Author Topic: ...let us ask: 'why do we push for, or against 'free will'  (Read 792 times)

Pat Johnston

  • Moderator
  • Newbie
  • *****
  • Posts: 37
Instead of the usual 'is there free will', let's ask, 'why do we push for, or against it?  After all, it may help to let a little honest introspection set out one's biases before us. 

To start, this topic received some early attention in the comments of the topics queue.

[Editor’s note: quoted posts are now posted properly under the names of their corresponding posters.]

Ryan Evans

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 19
Re: ...let us ask: 'why do we push for, or against 'free will'
« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2014, 10:28 PM »
I find it difficult to contemplate free will questions without basing the philosophical arguments through a subjective lens of one's understanding regarding the nature of reality.

If one views through a mechanistic  materialism lens, with consideration of the QM implications and  naturalistic processes equating brain matter with mind, then free will results in the last analysis of an illusion at best or impossible at worst. If all thoughts are simply electro-chemical inevitabilities then all thoughts are subjugated by intrinsic materialistic uncertainties within the physical nature of energy/matter. Ironically, in my view, super-conscious postulating of the nature of will is incompatible with a strictly materialistic view of consciousness genesis.

If one views through a reality of differentiated levels of materialism/immaterialism (physical, mindal/spiritual/deified/undeified/etc) then incompatiabilism is irrelevant and meaningless. The determinism of existential destiny, held supermaterially within an external level/being, and the and the individual free will choices within one's mind and within material reality can either diverge or converge depending on individual desire. Likewise, if the mind =/= brain matter (supermaterial consciousness utilizing material matter as a computational matrix) then the inevitabilities of QM aren't over controlling will expression or lack thereof. Similarly,  M-theory postulations of continuously growing and diverging multiverse inevitabilities become less problematic since the over control of destiny resides within an external eternal actuality/infinite upholder/absolute potentiality/first source.

Like most philosophical topics, the nature of everything is still contemplated within an incompletely understood physical reality thereby necessitating subjective belief structures must impact one's analysis - objective reasoning impossibility, IMO.

So as for your most valuable question, in my humble opinion #1, the philosophy of free will is valuable but meaningless. Ethically, it is meaningful but the potential conclusion against free will is dire to society or existential destinies. Can society even create laws against that which is personally inevitable and utilize collective subjective justice against predefined actualizing of individual potentialities?

The final person is the agnostic/atheist which does not possess either of the above views of reality because nothing is proven in totality within physical validation of reality hypotheses - the lack of proof. Therein is the philosophical murkiness where either side of the free will debate can be logically and philosophically rationalized but i would contend that said murkiness must eventually conclude with "I cannot know and I do not know that I actually desire to know".

Pat Johnston

  • Moderator
  • Newbie
  • *****
  • Posts: 37
Re: ...let us ask: 'why do we push for, or against 'free will'
« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2014, 10:28 PM »
Ryan…
Distinctions in our 'world views' aside, for someone to posit that "...all thoughts are electrochemical inevitabilities ... and subjugated by intrinsic materialistic uncertainties within the physical nature of energy/matter." ...is merely begging the question by presupposing without substantiating one view countering the principle doubt the question aims to resolve. Seeing this, one would further ask if any of these subjective outlooks would be considered 'open minded' in the sense that a fair inquiry would have it.

Ryan Evans

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 19
Re: ...let us ask: 'why do we push for, or against 'free will'
« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2014, 10:29 PM »
Generally I meant that it is near inevitable to have some level of subconscious desire to rationalize one's beliefs when contemplating free will. As such, people argue for or against it in accordance with underlying belief structures.

As for confusion 1: the absence of free will, or the illusion, seems an inevitable conclusion, fully able to be philosophically argued, according to naturalism or mechanistic materialism. As such, the implications of ethics and social morals in society are perplexing, if individual potentials must be actuated.

Value corresponds to the discovery of truth, meaningful means the experiencing of values. So the determination of free will truth is valuable but it would not change our experiential life so it has no meaningful implication. If free will exists, people continue to act upon volitional desire. If free will is an illusion, people continue to believe they act upon volitional desire.

As for confusion 2: my above views on foundational belief, and corresponding implications to mind and consciousness, naturally beg the question of a philosophical argument toward/against free will. So it seems that an open minded or objective analysis of free will is impossible. Both sides of for/against free will possess sound philosophical arguments IMO. Do you think objectivity is possible?

Pat Johnston

  • Moderator
  • Newbie
  • *****
  • Posts: 37
Re: ...let us ask: 'why do we push for, or against 'free will'
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2014, 10:30 PM »
Quote
from: Ryan Evans on February 24, 2014, 08:55 AM
Generally I meant that it is near inevitable to have some level of subconscious desire to rationalize one's beliefs when contemplating free will. As such, people argue for or against it in accordance with underlying belief structures.

These people would then be caught in a rationalist paradigm, in which presumption precludes inquiry. To begin with, 'belief' is a transitory concept, as it is dependent on finite data sets. To inquire is not to argue or to rationalize. It is to explore, discover and if possible, validate whatever may be. Preconceptions are to be left at the door. I make reference to the idea of an 'honest witness' in the first open question for this reason.

Quote
from: Ryan Evans on February 24, 2014, 08:55 AM
As for confusion 1: the absence of free will, or the illusion, seems an inevitable conclusion, fully able to be philosophically argued, according to naturalism or mechanistic materialism. As such, the implications of ethics and social morals in society are perplexing, if individual potentials must be actuated.

'Fully able' is questionable because most arguments I hear for/against are founded on unsubstantiated premise and/or assumption.  By far the most typical assumption I see, is that it is a given that the manifestation of 'free will' is an 'all or nothing' proposition. Why is this so?  We have numerous examples of phenomena that manifest only under limited conditions and to varying degrees. The periodic table contains a number of very rare elements, some of which do not exist under the natural conditions of our local environs. Another presumption is that it needs be proven in a universal context (I recall you referenced infinity/eternity elsewhere) - again why would this be so? Relativity and its corollary 'proximity' are a proven determinant factor of reality. 

Without substantiation, any such conclusion is begging the question. Naturalism and mechanistic materialism both must acknowledge the severely restrictive ( and, I might emphasize, self-imposed) finite data sets upon which they can base conclusions, and withhold such conclusions wherever substantiating datasets are lacking. So far, what we have is a great number of working and still emerging theories.

I'm also unclear as to why the presumption that individual potentials must be actuated in all cases? Particularly if multiple potential actualizations of an individual could theoretically be simultaneously in play? This seems to allow a preconception of the fatalist view, which leads me to wonder as example in contrast: when someone like Einstein set out at the start to frame his theories around matter, energy and relativity, do you think his going in position was something along the lines of "we cannot know that we will ever know such and such...".  My point is that this is not a premise of logic, but rather a position of attitude, and as I have said often, "our foremost asset is our attitude."

Quote
from: Ryan Evans on February 24, 2014, 08:55 AM
Value corresponds to the discovery of truth, meaningful means the experiencing of values. So the determination of free will truth is valuable but it would not change our experiential life so it has no meaningful implication. If free will exists, people continue to act upon volitional desire. If free will is an illusion, people continue to believe they act upon volitional desire.

I am of the understanding that values actually correlate to beliefs, because of their subjective, conditional and transitory nature. They are circumstantial - allegiances can swing on a dime.  Principles on the other hand are said objective, independent and consistent, and so would correlate more legitimately to truths. From my own experience, I would say that actions predicated and reasoned on principles carry far more meaning than the ephemeral satisfaction gain from value-triggered impulses. There is no (or at least, far less, if allowing for conflicting circumstances) post hoc guilt association triggered from principle-based actions.  In this context, the concept of free will would carry a legitimate weight of difference towards the conscious pursuit of principle based actions. Pursuit of volitional desire may then not only be irrelevant to the purpose of free will, it may actually hinder and contradict it. A giving in to the deterministic undertow of our lives...

Quote
from: Ryan Evans on February 24, 2014, 08:55 AM
As for confusion 2: my above views on foundational belief, and corresponding implications to mind and consciousness, naturally beg the question of a philosophical argument toward/against free will. So it seems that an open minded or objective analysis of free will is impossible. Both sides of for/against free will possess sound philosophical arguments IMO. Do you think objectivity is possible?

It seems your view on foundational belief is predicated on pre-established bias, which may have some validity, but as I say, such presumption of bias can be identified and removed (or at least noted openly) if the dualist paradigm (to argue for/against) is dismissed in favor of a conscious pursuit of principle-based inquiry. In willfully holding to this aim alone, judgment may be reserved for an open minded consideration of the facts, the absence of facts, the import of bias, and the open possibilities, regardless of the consequent position they may take you.

Though you likely understand this, I should also point out that the challenge of objectivity is not exclusive to the inquiry into free will. It is the first hurdle to all philosophical inquiry. Failing it falls back into solipsism. The means to account for it - that it takes a seemingly small leap of faith to trust in the correlation of facts - validation - with beings other than my 'self', to progress a common body of knowledge.

Ryan Evans

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 19
Re: ...let us ask: 'why do we push for, or against 'free will'
« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2014, 10:30 PM »
I must say that I agree with everything you've said (actually I tried to convey the same thoughts with much less clarity, clearly).

That was why I brought up functional belief implications: to suppose that is the cause of pushing for either (or some compatible admixture) side of the free will metaphysical question.

I wholly agree with the uncertainties you mentioned in belief foundations and that was the genesis for my supposition of meaninglessness. Similarly, that is why I believe that an honest witness is impossible - their witnessing is subjected to their existential constraints (whatever they may be).

By "fully able" I meant logically sound with respect to the subjective presuppositions of postulates. For example, the reference of known unknowns, unverifiable knowns, or unknown unknowns in "arguments" for or against free will.

Quote
It seems your view on foundational belief is predicated on pre-established bias, which may have some validity, but as I say, such presumption of bias can be identified and removed (or at least noted openly) if the dualist paradigm (to argue for/against) is dismissed in favor of a conscious pursuit of principle-based inquiry. In willfully holding to this aim alone, judgment may be reserved for an open minded consideration of the facts, the absence of facts, the import of bias, and the open possibilities, regardless of the consequent position they may take you.

I fully agree

Andreas Geisler

  • Moderator
  • Full Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 117
Re: ...let us ask: 'why do we push for, or against 'free will'
« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2014, 11:24 PM »
I don't know.
I don't even know if I am pushing for or against it.
Or if it is a meaningful term to begin with.

Look at the world: Is "free will" that we make choices? If so, what is making choices? We act in certain ways, and as a result of our actions, our options change. Is this "making a choice"? If so, then "free will" is a matter of observation.
Is "free will" that we have some kind of choosing agency, that can override basic cognition? If so, "free will" seems a complete fantasy, a bit of wishful thinking.

Pat Johnston

  • Moderator
  • Newbie
  • *****
  • Posts: 37
Re: ...let us ask: 'why do we push for, or against 'free will'
« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2014, 12:15 AM »
I don't know.
I don't even know if I am pushing for or against it.
Or if it is a meaningful term to begin with.

...a beginning is a beginning, whether stumbling as I have in launching this child board (a newbie moderator), or even by saying that you "don't know" to start... Does this infer that what you're going to say next is likely supposition? ...or on the other hand, will you impart some new and maybe unexpected perspectives? Either way, an honest start...

If 'free will' is to ever have any meaning amongst civilized and level headed minds, then this question should be laid bare before everyone: What compels us to argue for or against it? Get that out on the table, at least...

Look at the world: Is "free will" that we make choices?
If so, what is making choices? We act in certain ways, and as a result of our actions, our options change. Is this "making a choice"? If so, then "free will" is a matter of observation.

...that is starting to get at the question, but not all the way there yet, I don't think - saying simply that free will is our choices, is far too much an unsubstantiated generalization. Surely you see that what "makes the choice" may well vary, just as everything else about a given situation can vary. Free will's meaning should be such that it goes beyond a matter of blanket assumption and mere observation.

We don't just "act in certain ways". We think, question, reflect, reason, feel, react, reconsider, etc., and the ways by which we do this are by no means "certain" nor simple. Many things may change as a result, not just our "options". We ourselves may change as a result, and often we do.

There's no point splitting hairs about choice and outcome. They are a paired logical set. If reality is unfolding as it will, and as sentient constituents of that unfolding reality we can become cognitively aware of the patterns in its unfolding, then observing the pattern is one thing, intentionally altering or not altering it where it involves us, would be yet another thing.

Is "free will" that we have some kind of choosing agency, that can override basic cognition? If so, "free will" seems a complete fantasy, a bit of wishful thinking.

..."override basic cognition"? ...cognition, as in 'the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.?' Are you certain this is what you mean? This does not logically follow. What use could such a faculty be to anyone?  And why presume free will would operate outside of the context of one's own understanding? It won't be acting in a 'vacuum', because we are not in a 'vacuum', not in a reality void of circumstance and context. This would presuppose a complete irrationality to it. Like a madman's drive to fumble around in the darkness.  

Neither does it logically follow that, even if you assume it overrides cognition, then that makes it a defacto "fantasy" and/or"wishful thinking". Why would it? Just because it would be presupposed an impossible act otherwise? This is all just further begging the question. Suggesting it is experience that is driving experience, so not addressing the key question - does our presence and our will make a difference?

Through observation, most of our decisions are about allowing, or not allowing (consciously or otherwise) our habituations to play out, as impetus and pattern and other causal forces not self initiated, would otherwise have them do. The question is - is any of it free, or even capable, with any measure of effort, of being free?

I am aware that I carry a personal bias pro free will. I would be clear that this is an experience based bias, and not of any theistic formation. Neither is its weighting sufficient by itself to settle the question for me. The closest I can come to describing my view of things is to say that it is 'will, striving to be free'.

...Andreas, would it be fare to say that your comment indicates your initial bias con free will?

If I may, the following quote is a comment you offered earlier in response to the free will topics queue:

No matter the definition of free will, considering neurology (i.e. assuming that the world is true, more or less as we perceive it), it seems to me that it is impossible to posit a separate choosing agent. I.e. the whole process of cognition, is the making of choice.
Under that, and lending from Dennett’s model of the consciousness as a narrative about choices made, “free will” is the experience of cognition making choices, despite no separate “chooser” existing.


(...apologies if this is taken out of context, but...)
...a 'narrative' requires a 'narrator', else it can't exist. And I would simplify the model to outline a possible error:  cognition is 'seeing', not doing. It is taking in and digesting. A rational mind, outfitted with adaptive reasoning, should be sufficiently able to generate a balanced understanding from most context.  But that only prepares visualization of sorts - a 'mental map'. So I don't agree that cognition makes choices by itself.  Cognition by itself falls short of enactment, though it is ubiquitous, so it is fair to say it is working as we act. Impetus has other origins, and in looking past autonomic, impulsive, emotional and other sub-conscious and/or irrational drivers, a free will would lend itself more to the 'doing' we can affect, upon clear reflection of that understanding - in effect moving through reality, map in hand. The choice of route is ours (...our limited 'agency' at least), and the 'moving through reality' part, not the preparing of the map, is where I think free will might have a say, and where such an inquiry should focus...

But on the basis of neurological evidence and theory alone, you would have us arbitrarily believe that our reasoning's, and not a 'reasoner', have form and matter? I'm not prepared to cede to that belief without a lot more proof.

Alain Van Hout

  • Moderator
  • Newbie
  • *****
  • Posts: 34
Re: ...let us ask: 'why do we push for, or against 'free will'
« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2014, 01:46 AM »
...a 'narrative' requires a 'narrator', else it can't exist.

I have to disagree with that statement: narration, in the way Andreas mentioned it, seems to refer to the internal monologue + apophenic catalog of events that the (human) mental model of the world seems to be (at least partly) based on. It's purely the way in which our brain organised the data that has been received and processed. Seismograph and spectrometers do something very similar, albeit much less complex, without the need for an actual narrator. We're biological machines after all.

Andreas Geisler

  • Moderator
  • Full Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 117
Re: ...let us ask: 'why do we push for, or against 'free will'
« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2014, 03:42 AM »
Alain is exactly correct about my use of "narrative", it is simply a catalogueing of events, more or less chronologically, with some rationalization thrown in.

And my point here is, we can't discuss why we are for or against "free will", or even know whether we are for or against it, until we know exactly what is meant by "free will". If it is just referring to "the feeling that we make our choices on purpose", then we should say that up front.

To clarify my dichotomy: in the first case, it can all deterministic with no way for us to tell that it is not, there might be nothing "free" about it. In the second case, which is the only sense where "free" makes sense, there would have to be some non-deterministic process capable of interfering with the potentially deterministic process of cognition. And that doesn't seem likely enough to even consider.

Pat Johnston

  • Moderator
  • Newbie
  • *****
  • Posts: 37
Re: ...let us ask: 'why do we push for, or against 'free will'
« Reply #10 on: March 13, 2014, 10:06 PM »
I have to disagree with that statement: narration, in the way Andreas mentioned it, seems to refer to the internal monologue + apophenic catalog of events that the (human) mental model of the world seems to be (at least partly) based on. It's purely the way in which our brain organised the data that has been received and processed. Seismograph and spectrometers do something very similar, albeit much less complex, without the need for an actual narrator. We're biological machines after all.

Alain,
...fair enough and my apologies to Andreas for the intentional misread, but yes, we should be careful with our words. An astute intellect is certainly keen enough to pick up the nuance of an expression's intended use, especially as we can context it with other thoughts available to us from the speaker, and generally said, 'glean' (induct) the true perspective they are conveying. By way of honing in, this is exactly the point. Even the alternate term  'internal monologue' that you use suggests 'discrete speaker' in its stock meaning. Whether formation of our ideas and views are partly apophenic or not as you say,  the framing of any coherent perspectives would be impossible to differentiate from random chaotic noise, without allowance for the intelligent and reflective observer. Seismographs and spectrometers themselves being invented tools, would not exist without such a discrete being perspective.

So then, 'data intelligently organized' for what attention, but that of the said 'discrete observer'? The paradox of the 'discrete observer' and the question of its separability from the observed, is the central vexing question - yet to be reconciled as to it being a veridical, falsidical, or other, less reconcilable class of paradox.

If I continue to take words and phrases to heart, expressions like "seems to be" and "at least partly", can be used in many ways in one's speaking style - as often to sow seeds of false doubt not actually existent in one's views, as to convey honest uncertainty. But your intent is made a bit clearer when you follow with the expression "Its purely the way in which..." ...which begs a question of meaning: is it "seems to be" and "at least partly" is, or "purely the way" it is? I don't need an answer to this rhetorical question - I recognize that it is a sort of soft peddling that one uses to convey an underlying assertion - it is a familiar, habitual speaking style in English, and also reveals (to me at least) both a 'discrete observer' status in maneuvering to a point, and a possible preexistent bias to the question at hand.

In a similar vein, I get your implied meaning, but look at the word 'machine' as you use it: "biological machines", and contrast it with the word's actual meaning (from wiki http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machine )
Quote
" A machine is a tool containing one or more parts that uses energy to perform an intended action. "
Ergo, what 'machine' (tool) exists that was not wrought by some intention in it's origins? My thought here is that calling us "biological machines" does not really play well into the idea (bias?) you are trying to convey. Perhaps it is better to describe us as an 'emergent coalescing of homeostatic biological functions', or something suitably similar, to leave open the idea that our apparent observer status may have wholly natural origins.

Regardless, it is conceivable that we may be selfless "biological machines", but by no means proven, and hampered as a counterintuitive premise. That itself, of course, is yet another bias to account for.


...with some rationalization thrown in.

Andreas,
..."rationalization" hmm... well - here is another term that is somewhat meaningless without allowance for the 'one of reflective intelligence, doing the rationalizing'... but will not belabor the point as I expect it's pro/con biases are a little clearer now...

And my point here is, we can't discuss why we are for or against "free will", or even know whether we are for or against it, until we know exactly what is meant by "free will". If it is just referring to "the feeling that we make our choices on purpose", then we should say that up front.

Ok, first to level set, I did include in the Free Will Topics Queue post, two references for extensive background and definition to the term (see the Wikipedia and SEP links therein) They both speak to the definition itself as well as to outline an array of the philosophical positions taken on the topic. Contexted by these sources, it is clearly not enough to say it is simply a "... feeling that we make our choices on purpose ..." - this statement is fairly primitive to current understanding as it makes no effort to separate out and discount rooted bias towards impulses, and presents an unsubstantiated generalization - that proponents presume it to be ubiquitous.  By contrast, you could have said: "...the idea that we have the potential to make some choices on purpose..." etc.

I think the commonly implied meaning is this: people don't say "free will exists, like radiation". They say "we do, or do not (or are unsure that we) have free will", as an ability. Implicit in this is the speculation that we have some provision for autonomous agency in events that we personally can and/or want to affect. It is clearly meant as contextual to the discrete observer perspective. "Free" here means causal origin at the discrete observer's implied liberty of will, not 'free' of all laws of nature.

Assuming we have potential for it in principle and can exercise it in practice, another aspect of its definition is its potential variability within agents - my free will would not be your free will - in consideration, by its outcome my willing may even impede yours. Also, my free will of this moment may not be of the same capacity as it is in the next or last moments, as itself may vary within me circumstantially, as progressives and impediments play into its accord. Were I, for example, to develop Alzheimer's later in life, I would sadly expect such potential to be fully extinguished.

In the proofs / disproofs set forth over the years, most effort attending to these claims is to show the claimants numerous examples of where their assumption could be proven false in given cases by such and such demonstrable habituation or impulse driven act, but this only defeats the as said unsubstantiated ubiquitousness. Ironically, considerations for its potential to be of a contextual and variable nature are precisely why I put forth the first (now parked) topical question " Is there legitimate differentiation by degrees of freedom, versus constraint, in causal agency?"

It is such abroad and explored topic, that I thought it better to first focus on clarifying our individual biases, so that they can be accounted for as we proceed with a fresh start here.

To clarify my dichotomy: in the first case, it can all <be> deterministic with no way for us to tell that it is not, there might be nothing "free" about it. In the second case, which is the only sense where "free" makes sense, there would have to be some non-deterministic process capable of interfering with the potentially deterministic process of cognition. And that doesn't seem likely enough to even consider.

If one first recognizes that we have discrete observer perspectives, even though the inherent paradox has yet to be reconciled, then your "dichotomy" is really just that - 'yours' (and please mark that this is the language you are using). That is, an arbitrary formulation of your perspectives, and without attending to the question of this post, of your inherent bias in your possible understanding, as well.

It is not necessary to imagine some non deterministic process to be fashioned - only that freely willed actions root their causal origin here within us. Yes, that is an extremely difficult premise to prove. And I've already stated earlier that free will would logically operate complementary to cognition, drawing on it in an informed and reasoned manner, as the means of setting vector to aim, and diminishing to nil, the greater deterministic impetus of any counter-weighting causal bias (such as habituation, etc.) that might impede the certainty of our chosen aim/outcome. From the SEP reference, which gives us a broad set of tools for thinking about this, both compatibilist notions of 'origin of cause'/'notional deliberation' and 'guidance control' forms, as well as incompatiblist notions of 'selective/limited indeterminacy' and 'personal causality', might accommodate this idea.

Back to the point of the current question, if an open and balanced inquiry is our aim, then our active bias should be the first thing we'd wish to acknowledge and stand out in the common daylight of shared awareness as we proceed...

 

Andreas Geisler

  • Moderator
  • Full Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 117
Re: ...let us ask: 'why do we push for, or against 'free will'
« Reply #11 on: March 14, 2014, 01:34 AM »
"Free" here means causal origin at the discrete observer's implied liberty of will, not 'free' of all laws of nature.
and
Quote
It is not necessary to imagine some non deterministic process to be fashioned - only that freely willed actions root their causal origin here within us. Yes, that is an extremely difficult premise to prove. And I've already stated earlier that free will would logically operate complementary to cognition, drawing on it in an informed and reasoned manner, as the means of setting vector to aim, and diminishing to nil, the greater deterministic impetus of any counter-weighting causal bias (such as habituation, etc.) that might impede the certainty of our chosen aim/outcome. From the SEP reference, which gives us a broad set of tools for thinking about this, both compatibilist notions of 'origin of cause'/'notional deliberation' and 'guidance control' forms, as well as incompatiblist notions of 'selective/limited indeterminacy' and 'personal causality', might accommodate this idea.

Again, if "here within us" means that our brains do it, then "free will" is a strange name for a clearly observable and testable fact, no mysteries at all about that.
If "here within us" means inside the superficial construct experience that is our consciousness, then that would need to be qualified first, but on the whole it seems incredibly unlikely, and also seems to have been already disproven by neurology.

Alain Van Hout

  • Moderator
  • Newbie
  • *****
  • Posts: 34
Re: ...let us ask: 'why do we push for, or against 'free will'
« Reply #12 on: March 14, 2014, 07:25 AM »
In a similar vein, I get your implied meaning, but look at the word 'machine' as you use it: "biological machines", and contrast it with the word's actual meaning (from wiki http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machine )
Quote
" A machine is a tool containing one or more parts that uses energy to perform an intended action. "
Ergo, what 'machine' (tool) exists that was not wrought by some intention in it's origins? My thought here is that calling us "biological machines" does not really play well into the idea (bias?) you are trying to convey. Perhaps it is better to describe us as an 'emergent coalescing of homeostatic biological functions', or something suitably similar, to leave open the idea that our apparent observer status may have wholly natural origins.

I'm sorry, but that's a matter of cherry picking: when looking up the definitions listed by Myriam-Webster, one among them is
Quote
an assemblage of parts that transmit forces, motion, and energy one to another in a predetermined manner (2) :  an instrument (as a lever) designed to transmit or modify the application of power, force, or motion
This fully encompasses humans (and other organisms) as machines. More generally though, when interpreting what a person is saying, I typically try to grasp (which varying degrees of success) which of the multiple meanings for a term they it seems they are referring to (applying the 'principle of charity', so to speak).

Quote
Regardless, it is conceivable that we may be selfless "biological machines", but by no means proven, and hampered as a counterintuitive premise. That itself, of course, is yet another bias to account for.

No, I have to disagree there: from all we've learned through science in the past few hundred years, humans are very much 'biological machines'. The free will debate depends either on there being an additional component that transcends that (when entertaining dualistic free will) or requires the 'biological machine' to provide some manner for free will to be present a part of the machine (when entertaining the compatibilist notion of free will).

Quote
"Free" here means causal origin at the discrete observer's implied liberty of will, not 'free' of all laws of nature.

This unfortunately does nothing to resolve or define the vagueness of the 'free' in 'free will', since it defines/describes 'free' as a matter of 'implied liberty of will' (i.e. the assumed 'freedom associated with will'). As far as I can see that's about as circular a definition as is possible. Saying that this notion of 'free' does not mean 'freedom from the laws of nature' does nothing to undo the fact that no actual definition is given.

As Andreas already mentioned, we need a definition of free will to be able to say anything reasonable about it. To that end, let me suggest the following:'free will' is the mental impression / feeling which people typically have that their actions are not purely the result of physical causality (or pure randomness).

From a biological point of view that's not very difficult to explain, since a sense of self is a powerful tool is self-preservation, particularly in a species that is able to mentally model reality without having the individual's own existence as the focal point, which could run counter to self-preservation. Additionally, it could be related to mental modelling run rampant, where 'theory of mind' turns in on itself. As such, from a scientific viewpoint, all that would suffice as an clarification of 'free will' that makes the concept unremarkable, unless there is some evidence to suggest that there's more to this impression/feeling that simply being an impression/feeling. Is there?

Andreas Geisler

  • Moderator
  • Full Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 117
Re: ...let us ask: 'why do we push for, or against 'free will'
« Reply #13 on: March 15, 2014, 02:32 PM »
Again, I feel that this is a contrived problem, in that it either exists or does not exist, depending on what is meant.

The problem, then, is not about whether it exists, but rather about being honest about what one means.

Thomas Schuberth

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 3
Re: ...let us ask: 'why do we push for, or against 'free will'
« Reply #14 on: March 27, 2014, 05:47 PM »
     Many people have significant cognitive dissonance when it comes to the subject of free will, as they are unable to fathom not having it. Is this what you're talking about when you ask about people "pushing for" free will?