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Free will but unconscious?

 
Tulip
 
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Tulip
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07 March 2018 13:06
 

There are parts of the brain that seem to operate independent of our conscious mind. The amygdala, which is the emotional center of the brain,  seems to be an absolute dictator making us do things that our conscious, rational minds abhor, like overeating when we know we shouldn’t. It causes us to be emotional when we would rather not. The idea seems like a contradiction of terms, but if there is something like free will, can it be operating at this subconscious/unconscious level of our being? The personal ego, which is that part of us that things we are an autonomous person, may perhaps be housed in the amygdala and not the upper cortices or the front lobes. Maybe the place where the whole self gets truly integrated is there in the amygdala.

 
jdrnd
 
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jdrnd
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08 March 2018 16:19
 
Tulip - 07 March 2018 01:06 PM

Maybe the place where the whole self gets truly integrated is there in the amygdala.

Maybe.

More likely its dynamic circuit loops involving all parts of the brain.

 
eucaryote
 
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eucaryote
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08 March 2018 17:45
 
Tulip - 07 March 2018 01:06 PM

if there is something like free will, can it be operating at this subconscious/unconscious level of our being?

Yes, of course. Harris and the other “determinists” are fixated on the idea that “will” and “choice” could only be a function of our “conscious minds” and since this is demonstrably not true they assume that no such thing as choice could be possible - as if the biological and unconscious “self” did not exist.

Harris claims that “consciousness” is the only thing that could NOT be an illusion because all we know is through ‘consciousness’ (para-phrase). This is also not true. In my view, “consciousness” is the last component of self to either acquire knowledge (of the world outside the brain) or to act on it in a way so as to preserve the organisms homeostasis. By the time “consciousness” finds out about it the decision is made - but it’s made by the same brain and organism that hosts the “consciousness” to begin with. The “consciousness” is only updated as necessary.

It’s true that these algorithms are hosted by a wet computer and that the algorithms themselves have been honed by millions of years of evolution and tens of years of biological development from embryo into adulthood. Determinists will seize on this fact to dispute that these are truly “choices” or novel branching points in the development of the organisms response to the changing environment because they are not not made by a some independent non physical “consciousness” - something we all agree does not exist (aka libertarian free will). Harris in particular seems astounded by the idea that the incorporeal “self” as they have come to love, (cartesian theater), it is an illusion and not responsible for our thoughts and actions. I think that the idea that “consciousness” is the only route by which the organism can know the world should be next to go. It’s not what it’s cracked up to be.

[ Edited: 08 March 2018 17:55 by eucaryote]
 
 
GAD
 
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GAD
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08 March 2018 18:31
 

There isn’t any free will, so no.

 
 
eucaryote
 
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eucaryote
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08 March 2018 18:38
 
GAD - 08 March 2018 06:31 PM

There isn’t any free will, so no.

I have to disagree for the reasons stated above. Just because you have no soul, does not mean that you the organism doesn’t make decisions based on environmental input to influence your future. As Dennett would say, we, (as organisms) have all the will worth wanting.

 
 
GAD
 
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08 March 2018 18:47
 
eucaryote - 08 March 2018 06:38 PM
GAD - 08 March 2018 06:31 PM

There isn’t any free will, so no.

I have to disagree for the reasons stated above. Just because you have no soul, does not mean that you the organism doesn’t make decisions based on environmental input to influence your future. As Dennett would say, we, (as organisms) have all the will worth wanting.

And as Dennett has been told, that is not the will that anyone cares about.

 
 
eucaryote
 
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eucaryote
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09 March 2018 09:05
 
GAD - 08 March 2018 06:47 PM
eucaryote - 08 March 2018 06:38 PM
GAD - 08 March 2018 06:31 PM

There isn’t any free will, so no.

I have to disagree for the reasons stated above. Just because you have no soul, does not mean that you the organism doesn’t make decisions based on environmental input to influence your future. As Dennett would say, we, (as organisms) have all the will worth wanting.

And as Dennett has been told, that is not the will that anyone cares about.

What will “anyone cares about” is not the purview of either biological science or philosophy. That is why Harris is neither. Harris is a mystic who filters all of his perceptions through his own mysticism.

Back to the subject, if you the organism had no will of the kind I described above, you would not “know” enough of the future to draw your next breath.

 
 
GAD
 
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09 March 2018 09:18
 
eucaryote - 09 March 2018 09:05 AM
GAD - 08 March 2018 06:47 PM
eucaryote - 08 March 2018 06:38 PM
GAD - 08 March 2018 06:31 PM

There isn’t any free will, so no.

I have to disagree for the reasons stated above. Just because you have no soul, does not mean that you the organism doesn’t make decisions based on environmental input to influence your future. As Dennett would say, we, (as organisms) have all the will worth wanting.

And as Dennett has been told, that is not the will that anyone cares about.

What will “anyone cares about” is not the purview of either biological science or philosophy. That is why Harris is neither. Harris is a mystic who filters all of his perceptions through his own mysticism.

Back to the subject, if you the organism had no will of the kind I described above, you would not “know” enough of the future to draw your next breath.

If any of our biological functions did not function autonomously we wouldn’t draw our next breath. Was there some debate there? The summing of current inputs with stored past results gives us the ability to to make future predictions, that will become current inputs summed with the stored now past prediction to get a result, yep, but that is not the free will that anyone cares about.

 
 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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09 March 2018 17:48
 
Tulip - 07 March 2018 01:06 PM

There are parts of the brain that seem to operate independent of our conscious mind. The amygdala, which is the emotional center of the brain,  seems to be an absolute dictator making us do things that our conscious, rational minds abhor, like overeating when we know we shouldn’t. It causes us to be emotional when we would rather not. The idea seems like a contradiction of terms, but if there is something like free will, can it be operating at this subconscious/unconscious level of our being? The personal ego, which is that part of us that things we are an autonomous person, may perhaps be housed in the amygdala and not the upper cortices or the front lobes. Maybe the place where the whole self gets truly integrated is there in the amygdala.

The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain most connected to other parts of the brain, and for that reason is generally thought to be the seat of consciousness—the part of us that thinks we are an autonomous person.

Any argument in favor of free will depends on either defining it in such a way that it’s possible in a deterministic universe, or else taking the position that the universe is not (completely) deterministic. In my opinion, anything operating at the subconscious level is the antithesis of free will. I’d rather define free will as the capacity to override our subconscious impulses and intuitions. If that’s even possible, it’s probably more accurately described as, “Free Won’t.”

 
 
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10 March 2018 16:14
 
GAD - 09 March 2018 09:18 AM

that is not the free will that anyone cares about.

Again, what you or anyone else “care about” is not necessarily within the purview of science or philosophy.  This observation, right or wrong is simply superfluous our orthogonal to the questions being asked.
I think Harris continues to return to this unfounded claim is because he is convinced that will must necessarily be dependent upon his ideas of “consciousness”. He thinks that consciousness” could not be an illusion because, (he thinks), that knowledge is contingent upon consciousness and then therefore that no will is possible without “consciousness”.
This a top down view of will in which a supreme but otherwise entirely non-evident commander, (God / Consciousness), must issue decisions and directions to the balance of the organism for will on the part of the organism to emerge. This is the so called libertarian view of will that Harris is fixated on.

We know that this view is not true because just as there is no evidence of God, neither is there evidence of a “consciousness” that cold serve such a role. It doesn’t exist in the organism. There is no second transduction of information input to the organism’s brain. There are no “lights on” as Harris insists. It’s the illusion that Harris insists can’t be an illusion.

We all know how heavily invested Harris is in his ideas about “consciousness”. All of this blinds him to consideration of the idea that an organisms will can and is expressed autonomously, unconsciously and without any top down direction from an benevolent commander. That’s how it works all of the time. Harris needs to lose his ideas about consciousness - especially the one that he so clearly holds that he is more conscious than thee,

 
 
nonverbal
 
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nonverbal
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10 March 2018 17:36
 

Hello, eucaryote. I too feel that “consciousness” is not a necessary component of a creature carrying out its will, however fettered or free that will might be. However, I have an idiosyncratic view of what consciousness itself actually is. For me, consciousness amounts to awareness that is remembered.

 
GAD
 
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10 March 2018 19:16
 
eucaryote - 10 March 2018 04:14 PM
GAD - 09 March 2018 09:18 AM

that is not the free will that anyone cares about.

Again, what you or anyone else “care about” is not necessarily within the purview of science or philosophy.  This observation, right or wrong is simply superfluous our orthogonal to the questions being asked.
I think Harris continues to return to this unfounded claim is because he is convinced that will must necessarily be dependent upon his ideas of “consciousness”. He thinks that consciousness” could not be an illusion because, (he thinks), that knowledge is contingent upon consciousness and then therefore that no will is possible without “consciousness”.
This a top down view of will in which a supreme but otherwise entirely non-evident commander, (God / Consciousness), must issue decisions and directions to the balance of the organism for will on the part of the organism to emerge. This is the so called libertarian view of will that Harris is fixated on.

We know that this view is not true because just as there is no evidence of God, neither is there evidence of a “consciousness” that cold serve such a role. It doesn’t exist in the organism. There is no second transduction of information input to the organism’s brain. There are no “lights on” as Harris insists. It’s the illusion that Harris insists can’t be an illusion.

We all know how heavily invested Harris is in his ideas about “consciousness”. All of this blinds him to consideration of the idea that an organisms will can and is expressed autonomously, unconsciously and without any top down direction from an benevolent commander. That’s how it works all of the time. Harris needs to lose his ideas about consciousness - especially the one that he so clearly holds that he is more conscious than thee,

I get what you are saying, I’m just telling you that that is not what any one is talking about when they talk about free will, no one cares about unconscious free will.

 
 
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10 March 2018 19:41
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 09 March 2018 05:48 PM

Any argument in favor of free will depends on either defining it in such a way that it’s possible in a deterministic universe, or else taking the position that the universe is not (completely) deterministic.

Good distillation!

Antisocialdarwinist - 09 March 2018 05:48 PM

In my opinion, anything operating at the subconscious level is the antithesis of free will. I’d rather define free will as the capacity to override our subconscious impulses and intuitions. If that’s even possible, it’s probably more accurately described as, “Free Won’t.”

Mixed thoughts on this. “Free Won’t” was a phrase concocted by vs ramachandran, (real, practicing neuroscientist), to explain data in the Libet experiment where subjects brain monitoring appeared to support a positive report, but then didn’t report a positive result as expected! His observaton suggested that impulses were being overrode by secondary considerations. I think that resulting behaviors result from a selection thinking processes are “designed” (by evolution) to sort for non arbitrary significance or for untoward consequences resulting from miscalculated-misdirected behavior. i.e. always beware of unintended consequences even in seemingly secure arbitrary or otherwise secure circumstances.
This “free won’t” is a function of the process of natural selection which by it’s nature reveals or sorts (selects) for good ideas only by rejecting bad ideas.

WRT “subconcious levels”. Leave the levels behind, I think. There is no such thing as “consciousness/sub-conciousness” model that is functional in this context. All of our behavior is autonomous or unconscious in these respects. Our brains are “designed” to learn and incorporate new information into their virtual models models of the outside world - this nonetheless - all of our resultant behavior is bottom up and not top down…....what is the difference between “training” and “education” anyway?

[ Edited: 10 March 2018 19:48 by eucaryote]
 
 
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10 March 2018 19:54
 
GAD - 10 March 2018 07:16 PM

no one cares about unconscious free will.

Sez you! The fact is that no intellectually honest person cares about anything but the truth of the matter. You are free to believe whatever you want or think is otherwise popular - however you of all people should know that what great burger is to made of sacred cows.

 
 
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10 March 2018 21:04
 
nonverbal - 10 March 2018 05:36 PM

Hello, eucaryote. I too feel that “consciousness” is not a necessary component of a creature carrying out its will, however fettered or free that will might be.

Thank you NV. I don’t see any reason why the extent to which we have choices over our futures must resolve to our immediate “conscious” control over those choices or why will is limited to this kind of top down control structure. Darwin’s dangerous idea was to invert this structure to describe how things actually work.

And you bring up a good point. Those choices are not unlimited but instead constrained by what is possible. (pesky physical reality). There are any number of things that can be imagined but which cannot be implemented. These dead ends are tossed in the selection process, either now or in the distant past. i.e. configured as I am, I must run and not fly or swim or tele-dimensionally transport myself to safety from the predator?

nonverbal - 10 March 2018 05:36 PM

However, I have an idiosyncratic view of what consciousness itself actually is. For me, consciousness amounts to awareness that is remembered.

I think that you note that while I am critical of Harris’s widely represented idea of what is constituted by the word “consciousness”, I have not promoted other models but instead wanted to focus on the idea that the Harris model of conscious control, especially wrt to the idea of will, is misplaced, if not mis-guided.

To my mind, Harris’s view of “consciousness” is not unlike the common view of God in that he holds the idea as mystic or mysterian - something esoteric and fundamentally inexplicable, beyond the reach of reason or objective inquiry .... Dennett has said that “such people, [the new mysterians] should be made to wear bags over their heads for saying such things.” I agree. Not because I think that we primates are all seeing, but because it seems clear to me, and Dennett, that consciousness is not exactly what we primates can crack it up to be.
My own view regarding consciousness is certainly not that nothing is legitimately or objectively meant by the word, just that it’s not all we imagine, mostly likely much less. I can write more to your point later.  See Dennett heterophenomenology Take care NV.

[ Edited: 10 March 2018 21:08 by eucaryote]
 
 
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10 March 2018 21:13
 
Tulip - 07 March 2018 01:06 PM

There are parts of the brain that seem to operate independent of our conscious mind. The amygdala, which is the emotional center of the brain,  seems to be an absolute dictator making us do things that our conscious, rational minds abhor, like overeating when we know we shouldn’t. It causes us to be emotional when we would rather not. The idea seems like a contradiction of terms, but if there is something like free will, can it be operating at this subconscious/unconscious level of our being? The personal ego, which is that part of us that things we are an autonomous person, may perhaps be housed in the amygdala and not the upper cortices or the front lobes. Maybe the place where the whole self gets truly integrated is there in the amygdala.

Hello Tulip,
Thank you for your first post, which I hope you think wasn’t hijacked. I valued your thoughts which is why I responded. Welcome.

 
 
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