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Author Topic:   Free will but how free really?
Stile
Member
Posts: 4042
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004


Message 3 of 182 (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.


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Replies to this message:
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Stile
Member
Posts: 4042
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004


Message 5 of 182 (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?


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Stile
Member
Posts: 4042
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004


Message 14 of 182 (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?


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 Message 8 by Modulous, posted 09-22-2008 5:44 PM Modulous has responded

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Stile
Member
Posts: 4042
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004


Message 16 of 182 (483604)
09-23-2008 1:34 PM
Reply to: Message 15 by Modulous
09-23-2008 12:50 PM


Re: Looking to learn.
Modulous writes:

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.

I only think this is fine if there is no way to specifically determine if a choice is "free" or "fake-free". If there is a way, then thinking I have free choice is no longer fine. Well, I guess it would be fine if it was determined that we do, in fact, make free-choices.

From your first post, I was under the impression that you could identify such a way. But I think that, after reading your last post, I was mistaken.

It is entirely contingent on the intricacies of the brain.

...and on the definition of "free" and "choice" :) I'm beggining to see your point, I think.

Ultimately though, whether you take that job 300 miles away is going to be decided by the same mechanics as the socks.

As to this, I sincerely agree. Whatever the mechanics are, they are (basically) the same for all decisions.

But what 'free' choice is, might (almost certainly is, I'd say) be quite different than how we perceive it.

Again, I fully agree.

But, without some deterministic way to identify what a free choice actually is like (in comparison to an illusion of that free choice), I am at a loss in understanding either one way or the other. Perhaps I leaned towards "free-choice" a little too easily. Perhaps the only way to discover if we have free choice or not, is to discover if the universe is deterministic or not. Or, almost, anyway.

If the universe is deterministic, then we do not have free-choice. That is, well, just the way it is.
If it is not deterministic, then it is possible that we have free-choice. It is still possible that our choice-mechanism may be a deterministic one (since deterministic things still exist even if the universe itself is not entirely deterministic), but at least the possibility of non-illusory free-choice still exists. In which case, we would need to develop some means of comparing a real free choice against an illusory free choice. Such a thing seems a daunting task.

Wiki on Compatibilism writes:

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.

I don't think I like the idea of this Compatibilist notion. Simply changing a definition to make yourself feel better, and in so doing including "lightning striking a metal pole" as a free choice... just seems like lying, to me.

Whichever way it is, I think I'm an incompatibilist.

And, for now, I'll stick with "my feeling of free choice may as well mean I have free choice" until some more verifiable information is uncovered. In the lines of "if we can't tell the difference, it doesn't matter (to us) if one actually exists".

However, I will change my attitude of "I definitely have free-choice" to one of "I'm not sure if free choice actually exists or not".


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 Message 15 by Modulous, posted 09-23-2008 12:50 PM Modulous has responded

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Stile
Member
Posts: 4042
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004


Message 42 of 182 (483855)
09-24-2008 2:05 PM
Reply to: Message 17 by Modulous
09-23-2008 4:42 PM


Deterministic vs. Random, eh?
Modulous writes:

But still, what does it even mean for a decision to be made in a non-deterministic way? Doesn't imply that some or even all decisions are made at least partly for no rhyme or reason? Isn't this almost random decision making just as terrible as its absence?

I'm beginning to see the dilemma.

I admit, my first thoughts were "Determinism - Bad, Free Will - Good", and really not much more beyond that. I now find myself hoping for some sort of 'happy balance'. But, perhpas that isn't even necessary.

If a deterministic process is sufficiently complex... perhaps the inherent "illusion of randomness" that would necessarily be embedded in such a system would be, um... acceptable.

Or perhaps I simply want my decisions to be deterministic (as determined through me), while the universe itself is actually non-deterministic. That way, the decisions brought to my attention are random (life is not boring), but my choices of what to do are not (I would have a non-random method of making decisions).

Or perhpas we may even have the ability to make a decision random if we so choose?

That is, for an important decision I may be able to ensure that I focus on information at hand. While for an unimportant decision I may allow a certain amount of randomness in just "for the heck of it".

Or, perhaps, making our decisions non-random isn't so much a choice as it is something we need to put (great?) effort into, but isn't impossible.

Of course, now I'm just talking about what I'd like to see, rather than what the world actually is. But, I do not know of anything yet-so-far that is preventing any of these scenarios, do you? Have I mentioned anything that you know to have been categorically falsified as of yet?

I wouldn't go so far as lying, but it is absurd equivocation in my opinion.

Heh... I sometimes say things unnecessarily blunt when I'm confident the audience is not going to be offended easily :)


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 Message 17 by Modulous, posted 09-23-2008 4:42 PM Modulous has responded

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Stile
Member
Posts: 4042
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004


Message 70 of 182 (811947)
06-13-2017 3:41 PM


From the graveyard
Bumpity Bump.

Replies to this message:
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Stile
Member
Posts: 4042
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004


Message 72 of 182 (812014)
06-14-2017 9:10 AM
Reply to: Message 71 by Phat
06-13-2017 6:29 PM


Free Will and an All-Good World
Phat writes:

Is there something about free will that you find compelling?

I wouldn't go so far as to say "compelling." More "interesting when I'm bored."

I was going to write this post yesterday, but lost track of time and simply bumped the thread until today.

I think the topic of Free Will itself is more theoretical instead of practical.
I try to make the idea as practical as possible, but that still doesn't go very far.

First, I'll start off with some definitions. Because if we're not talking about the same thing, it's easier to get confused.

I do not claim these to be the only definitions, but they are decent enough for me to get "some sort of point" across.
I have no issues (and, in fact encourage) if anyone wants to suggest some different definitions.

Free Will
Ability to identify different options and choose one for yourself. The 'choice' comes from the mind of the decision maker as opposed to some sort of coercion from an external source.

Good
An action from a person that is described as "good" or "helpful" by the person being affected by that same action.

Bad
An action from a person that is described as "bad" or "hurtful" by the person being affected by that same action.

For a simple example, we have the choice of your flavor of ice cream. You can choose chocolate or vanilla or strawberry or mint or whatever else is available. This would be an obvious, and simple, "Free Will" choice.

I think it's obvious that we could get rid of all evil, and still choose what flavor of ice cream we want.

Therefore, it is trivial to say that free will can certainly exist in a world that is all-good.

The interesting part is thinking about whether or not we would find such a world to be acceptable.

For myself, I would not find such a world acceptable.
There are certain levels of creativity that result in relatively light 'bad' results that I think are helpful to human advancement that would be much more difficult if we were unable to do bad things.

For example, lets take rock music. Many people (going from stereotypes of the past) think rock music is terrible and hurtful to their ears/brains/lives.

It is "bad" to play rock music for these people.

Although I would agree there is no need to force rock music into such people's homes and make them listen to it.
I would not agree to a world where rock music didn't exist because it 'hurts' these people.

Therefore, every now and then, such people would be subjected to listening to rock music. Be it by hearing it on the radio when they go into a waiting room or maybe a neighbor playing some music for a little while or something like that.

I think that if we removed such "evils" from the world, we would be causing more harm to the possible creativity of humans than is worth being in an "all-good" world.

An example in the other extreme would be, say, killing your neighbor.

Let's say you have a neighbor that doesn't want to die.
If you (or anyone else) is prevented from killing their neighbor... I don't have a problem with this.

In fact, since I don't have any pressing urge to kill my neighbor. I can claim that my own free will really isn't even affected in any significant way if such an option is completely removed.

So, although I can see how free will could co-exist in an all-good world, I don't think I would want such a thing due to the issues of labeling certain "minor inconveniences" as "bad."
I would, however, be quite happy with some world where a certain-amount of "very evil" actions were completely wiped out of existence.

Where, exactly, would I place such a line? I don't know. And because I don't know, I would err on the side of caution and reserve my restrictions to only a few incredibly terribly evil actions.

That's what I would do, if I was building a world, anyway


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Stile
Member
Posts: 4042
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004


Message 75 of 182 (812050)
06-14-2017 1:44 PM


Freewill is a purely religious concept
Tangle writes:

Freewill is a purely religious concept

Message 342

It is?

I've never thought of it that way.
The entire idea itself? Only it's origins? Both?

Does anyone have any light to shed on this concept?


  
Stile
Member
Posts: 4042
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004


Message 76 of 182 (812052)
06-14-2017 1:48 PM
Reply to: Message 74 by New Cat's Eye
06-14-2017 1:36 PM


Re: Free Will and an All-Good World
New Cat's Eye writes:

You're proposing a negligible increase in restriction, so I'm going to turn a question you asked me back around to you: Does it matter?

I think it matters a lot.

But in context.

Context = "mattering to the amount of free will we have"
I agree it hardly matters at all.

Context = "amount of harm done to the people who have hopes, lives and dreams of their own.. all destroyed by being affected by a few horrible evils"
I think it matters EVERYTHING here.

The risk of loss (pretty much nothing) to potential gain (pretty much everything for certain people past, present and future negatively affected by such things) makes it a pretty easy decision from my view.


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Stile
Member
Posts: 4042
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004


Message 79 of 182 (812063)
06-14-2017 2:58 PM
Reply to: Message 78 by Tangle
06-14-2017 2:01 PM


Tangle writes:

So freewill is a fiction and God-given freewill doubly so. We are a product of competitive evolution, god has zip to do with it.

Are you saying that the concept of "everyone has equal free will" is religious?

Or the entire concept of free will in any capacity?

The bounds within which we can act are created by all sorts of stuff such as our disposition and social upbringing and even our genes. I could no more stragle and rape a child than I could fly to the moon but there are those that can. There free will appears to be freer than mine.

I agree with all this.

But I don't see how any of it means free will "doesn't exist."
Why can't competitive evolution produce free will?
I see how it means things like "free will isn't as open-ended as you may think" or "free will isn't equal for all people."

But "in reality doesn't exist" doesn't seem to make sense with my experiences of reality.

Perhaps I'm using the term free will different from you, though.. and that's just where my confusion comes from.

When I say 'free will' I mean the ability to make a decision from an assortment of options where "you" make the decision (your brain, mind, not being coerced from anything non-you). Ex -> Picking what t-shirt I want to wear from the 10 in my drawer is a free will decision to me.

I don't see any 'religious concept' in there anywhere.


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Stile
Member
Posts: 4042
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004


Message 81 of 182 (812074)
06-14-2017 3:24 PM
Reply to: Message 80 by Tangle
06-14-2017 3:16 PM


Tangle writes:

Yes - it's a religious invention.

Do you have any educationary place I can see and look this up?

Free will as opposed to what?

Coerced will.

We have freedom of action within our physical and emotional capabilities.

Yeah. I've always referred to it as free will.

It's not a 'thing' in itself, it's just a necessary part of our make up and life.

I agree. This doesn't make it religiously created.

Christian religion makes it a point of dogma, part of the Genesis and the 'Fall' story. It's cobblers, it's simply a result of our competitive evolutionary history.

Again, I agree with all of this.
None of this points to it being something made up by religion.

Christian religion makes The Flood a point of dogma, part of Genesis and Noah's story. it's cobblers, it's simply a result of the way people "recorded" history.
None of that makes floods something made up by religion.

Without religion, the concept would not (exist?).

I don't see this connection.
I think the concept of free will would still exist without religion.
For one, I'm not very religious and I think about the concept of free will lets say... "more than average."


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Stile
Member
Posts: 4042
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004


(1)
Message 99 of 182 (812205)
06-15-2017 12:26 PM
Reply to: Message 96 by ringo
06-15-2017 11:44 AM


ringo writes:

So your self was what you needed all along. "God" was just a means to that end. You might as well say, "Rock climbing showed me the way to finding myself," or, "Marriage showed me the way to finding myself," or, "LSD showed me the way to finding myself."

God/religion is a very good (and proven over time) method to help people 'find themselves.'
It doesn't work for everyone, but it certainly does work (and sometimes very well) for a great number of people.

Yes, it certainly has been shown to also have the possibility for a lot of issues and abuse and excuses for bad behavior.
But... so does marriage, LSD and even rock climbing.

For some people, it can be absolutely impossible for them to 'find themselves' using any other means except for God.
The same way that, for some people, such a thing MUST be done without religion of any kind.

People are different, and different methods are going to be required in order to reach the same goal ("happiness").


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Stile
Member
Posts: 4042
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004


(1)
Message 107 of 182 (812245)
06-15-2017 2:54 PM
Reply to: Message 106 by Tangle
06-15-2017 2:27 PM


Tangle writes:

making you feel better about yourself in the here-and-now is not religion's real purpose.

I don't think it matters what religion's "real purpose" is.
I think it only matters what you use it for. What's its purpose for each of us? Some of us will use it more than others.

And the fact that it's imaginary is a real problem for man's long-term mental health.

I don't think this is true.
I think this is only true for some people.

I think many people require something like religion in order to have good long-term mental health.

Or it would be if it wasn't pretty clear that religion's influence is waning all over the developed world and that countries with the greatest populations of atheists are the happiest overall.

I think this is more because we have a world where most places have religion, and shun atheism.
Those that allow both, thrive much better.

However, if it was reversed... if we had a world where most places had atheism, and shunned religion... I think we'd be in a very similar place. And, again, it would be those areas that allowed both that would thrive.
Which means, in such a world... it would be equivalent for your counterpart to say that "obviously, religion is much healthier overall!"

I think it's a problem to think one or the other is better "in general."
I think they should be used as tools for people.
I think different people require different tools.
I think, in regarding humanity as a whole, we will only work through to be "happiest overall" when we find a way to allow both. By "both" I actually mean "all." That is, any tool and every tool that can be used personally and not affect others negatively.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 106 by Tangle, posted 06-15-2017 2:27 PM Tangle has responded

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Stile
Member
Posts: 4042
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004


Message 110 of 182 (812258)
06-15-2017 4:13 PM
Reply to: Message 109 by Tangle
06-15-2017 3:13 PM


Tangle writes:

But there are some other less benign religions that do feel that it matters what religions real purpose is and are prepared to do some despicable things to help it along.

Despicable things should be stopped because they are despicable. Regardless of what type of people do them or why.

I also think that it really does matter that adults rely on imaginary beings to make them feel better about themselves - that's not healthy.

I think you're wrong.

Humans have had instincts that rely on imaginary things to make them feel better and keep them safe since before we evolved into "humans."

That's very healthy.
If it wasn't, we either would have evolved other "healthy" mechanisms... or died out as a species long, long ago.

It certainly may not be healthy for you. As it isn't for me.
But there are many things that are not healthy for me, but very healthy for other people.

I don't see a reason to deprive them of it.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 109 by Tangle, posted 06-15-2017 3:13 PM Tangle has responded

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Stile
Member
Posts: 4042
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004


(1)
Message 126 of 182 (812669)
06-19-2017 9:23 AM
Reply to: Message 111 by Tangle
06-15-2017 5:12 PM


Tangle writes:

Sure, but still they do it at least partly because the believe a fiction. Removing the fiction (of religion) would remove the problem.

I agree.

The same that I agree that bombs that kill many, many people use electronics. And if we removed all electronics, then we remove the problem.

I agree that you speak the truth.
But I think your suggested solution is silly with regards to the benefits that can also come from religion if used correctly.

There are bans and restrictions on electronics such that those who want to make bombs that kill people cannot easily do so. And if found out, they are punished.

I would certainly agree with bans and restriction on religion such that those who want to use to hurt others cannot easily do so. And if found out, they should be punished.

But I don't agree that all religion should be removed, the same as I don't agree that all electronics should be removed.
Because there's a lot of good, helpful things than can come from both.

We've come along way since we lived in caves and played kill or be killed without iPads. Why do you think we still need these ridiculous imaginary beings?

Because some people still receive many, many benefits from them.
Some people beyond that even find that religion is the only place they can receive such benefits.

I wouldn't want people restricting my atheism just because a bunch of crazy atheists went around killing people.
There are obvious, simple ways that show how atheism can be understood peacefully.
And there are likely obvious ways that would show that the crazy killers have other reasons anyway (like hatred).

Therefore, I don't want to restrict religion just because a bunch of crazy religionists go around killing people.
There are obvious, simple ways that show how religion can be understood peacefully.
And there are obvious ways that show that the crazy killer have other reasons anyway (like hatred).

Religion is simply, currently, a really good excuse for people to control and use the power of hatred in others.
There are many, many other ways to control by fear and use hatred.

Removing religion won't give you the solution you're looking for.
And it would definitely hurt many, many innocent people.

Find another solution.
(I recommend focusing on the actual problem - irrational hatred).


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