T Nation

My View on Free Will

I think becoming self aware is a big difference between us and other animals. Self pity may be even more defining.

I see free will as a lot like chaos theory where even analytical solutions to exact situations exhibit almost random results. There are results manifest in people unexplainable by environment or physical attributes.

[quote]FormerlyTexasGuy wrote:
If you can’t willingly prevent your thoughts from becoming actions, you have problems.
[/quote]

You missed the boat.

[quote]bushidobadboy wrote:

So who is in control if not you?

BBB[/quote]

I hurriedly replied to your post before I went to class, and than it dawned on me that I answered it incorrectly.

You are in control, but the “you” is your brain + conditioning. This is the weakpoint of my argument. The theory is still young and I am still trying to tie everyhing together, but I believe this is deeply rooted in history and a reason why history repeats itself and how we can’t beat human nature, etc. etc.

Basically, the message I wanted to convey was how can we take responsbility for our actions if we can’t take responsibility for our mental abilities?

[quote]DoubleDuce wrote:
Following your logic, when you really boil it down, we are just a complex chemical reaction taking place for the years we are alive. No one has any more free will than a piece of iron gets to decide whether to rust or not.
[/quote]

Bingo. Summed it up for me. So simple yet so complex.

[quote]shoo wrote:
Obviously a person can change drastically, in some cases to the complete opposite personality.
[/quote]

Myself and many psychologists would disagree with you on this matter. Personality is largely determined by childhood. Your “core” will always most definately be the same throughout your life. EX)

If your introvert , you may take on extrovert activities as an adult (it will probably be uncomfortable for you as well), but you will still be an introvert on the inside. There are many articles that suggest real change being near impossible, let alone one person becoming their opposite.

[quote]shoo wrote:
When you make a decision, you either come to it by calculating or by emotions, both products of the environment.
[/quote]

The brain and its chemicals has a larger part in emotions than you think.

[quote]drewh wrote:
Who cares discussions like this are pointless you will never find an answer.
[/quote]

Because if you believe one faction or the other, your mindset will be indicative of that. Like I said- I dont believe in free will. I believe I can look at a persons brain and environment to find the answer.

Meaning–I study peope scientifically. I play the game. I dont place judgement on other people–I see through them. Believe it or not, it has made me a better person.

[quote]LIFTICVSMAXIMVS wrote:

You may not have any influence over the ideas that direct your actions but all rational people can only act after deliberation between various means and consideration of more desirable for less ends. In other words, rational people always choose to act or not.
[/quote]

A+B+C=D (decision prcoess)

We dont have control over A or B, only C.
What you propose is a very limited view of free will. Is this correct?

[quote]LIFTICVSMAXIMVS wrote:
Consider this: free will can only exist because of language.
[/quote]

I agree–but…I don’t believe just because we have language that automatically means we have free will too.

[quote]LIFTICVSMAXIMVS wrote:
Also, because of language we are capable of organizing ourselves in such a manner that we do not have to be in complete competition with each other for scarce resources.
[/quote]

and yet we are.

[quote]THE_CLAMP_DOWN wrote:

DoubleDuce wrote:
Following your logic, when you really boil it down, we are just a complex chemical reaction taking place for the years we are alive. No one has any more free will than a piece of iron gets to decide whether to rust or not.

Bingo. Summed it up for me. So simple yet so complex.

[/quote]

If I ever see you on the street I’m going to punch you in the face and remind you that your anger is the same as getting mad at a scrap of iron. j/k

So in the world of BBing, or anything that takes hard work and dedication, the determining factor is not the illusive “will”, but simple physics. No one truely tries harder than anyone else, it’s just the result of birth + inputs.

I don’t know how familiar you are with real sciences (I kid) but NO worldly systems are exactly predictable even knowing all inputs to the system exactly. Look up the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.

The fact is there is no way to even predict the simple movement of the simplest particles of matter. There is an element of uncertainty and randomness in every real world occurrence, no matter how simplified. It is built into the smallest fundamental principals of the universe.

For a someone to propose even a more than modest predictability in something as complex as consciousness makes me chuckle a little.

[quote]shoo wrote:
DoubleDuce wrote:
shoo wrote:
bushidobadboy wrote:
THE_CLAMP_DOWN wrote:

And about the individuality of the mind, I belive there is a spectrum of possibilities you are born with, that decreases with time as it becomes set in it’s ways.
[/quote]
I agree.
I believe there are 3 conditioning phases : Childhood. Teenage years. Adulthood. As you progress through each phase, you are less easily molded and your beliefs become more concrete.

totally disagree. Personality has a lot more to due with your brain. Take twins for instance, they can be separated from birth, meet up 20 years later and be almost identical in terms of personality. Take my nephews for another example, 2 are good little boys, the third has ADHD and is totally opposite. He is a natural born killer. All live in a strict household.

[quote]THE_CLAMP_DOWN wrote:
LIFTICVSMAXIMVS wrote:

You may not have any influence over the ideas that direct your actions but all rational people can only act after deliberation between various means and consideration of more desirable for less ends. In other words, rational people always choose to act or not.

A+B+C=D (decision prcoess)

We dont have control over A or B, only C.
What you propose is a very limited view of free will. Is this correct?

LIFTICVSMAXIMVS wrote:
Consider this: free will can only exist because of language.

I agree–but…I don’t believe just because we have language that automatically means we have free will too.

LIFTICVSMAXIMVS wrote:
Also, because of language we are capable of organizing ourselves in such a manner that we do not have to be in complete competition with each other for scarce resources.

and yet we are.
[/quote]

More correctly A + error in A + C + error in C + B + error in B = D + error in D

The error is what I call free will.

[quote]DoubleDuce wrote:
THE_CLAMP_DOWN wrote:

So in the world of BBing, or anything that takes hard work and dedication, the determining factor is not the illusive “will”, but simple physics. No one truely tries harder than anyone else, it’s just the result of birth + inputs.
[/quote]

Yep. Exactly.
Is it my fault you have more motivation, more ambition than me? What if I was diagnosed with ADD (disorder known for low levels of dopamine) or I lacked the appropriate conditioning as a kid to excel at “hard work” (say…coming from a very well off family). These things I mentioned do make a difference–and they are things we cannot control.

Actually just covered that in Chemistry. I understand.

[quote]
For a someone to propose even a more than modest probability of predictability in something as complex as consciousness makes me chuckle a little.[/quote]

we will never know until the brain is 90-100% full explored and understood. This may never happen. It may be above us.

[quote]THE_CLAMP_DOWN wrote:
DoubleDuce wrote:
THE_CLAMP_DOWN wrote:

So in the world of BBing, or anything that takes hard work and dedication, the determining factor is not the illusive “will”, but simple physics. No one truely tries harder than anyone else, it’s just the result of birth + inputs.

Yep. Exactly.

Is it my fault you have more motivation, more ambition than me? What if I was diagnosed with ADD (disorder known for low levels of dopamine) or I lacked the appropriate conditioning as a kid to excel at “hard work” (say…coming from a very well off family). These things I mentioned do make a difference–and they are things we cannot control.

I don’t know how familiar you are with real sciences (I kid) but NO worldly systems are exactly predictable even knowing all inputs to the system exactly. Look up the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.

Actually just covered that in Chemistry. I understand.

For a someone to propose even a more than modest probability of predictability in something as complex as consciousness makes me chuckle a little.

we will never know until the brain is 90-100% full explored and understood. This may never happen. It may be above us.[/quote]

I was never arguing influence. It absolutely does influence. I disagree however that it is ever analytically solvable as you were stating.

If the movement of an electron is inherently not exactly describable and you exponentially increase the error in calculating the behavior of the system by adding complexity, existence itself becomes ultimately unpredictable no mater how accurate or complete any analysis is.

[quote]DoubleDuce wrote:
THE_CLAMP_DOWN wrote:
DoubleDuce wrote:
THE_CLAMP_DOWN wrote:

I was never arguing influence. It absolutely does influence. I disagree however that it is ever analytically solvable as you were stating.

If the movement of an electron is inherently not exactly describable and you exponentially increase the error in calculating the behavior of the system by adding complexity, existence itself becomes ultimately unpredictable no mater how accurate or complete any analysis is.[/quote]

I agree with both comments. It isnt analytically solvable. I was just proving that there are no 2 people on earth who are equals. One will always hold the advantage. The determining factor will always boil down to your genetics and conditioning (what else is there?).

That has been the point of his whole thread. If we cant take responsibility for those, how can we for our actions? I don’t think anyone has answered this directly.

and yes, the odds of prediction would be low. But through understanding of the 2 factors that comprise my theory, they would undoubtedly rise (dont know how high or at what level).

[quote]DoubleDuce wrote:
shoo wrote:
DoubleDuce wrote:
shoo wrote:
bushidobadboy wrote:
THE_CLAMP_DOWN wrote:

I don’t think I could ever be a murderer, not because my brain has developed differently but because something you might call a soul.
[/quote]

Do Muslim extremists have souls?

How do you see it?

[quote]THE_CLAMP_DOWN wrote:
DoubleDuce wrote:
shoo wrote:
DoubleDuce wrote:
shoo wrote:
bushidobadboy wrote:
THE_CLAMP_DOWN wrote:

I don’t think I could ever be a murderer, not because my brain has developed differently but because something you might call a soul.

Do Muslims have souls?

I think it’s pretty bleak to see the world and all it’s people as a cold, hard wired, computer, rhythmically ticking away inputs and outputs with predictable precision. I for one believe there is a “ghost in the machine”.

How do you see it?
[/quote]

I think that the inherent randomness of the simplest system and the propagation of that error throughout an unimaginably complex system results in an error term substantially larger than the calculation itself.

Once again these errors are not the result of inaccuracies in science or measurements, but is natural to the matter itself.

That ridiculously large error term and it’s loosely bounded probability can be called whatever you want. A soul, free will, even God. Whatever you call it is real and I believe it to be the ultimate determining factor in systems as complex as the human brain.

I agree what how we grow up has a significant influence in how and what decisions we make. I also agree that depending on how your brain is wired makes a significant difference as well.

However, with an infinite number of possibilities, can free will simply be choosing one from an infinite?

As DD said, the calculation of that added inherent randomness makes this a shit-storm even if you were able to add up ALL calculable possibilities… which would be impossible IMO. Some of these “calculable” probabilities would be taking into, water-several chemicals, psychotropic drugs, food(or lack there of), how your parents treated you, who you dated, what you were taught, etc.

But, for the sake of your argument, I grant you that we are able to calculate the impossible some day.
Would you say then, given every input, both environmental and brain(structure, future changes or probabilities of, etc), that you then could predict every single choice or reaction i would make?
I’m not sure I could disagree with you if you said ‘yes’. However, like DD said, it’s infinitely impossible.

[quote]shoo wrote:
Where did you get the idea that language is needed for free will to exist? I assume you view morals and philosophy as products of free will for this example, if you do not please say so.

I just do not understand how you can say language is needed for an individual thought to occur. And then if a language is not required why would it be impossible for an animal to have philosophical questions?

Honestly I can not find one thing that necessarily makes us more different from animals then just yet another species. We just happen to be monkeys with overly big brains.
[/quote]

How can any being even begin to explore transcendental nature (that which cannot be observed) without language? Every abstract object that humans are capable of knowing is only possible because of it. Without it there are no other means for philosophical inquiry. Even morality and ethics is the result of our ability to define “the good”, for example, and argue which means best bring it about.

Without language our mind would be nothing more than a collection of sensory observations. We would have no ability to define, categorize, classify, or even reason. This does not mean that we would not have thoughts or be incapable of thinking but that all our thoughts would merely be sensory. It is even probable that without language we could not have an understanding of the past and no inclination toward the future – that is to say, we would be completely driven by instinct. Emotions are not even possible without language. In the animal world there is only reaction to stimuli without a notion of cause and effect.

How language functions is one of the biggest differences between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom. In the animal world there is also a language of sorts but it could only be very limited. For example, while they have the means to signal each other and express mental states they have no ability to define or argue and without that there is no notion of truth.

With a concept of truth humans are capable of learning to reason. It is only our ability to reason that makes us that much different than all other creatures. This does not mean that other animals could never develop a language sophisticated enough to become like humans. We can imagine that there might be but without a means to communicate with them we cannot know it. Indeed, communication with language is the only means of knowing the minds of other creatures.

We must also consider that a human has the ability to shape the world he lives in to better suit his needs and this is the only reason sophisticated language was able to come about in the first place. It took many generations to bring man’s quality of life to a point where he was able to learn and develop a language enough to where it was more than just a series of expressive sounds and hand gestures – that is to say, more than just signals and expressions.

Language makes culture possible – more than that, it is culture. Whether it is shaped by the environment or not is inconsequential because it does not change the essential feature of what language is and how it functions.

[quote]DoubleDuce wrote:
THE_CLAMP_DOWN wrote:
DoubleDuce wrote:
shoo wrote:
DoubleDuce wrote:
shoo wrote:
bushidobadboy wrote:
THE_CLAMP_DOWN wrote:
I think that the inherent randomness of the simplest system and the propagation of that error throughout an unimaginably complex system results in an error term substantially larger than the calculation itself.

Once again these errors are not the result of inaccuracies in science or measurements, but is natural to the matter itself.

That ridiculously large error term and it’s loosely bounded probability can be called whatever you want. A soul, free will, even God. Whatever you call it is real and I believe it to be the ultimate determining factor in systems as complex as the human brain.[/quote]

Thanks for the very intelligent responses. You have helped me patch up holes in my argument(currently leaning towards severely limited free will) while raising a very good and crucial point in the increasing statistical error with complexity.

good posts.

Personally I am undecided on whether free will exists at all.

Here is what Einstein had to say on the matter: "If the moon, in the act of completing its eternal way around the earth, were gifted with self-consciousness, it would feel thoroughly convinced that it was travelling its way of its own accord on the strength of a resolution taken once and for all.

So would a Being, endowed with higher insight and more perfect intelligence, watching man and his doing, smile about man’s illusion that he was acting according to his own free will."

[quote]Regular Gonzalez wrote:

Here is what Einstein had to say on the matter[/quote]

Here’s a better one from Einstein about free will…

“I do not believe in free will. Schopenhauer’s words: ‘Man can do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wills,’ accompany me in all situations throughout my life and reconcile me with the actions of others, even if they are rather painful to me. This awareness of the lack of free will keeps me from taking myself and my fellow men too seriously as acting and deciding individuals, and from losing my temper.”

[quote]RenaissanceMan wrote:
Regular Gonzalez wrote:

Schopenhauer

[/quote]

hey

true that.

[quote]THE_CLAMP_DOWN wrote:

Do Muslim extremists have souls?

[/quote]

No, they traded it.

[quote]THE_CLAMP_DOWN wrote:
RenaissanceMan wrote:
Regular Gonzalez wrote:

Schopenhauer

hey

“… This awareness of the lack of free will keeps me from taking myself and my fellow men too seriously as acting and deciding individuals, and from losing my temper.”

true that.
[/quote]

Not so fast.

I recently read about an interesting experiment indicating that shattering a person’s belief in free will actually increases the probability that they will cheat on an unsupervised test. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if this carries over to other areas of peoples lives as well.

It is much better that the majority of people believe in free will, so that they feel responsible for their own actions.