Author Topic: What does “free will” mean?  (Read 1921 times)

Offline Eric Bright

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Re: What does “free will” mean?
« Reply #30 on: June 15, 2014, 08:57 PM »
Should we get together for a coffee? Absolutely! I am eagerly looking forward to getting together with you. I live in downtown Vancouver, BC, Canada. If you happened to be in the town, please drop me a line and I will make sure that I won't miss that great opportunity to see you and to enjoy your precious company.

Regarding my lack of proper comprehension of some of your remarks, I must say that I am not a very smart person. I am the most ordinary person you can find in Vancouver. I have a terrible memory (much worse than the memory foam mattresses. At least they don’t forget that they are memory foam mattresses, whereas I am not sure if I can remember who I am). Although I am not autistic, but something in me tells me that I lack many skills that many people posses or take for granted. Your only hope to make me understand what you are talking about is to assume that you are talking to a six-years old child. That is, if you don’t want to waste your time saying something over and over again while I am sitting here, staring at you with a perplexed look on my face.

If I may, I would like to get back to our discussion, now.

I see where the issue lies (please correct me if I am wrong):

I say the entire enterprise is physics.

You say that mental events, as emergent physical phenomena, can be real, might play a role, and might be non-physical.

This is a gross simplification of your and my main points, I think. However, if this is close to how you think about the issue, then we are on the same page for the most parts. (You see, the problem of me not properly getting your points is that I perpetually feel that I am unintentionally attacking a straw man, or if I want to shift the blame to you, I feel that the post-goal is moved, even if it is not.)

Here is what you said regarding the physicality of the matter:

There is a POV to help shape my argument for variability in the definition.  In the simplest life forms there is no distinction between ‘impulse’ and ’will’.  Moderately advanced states of will arise by exception in only the most complex of animal life forms that begin to exhibit cognitive discretion and very rudimentary choice, distinct from impulse, though clearly limited in emotional array and attentive drive.  But only in a human with the advancements of triune brain complexity is there something that may clearly distinguish impulse from discretionary will, while adding to instinct and emotion a 3rd reflective component that produces adaptive reason and opportunities for fully volitional control.

This is an excellent description of the phenomenon we call will or volition. This is also what Daniel Dennett calls “intentional stance.” The same observation also holds for language, technology, and many other things that humans have/do but other animals either don’t have/do or have it in rudimentary ways.


Regardless, none of this needs a supernatural basis for its plausibility, but it sets one possible framework to understand that decision making, willed follow-through, and a ‘sense-of-self’ (the “I” you refer to) may be emergent concepts and properties of a wholly natural basis, and not simply non-real illusions, or after-echoes of autonomic machines, as is often argued.


One philosophical tether that I hang onto as I reason this out is that I don’t lose sight of our finiteness – this is the reason I say all these properties, if they exist, do so within a sea of determined reality, not apart from it. [...]

These where your words on the physicality of the phenomenon.

And this is when you suggested that it might, actually, be non-physical after all:

Eric, you might ask pointedly why I don’t simply ‘give up the ghost’ on this one [...].  The answer is simple, and is as you suggest: [despite all you said] With these counters and my tether, it just isn’t that overwhelming an argument to me, to say that there is no physical way for a biological construct to give provision for fully volitional decision making. [...]

So, you do think that there is a ‘ghost’ in the machine after all, because you equated the ‘ghost’ to the emergence of “fully volitional decision making.”

And the fact that you see the “paradox” yourself tells us that you do think, simultaneously, that it might be both physical and non-physical:

I should think the philosophical paradox this argument presents is the real question: How does something like ‘true localized autonomy and directional action’ emerge as a discretely operating finite property, in such a sea of causal determinism?

If everything in your view of the physical world was coherently reconciled in your interpretations of the world, then there would not have been a perceived “paradox” to worry about. There is a divide (and a visible contempt) in your understanding of materialism compared to what materialism actually is that you perceive as a paradox. Although the logical part of this paradox is simple to deal with, there is no easy way to fix the contempt part.

You think that determinism entails the non-existence of will and volition, or what you called “fully volitional decision making”:

[materialism entails that] there is no physical way for a biological construct to give provision for fully volitional decision making. [...]

So, there are five things in here that I would like to address:
1- Does determinism entail non-existence of will or volition?
2- What do you mean by “fully” in “fully volitional decision making”?
3- “...every single discovery...”?
4- Is will/volition physical?
5- Is will/volition non-physical? (the answer to 4 will answer this one and vice versa.)

1- Does determinism entail non-existence of will or volition?
I have not seen any determinist who seriously denies that mental events actually happen, or deny that abstract ideas do exist in the mind of people and in books. I have not seen even one of them who denies those. However, I can safely assume that there are a few who actually say so and I have no idea how they justify their stance.

So far as determinism and physics are concerned, there is absolutely no valid argument made, that I am aware of, that could remotely suggest that mental events do not or cannot exist. Nor have I seen any argument that could have demonstrate that abstractions by physical entities is impossible. That would have been the most absurd kind of argument, because it immediately clashes with the mountains of abstractions and mental images that passes through our brains every single minute. It clashes with our direct observations, period.

I am not going to waste our time proving that mental events do occur, abstractions also happen in our minds, we do experience will and volition, and we do control our environment by choice as well as by necessity; specially not with arguments. Observation alone is enough to establish these facts.

I can see that the term “physics” rubs many, including you, the wrong way. But, I am going to suggest that it should not (and hopefully prove it).

Also I am going to suggest that the tradition of using the term “physical” and “material” in pejorative ways must cease for good reasons.

By “physics” and “physical” I mean anything that is not beyond natural, anything that is not supernatural, anything that is not metaphysical. That is all. By physical, I am excluding the logical impossibility of supernatural (the term which is an oxymoron and an ugly contradiction anyway).

When we realize that all there is, is nothing but physical, then there is nothing to be ashamed of. The abstractions are physical, the images, the mental events, all of them are things that physical things do. They do it all the time on this planet at least. It is THE norm for physics, on the planet earth, to generate mental events, images, abstractions, volitions, to will, to choose, to change its mind, to make its mind, to have a mind, and a zillion other things related to these events. These regularly happen, thanks to what physics allows, in the biosphere of the earth. The number of times that these events occur on earth is so huge that it cannot easily be fathomed; at least not by me.

No one is trying to argue that life does not exists on earth. I have not come across any determinist who has ever said that life is impossible. Wouldn’t that be ludicrous to even suggest such a hypothesis at the face of, well, EVERYTHING to the contrary? What does make our mental lives any different? By the same token, nothing, I suggest. Our mental lives occur as intensely as our non-mental lives.

Anyone who is worthy of his kindergarten’s diploma (there is such a thing, isn’t there?) would immediately find it unspeakably ridiculous to deny the existence of mental events, the existence of will/volition, the existence of images and abstractions in human minds, and such. Why should anyone even think about proving/disproving these events is beyond me.

It might sound as much ridiculous but I must say, just for the records, that I also am humbled by the weight of the direct evidence that conclusively, 100%, certainly, show that all the aforementioned mental phenomena do occur zillions of times every second of every day on planet earth. It looks, to me, that they are rather the norm than exceptions.

The only other clarification that I strongly feel compelled to make is that “these are all the things that hydrogen atoms do, given enough time.” Why should that be taken as pejorative or less marvellous than any other probable proposition? What is wrong with hydrogen atoms? Why so such animosity towards the reality of the fact that hydrogen atoms do awesome things, including willing and choosing and controlling?

Determinism, therefore, not only entails the existence of will/volition, but also that is THE only thing that can happen given the configuration of a system that does the willing. Only things that CAN happen, does happen, and since will/volition does happen, then must be allowed by determinism.

[...] as much as abstracts convey logical weight, my counters are in “real-world observation” [...]. With these counters and my tether, it just isn’t that overwhelming an argument to me, to say that there is no physical way for a biological construct to give provision for fully volitional decision making.

Who said that “there is no physical way for a biological construct to give provision for fully volitional decision making”?

Accusing determinism of disallowing will/volition to emerge out of some arrangements of the physical world, and then trying to refute it, is a perfect example of barking up the wrong tree.

2- What do you mean by “fully” in “fully volitional decision making”?
What is the difference between a “fully volitional decision making” and a “volitional decision making”?

Is it where the idea of “free” is supposed to enter the stage? Intuitively, I sense that you are trying to squeeze some ‘ghost’ particles at this junction.

Otherwise, what is the material difference between: “X is working,” and “X is fully working”?

3- “...every single discovery...”?
Please allow me to quote myself in here although you did so in your post, too. I said:

Contrary to what that stance proposes, every single discovery in neuroscience and related sciences tells the same story: that consciousness is nothing but physics and free will as well as consciousness can be reverse-engineered eventually. [...]

And I said:

Neuroscience is showing us, at every single step that it takes, that the brain is made out of stuff that can be studied. This is the lesson of millions of hours of painstaking, lab investigations under strict control measures. [...]


Every turn of every stone only shows us one thing: That the mysteries are of the physical form. If we don’t know it, or even if we fail to know it forever, it is still a physical one.

Then, you referred me to several articles written by different people. As if their personal opinions, now to the benefit of your stance, construct the majority of the opinions in the scientific community, you raised an objection (although, in most cases I still could not see how their point of view could justifiably refute my reasoning, nor did I understand why the matters of fact should be subjected to the vote of the majority at any rate). Your objection was:

[...] the neuroscientific view is not one of unanimous fait accompli, and so I again ask that you please not leap ahead to that conclusion.

You are right that people look at the evidence and make up stories as to how they like the evidence fit their world-view. That is a guaranteed fact. Humans also do not unanimously believe that the earth is a sphere, or that autism almost certainly has nothing to do with vaccination. More people on earth actually firmly believe that evolution is only a hoax. Some also believe that the 12th imam of the Shia sect of Islam has gone into hiding in a well for the past 1200 years or so and will emerge out of it one day to save them and kill all the rest 9including you and I). Millions of people also believe in homeopathy and some call themselves scientists. So, the scientific view on homeopathy is not one of unanimous fait accompli, then?

Unanimity is not a criterion of truth. Also, discoveries and evidence do not mean that people believe in them.

When Galileo was on trial for his discoveries, most parts of the western world believed in a geocentric world, although the evidence was pointing to a different direction.

I was careful not to fall in that trap indeed. I never said everyone believes that evolution is true or the sun is the centre of the local system of star/planet system of which the earth is a member, or the brains cannot do anything that physics disallows. I never said that most scientists believe in these. I never talked about scientists or what they believe. I am talking about the evidence and what we can confirm through repeated experiments, observations, and measuring to the best of our abilities. I am talking about the gathered data and what we can test. I never talked about what stories people tell in order to fit the data into their “scientific” paradigms.

You know that people tell stories, right? I am also convinced that you are very well aware of the fact that most of us, including you and I, try to fit evidence into our belief systems instead of doing the it the other way around, i.e. to discard our failed models in light of new evidence. The story of science, of all disciplines, is filled with instances of people refusing to see the data for what it actually was and trying to massage the data so it would have fit their own interpretation of the world or their pet hypothesis. Galileo’s trial is an obvious example. I do that unintentionally and am sure that every human being does the same.

Ironically, Galileo also is one of the few people of his time who explained the situation most accurately:

In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.
Galileo Galilei

The emphasis in here is on reasoning, not people.

Then saying that, ‘Eric, your reasoning seems valid, but I choose not to accept it’ does not change the validity of the reasoning. It is funny that my argument does not depend on the authority of anyone, not even the scientists. There are several obvious points in the argument that can potentially be tested and refuted by new evidence if they emerge. It does not take anyone’s opinion into account. There are a few simple assumptions in there and they are not hard to verify/refute (I think anyone with a minimum, high-school level, research skill can verify or refute them in less than ten minutes).

By “evidence,” I shall be understood to be talking about, well, evidence, not people, nor people’s opinions.

As such, your objection to my remarks inadvertently knocked down a straw man.

4- Is will/volition physical?
If this is not physical, then it has to be non-physical. But, the universe is made out of hydrogen atoms and energy and a bunch of other natural stuff that we have no idea about and we might never know about; all physical, natural; nothing metaphysical, nothing supernatural.

Aside from that, supernatural, as oxymoronic as this term is, will logically be, always, beyond physics by definition and hence any speculation about them would be, by definition, impossible to verify. But, since the term is based on a contradiction in terms, I am not going to bash it any further. It is logically impossible to bash anything further than showing that it is logically impossible. That is the end of any discussion on any case imaginable.

Now, you have asserted many times that you believe that these emergent phenomena, that we all experience every second of our lives, are within the physical realm. I totally agree with you.

You also believe that the volition is caused by the physical world (it follows from the previous admission. Also, since I showed above that everything that happens in this universe is nothing but physical, then there is no escape from the implications of that observation that, hence, the mental phenomena also is physical).

Then, for some reason that has eluded me thus far, you suddenly turn around and say something to the effect that, ‘something else emerges out of this physical world’.

How can that happen? If the universe, i.e. all what exists, is energy and matter, and if everything, from Beethoven’s 9th symphony to Michelangelo’s statue of David, to Einstein’s general relativity, to what I am doing right now in front of my computer are the things that the hydrogen atoms do, then what is that emergent phenomena that you try to explain? If the idea of a triangle, if the idea of a perfect mathematical cube, if the idea of a point, if the idea of 1+1=2, if the image of Eric walking on Mars in 2089 in a space suit, if the idea of writing a sequel to _A Song of Ice and Fire_ by George R. R. Martin, if all of these are what the hydrogen atoms conjure up if you give them enough time, then where is the “elbow room” for that extra dimension you might be proposing?

You are not suggesting that we are not made of atoms and energy, are you? I don’t think so. I also don’t think if you suggest that we are made of ‘something else’ too, of which you might not be able to give any description. If we are ultimately made of energy (I said energy, because I thing “matter” seems to have a negative connotation in your mind), and if whatever we are can ultimately be converted, bit for bit, to energy, then what is wrong or strange with just saying so? Why should it be so shameful to admit that E=mc^2? Your mass, with all it is composed of, can be converted to energy. Your ideas live in a medium with some mass/energy nature that can be converted to energy. Is that scary?

I am not trying to be facetious in here. I genuinely want to know how anyone goes about and argue that anything emergent is or can be non-physical. In my humble opinion, anyone who can show such a thing without contradiction (i.e. without contradicting observations and the logical underpinnings of his statements), would deserve not one, but several Nobel Prizes.

Here is a summary of what I am saying (“the universe” = all that exists):

1- All that occur/exist, occur/exist in the universe (assumption)
2- The universe is in relationship to energy (assumption)
3- All that occur/exist, occur/exist in relationship to energy (by 1,2)
4- We exist, therefore we are parts of the universe (by 1)
5- Whatever occurs to/through/by us, occurs in the universe (by 1,4)
6- We and everything related to our existence is in relationship to energy (by 3,5)
7- Any emergent phenomenon is in relationship to energy (by 3)
8- Any emergent phenomenon related to us is in relationship to energy (by 6,7)
9- Will/volition (free or not) is a phenomenon related to us (at least) (assumption)
10- Will/volition (free or not) is in relationship with energy (by 8,9)
11- QED

There is no doubt that someone who knows more about logic can certainly produce a much cleaner and better proof than my informal summary. But, the idea is to give the gist of it. Also you might have noticed that several steps are collapsed into one to make the list less painful to read, although in a formal proof they must be clearly asserted individually before they can be used in later steps. I leave those technicalities to another topic though.

The demonstration above is not a bit surprising but actually tautological in some sense because it is not saying much more than ‘everything is energy, dancing around’. As it can be seen, energy is more than capable of doing what is needed to make any type of ‘will’, if it is not logically impossible. There is no argumentation about any phenomenon being emergent or not. It applies to them all. There is no denying of mental phenomena. It includes them all. Abstraction, ideas, perfect geometrical forms, numbers, and everything conceivable is there. There is no way to exclude anything from that, simply because there is no valid way of excluding anything that exist from the universe.

Now, my challenge for you is this:

Given my demonstration above, prove me wrong, i.e. prove that an emergent phenomenon (or any other phenomenon for that matter) is not related to energy.

If you justifiably do so, then I will take back my mistaken assumptions and revise my assertion to comply with your observation and the proof thereafter.

The point is that once it is understood that ‘will’ is related to energy, then it really does not matter if we call it free, “fully volitional decision making” or just “volitional decision making”. In principle, it can be mathematically expressed/modelled.
“Don’t speak unless you can improve on the silence.”

Offline Andreas Geisler

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Re: What does “free will” mean?
« Reply #31 on: June 19, 2014, 04:21 AM »
I am again dismayed with your choice of opaque words. I hold the convolution of the tongue practiced in some philosophy departments to be a sign of their complete barrenness. It's the Emperor's new clothes all over again, meaning, if you cannot say it simply, you haven't understood it yourself, and then why the hell should anybody listen to you?

Your objection against Occam is the same as your objection to induction: It doesn't produce proof.
Well, wake up and smell the bacon, NOTHING produces proof in reality. We have no axiomatic interface with reality, none at all. The best we can do is to build axiomatic models that mimic some aspects of reality, such as maths.

The idea that deduction is superior to induction is all well and good, so long as deduction provides outcomes that are reliable. But as it stands, it doesn't produce outcomes at all in most cases. It usually fails to produce anything of any use, whereas induction has provided us with undeniable advantages.

So, no, I don't think it's an argument at all that Occam is probabilistic. It's still probably true. And your deductive efforts are all unsound, as there is no way to properly base a deductive argument on premises that are inductively probabilistic. And that is all your brain can provide.

Offline Pat Johnston

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Re: What does “free will” mean?
« Reply #32 on: June 25, 2014, 01:11 PM »
Andreas, that might be a great example of ‘impulse’ thinking.  Why does it seem as though you’ve dropped a pretense of cordiality, and gone straight to presumptive judgment? (…for starters, I’ve never been in a philosophy department of any sort…)  Should I accept my own cursory inductive assessment (i.e. initial impulse thought) that this dismissive, condescending response (“wake up and smell the bacon” really?) means to infer that if a person’s response isn’t to simply placate your own POV, then you don’t bother trying to understand anything  as someone else actually understands it, before supplanting their meaning with your own?   I should hope not…   FYI – again – I hold no aesthetic bias for or against induction / deduction as reasoning methods in themselves. It seems that you are the one who has introduced some warped personal reinterpretation of what these forms of guided reasoning are, with a barely hidden underlying contempt for our supposed penchant to misguide deduction, as it seems (…the source of ‘woo’? …really?).

Let me put what I’ve said before simply for you:  deduction is detecting – checking what is/looking at evidence ‘as it is’, not beyond it; induction is conceiving – looking at what might, what ought, etc., based on what we can deduce from the evidence. The point is they work TOGETHER, not apart.  It’s not a competition between them. That people exhibit fallible use of them is beside the point. Mental associations are numerous as we know, but they come in many varieties of form, both arbitrary and formalized. If an idea can be expressed it can be written down, recorded, and it can be reviewed objectively against formal definition and if warranted, it can be corrected, regardless of how much induction and deduction is involved, and a mature mind shouldn’t take issue with that. 

And “axiomatic”?  If you had an honest interest to ‘seek first to understand’, you’d have noted that every premise I’ve offered begins with ‘perhaps’, ‘if’, ‘seems’, etc., as means to explore the idea of it, not presume the fact of it – I’ve assumed nothing as axiomatic. Even “maths”, as you put it, fails at this, because in looking at any coherent expression, it cannot by itself distinguish between reality and abstraction in what it represents.  That’s us doing that, with our deductive/inductive techniques.

To the topic at hand, perhaps you struggle with the idea that reality is based on variable range? That it could be, for example, a range from the material to the immaterial, where constructs can emerge with ‘rheostatic’ control at the near immaterial level, even though it seems from our own ‘settled’ material POV that nothing actually emerges from the absolute immaterial side. But according to current theory that’s not quite true, is it?  There is one ‘thing’ that did (seem to) emerge from the immaterial – and that ‘thing’ was (apparently) all proto-material, at the moment of the big bang.  The macro emergence of matter from the big bang may be of such an expansive magnitude in space and time, and, by the very nature of our ‘finite’ construct we are so submerged within it, that it means we cannot ‘see’ apart from it. And so from this POV, real constructs must have matter to matter. But, hey – this is just another ‘idea’…


Eric …my modest and magnanimous ‘social-media’ friend, you can’t seriously tell me this is the reasoning of a 6 year old child!  Really, in understanding your reply one should feel no need to explain one’s own thinking in response as though you’ve not yet developed a ‘fully cognitive’ frontal lobe!     ;) 

Where I say:


“…it just isn’t that overwhelming an argument to me, to say that there is no physical way for a biological construct to give provision for fully volitional decision making.”

…I mean simply, that there may still be unclarified means by which there is a physical way for a biological construct to give provision for fully volitional decision making.   Not to say that there is any ‘ghost’ in the machine.  Just biology taking advantage of physics in ways we don’t yet understand, manifest to us as autonomous agents that can be classified as discrete functioning ‘selves’ whilst the biology functions.  That’s as far as I can realistically speculate, given what we currently know, but that’s plenty to focus on for investigation and testing.  The apparent paradox of it certainly needs to be properly reconciled, as I said, and so could end up being true, or false, or still irreconcilable. The word ‘ghost’, by the way, still evokes supernatural things for people, like astral travelling or demon possession, etc., whereas the expression “give up the ghost” is just a harmless way to emphasize I’m not done asking a lot of questions here. 

At this point I should say I’m not sure where you perceive any ‘visible contempt’ coming from my words?  If there is any such an apparent emotion caused on my part, then I apologize as it can only be as a consequence of my internal struggle to understand and reason clearly, in which I’ve failed to fully weed out ‘impulse thinking’ in my responses.  I am perhaps frustrated at times, but not surprised by your or Andreas’ or Alain’s or any other reasonable person’s stance on this topic.  It is certainly not new to me, and I’ve been told before I am sometimes difficult to follow.  Your voices trigger the usual resonance of amplified diffusion when set against my unusual mental airings.  But I feel that much of this dissonance is in the neurochemical co-mingling of our words, not in our emotional maturity to deal with it.

Likewise I wonder at this false attribution of contempt to my reflection of ‘materialism’.  I hold no conclusive position on the matter, as I keep trying to impress that this is what my finite tether at most assures me, and so have nothing to base a response of contempt from. How can one be contemptuous of mere inductive abstractions?  It may very well be that all there is to reality is various transmutations of “miraculous hydrogen atoms”.  So be it, if it be so.

But if not observing this discourse with careful scrutiny, I could easily be again left made victim of a falsely assumed position. As I have indicated in other threads, I am neither theist nor atheist, whereas much response to what I say seems itself polarized for/against the ideas under consideration. This can carry a presumptive labeling of what I say, without fully grasping what I mean.  Hence my caution to ‘seek first to understand…’  It is from within this perspective I sometimes see unfounded bias expressed, but I can’t rationalize any contempt for it.

…on the concern for apparent tautology in my use of “fully volitional”:  I often augment my expressions in order to emphasize a distinct-ness in meaning, knowingly risking the ‘ostentatious’ label. Do you see how I did this just above, in saying “fully cognitive”?  My use of ‘fully volitional’ is meant to intentionally offset what many might assume is their common understanding of ‘volitional’ versus ‘involuntary’ acts, but for which we already know and have discussed ad nausea how they truthfully are not in many cases, given the kinds of mental, emotional and habitual influences we can detect behind them.  It means to have you look twice, and consider that there is still a way to override these subtle drivers, bending the full outcome to your will. Fully volitional would therefore mean to me fully unconstrained versus assumed so – the true versus ‘apparent’ wind equivalent – conceptually where all counter-directing external forces were identified and overcome. Perhaps you will reply that that is still a meaningless augmentation, in which case, well, the circle continues…

As it is, we seem to be dancing about the opposite sides of the head of the same pin.  When I say we have the potential to be ‘causal injection points into the greater deterministic stream’, I mean this as intentionally beyond the influence of all other drivers discretely traceable beyond our own autonomous volition (…to get past cases where, for example: his idea to act in such and such a way must have come from thinking about this external source; or, her emotional conviction to act in so and so a manner can no doubt be traced back to her exposure to this or that external experience or observation; etc.)  Assumed versus corroborated.  And because ‘context’ is pervasive, I envision that it can only be from the most thorough of reasoned efforts that something approximating ‘fully volitional’ could therefore come about, looking at every relevant aspect of the action considered.  And even with all this in account, it still means that we may logically be within/imbued by/a part of the greater deterministic set of existence, as our finiteness suggests it. Not apart from it. 

But what I’m thinking it might also allow is that we have the potential to be true points of manifest origin of discrete causal chains, and that our volitional nature gives us a modicum of discretionary/override control outside of all traceable drivers, on when and how to trigger such chains of occurrence. So what I propose (not believe) is that this discrete control is the emergent property I speak of, with a variable degree of discretion over and above its convergent underpinnings.

As an aside, I feel that the straw man that may have been shaped around me is that I’m somehow arguing for physical impossibilities behind it all, whereas I’ve already suggested that is non sequitur,  in that the definition of ‘physical’ is itself constantly changing, and that everything exists within this context. So it is assumed whatever the mechanism is, it will have its trace in the corporeal world. I just think the real gap is in our current understanding of what ‘physical’ truly is – our understanding of it is incomplete.  It seems the side concern around all of this for many is that our ideas, mental states, POVs, etc., have a claimed ‘weight of bias’ to them, and become some measure of contrary driving influence – said bias – of their own – that rob us of the very potential autonomy our construct might allow us.  Are there real and distinct levels and degrees for which this is true, and which may underpin my point about acknowledging the variability of it all?  Why is this not a plausible way in which manifest autonomy can come into being?

My struggles in holding to a lucid understanding of this idea is that it is just that – an idea – not a belief – and I am ever conscious that it does not of necessity follow from it that something else, said ‘supernatural’, must therefore exist. And yet it seemed to me that that ‘dualistic assumption’ was king here, and so one could not take the POV and argue for autonomous agency, as I have, without being misconstrued of rationalizing the existence of theistic concepts of God or the soul. So let me take a moment to be forcefully clear here: those to me are distinct and separate propositional concepts, for which I might happily discuss pros and cons behind them, but as separate and distinct concepts in some other thread. I see that particular presumption inhibiting a full understanding my argument as at the underlying root of most responses. Where I am mistaken, I apologize, but I also want to emphasize: I am not approaching this as a debate to win. Rather, as a very grand puzzle, to discover greater understanding for.  That someone can be very clever with their ‘repartee’ is irrelevant, especially if all they are really after is the ego trip of winning a debate. That is pure myopia.  If it does come down to a technicality as to how autonomous volitional direction can have a basis in neurology on something like quantum indeterminacy, as Dr Tse suggests, then what is wrong with that conceptualization?  And why would it make either of us (you or I) wrong?

I am also wary of a danger in taking a polemic stance here to rationalize everything as ‘physical’ versus ‘non-corporeal’.  By induction, reality seems ever more complex than we seem able to understand it at any given time.  It goes well beyond mere Hydrogen atoms and our complex though still quite limited station amongst them.  Reality also seems to take more into account than a mere mixing of Hydrogen atoms and time (though I don’t mean to dismissively compress the obvious expansiveness that my ‘mere’ implies here).  There is the initial impetus of the big bang and there is now whatever seems to have happened to cause that, since newly apparent gravitational wave ‘evidence’ is now suggesting to some a possible multi-verse backdrop. There are also plenty of examples of great clusters of matter (hydrogen atoms, etc.) sitting through time where nothing consequential has ever happened to them, but again, that we of course can perhaps know very little about. 

In regards to the footnote in our ‘tiny little corner of the universe’ that is ‘life’, it seems to me that the best we can trace back with certainty is that there is a distant point in which an “all-pervading will to survive”, as I loosely call it, emerged, but exactly how and why is still unclear.  My point is again back to the humbling recognition of our finiteness (recall a G+ post last year between you, Guy and I, in which I emphasized from my POV the role of relativity and proximity in substantiating degrees of ‘truth’ in our knowledge…) - we simply do not fully understand all there is to know about states and origins of energy and matter.  For a variety of human reasons, I therefore feel that taking a polemic stance here is getting ahead of ourselves, and actually triggers the sort of dichotomy of separation some suggest we don’t want/need, and doesn’t exist.  It draws out the polarizing arguments of ‘absolutism’ that entrap and separate people: …is everything matter, and energy is simply an illusion of matter getting spread out and moving too fast? Or is everything energy, and matter simply the illusion of energy getting bound up together and moving too slow?  With any number of variants to this polar division.  This emotional urge to “pole out” is, I feel, somehow at the root of key differences between many proclaimed materialists and immaterialists, whereas if you recognize for the time being that reality as a variable range between matter and energy states, the problem greatly diminishes, and minds might be better served preparing for/adapting to new variant concepts and ideas on how to possibly look at this grand puzzle.

To be sure, I am all about fitting the evidence into a viable belief system, and not the other way around.  In my first G+ post I said:

“…‘belief’ as people commonly understands it suggests a finality of certainty, whereas in this frame of reference ‘belief’ is also a transitory concept, as it is a property of finite sets of information. Man is a tool maker, and so I’d suggest we think of ideas as ‘tools of the mind’…”

To be frank, we know full well that ‘evidence’ is never just ‘raw data’ that we can pick up ourselves and digest directly and know innately – ‘evidence’ is always ‘presented’, and is always some ‘set of data’ targeted, gathered, separated out, filtered, prepared, and most importantly, interpreted by someone of learned discipline – it always comes as qualified by a guide.  So there is no getting away from/discounting people’s opinions of the data underpinning everything presented as ‘factual’, based on ‘evidence’.  The point here is simply that neither ‘evidence’, nor the ‘viable belief systems’, are sufficiently static nor conclusive to the extent that everything is sufficiently explained to me. It is an open ended self-correcting game, not a closed set.

This ‘finite tether’ of mine requires that we approach looking at the universe from the perspective of ‘open world assumption’: …wherein…;
“…Heuristically, the open world assumption applies when we represent knowledge within a system as we discover it, and where we cannot guarantee that we have discovered or will discover complete information. In the OWA, statements about knowledge that are not included in or inferred from the knowledge explicitly recorded in the system may be considered unknown, rather than wrong or false.”

So you ask me – the guy avowed of his own finiteness and associated limitations – to prove to you that emergent phenomena are not related to energy??  Ironically, I have said just as you are saying –that it seems, from where we now stand at least, that “everything is energy, dancing around” in some strange fashion or another - and so it is quite likely that there is some type of direct correlation between all emergent phenomena (even those we’ve yet to discover and/or fully understand) and some manner of convergent/converging energies-into/out of-matter states. (…does the notion of ‘convergence-preceding/precipitating-emergence’ make any sense?)    But before going further, try to do the seemingly impossible for a finite being of this world as we currently know it: try to sufficiently define and explain all there is to clarify about ‘energy’ itself.  I expect that you cannot, because that, hubris notwithstanding, is currently beyond us. 

As I reread your post and work past my impulse thinking to it, I still sense a growing underlying frustration from you, that I would ever dally (rationally tethered or not) in such musings – so let us come to the crux of it then – and I shall ask it for you – what else is motivating me to pursue this?  Well, aside from my real-world observations and said tether to our finiteness, I am also driven in part and knowingly, by the one other thing we shouldn’t avoid talking about any longer. I have consciously put it off with respect to discussions with you, both in the philosophy community and in this forum in particular, as I am acutely sensitive to how anyone here will react to my description of it, given all the +1 charged comments already posted against me, let alone someone as thoroughly, reasonably logical as you are. I feel this because I say we all are subject to ‘impulse thinking’, and because such thinking often comes in the guise of feeling expressed as thought, and so gives it much more perceived argumentative weight, perhaps even mislabeling it as ‘intuition’ of a form. 

This extra bit is however, the missing piece of context that would give my ‘subjective dataset’ its fuller meaning, and though I still dither on whether to edit this part of my response out (for the umpteenth time now), in re-reading your response yet again, you say pointedly: 


“…If everything in your view of the physical world was coherently reconciled in your interpretations of the world, then there would not have been a perceived “paradox” to worry about.”

…so touché - well said – I am logically left with the dilemma of a forked road: do I clarify the root of my perceived paradox, or withdraw? Offer the ‘red pill’ or the ‘blue pill’? (…as though such completely polar dichotomies of alternate awareness truly exist…)  I tell you now in all honesty, that I am again sorely tempted to pull up stakes – my reason pleading internally with itself.  But I will be as true to my whole ‘self’ as I have ever tried to be, and I know that we cannot complete this conversation to either one’s satisfaction without it.  So I must in the end put it out there. 

I refer to an anomalous occurrence in my personal experience that belies my straightforward acceptance of this rational assurance of all these general physical assumptions about reality, that you’ve so eloquently expounded on here, and elucidates (hopefully) why my greater stubborn position of general inquiry, in the exacting manner I take it, is actually not as haphazard nor arbitrary as it might seem. I refer to the context of the following post, which btw I have openly shared with any who care to read it.  Please note that I attempt to convey this experience in as objectively neutral a manner as I can:

This experience was an anomaly as I said, so cannot be taken as any sort of proof or corroboration. But regardless, it remains as a formative memory within me, and as a personal lesson learned – that self-directed autonomy over one’s critical actions truly matters, if only to subjectively maintain one’s sanity through very troubling times. But more so, I have personally come to think, as a potential means to reshape one’s ‘objective pattern of destiny’, were such a thing legitimately possible.

I therefore have a personal reason to stand where I stand, and ask the kinds of OWA-based questions that I ceaselessly ask.  And as surprising as it may now seem, I tell you that it is not motivated by supernatural belief. Rather stubbornly to the contrary, in that I want to understand as best I can how the brain works, what really happened inside my 18 year old brain, and separately, to better understand to what degree and in what manner and under what circumstances and for what sorts of durations, if any, do we have any true self-directed autonomy to act.  You see, I feel that it is quite easy for a fairly intelligent though detached mind to rationalize the non-existence of an odd concept like ‘free will’ by using pure logical abstraction to deduce/induce it, when all around us is apparent evidence of determinism.  I think however that it is a much, much harder thing to do, when you have some real skin in the game.

On a third point of concern, as to whether I will ever get a reasonably satisfactory explanation for the apparent discontinuity of my self-awareness, to seemingly step outside of the normal flow of time, well, maybe only ‘time’ itself will ever tell, though I am not holding my breath waiting for it to do so…

Offline Andreas Geisler

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Re: What does “free will” mean?
« Reply #33 on: June 30, 2014, 04:02 PM »
Pat, I apologize if I have become overly curt, but it is aggravating in the extreme to do this two-steps-forward-three-steps-backwards.
I think your choice of linguistic mode is very strange, as if you're trying to hide that you cannot support your conclusions, and therefore seek to prevent anyone from understanding what you're really saying.

I am not saying that this is what you are doing, but I am saying that's what it seems like. Because there's no other valid reason to produce such convoluted language as you do.

And my reference to philosophy departments was not to imply that is where you might have picked up this style, merely relating a fact: There are vacuous schools of thought where the form is intended to hide the lack of content. If you had come to think this is "how people do philosophy", then I would ask you to reconsider. It is not. Philosophy is best done in simple speech.

Offline Eric Bright

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Re: What does “free will” mean?
« Reply #34 on: July 08, 2014, 12:27 AM »
I feel that the straw man that may have been shaped around me is that I’m somehow arguing for physical impossibilities behind it all, whereas I’ve already suggested that is non sequitur,  in that the definition of ‘physical’ is itself constantly changing, and that everything exists within this context. So it is assumed whatever the mechanism is, it will have its trace in the corporeal world. I just think the real gap is in our current understanding of what ‘physical’ truly is – our understanding of it is incomplete.

This is reasonable indeed. Dark matter and dark energy are two place-holder labels for our near-complete ignorance of what makes up more than 75 to 80 percent of the mass of the universe and causes it to expand with acceleration. What we know is minuscule. What we don’t know is necessarily infinite.

I am not approaching this as a debate to win. Rather, as a very grand puzzle, to discover greater understanding for.

I agree with your approach. I never thought of a competition either.

This emotional urge to “pole out” is, I feel, somehow at the root of key differences between many proclaimed materialists and immaterialists, whereas if you recognize for the time being that reality as a variable range between matter and energy states, the problem greatly diminishes, and minds might be better served preparing for/adapting to new variant concepts and ideas on how to possibly look at this grand puzzle.

I agree. Emotions are a big player in the debate. I am not sure if they actually help to make more accurate measurements and arrive at a better understanding of the facts and fictions of the mind though.

There are many issues that allow, or even necessitate, many grey areas in science; before those areas can even be partially comprehended. Nevertheless, from a logical perspective, it does not follow that we must inject grey areas into everything that seems to be black and white either.

If it does come down to a technicality as to how autonomous volitional direction can have a basis in neurology on something like quantum indeterminacy, as Dr Tse suggests, then what is wrong with that conceptualization?  And why would it make either of us (you or I) wrong?

It won’t. If that turns out to be the case, then that would be it. There is nothing inherently wrong with conceptualization.

By induction, reality seems ever more complex than we seem able to understand it at any given time.  It goes well beyond mere Hydrogen atoms and our complex though still quite limited station amongst them.  Reality also seems to take more into account than a mere mixing of Hydrogen atoms and time (though I don’t mean to dismissively compress the obvious expansiveness that my ‘mere’ implies here).

Even though that is true, still our ignorance cannot be held up as a support for the truth of incredible claims or propositions.

Now the story:

[...] The job has an element of danger in that the sealer is a toxic chemical with potent hallucinogenic side-effects, similar in many respects to marijuana. Use of proper filtering masks with clean cartridges all but eliminate this risk. [...] The lacquer spray’s effects are somewhat different than the sealer’s: no hallucinogenic effects to speak of, but induces fatigue and is unhealthy none the less with repeated over exposure, so cartridge air masks are also standard requirement.

Why and how? You have already explained why you had the experience that you had. I don’t see anything strange in here or a need for further explanation regarding the incidents.
Given the circumstances that you described:
  • I am not surprised that you had that experience
  • I am also not surprised that your experience seemed significant at the time
  • I would have been surprised had you not had any incident such as the ones you had


Given our background knowledge:
  • The probability of you having the incident you had was very high
  • The probability of you not having any incident similar to what you had was very low
  • That was exactly what we expected to happen, and it happened as expected

Other explanations? Given our background knowledge of the world at this moment:
  • The probability of a simple explanation based on the chemistry of the brain being the actual explanation is astronomically high
  • The probability of an enormously complex explanation based on unknown and mysterious forces are astronomically low
  • The probability of incredible explanations to be true in similar cases is extremely low
  • The probability of incredible explanations to be false in similar cases is extremely high
  • The probability of our simple explanation based on what we know about the world right now assuming no extra or unknown dimensions/forces to be the case is almost certain
What we already know about the world can perfectly account for everything that happened in the incidents with no gaps. So, I cannot see where the perceived problem is.

These being said...

I am surprised that you are surprised TODAY. That is an extremely strange stance for you to hold.

The “timing” mystery – Premonition?

Why don’t you think that the second event was the repetition (or replay) of the first one instead of the first one being a premonition of the second? In other words, have you considered the second incident being merely a partial replay (or an imperfect re-enactment if you wish) of the first one instead of the first one being a premonition of the second?
Are the experiences showing us something from the world(s) beyond? There might be a world (or many worlds) beyond what we ordinarily see every day. But, this kind of experiences, of which we know enough to recognize its causes and origins, would not be the sort of evidences that one would like to collect to support the hypothesis.

In simpler words, even if there are many other worlds of which we are unaware, these experiences are not how we can prove their existence.


There are many similar experiences by people everyday. It is unlikely that a person at your age has never had any weird experience; almost impossible. Some of them can be induced by naturally occurring events and circumstances, and a lot more can happen by substance exposure.


It is very simple to replicate, and can be experienced by virtually all human beings with no exception. They certainly tell us a lot about the mind architecture and the way we perceive the world (inside and outside). It is not, however, a reliable tool to infer anything about other forces, invisible powers, extra dimensions, other worlds, and the like.
What if the simple explanation is wrong? That does not make the other hypotheses any truer. Otherwise, that would be an argument from ignorance. No decrease in the likelihood of a hypothesis amongst several known other hypotheses will make the other ones any more likely than they can factually be.

At any rate...

Given what you told us however, I feel that I am preaching to the choir. Enough facts are known to draw a very reasonable conclusion. The issue is, and has ever been, over what the facts are and what they can and cannot imply.

The main issue in here is purely over epistemology. It has always been over epistemology. The fact that if it is enough to base our hypothesis on personal convictions, or a personal perception (with a fairly known causal explanation) is a matter of epistemology.

Mysticism starts with a failed epistemology. Mysticism in physics and other natural sciences are as prevalence as it is amongst laypeople over mundane matters. When a faulty epistemology is used, anything can follow. Anything whatsoever.

Indeed, this is a personal decision and journey. Should we allow ourselves to be guided with just any epistemology or should we try to stick with the best-known practices? We have no perfect epistemology because the world does not allow mathematical perfections. Nevertheless, there are more successful, less successful, poorly performing, and... Surprise! Surprise!... terribly failed epistemologies. There are infinitely many more failed epistemologies than there are better-than-chance-performing epistemologies. There are only a handful epistemologies that do any better than flipping a coin.

Which one do we choose? This is a personal and intimate (or private if you wish) matter. Since, even flipping a coin can, in fact, produce some valid outcomes, it is not always easy to convince everyone that their epistemology got it wrong. It got it right 50% of the time after all, didn’t it?

There we go!





This part is included for the sake of completeness and for further studies. You can skip it.

Clinical research on psychedelics:

What happens inside the brain cell?

How does a receptor change consciousness?

The effects of Psychedelics, Hallucinogens, ‘Entheogens’

  • Change in perception, thoughts, feeling
  • Distortion of visual space
  • Produce feelings of “portentousness”
  • High doses can elicit anxiety or psychotic behaviour (paranoid psychosis)
  • Generally low toxicity; non-addictive

  • Produce Elation and euphoria, depending on dose, an effect that is responsible for their high abuse potential
  • Chronic use or large doses produce depression and fatigue after the acute stimulation subsides
  • High doses or chronic use can elicit psychotic behaviour (paranoid psychosis)
  • Most have cardiovascular side effects; increase blood pressure, may stimulate the heart

  • Produce Elation and euphoria, depending on dose, pharmacology overlaps with stimulants
  • Chronic use or large doses produce depression and fatigue after the acute stimulation subsides
  • High doses or chronic use can elicit psychotic behaviour (paranoid psychosis)
  • Most have cardiovascular side effects; increase blood pressure
  • A spectrum of psychological effects different from psychostimulants such as methamphetamine and amphetamine or from psychedelic drug such as LSD or mescaline. Users of entactogens say the drugs produce feelings of empathy, love, and emotional closeness to others

“... the feature that distinguishes psychedelic agents from other classes of drug is their capacity reliably to induce or compel states of altered perception, thought, and feeling that are not (or cannot be) experienced otherwise except in dreams or at times of religious exaltation.”

“Most description of the "psychedelic state" include several major factors:

There is heightened awareness of sensory input, often accompanied by an enhanced sense of clarity, but diminished control over what is experienced. Frequently there is a feeling that one part of the self seems to be a passive observer (a spectator "ego") rather than an active organizing an directing force, while another part of the self participates and receives the vivid and unusual sensory experience.

The attention of the user is turned inward, preempted by the seeming clarity and portentous quality of his or her own thinking process. In this state the slightest sensation may take on profound meaning. Commonly there is a diminished capacity to differentiate the boundaries of the object from another and of the self from the environment.

Associated with the loss of boundaries, there may be a sense of union with “mankind” or the “cosmos”.”




1. Jaffe, Goodman, L. S., Brunton, L. L., Chabner, B., & Knollmann, B. C. (2011). Goodman & Gilman's pharmacological basis of therapeutics. New York: McGraw-Hill.
2. Nichols, David E. LSD Neuroscience. Retrieved on 2014-07-01 from
3. Webre, Alfred Lambremont. The Preparation for Ascension. (August 02, 2011). Retrieved on 2014-07-01 from
“Don’t speak unless you can improve on the silence.”

Offline Pat Johnston

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Re: What does “free will” mean?
« Reply #35 on: July 10, 2014, 03:52 PM »
Andreas, I’m tempted to respond in kind with like allusion to suggest your thinking is maybe self-limiting/deceiving in its apparent cherry-picking acumen and focus. In my wishing towards a "minimal ‘variational’ free energy state" (see subtext below) I would very much like to simply accept your apology, as it does seem implied to be sincere and meaningful.  Such acceptance would surely put us at mutual ease. ...and yet, there is that ‘but’ and additional words of veiled allusion to what looks like intentional obfuscation on my part, because you suspect that I really think I don't have a leg to stand on, and can’t imagine any way to see it differently... Well, therein lays the very essence of my point about inherent bias, and another round-about reason for my intentionally ‘convoluted’ choice of language.  This pervasive ‘bias’ I keep pointing out – overtly, covertly, subtly and even blatantly: it is all in separating out a given person’s actual (to him/her), from an apparent (to you/me/us) meaning.

My thoughts and comments are clear and straightforward to me – no opaqueness that I intended, or frankly, that I can detect!  I think that much of the 'debate' we've had in this thread regarding a workable definition of what is meant by 'free will’, comes down to picking opposing sides of the same conceptual construct - like favoring a single perception of the dual image illusion, as with that of the young woman and old lady ( ), or the duck-rabbit ( )  - I can certainly see both sides of the perspective as presented by our respective POVs, so why can’t you?

…you know, to belabor this exchange, I could well ask:

1.   What specific statements of mine are still opaque to you?  Can you paraphrase them in your own words, to test for understanding and see if that is what I meant; as said in the context they were presented?

2.   Why not simply suspend judgment and ask more non-biased questions to clarify? (...I ask this one at least in part rhetorically, since I already understand that, where not intentionally willed by us into not-doing otherwise,  the impulse of 'assessing/judging' is 'in our wiring'...)

3.   Does my sharing the circumstances of a ‘prime motivator’ from my past in any way change your understanding of what I’ve said here, by virtue of tweaking any arbitrary assumptions you may have held regarding my POV?

Since I see us as PEs – ‘perspective engines’, I understand all our communication, all our language as essentially discrete POVs.  Data without context is ‘noise’, and so your words may inevitably seem skewed to me, as my words may inevitably seem skewed to you, without a respective effort at securing that essential context we each own innately. Attempts to glean meaning without that context risk a presumption of absolutes – a habitual and formal rendering of pseudo-meaning to approximate another’s POV, without relinquishing the artificial and representative POV we currently hold for them in its place.  I don’t kid myself that this is not a real thinking person’s daily dilemma - I’m distinguishing ‘conceptual rationalizations’ from ‘experiential realities’. 

My suggestion is simply that a plausible validation of absence of constraint (that might assure ‘acceptable freeness’ of the willing) must be a continuous process – a fluid yet affirming re-rendering of meaning as formative context that is itself predicated on ‘open world view’ assumptions – that is critical to this point.  We are fundamentally temporal beings, and so the aspects of our understanding are in a continuous state of re-rendering as the data-stream flows by/through/around us, as we ourselves are in continuous state of change, influenced by that data.  This follows the basic principle of a continuous feedback loop.

So coincidently, I came across these posts in the ‘Conversation’ community (which I see you're already a member of…) starting with this one;

...and in parallel, I came to this soliloquy on mimetic fitness and wild goose chases…;
 ...which led me to this thread joining contextual dots...

...which in turn led me to this meme on internal direction and mindfulness, drawing on checks and balances between reaction and prediction, following temporal and spatial focus, looking at here and now versus the future, and how to 'water the stream'…;

...and a further poking around therein, landed me on this next link, which holds the actual subtext I mentioned above…

...see – I’m really not trying to be evasive (or annoying) because I lack the figurative ‘pot to piss in’…– I do think that round-about, open minded discovery, with judgment set to ‘high tolerance’,  can lead one to some pretty interesting and even helpful places! (…mindful to ever keeping one’s ‘tether’ at hand…)

Eric, who is to say that physics isn't mystical? When receiving a grand, complex and elegant conceptual idea rooted in physics, do tears well up in your eyes? Does it give you goose bumps?  I'd be tempted to equate that to a personally mystical experience, as long as we still endeavor to get the facts straight, and acknowledge the gaps therein!     ;o)

I do love that you put so much energy into debunking the psychosomatic aspects of my experience, that I myself am the most skeptical about - I appreciate that you are catching up (rather expertly) in days, with what I've spent closer to a lifetime substantiating, but knowledge progression is a somewhat compounding phenomenon generally these days, so no surprise you are able to pin down similar reasonable explanations as I have with such ease.

To be fair, in someone else's post last year (the exact one escapes me at the moment…) I made a reference to Dr Persinger's studies (yup, Andreas, the same neuroscientist who co-invented the ‘god helmet’ you and Edgar Brown were chatting about recently in one of your G+ threads) on how psychotropic drugs have targeting capability - that they focus in on and effect specific areas of the brain, rendering related brain states and associated perceptions that are repeatable, classable and situationally independent. (Link for reference: )    I decided years ago not to trust any of my initial interpretations of the experience my mind produced as idiomatic reaction to it. I instead put all my effort into skilling up adaptive reason.

Re: the timing mystery – Premonition?
I also appreciate the view that it could seem like a 'self-fulfilling prophecy’ in nature - in that the dream experience on day 1 may somehow have seeded my actions to motive and shape the moments I had influence over leading up to the real event on day 2, however given how it played out for me, I think this is a huge stretch - there are several circumstantial aspects of the two events that are difficult to explain as simply pre-causal by any measure of conceivable leading/staging influences, self-guided or otherwise.  The 1st event included the pivotal dream sequence, which encompassed the entirety of the real waking experience of the 2nd event (from the trigger moment of saying “what were you looking at?” to the close-off moment of enacting (in the dream)/intending (in the waking 2nd event) the slapping of my right cheek.  It occurred in its entirety in my unconscious state first, then in its entity in full waking consciousness, and mirrored the dream sequence exactly, with the one key difference of my waking action to willfully alter that last act of slapping my cheek.  It is hard to find a workable rationalization that proves the latter being a forced/induced replication or copy of the former… but this is my personal cross to bear… (Hey, come on - pun intended, materialists!)

Probabilities are what they are, but then there's also the woeful bias of assumption, that our penchant for predictability conditions us to, and by which means anticipated high probabilities seduce us. It is a double-edged sword that guides us effectively 99 times out of 100, but also commits us to over-labeling the unknown, on that one rare occasion where it matters. Prior to this event, I would have emphatically argued that such an experience was astronomically improbable - no, let me be completely honest - I would have confidently stated it was utterly impossible (cocky, self-confident teenager that I was, back then – hard to believe, right?). Likewise it is easy to assume the 'commonality' of what I experienced, as it's reported that so many people report 'similar' experiences. We well know there could be a world of circumstantial and factual difference from one such experience to the next. I won't presume any such consistency out of hand and neither should you.

...on the other hand, on a whim to humour your suggestion, I searched out "statistical likelihood of real, premonitional experience” and got this link:'s actually quite funny to me, because I once told someone close to me to be very careful with their personal belief commitment, because you can find anything on the internet to substantiate just about any POV...   don’t worry – if I haven’t been swayed be all else, this certainly won’t tempt me!   ;o)

Regardless, I've put the whole experience itself in a metaphorical 'specimen bottle', and it sits collecting dust on my 'mental samples' shelf.  Since recovering from this experience, my focus had not been to build an implausible hypothesis based on a first hand encounter with the incredible (this or any other experience) - my focus was rather more intentionally on where and how to be looking at our core physiological nature of existence – in terms of the idiomatic epistemology I picked up for being/seeing/doing. I did so as I consistently saw/continue to see a cross cultural, scientific basis for this way of looking at ourselves.  And of course, I have a grounded interest in whether such a nature might allow for any degree of freedom (of this interest, I would hope, you can now better understand!)

When I think about how I view the idea of 'free will', I've already expressed it as succinctly as I can in my previous G+ posts:




...and perhaps most aesthetically expressed here:



…you're right - it is for each of us a personal journey, epistemologically speaking, and I appreciate that you see that.  But it doesn't have to be a closed, private or irrational one. We are social animals and there is much to be said about group effort & bilateral corroboration.  I'm open to new POVs and greater understandings they might bring, as I'm not mired in fixed belief. (i.e., phase locked in a single POV, as it were...)

When you get right down to it, I think that conflation is at the root of my general concerns with the premise to roll the ‘mental’ and ‘emotional’ classes of constraint up into ‘physical’. Actually, I think conflation is a much bigger problem hindering our understanding than most realize, and not just with respect to the conflation of the primal definition of physical objects (subatomic particles, atoms, neurons, and all other ‘aggregate things’), but also, the much greater conflation of ‘objects’ with the ‘events’ that frame and define them.  This conflation is the inescapable outcome of reductionist theory.  By such reasoning, there is no difference between the occurrences of the thermo-nuclear explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the atomic reactions at the Sun’s core, or say, Tchaikovsky’s original scoring of cannons in the ‘1812 overture’, and the British cannon assault in the actual war of 1812.  And yet these are all contextually very distinct and separate object-event manifestations.


‘Bias’ and the ‘first person’ pinning of context are inescapable facts of our human existence - for example, how does one reconcile Aristotle’s maxim that:

    “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

…with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s equally insightful axiom;

    “The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.”

Are we educated enough to think ourselves impervious to the conceptualizations we encounter, whether self-generated or received externally through others (whether trusted or not)?  Or are we inescapably altered (even if only subconsciously so) by the very exposure to the discrete contextual bias each new conceptual perspective introduces? I like the idea of a tether, in case such conceptual murkiness overtakes us.

It’s another POV too, that a tether can also hold you back too long – perhaps we are simply dynamic, temporal PEs, morphing through one POV after another, when not impeded and weighted down by bias, as though a gravity bore down on us, sometimes to the point of fixation.

Eric, at this point, I have nothing left to say in this thread, so I will let it go.  I am going to bow out, and allow you guys to close it off as you wish.

Sincerely kindest regards gents, and may you all hold open minds over honest hearts, whilst you grip your tethers soundly.

Offline Andreas Geisler

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Re: What does “free will” mean?
« Reply #36 on: July 23, 2014, 04:04 PM »

1.   What specific statements of mine are still opaque to you?  Can you paraphrase them in your own words, to test for understanding and see if that is what I meant; as said in the context they were presented?

Most of them. Approximately one in three of your sentences seem to be more about form than content. As an example :
it is all in separating out a given person’s actual (to him/her), from an apparent (to you/me/us) meaning.
Surely, this could be rephrased into a structure that more certainly leads the reader to your intent?

It seems you read my apology backwards. I made the "accusation" right away, and pointed out that the accusation is about my heuristics, not necessarily your strategy or intent. It's like telling someone "If you call us "employees", you're alluding that we're subordinates, we are colleagues. "Co-workers" would be more fitting". One could take such guidance as an accusation of haughtiness, but what would be the point?

Again, please consider using straight prose for your thoughts. Even if it means giving them a longer and more segmented form than you would aesthetically prefer. Because, this is a philosophy club, not a poetry club.
Let's leave the convoluted speech to the Greats and to the Great Poseurs.

Neo Anderson

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Re: What does “free will” mean?
« Reply #37 on: August 04, 2014, 04:34 PM »
Reasoning is the reason why we act and speak the way we do.  It is the cause. When we ask "What is the reason something happened?", it is equivalent to saying "What is the cause of it happening?".  In other words, reasoning is another way of saying causality.  If we cause actions and speech that have a positive effect on our life, then our options and opportunities open up in life (more freedom).  If we cause actions and speech that have a net negative effect on our life, then our options and opportunities shrink in our life which means we lose some levels of freedom. 

Offline Andreas Geisler

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Re: What does “free will” mean?
« Reply #38 on: August 31, 2014, 08:22 AM »
That is freedom of action, though, not freedom of will. Or?