Free will

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Free will

Postby romansh » Sun Dec 12, 2010 10:15 am

Personally I can't see a mechanism for beings to have free will. Now does this mean we don't have free will? This answer must be "no". On the other hand does this mean I must believe in free will. The answer again (for me) is "no".

Then there is Galen Strawson's reworking of Schopenhauer's take:
... now the deeper point cuts in. For suppose you do want to acquire a want you haven’t got. The question is, where did the first want — the want for a want — come from? It seems it was just there, just a given, not something you chose or engineered — it was just there, like most of your preferences in food, music, footwear, sex, interior lighting, and so on.

I suppose it’s possible that you might have acquired the first want, that’s the want for a want, because you wanted to! It’s theoretically possible that you had a want to have a want to have a want. But this is very hard to imagine, and the question just rearises: where did that want come from? You certainly can’t go on like this forever. At some point your wants must be just given.

Some may ask well do we experience the sense of free will, I think I do. But then I think I experience colours as well. But I have lots of evidence to say they are just chemical reactions on the surface of my retinas and and in my brain.

Others may ask, well what difference does it make if do or don't have free will? Well I would argue if we don't necessarily hold that we or others have free will, then our perception of ourselves and those around us changes dramatically - I would argue for the 'better'.
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Free Will

Postby Carol » Sun Dec 12, 2010 4:31 pm

My guess is that freewill, as is largely understood by Christians and others, is a necessity to bring comprehension regarding the sin question. As we've heard, if there is no freewill and everything is controlled by a "loving" deity, then why sin and suffering. But if freewill is brought into the equation, that explains it. We are sinful creatures and our freewill brings about the "bad" in this world which absolves god from being the culprit.

Of course we do have freewill as described by your quote
It seems it was just there, just a given, not something you chose or engineered — it was just there, like most of your preferences in food, music, footwear, sex, interior lighting, and so on.
We do make our own choices in everything we do whether it involves obeying the law, working, stealing or using our brains to achieve great things. We do have freewill in that sense, albeit a different meaning such as choice or preference which does not necessarily have anything to do with religious belief.

Carol
"These people believe there is no truth to seek in nature, but only in the comparison of texts." Galileo
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Free Will

Postby Bill » Sun Dec 12, 2010 6:00 pm

As Bechara et al observed:
The orbitofrontal cortex represents one critical structure in a neural system subserving decision making. Decision making is not mediated by the orbitofrontal cortex alone, but arises from large-scale systems that include other cortical and subcortical components. Such structures include the amygdala, the somatosensory/insular cortices and the peripheral nervous system

So, while it is true that any one decision is the result of neurological reactions in the orbitofrontal cortex, the volume and strength of so many different (and often competing) inputs suggests to me that we have some control over how much weight we give to each factor, when we have time to consider such matters. Furthermore, the independent interaction between short term and long term memory will skew any one decision, further suggesting that we have some control over the outcome of some of the decisions we make.

In short, rapid reactionary decisions are probably totally without any sort of free will, but long, thoughtful deliberations are capable of bringing decisions that would satisfy any definition of "free will".
The only reality is the moment that we call "Now".
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Re: Free Will

Postby Bill » Sun Dec 12, 2010 6:54 pm

A paper to be published in the January edition of Cerebal Cortex shows that different neural circuits are brought into play to deal with different sorts of decisions and their respective complexity.

If nothing else, this eliminates any sort of "one size fits all" theory in respect of the decision making process.

There is more complexity than a simple input = reaction = decision model.
The only reality is the moment that we call "Now".
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Re: Free Will

Postby UnReAL » Mon Dec 13, 2010 7:14 am

I've always thought that we have a great deal of control over our own thoughts and actions, and to some extent the "reality" that we manifest for ourselves. I don't think "free will" has to be limited to any specified Biblical or simply spiritual interpretation. Although I'm not willing to rule out the possibility of Egotheism being correct, the belief that every person is in fact their own "god". This might rationalize why we only have a level of control over our own bodies and lives. But if anything is certain, it's that humans possess free will. How we came to possess this trait or even how we became aware of such a trait is beyond me.
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Re: Free Will

Postby romansh » Mon Dec 13, 2010 1:54 pm

UnReAL wrote: But if anything is certain, it's that humans possess free will.

I disagree with you strongly here UnReAL, the fact that humans posses free will is far from certain. The fact alone that the Abrahamic religions suggest we do is reason for some suspicion alone. No?
UnReAL wrote:How we came to possess this trait or even how we became aware of such a trait is beyond me.

Here I agree.
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Re: Free Will

Postby UnReAL » Mon Dec 13, 2010 2:06 pm

romansh wrote:
UnReAL wrote: But if anything is certain, it's that humans possess free will.

I disagree with you strongly here UnReAL, the fact that humans posses free will is far from certain. The fact alone that the Abrahamic religions suggest we do is reason for some suspicion alone. No?


So you don't think we have the ability to act out whatever behavior we choose to, regardless of any consequences? That's how I interpret "free will". I'm "free" to have the "will" to perform any given thought or action. Is this not how you view it? Does it have to fall within the constraints of religious interpretation?
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Re: Free Will

Postby romansh » Mon Dec 13, 2010 2:12 pm

Bill wrote: In short, rapid reactionary decisions are probably totally without any sort of free will, but long, thoughtful deliberations are capable of bringing decisions that would satisfy any definition of "free will".

So lets see if I got this right.

fMRIs measure the effect of chemical environment of hydrogen atoms in a magnetic field that's oscillating at radio frequencies. My guess is that the radio frequencies are tuned to resonant frequencies of hydrogen in the porphorin groups in the haem molecules in our blood. The principal factor affecting this chemical environment is whether the haem molecule is oxygenated or not.

If the fMRI detects oxygenated haems, this is indicative of fast blood flow (or perhaps less likely, low brain activity in that lobe). And vice versa. So far I'm with you. Now that the brain would increase blood flow to one lobe or another being indicative of free will is beyond my grasp. I'm sure there is no part of me that consciously manipulates blood flow within my brain.

Certainly does not pass my definition of free will.
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Re: Free Will

Postby romansh » Mon Dec 13, 2010 2:21 pm

UnReAL wrote: So you don't think we have the ability to act out whatever behavior we choose to, regardless of any consequences? That's how I interpret "free will". I'm "free" to have the "will" to perform any given thought or action. Is this not how you view it? Does it have to fall within the constraints of religious interpretation?

Sure we can act out whatever behaviour, make choices etc.

The question is can we do so freely? The religious aspect of this I think is a red herring - other than some much else has been misinterpreted by religions.

You say are free to have the "will", if we look at Strawson's reworking of Schopenhauer's position, Strawson asks where did the will to the "will" come from? Of course this becomes a recursive question. (Strawson used "want" instead of "will".
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Re: Free Will

Postby romansh » Mon Dec 13, 2010 3:05 pm

Newpath wrote:We do make our own choices in everything we do whether it involves obeying the law, working, stealing or using our brains to achieve great things. We do have freewill in that sense, albeit a different meaning such as choice or preference which does not necessarily have anything to do with religious belief.
Carol

An excel spreadsheet also makes choices, noticeably so if it has some logic functions in it.

We have the ability to make choices - Yes! - freely? I'm far from sure. And as the Strawson link points out it need not be scary.
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