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Author Topic:   Free will but how free really?
Agobot
Member (Idle past 3062 days)
Posts: 786
Joined: 12-16-2007


Message 1 of 176 (483374)
09-21-2008 8:02 PM


This thought emerged in my head while i was replying in another thread titled "Rights of a conscious entity". Here it is:

"I am not afraid of death but my genes(selected by Natural Selection for best survival) dictate me to be afraid. On the other hand the genes are me, so where did the free will go? Or do i even have a free will or is it just a set of genes that dictate my free will? Oh well, our whole lives are controlled by genes which we didn't choose, maybe we should call it our "free but dictated/controlled will"."

So what do you say, do we have a free will or is it just pre-"programmed" by Natural Selction and chance(random DNA mutations), fooling us into thinking there is a free will?
And if i am right to suspect there is no true free will, wouldn't that mean we are simply pre-programmed biological robots, since we didn't choose our genes(the ones carried by the sperm and the egg that coupled with a bit of random mutations instruct how our brains are to be formed and determine our characters, our tastes, our behaviour, etc.)? How do we know what free will is when all we do is constrained and determined by a set of genes that control all of our reactions, emotions, etc. including our perception of reality?

I have no idea which sub-forum this should go into but I know it will surely go offtopic to what reality is and if it exists at all.

Edited by Agobot, : No reason given.

Edited by Agobot, : No reason given.

Edited by Agobot, : No reason given.


Replies to this message:
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 Message 8 by Modulous, posted 09-22-2008 5:44 PM Agobot has responded
 Message 13 by ikabod, posted 09-23-2008 3:31 AM Agobot has not yet responded

    
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Message 2 of 176 (483429)
09-22-2008 8:56 AM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.
    
Stile
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Message 3 of 176 (483468)
09-22-2008 3:33 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Agobot
09-21-2008 8:02 PM


It's not going to be easy...
Agobot writes:

How do we know what free will is when all we do is constrained and determined by a set of genes that control all of our reactions, emotions, etc. including our perception of reality?

Our genes constrain our free will a lot more. We can't choose to fly. We can't choose to breathe underwater. We can't choose to instantly travel from one side of the Earth to the other. We can't even choose which planet to live on.

*Yet, we can choose if we want to wear shoes or sandals. We can choose to wear glasses (with no lenses, if we don't require them). We can choose to set broken bones and heal them so our lives are not ended prematurely. We can choose who we make friends with and how much we learn from others. We can choose to hurt others, or to help them. We can choose who we marry and spend our lives with. We can choose whether or not we should have children, or even when we would like to have children.

Do we actually make those decisions? Or are they pre-programmed into our brains/bodies?

How do you test something like this? What is the difference between "a pre-programmed decision that we think is a real decision but actually isn't" vs. "a real, free choice"?

I'm not sure. As far as we can tell (statistically speaking) our decisions are "real, free choices". But, well, if everything we do is actually pre-programmed, is it possible for us to learn the difference?

Of course, the question then becomes: "if there is no detectable difference... does it really matter"?

So, we have a task:

1. Devise a way to specifically test between "real, free choice" and "fake, but seems like free choice".
2a. If we suceed, then we just take the results of the test, then we'll know if our free choice is real or fake.
2b. If we fail, then we have a new question:
3. If we cannot differentiate between real or fake free choice, does it make a difference to us?
4a. My answer to the above question is "no".
4b. If "yes", why and how?

*some choices may not be available to everyone, but this is for averge-joe representation.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Agobot, posted 09-21-2008 8:02 PM Agobot has responded

Replies to this message:
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Agobot
Member (Idle past 3062 days)
Posts: 786
Joined: 12-16-2007


Message 4 of 176 (483473)
09-22-2008 4:25 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by Stile
09-22-2008 3:33 PM


Re: It's not going to be easy...
Stile writes:

Of course, the question then becomes: "if there is no detectable difference... does it really matter"?

Well, since i state that everything about our existence seems to be pre-programmed, then it wouldn't really matter. We couldn't change anything. It would just give us a new look on "reality".


This message is a reply to:
 Message 3 by Stile, posted 09-22-2008 3:33 PM Stile has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 5 by Stile, posted 09-22-2008 4:35 PM Agobot has responded

    
Stile
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Posts: 2964
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 4.3


Message 5 of 176 (483474)
09-22-2008 4:35 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by Agobot
09-22-2008 4:25 PM


Lots of choices
Agobot writes:

Well, since i state that everything about our existence seems to be pre-programmed, then it wouldn't really matter. We couldn't change anything.

Sure, you can say that all you want. However, it doesn't mean anything unless you can show it to be true. You need to support your assertions or there's nothing to debate about. If you're just looking for people to agree with you, go play The Sims.

We couldn't change anything.

What do you mean?

Can you change your socks?
Can you change your haircut?
Can you choose to quit your job?
Can you choose to drop out of school or take more classes?
Can you choose to kill yourself?
Can you choose to take a taxi home instead of driving when you get drunk?
Can you choose to take a taxi home when you're not drunk?

The answer for me (and most everyone else) to all these questions is "yes".

It would seem like we have plenty of freedom of choice. You don't agree?


This message is a reply to:
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Dr Jack
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Posts: 3506
From: Leicester, England
Joined: 07-14-2003


Message 6 of 176 (483478)
09-22-2008 5:16 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Agobot
09-21-2008 8:02 PM


In what sense are your genes seperate to "you" that "they" can control what "you" do?
This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Agobot, posted 09-21-2008 8:02 PM Agobot has responded

Replies to this message:
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Agobot
Member (Idle past 3062 days)
Posts: 786
Joined: 12-16-2007


Message 7 of 176 (483481)
09-22-2008 5:36 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by Dr Jack
09-22-2008 5:16 PM


MrJack writes:

In what sense are your genes seperate to "you" that "they" can control what "you" do?

The answer is that 'me' is what my genes were pre-programmed. They are not separate to me, but still the realisation that free will is pre-programmed gives a new meaning to the term "free will" - a pre-programmed free will. It's still free will, but it's pre-programmed as our bodies(incl. our brains) are 100% the creation of a set of genes.

Edited by Agobot, : No reason given.


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Modulous
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Posts: 7429
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005
Member Rating: 4.0


Message 8 of 176 (483484)
09-22-2008 5:44 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Agobot
09-21-2008 8:02 PM


"I am not afraid of death but my genes(selected by Natural Selection for best survival) dictate me to be afraid. On the other hand the genes are me, so where did the free will go?

The genes are you?

You have been built as a result of your genes, as well as environmental factors including culture. Your learned response to death is one of not fearing it, but your genetic response to death is to trigger various physical states you call 'fear' since this has proven a great tactic for trying to make sure the body doesn't end up dead before it has passed on the requisite genes to the next generation.

Neither the learned concept of fearlessness in the face of death, nor the genetically encoded aversion to death is 'you'. They are both composites of what 'you' are. 'You' are a complex set of various desires and fears many of which conflict. Some genes influence you to avoid death, others to embrace it (sacrifice life for children for example).

So what do you say, do we have a free will or is it just pre-"programmed" by Natural Selction and chance(random DNA mutations), fooling us into thinking there is a free will?

It certainly seems that there is an 'I' that freely 'chooses' to do what it likes. Of course, there is no compelling reason to believe that there is, and I've not seen any compelling reason to believe that there is anything such as 'free will' with any reasonable definition of it. My body does the things that my brain tells it to. My brain comes to decisions about what to do based on genetic and learned lessons as well as other environmental features (such as brain damage, drug usage, oxygen starvation etc).

And if i am right to suspect there is no true free will, wouldn't that mean we are simply pre-programmed biological robots, since we didn't choose our genes(the ones carried by the sperm and the egg that coupled with a bit of random mutations instruct how our brains are to be formed and determine our characters, our tastes, our behaviour, etc.)?

We have a large brain. Whilst much of what we do is 'pre-programmed' at least some the activities are the result of learning after the the initial genetic construction. We are pre-programmed, and then continuously programmed thereafter.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Agobot, posted 09-21-2008 8:02 PM Agobot has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 10 by Agobot, posted 09-22-2008 6:36 PM Modulous has responded
 Message 14 by Stile, posted 09-23-2008 12:00 PM Modulous has responded

    
Agobot
Member (Idle past 3062 days)
Posts: 786
Joined: 12-16-2007


Message 9 of 176 (483485)
09-22-2008 5:44 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by Stile
09-22-2008 4:35 PM


Re: Lots of choices
Agobot writes:

Well, since i state that everything about our existence seems to be pre-programmed, then it wouldn't really matter. We couldn't change anything.

Stile writes:

Sure, you can say that all you want. However, it doesn't mean anything unless you can show it to be true. You need to support your assertions or there's nothing to debate about. If you're just looking for people to agree with you, go play The Sims.

I've shown you how your genes control the way your body is formed including your brain. I don't have to prove this - it's common knowlegde. If you lack such basic common knowledge, buy yourself a textbook and read up, but I am not turning into a 5th grade biology teacher.

Agobot writes:

We couldn't change anything.

Stile writes:

What do you mean?

Can you change your socks?
Can you change your haircut?
Can you choose to quit your job?
Can you choose to drop out of school or take more classes?
Can you choose to kill yourself?
Can you choose to take a taxi home instead of driving when you get drunk?
Can you choose to take a taxi home when you're not drunk?

The answer for me (and most everyone else) to all these questions is "yes".

It would seem like we have plenty of freedom of choice. You don't agree?

I was talking about how our free will is pre-programmed so when i say we couldn't change anything, it means we couldn't change anything about that fact. But oh well, you've proven time and again that reading comprehension is too difficult for you.

Edited by Agobot, : No reason given.


This message is a reply to:
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Agobot
Member (Idle past 3062 days)
Posts: 786
Joined: 12-16-2007


Message 10 of 176 (483491)
09-22-2008 6:36 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by Modulous
09-22-2008 5:44 PM


Where is "Me"?
Good points Modulous, but still what is "you"(what you see in the mirror), is the product of genes including the brain that tells you that we are continuously self-programming ourselves as we move along our lives. That same brain that was created by genes might, just might be fooling yourself that there is an "I" at all.

Modulous writes:

Neither the learned concept of fearlessness in the face of death, nor the genetically encoded aversion to death is 'you'. They are both composites of what 'you' are. 'You' are a complex set of various desires and fears many of which conflict. Some genes influence you to avoid death, others to embrace it (sacrifice life for children for example).

In this passage where do you think the "I" should emerge? Somewhere among the genes? This same "I" initially emerged 1 million years ago(or less) when the homo habilis became conscious of their existence and their uniqueness. It emerged because of Natural Selection and was further developed by Natural Selection until our brains grew in size from 700cub.cm to 1400 cub.cm. It was the work of NS carried out by genes that passed from generation to generation. NS made us intelligent and smart, gave us consciousness, but still we are 100% what genes instructed the the primary cell to become. That's why i tend to not trust my 'consciousness' in determing if there is free will, as my consciousness is developed and shaped and built by my brain that is a product of a set of genes.

It's confusing that when you look in the mirror you see "someone" that you identify as yourself, when all of that "yourself" is created and is the product of genes(and not how you'd create yourself, if you had true free will). That's what i had in mind when i said "the genes are me". They are me, but where is "Me" when what i identify as "Me"(my whole body) is constructed, made and pre-programmed by my genes and as soon as we are born we have to use a mirror so that we know who we are? We are what our genes made, this "I" is really somewhat foreign to me, as it was chosen for me by NS and randomness and not only was it chosen for me, but "I" was given a brain made for me by genes. That same brain is now telling me I am something, but with a view to how i was formed, that same "I" is possessed by my genes(which are in me because other forces - NS and chance dictated so). That's what makes the concept of free will seem elusive.

The notion of God would have easily cleared that mess(us being robots of God), but since there is no God, we appear to be biological robots of NS and randomness.

Edited by Agobot, : No reason given.

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Edited by Adminnemooseus, : Add a couple of blank lines.


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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NosyNed
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Posts: 8799
From: Canada
Joined: 04-04-2003
Member Rating: 9.1


Message 11 of 176 (483496)
09-22-2008 7:01 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by Agobot
09-22-2008 6:36 PM


Other "Me" s
This same "I" initially emerged 1 million years ago(or less) when the homo habilis became conscious of their existence and their uniqueness.

There is reason to think that it was much earlier since other animals show that they seem to know who "they" are. Several in fact.


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Modulous
Member
Posts: 7429
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005
Member Rating: 4.0


Message 12 of 176 (483509)
09-22-2008 8:42 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by Agobot
09-22-2008 6:36 PM


Re: Where is "Me"?
Good points Modulous, but still what is "you"(what you see in the mirror), is the product of genes including the brain that tells you that we are continuously self-programming ourselves as we move along our lives

There is more to the self than the part that is built by genes. For example: had your mother, while pregnant with you, taken certain drugs or had been exposed to toxic gasses, radiation etc etc, your development might have been affected. You might be brain damaged, or be slightly more intelligent. You'd have then lived a different life, making different decisions, you'd be a different person.

Plus, much of what "I" am is absorbed from culture. So what "I" am is not just the product of my genes (though they obviously played a vital role). You couldn't read my genes, and know I enjoy sitting on my leather chair in the evenings after work pondering life's mysteries.

That same brain that was created by genes might, just might be fooling yourself that there is an "I" at all.

There is an entity named 'I', though undoubtedly exactly what that is is obfuscated by the very brain that creates it.

In this passage where do you think the "I" should emerge? Somewhere among the genes?

No, it is a composite of all those things. Take away the environment, and I necessarily cannot exist. Take away the culture and I cannot exist. Different 'I's might exist without culture, depending on our definitions. Some believe that culture and language are required for this sense of 'I' to come into being.

It was the work of NS carried out by genes that passed from generation to generation. NS made us intelligent and smart, gave us consciousness, but still we are 100% what genes instructed the the primary cell to become.

Yes, the capacity for this self-awareness was created through evolutionary processes, but more has gone into creating me than my genes. Proof: Twins are different people with sometimes vastly different perspectives - and often despite being identical genetically (near enough), can be easily differentiated visually.

Same genes, different physical appearance, different personality. All because there is more to what makes an individual who they are.

It's confusing that when you look in the mirror you see "someone" that you identify as yourself, when all of that "yourself" is created and is the product of genes(and not how you'd create yourself, if you had true free will). That's what i had in mind when i said "the genes are me". They are me, but where is "Me" when what i identify as "Me"(my whole body) is constructed, made and pre-programmed by my genes and as soon as we are born we have to use a mirror so that we know who we are?

Sounds like you are confusing the recipe with the cake.

The body is the cake.
The genes are the recipe.
The environment is the oven.

You need both an oven and a recipe to make a cake. The cake is not the recipe. The recipe makes the cake. Without the recipe there'd be no cake. Without the right oven conditions, there would be a pile of sticky goo.

The only significant difference is that a body contains multiple copies of the recipe within it, and continuously refers to them during the long 'baking' process we are only part way through (indeed, we could even postulate at what age one would be declared to be 'half-baked'...). The recipe seems to start going downhill after about 25 years, a fascinating topic of evolutionary research.

We are what our genes made, this "I" is really somewhat foreign to me, as it was chosen for me by NS and randomness and not only was it chosen for me, but "I" was given a brain made for me by genes.

I think 'you' need to sit down and breath! :)

This 'I' you refer to cannot be foreign to 'you'. It is part of what you are. It is not foreign but completely local. It was not chosen 'for you' by anything. You exist therefore the sense of 'I' exists. The last part is terribly confused.

The genes that your father and mother gave you both contained a recipe for making much of what would become you, including your brain. The brain was made to control the body in its quest to continue to propagate the genes. The brain has evolved, for whatever reasons, to have a sense of self and this concept of 'I' has developed from that and possibly the addition of culture and language.

That's what makes the concept of free will seem elusive.

The problem with free will is much more than the determinism of brains. One could argue that we have brains and a soul and the soul providing a 'will'. But how would this be 'free'? Does that mean the soul makes its decisions at random? Or is it constrained by experience? If so, how can we call it 'free'? I'd rather not have free will if it means truly 'free'.

The notion of God would have easily cleared that mess(us being robots of God), but since there is no God, we appear to be biological robots of NS and randomness.

But what fascinating robots, no? What wonderful dreams and fantastic experiences are possible for these robots to have! What is so problematic about being a robot?


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ikabod
Member (Idle past 2025 days)
Posts: 365
From: UK
Joined: 03-13-2006


Message 13 of 176 (483548)
09-23-2008 3:31 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Agobot
09-21-2008 8:02 PM


the best examples of free will are where we seek to place ourselves in harms way .

smoking for example .. a known killer but people exersise their free will and smoke ...

and form of dangerous sport .. skydiving , free climbing ,

we Have free will .. but we may have to reconise and over come our inbuilt and learnt traits to full use it ..


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Stile
Member
Posts: 2964
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 4.3


Message 14 of 176 (483597)
09-23-2008 12:00 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by Modulous
09-22-2008 5:44 PM


Looking to learn.
Modulous writes:

Of course, there is no compelling reason to believe that there is, and I've not seen any compelling reason to believe that there is anything such as 'free will' with any reasonable definition of it.

I was wondering if you could help explain something to me. I am not versed at all in psychology, or sociology.

Basically, my thoughts are along the lines of "since I freely choose simple things, why am I unable to freely choose larger things?"

I understand how things like environment and genes work together to shape us, and how certain things may not be in our control.

But what about those things that are in our control?

I mean, simply, I think I have "free-choice" to wear white socks or black socks each day. Or free-choice to snap my fingers 4 times or maybe stop at 5 times just because I want to.

How can you say such things are not evidence of us having free-choice?
Can you actually link environmental/genetic factors into my sock-colour choice? Or such factors into my "stopping to snap my fingers" choice?

What about when we come to an age where we can choose our environment (friends, living location, career...)? If our environment has control over us, be we choose our environment... doesn't that mean we end up with control over us again?

How is that not "free-choice"?

Maybe my lack of education in this area is making me miss something basic. But, well, my ability of free-choice seems rather obvious to me. Where do you think this is wrong?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 8 by Modulous, posted 09-22-2008 5:44 PM Modulous has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 15 by Modulous, posted 09-23-2008 12:50 PM Stile has responded

    
Modulous
Member
Posts: 7429
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005
Member Rating: 4.0


Message 15 of 176 (483600)
09-23-2008 12:50 PM
Reply to: Message 14 by Stile
09-23-2008 12:00 PM


Re: Looking to learn.
I mean, simply, I think I have "free-choice" to wear white socks or black socks each day. Or free-choice to snap my fingers 4 times or maybe stop at 5 times just because I want to.

Yes, you think you have 'free-choice' to wear white or black socks. If being of the mental condition of thinking you have free choice is equivalent to having free choice in your view then that's fine.

Is it actually a free choice? What is a choice that is 'free'? Do you just mean there are two options and you don't consciously pick one as better but you still make a decision? How did you actually make the decision? Was it randomness? In which case, I don't want free will. Was it parts of the brain that we aren't conscious of trying to come to a 'consensus' as to what to do, perhaps for some nonsensical reason like you wore white socks once and your feet got cold and besides you also wore white two days ago Saturday is associated with blackishness. In which case, is that 'free'? It is entirely contingent on the intricacies of the brain. Likewise with any soul type argument.

What about when we come to an age where we can choose our environment (friends, living location, career...)?

Fundamentally, this choice is no different than choosing black socks. Only this time we may also have conscious monologue of weighing the various merits, we may even talk out loud about them. This monologue may serve a purpose, it may allow various memories/ideas and decision making centres to communicate more efficiently. Ultimately though, whether you take that job 300 miles away is going to be decided by the same mechanics as the socks.

So either there is an ordered decision making mechanism, which would imply that 'freedom' is only an illusion the conscious self has. In a sense, your brain takes the information available, tries to order it, comprehend it and extrapolate the best way to proceed.

Or there is no ordered mechanism, the decisions are not based on anything.

Other than some combination of the above, I see no other way. Is this 'free' choice? Sure, if free choice exists then we have it. But what 'free' choice is, might (almost certainly is, I'd say) be quite different than how we perceive it.

In the spirit of learning though there are two views: compatabilism and incompatabilism. I am of the latter school, from wiki:

quote:
Compatibilism, as championed by the ancient Greeks Stoics, Hobbes, Hume and many contemporary philosophers, is a theory that argues that free will and determinism exist and are in fact compatible.[3] Determinists argue that all acts that take place are predetermined by prior causes, including human actions. If a free action is defined as one that is not predetermined by prior causes, then determinism, which claims that human actions are predetermined, rules out the possibility of free actions.

A compatibilist, or soft determinist, in contrast, will define a free act in a way that does not hinge on the presence or absence of prior causes. For example, one could define a free act as one that involves no compulsion by another person. Since the physical universe and the laws of nature are not persons, actions which are caused by the laws of nature, would still be free acts, and therefore it is wrong to conclude that universal determinism would mean we are never free.



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