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Doubt

 
_Alex
 
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_Alex
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22 March 2019 08:39
 

When I read Dick Swaab’s work on neurology, I noticed a growing conviction and interest within myself concerning free will.
Since it can be hard to soften strong opinions, I considered it useful and fun to read the arguments for both sides I could find, so that I could grand myself the right to have a strong opinion on the subject. After spending a lot of time at the library, I had read a lot about the subject, but my conviction that we do not have a free will had only grown stronger. Until much later one evening, when I was having an argument with myself, attacking my ideas, Lucifer’s lawyer won the dispute and I had to give him credit. Slowly I started changing my opinion, and I now belief that we do have something I am prepared to call a free will. I would love to hear opinions on the arguments that were sufficient to change my mind.

1

To me, the first thing to discuss when considering the possibility of free will is an implied non-cero probability for multiple events to arise from the exact same situation, the same past and laws of physics.
I have adopted a view on causality that I call ‘loose determinism’ (I don’t know the name others may use for it, and I am not sure I should call it soft-determinism)
By loose determinism I pretty straight-forwardly mean that any given event can have multiple different outcomes.
I can mention several arguments for this, but for shortness sake I will only mention one, about evolution.
Where evolution occurs, mistakes are made.
Is it likely that mistakes during the cellular syntheses can be made due to the weather or the meal the reproducing organism had?
Since this chemical process occurs in such a way that specific errors can be the cause of progression, it seems to me that a process as such can only become existent in a universe that is partly indeterministic.  After all, if every act is perfectly stipulated, how can differences in the execution of the act of reproduction be the cause for any kind of living being to be altered in such a way that it is beneficial for that being in its collection of materials that it needs to sustain itself with?
In his work on the subject, Daniel Dennett speaks of an insect that repeatedly executes the exact same action to achieve its goal. But I think   that the actions the insect may undertake are not exactly the same. Maybe making one hundred observations would not yield a visible alteration, but if a thousand, or a million times the action would somehow be repeated in an experiment, I think some of them would yield a different result.

2

When I thought differently about free will, one argument I came up with is that everything in the universe will have to behave deterministic or indeterministic. Which one of the two can really lead to free will? To answer this question from myself it is necessary to delve into the concept of the self.
When we look at what the self is, it is impossible to find it. We cannot point at ourselves and precisely say: ‘this is what I am, but this is not’ and justify the determination. We can deny the existence of the self because of that, but perhaps another justifiable course would be to accept a purely subjective perspective. I would define the self rather simple and say that what I am, or what anyone is, is what she identifies herself with. Simply put, if I consider something to be me, it is. However, when taking a subjective approach, there is always the danger of justifying insanity. That is, by my reasoning, if someone identifies herself with an airplane, she is that airplane. I will not attempt to justify or attack that, I can only say that there may be an intersubjective sense of identity that can also be useful. But in the end, the determination of the self remains a bit arbitrary for us all. This gives me an easy definition of the self to work with: ‘you are whatever you consider to be you.’ And that allows me to steer towards my definition of free will: whenever that by which you identify yourself produces an undetermined effect, it was an act out of free will. (Unconscious actions may seem like an objection, but the actions that are undertaken unconsciously don’t feel like ‘your’ actions.) This essentially solves the problem raised in the first sentence, the effects of deterministic things lay in their causes, which does not yield free will, the effects of indeterministic things would have to be purely random, which also seems to lead nowhere closer to free will. But what I do here is justify the autonomy by making appeal to identification. Do I not speak the truth when I say that it was I who did something after what I consider to be me produced an effect?

3

A mayor thing in my reasoning is the concept of doubt. Doubt is our capacity to calculate, a sometimes complex comparison between competing incentives. I believe doubt is a very useful subject when treating consciousness, but I will not delve into my ideas about that here. Instead I will treat the implications it has for free will. Doubt implies multiple opportunities, but by itself that does not mean anything. Doubt can still be an epiphenomenon of our rationality, in the sense that it merely convinces us we have things to choose from.
But to this I can reply that other, less complex animals can also doubt, I observed my cat having doubts. This hints towards it being something older, something that existed before we specialised our cognition and before we were engaged in complex cooperation. If there is no free will, doubt merely convinces us that we have things to consider. But in competition with other animals, how convenient is it to waste time? What advantages does a waste of time have over our contemporaries? If doubt is useful, it would mean that there is some truth behind choice. Can an advantage of doubt come without free will? And if the action you shall undertake is already determined, what reason is there for your body not to let you know what you are going to do?


I understand that I by no means have tackled all reasons for a different view, but I do hope that I have given something to think about. Thanks for spending time to read this. Have a good day smile

Alex

 
EN
 
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EN
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22 March 2019 12:32
 

I’m not sure that the presence of doubt can support an argument for free will.  Doubt arises from the brain, which has undergone millions of years of evolution, determining that something “just ain’t right”, to put it colloquially.  Our ancestors collectively experienced millions of different critical situations, and survived long enough to have children, leading to us. We are the offspring of survivors. The brain’s ability to sense danger or the need for caution has been honed to a degree we probably don’t even appreciate.  Doubt arises without any conscious activity on our part - we become aware of it after it has arisen.  It can simply be our highly evolved brains telling us to “beware”.  Sure, we can analyze the situation rationally, but doubt is an early warning signal to “keep your eyes open”.  The brain has already figured out a problem before you respond to anything.

[ Edited: 23 March 2019 11:36 by EN]
 
nonverbal
 
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nonverbal
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23 March 2019 05:28
 

Alex, your point #2 twists up my sense of logic, as it implies natural rules and regulations that only seem to exist. Determinism v. non-determinism and the unending arguments for and against each as they either permit or outwit human free will can be seen as an ultimate philosophical conundrum. I try to ignore philosophical conundrums wherever possible, since con artists citing them are typically at the root of serious attempts to realize false leads of one sort or another. I don’t see EN as a con artist, as he isn’t a typical religiously-inspired person who actively ignores what’s real.

 
 
GAD
 
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23 March 2019 09:42
 

There is no freewill, everything you “decide” is based on everything that came before and arbitrary or random is not freewill.

 
 
nonverbal
 
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23 March 2019 10:06
 
GAD - 23 March 2019 09:42 AM

There is no freewill, everything you “decide” is based on everything that came before and arbitrary or random is not freewill.

Are you legitimately able to make choices, at least? For instance, if you concentrate hard, are you able to decide on your own to compose a complete sentence?

 
 
GAD
 
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23 March 2019 10:28
 
nonverbal - 23 March 2019 10:06 AM
GAD - 23 March 2019 09:42 AM

There is no freewill, everything you “decide” is based on everything that came before and arbitrary or random is not freewill.

Are you legitimately able to make choices, at least? For instance, if you concentrate hard, are you able to decide on your own to compose a complete sentence?

Chocolate or vanilla, choose, did you choose freely or was your decision at that moment in time determined by everything that came before it. If it wasn’t determined by the the causal that preceded it then the best you can say is that it was arbitrary/random which is not freewill.

 
 
Jan_CAN
 
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23 March 2019 12:20
 
GAD - 23 March 2019 10:28 AM

Chocolate or vanilla, choose, did you choose freely or was your decision at that moment in time determined by everything that came before it. If it wasn’t determined by the the causal that preceded it then the best you can say is that it was arbitrary/random which is not freewill.

Aside:
Chocolate or vanilla?  Bad example.  There is no choice.  Everyone knows that chocolate was predetermined to be the most pleasing flavour to the human palate.  Now vanilla or coconut – that’s a different story.

 

 
 
GAD
 
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23 March 2019 12:38
 
Jan_CAN - 23 March 2019 12:20 PM
GAD - 23 March 2019 10:28 AM

Chocolate or vanilla, choose, did you choose freely or was your decision at that moment in time determined by everything that came before it. If it wasn’t determined by the the causal that preceded it then the best you can say is that it was arbitrary/random which is not freewill.

Aside:
Chocolate or vanilla?  Bad example.  There is no choice.  Everyone knows that chocolate was predetermined to be the most pleasing flavour to the human palate.  Now vanilla or coconut – that’s a different story.

Fair enough, but as a racist and misogynist it was determined by you that I would choose between black or white vs which white is better.

 
 
Jan_CAN
 
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23 March 2019 12:59
 
GAD - 23 March 2019 12:38 PM
Jan_CAN - 23 March 2019 12:20 PM
GAD - 23 March 2019 10:28 AM

Chocolate or vanilla, choose, did you choose freely or was your decision at that moment in time determined by everything that came before it. If it wasn’t determined by the the causal that preceded it then the best you can say is that it was arbitrary/random which is not freewill.

Aside:
Chocolate or vanilla?  Bad example.  There is no choice.  Everyone knows that chocolate was predetermined to be the most pleasing flavour to the human palate.  Now vanilla or coconut – that’s a different story.

Fair enough, but as a racist and misogynist it was determined by you that I would choose between black or white vs which white is better.

Very funny.  What d’ya call that – flavourist?  By the way, vanilla is dark brown – you can’t judge by ice cream y’know.  wink


(Sorry for sidetracking your topic, _Alex.)

 
 
GAD
 
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23 March 2019 13:17
 
Jan_CAN - 23 March 2019 12:59 PM
GAD - 23 March 2019 12:38 PM
Jan_CAN - 23 March 2019 12:20 PM
GAD - 23 March 2019 10:28 AM

Chocolate or vanilla, choose, did you choose freely or was your decision at that moment in time determined by everything that came before it. If it wasn’t determined by the the causal that preceded it then the best you can say is that it was arbitrary/random which is not freewill.

Aside:
Chocolate or vanilla?  Bad example.  There is no choice.  Everyone knows that chocolate was predetermined to be the most pleasing flavour to the human palate.  Now vanilla or coconut – that’s a different story.

Fair enough, but as a racist and misogynist it was determined by you that I would choose between black or white vs which white is better.

Very funny.  What d’ya call that – flavourist?  By the way, vanilla is dark brown – you can’t judge by ice cream y’know.  wink


(Sorry for sidetracking your topic, _Alex.)

I didn’t find you calling me a racist and misogynist on another very funny.

 
 
Jan_CAN
 
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23 March 2019 13:38
 
GAD - 23 March 2019 01:17 PM
Jan_CAN - 23 March 2019 12:59 PM
GAD - 23 March 2019 12:38 PM
Jan_CAN - 23 March 2019 12:20 PM
GAD - 23 March 2019 10:28 AM

Chocolate or vanilla, choose, did you choose freely or was your decision at that moment in time determined by everything that came before it. If it wasn’t determined by the the causal that preceded it then the best you can say is that it was arbitrary/random which is not freewill.

Aside:
Chocolate or vanilla?  Bad example.  There is no choice.  Everyone knows that chocolate was predetermined to be the most pleasing flavour to the human palate.  Now vanilla or coconut – that’s a different story.

Fair enough, but as a racist and misogynist it was determined by you that I would choose between black or white vs which white is better.

Very funny.  What d’ya call that – flavourist?  By the way, vanilla is dark brown – you can’t judge by ice cream y’know.  wink


(Sorry for sidetracking your topic, _Alex.)

I didn’t find you calling me a racist and misogynist on another very funny.

I’ve responded in the Klein Bottle so as not to derail further (my fault).

 
 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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24 March 2019 11:26
 
_Alex - 22 March 2019 08:39 AM

To me, the first thing to discuss when considering the possibility of free will is an implied non-cero probability for multiple events to arise from the exact same situation, the same past and laws of physics.
I have adopted a view on causality that I call ‘loose determinism’ (I don’t know the name others may use for it, and I am not sure I should call it soft-determinism)
By loose determinism I pretty straight-forwardly mean that any given event can have multiple different outcomes.

If the universe isn’t “hard-deterministic” then there’s room for free will. If the universe is “hard-deterministic” then free will is impossible. So arguments about free will usually hinge on whether the universe is “hard-deterministic.”

What isn’t clear to me is whether you’re turning this around and taking the existence of free will (because “doubt” exists) as evidence that the the universe can’t be “hard-deterministic.”

 
 
Jb8989
 
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24 March 2019 15:16
 

Lately I’ve been thinking that the issue of free will should be framed around whether and to what extent the mind can change brain activity.  We all know the mind is what the brain does, but we also know that types of thinking exercised habitually overtime can alter our brain’s and even our body’s chemistry. That little back and forth is pretty human specific. There’s gotta be some untapped activations when you consider how culturally retarded we allow our minds to be.

 
 
Brick Bungalow
 
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04 April 2019 01:04
 

I think about this quite a lot. I don’t think notions of ‘soft determinism’ or compatibilism or other hybrid positions are actually necessary. Not for me. I think it’s enough to say that the notion of libertarian free will is incoherent. We simply have no rational way to describe a system where the active agent is capable of altering the substrate where choices occur.

Also, as Sam points out free will doesn’t even make subjective sense. Paying attention to experience reveals a flow of thought that precedes any planning we do. We cannot make choices that we have not first represented in our creative imagination. We cannot think our thoughts before we think them. Again, free will is incoherent. Even in the pure hypothetical.

I think this basic problem persists no matter how you flip the script. Religious, mystical, allegorical accounts of free will all share the same fundamental problems. We didn’t invent ourselves.

In my opinion we must content ourselves with the natural, social and personal aspects of freedom. Evolved avoidance. Unconstrained play. Creative expression. The souls right to breathe. Our minds have the power to give us an experience of freedom. It’s enough.

 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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06 April 2019 14:26
 

Actually, I’ve always thought it’s determinism that’s incoherent, thus making the whole problem of free will—libertarian or otherwise—as incoherent as the libertarian position taken in isolation.

No physical law entails necessity outside of certain idealizing stipulations, and the idea that we can ever derive one that explains the entirety of the causal structure of the universe, absent idealizing conditions, is pure science fiction.  As such, that the universe actually obeys this (underivable) physical law is a metaphysical stipulation, not a known property of physical reality.  Determinism as the obedience to this metaphysical principle is therefore a non-starter.  Drop the metaphysics—as one should—and the “problem” invoked by determinism disappears with it.  In other words, with the disappearance of determinism, so goes the “problem” of free will.

And I’d go even further to banish the hobgoblin of determinism, and thus put the question of our freedom—or not—on a better basis.  Properly understood, physical laws don’t even specify necessity in a sequence of events.  Rather they describe with varying degrees of approximation the behavior of kinds of phenomena.  As idealizations of these kinds, the laws are universal and necessary.  As means for solving actual physical problems, i.e. explaining actual events, the laws are useful means to predictable outcomes.  But they are not reflections of some intrinsic causal structure of the universe.  The appearance that they are is simply an illusion propagated by the fact that they work so well. 

At the end of the day, I think it’s something like a miracle that we are able with remarkable realism to determine many things in nature that cannot happen, without the laws reflecting those limits being determinable of all things that do in fact happen.  In any case, I’m pretty sure this is how physicists who aren’t doing philosophy think of their own laws.  As I see it, it’s the philosophers and their addiction to the notion of “cause” that lends credence to the metaphysics that is determinism, not the actual practice of physics.  In actual physics, cause is a logical notion, not an ontological one. Once an event is situated into a continuous history of other events, the notion of cause falls away and what you’re left with is an explained outcome that could have been “caused” by anything.

So, if determinism is metaphysical nonsense and libertarian self-causation is incoherent, what’s left of the “problem” of free will?  Why even invoke this thing we’re calling “will” to explain our freedom, or not?  Why not just explain the rather obvious ways in which we are free along with the rather obvious ways in which we are not, with special attention to the blending of the two at the limits of our experience?

[ Edited: 07 April 2019 14:50 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
Brick Bungalow
 
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11 April 2019 17:59
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 06 April 2019 02:26 PM

Actually, I’ve always thought it’s determinism that’s incoherent, thus making the whole problem of free will—libertarian or otherwise—as incoherent as the libertarian position taken in isolation.

No physical law entails necessity outside of certain idealizing stipulations, and the idea that we can ever derive one that explains the entirety of the causal structure of the universe, absent idealizing conditions, is pure science fiction.  As such, that the universe actually obeys this (underivable) physical law is a metaphysical stipulation, not a known property of physical reality.  Determinism as the obedience to this metaphysical principle is therefore a non-starter.  Drop the metaphysics—as one should—and the “problem” invoked by determinism disappears with it.  In other words, with the disappearance of determinism, so goes the “problem” of free will.

And I’d go even further to banish the hobgoblin of determinism, and thus put the question of our freedom—or not—on a better basis.  Properly understood, physical laws don’t even specify necessity in a sequence of events.  Rather they describe with varying degrees of approximation the behavior of kinds of phenomena.  As idealizations of these kinds, the laws are universal and necessary.  As means for solving actual physical problems, i.e. explaining actual events, the laws are useful means to predictable outcomes.  But they are not reflections of some intrinsic causal structure of the universe.  The appearance that they are is simply an illusion propagated by the fact that they work so well. 

At the end of the day, I think it’s something like a miracle that we are able with remarkable realism to determine many things in nature that cannot happen, without the laws reflecting those limits being determinable of all things that do in fact happen.  In any case, I’m pretty sure this is how physicists who aren’t doing philosophy think of their own laws.  As I see it, it’s the philosophers and their addiction to the notion of “cause” that lends credence to the metaphysics that is determinism, not the actual practice of physics.  In actual physics, cause is a logical notion, not an ontological one. Once an event is situated into a continuous history of other events, the notion of cause falls away and what you’re left with is an explained outcome that could have been “caused” by anything.

So, if determinism is metaphysical nonsense and libertarian self-causation is incoherent, what’s left of the “problem” of free will?  Why even invoke this thing we’re calling “will” to explain our freedom, or not?  Why not just explain the rather obvious ways in which we are free along with the rather obvious ways in which we are not, with special attention to the blending of the two at the limits of our experience?

It’s a chestnut that we pass along to the next class of philosophy students. It isn’t a problem to solve. It’s a stone to sharpen our minds against. I think it’s like trying to decide if the universe is finite or infinite or whether or not there is a god. We don’t find answers to these questions. We find the perimeter of our imagination.

 
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