was within my body / within this organic bag of chemicals and water everyone refers to as me.

 

We all seem to be referring to different concepts of self and talking past each other. Some are taking a binary "me/not me" spherical cow approach. Others (like me) are focused more on the different parts within me and discriminating between the parts of our brain that are unconscious and those that are aware or which offer the illusion of control.

 

My basic point is that the brain parts which provide us with our sense of self are better described as mere reporters of the decision event as opposed to owners and processors of it. If the decision already occurred preconsciously and my conscious mind merely crafts a narrative so it fits into our worldview... it generates the postdictive illusion of choice... then (to me at least) it seems reasonable to allow for the idea that it wasn't "me" at all and that freewill is equally a similar type of illusion.

Edited by iNow

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If you don't think there is (can't see) an illusion, then It's real (or may as well be) for you; iNow's right, because of perspective, both sides are talking past each other.

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What control do you have over the chemical processes responsible for your sense of self and the postdictive illusion of choice? By your own logic, absent that you absolutely lack freewill.

 

I thought this thread was about free will, not about 'sense of self'. You are implying again a philosophical standpoint on what free will is supposed to be. At the same time you say you do not like to discuss with philosophers.

 

And I have no idea what you mean with 'my own logic'.

- I showed that the concept of control only applies to the system as a whole. You happily neglect this completely.

- I use a more realistic concept of free will, rooted in the daily use of this concept. And not the theologically and ideologically concept you are using.

 

Again you show that you are a bad reader. You haven't even started to understand my logic.

 

Speculating about potential downstream consequences of a conclusion in no way negates the validity of the conclusion itself.

 

Of course. But the question was about the relevance of the discussion, not about the correctness of my standpoint.

 

Again you show that you are a bad reader.

 

It seems you can only run your own train, and do not even see those of others.

The organic bag of water and bones and chemicals that one calls "self" ... that we collectively call "me"... made the decision, sure.

 

Right. Then why would you go to dive into this bag, to argue that the bag did not decide? What makes you think that for free will to exist a 'self' must be in control of the brain's internal processes?

 

It's where our sense of self is localized that warrants further attention and granularity, IMO.

 

Yes. You are looking for the homunculus in the brain. And you think it is a neurological discovery that such a homunculus does not exist.

 

You are applying the ideas of control and free will on the wrong level, when you start to look into the brain. Nowhere you countered my arguments. (Nowhere you showed you have even understood, yes, even read them.)

 

I leave the rest The discussion here is not about the sense of self, but about free will and consciousness.

If you don't think there is (can't see) an illusion, then It's real (or may as well be) for you; iNow's right, because of perspective, both sides are talking past each other.

 

I perfectly understand iNow's postings. I nowhere deny any scientific fact he presents. But I gave arguments why he applies his concepts of 'control' and 'free will' wrongly. Instead of countering my arguments he keeps using them in his way, as if they are not philosophically problematic at all. He takes a philosophical standpoint, but does as if his way of approaching the topic is scientific.

 

To exaggerate: he defends that the earth is round, and therefore we have no free will.

  • Does anybody deny that the earth is round? No. Is it relevant for the topic of free will? Of course not.
  • Do I deny that neurological processes run as iNow descibes them? No. Ist it relevant for the topic of free will? No.

The second point is not as easily to see, but I gave arguments. I am still waiting to hear any conterarguments.

Edited by Eise

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What makes you think that for free will to exist a 'self' must be in control of the brain's internal processes?

Because absent that it's no longer free.

 

You are looking for the homunculus in the brain.

Actually, no. Not at all, but thanks for pretending you have a better understanding of what I think than I do. That's quite a trick. You must be great at kids parties.

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I perfectly understand iNow's postings. I nowhere deny any scientific fact he presents. But I gave arguments why he applies his concepts of 'control' and 'free will' wrongly. Instead of countering my arguments he keeps using them in his way, as if they are not philosophically problematic at all. He takes a philosophical standpoint, but does as if his way of approaching the topic is scientific.

 

To exaggerate: he defends that the earth is round, and therefore we have no free will.

  • Does anybody deny that the earth is round? No. Is it relevant for the topic of free will? Of course not.
  • Do I deny that neurological processes run as iNow descibes them? No. Ist it relevant for the topic of free will? No.

The second point is not as easily to see, but I gave arguments. I am still waiting to hear any conterarguments.

My argument from this thread is also relevant here:

A virus is, arguable, the simplest form of life that is unable to choose its actions; man/humans is perhaps the most complex form of life, that is, arguably, able to choose it's actions.

If your premise is true, then the complexity of life has little impact on choice.

 

Given the real world evidence of AGW and our collective reluctance to do anything about it, it's hard to argue the premise that humans resemble a virus in it's intent.

Edited by dimreepr

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Because absent that it's no longer free.

 

According your definition of free will. What makes you an authority of what the correct definition of free will is? I gave an alternative concept, rooted in the daily use of the concept of free will. You are taking for granted a definition that is rooted in theology and metaphysics. Then it is an easy task to show that free will does not exist.

 

Actually, no. Not at all, but thanks for pretending you have a better understanding of what I think than I do. That's quite a trick. You must be great at kids parties.

 

Oh, come on, don't be so agitated. The model of free will you are using supposes that consciousness is a subsystem in the brain, and that actions originate from this consciousness. You show that this is not the case, and voila!, there is no free will.

 

But you deny the existence of a straw man: there is no place in the brain where everything 'comes together' (of course you know that). Free will (and control) apply only to the system, i.e. the person, as a whole. I argued this several times, but you never took up this argument. I don't know why.

 

Just a minor illustration: Gerhard Roth is a German neurobiologist who for a long time defended more or less the same position as you do. But recently he changed to a compatibilist viewpoint. I cannot deny his knowledge of neurology. It obviously became clear to him that he applied the concept of free will on the wrong entity. I am sure he did not find processes in the brain that do not precede consciousness.

 

To be short: as long as you not honestly flesh out what your definitions of 'control' and 'free will' are, and show why they are more valid than mine, your viewpoint is build on quicksand.

My argument from this thread is also relevant here:

Given the real world evidence of AGW and our collective reluctance to do anything about it, it's hard to argue the premise that humans resemble a virus in it's intent.

 

That is just saying that people are not always rational, not that they don't have free will. It seems I hear an echo again: of your idea that if people really are free they must be perfect rational, and omnipotent. Not every action of us is free, not every evaluation of future scenarios is perfect. But saying that our free will is severely limited, does not mean that we have no free will at all.

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..... But saying that our free will is severely limited, does not mean that we have no free will at all.

Exactly, some is not none.

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That is just saying that people are not always rational, not that they don't have free will. It seems I hear an echo again: of your idea that if people really are free they must be perfect rational, and omnipotent. Not every action of us is free, not every evaluation of future scenarios is perfect. But saying that our free will is severely limited, does not mean that we have no free will at all.

 

A poker player that goes All-In on the blind is not perfectly rational nor is it the scenario perfect.

 

As I see it, free will lies somewhere between the perfectly rational and the perfect scenario; although I have no idea where to draw the line, do you?

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