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The greatest proof of free will…
Posted: 06 January 2012 04:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1696 ]
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About conscious and unconscious decisions:

Take the example of a tennis player: he must decide in less than 1/10 of a second where to run otherwise he cannot reach the ball. Now, according to some interpretations of Libet’s experiments, that could not be an action of free will: the built up to consciousness takes 350 ms. The built up of a conscious decision would take too long. What any good sportsman does is training. Training means repeating the same kind of situations again and again. The result of this is that consciousness is less and less involved. There is no time for it.

But doesn’t the playing tennis count as an action, as an expression of free will? Of course it does, and reflecting on why a player missed the ball he could say something like “I thought he would play the ball to the right, so I started to go there, but then he played the ball to the left, so I missed it”.

Did he really think that? According to what we know he had no time to conscious think about it, so he is lying. Well, is he? Isn’t his sentence a valid rational reconstruction of what really happened? Does the exact moment of his being conscious exist? This is again the spell of the Cartesian Theater. It is the naive idea of a homunculus in the brain, and what George and neurologists think would be necessary for conscious decisions, and therefore for free will.

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Posted: 06 January 2012 04:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1697 ]
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StephenLawrence - 06 January 2012 12:11 AM
TimB - 05 January 2012 11:55 PM

Stephen, It is my understanding that a compatibilist would say that a person who only has access to dirty water (if this is by chance and not an imposition by some agent), could exercise ‘free will’ by chooisng to drink the dirty water or not, whichever is consistent with his wants and beliefs.

I think the idea in this case is that the person wants to drink clean water.

It will be interesting to see what Doug says.

Well, looking at our above discussion this is my rough definition of a freely willed act:

—To will freely is either to do what you want or to do the better of two unwanted options in the case that they are the results of blind circumstance and not the forced choice of another agent.

Given that definition, a person with access only to dirty water may freely will to drink it (rather than going without) even if they would prefer to drink clean water, and really don’t want to drink dirty water. Tim has explicitly said that in this case access to dirty water is a matter of blind chance and not an imposition by some agent.

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Posted: 06 January 2012 04:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1698 ]
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GdB - 06 January 2012 04:33 AM

About conscious and unconscious decisions:

Take the example of a tennis player: he must decide in less than 1/10 of a second where to run otherwise he cannot reach the ball. Now, according to some interpretations of Libet’s experiments, that could not be an action of free will: the built up to consciousness takes 350 ms. The built up of a conscious decision would take too long. What any good sportsman does is training. Training means repeating the same kind of situations again and again. The result of this is that consciousness is less and less involved. There is no time for it.

But doesn’t the playing tennis count as an action, as an expression of free will? Of course it does, and reflecting on why a player missed the ball he could say something like “I thought he would play the ball to the right, so I started to go there, but then he played the ball to the left, so I missed it”.

Yes, I think that’s very apt. The more we are learning about cognitive psychology the more we’re coming to understand how much of mental processing and decision goes on sub- or pre-consciously. Consciousness, such as it is, may simply be a byproduct of resolved processes or decisions becoming widely known in the brain.

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Posted: 06 January 2012 06:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1699 ]
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GdB - 06 January 2012 04:33 AM

About conscious and unconscious decisions:

Take the example of a tennis player: he must decide in less than 1/10 of a second where to run otherwise he cannot reach the ball. Now, according to some interpretations of Libet’s experiments, that could not be an action of free will: the built up to consciousness takes 350 ms. The built up of a conscious decision would take too long. What any good sportsman does is training. Training means repeating the same kind of situations again and again. The result of this is that consciousness is less and less involved. There is no time for it.

But doesn’t the playing tennis count as an action, as an expression of free will? Of course it does, and reflecting on why a player missed the ball he could say something like “I thought he would play the ball to the right, so I started to go there, but then he played the ball to the left, so I missed it”.

Did he really think that? According to what we know he had no time to conscious think about it, so he is lying. Well, is he? Isn’t his sentence a valid rational reconstruction of what really happened? Does the exact moment of his being conscious exist? This is again the spell of the Cartesian Theater. It is the naive idea of a homunculus in the brain, and what George and neurologists think would be necessary for conscious decisions, and therefore for free will.

This is very intereting observation, GdB, and one of the best posts I have ever read from you. Thanks. I’ll think about what you said here.

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Posted: 06 January 2012 07:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1700 ]
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I think I read it too fast. You are not saying what I thought you were saying at all. Your last paragraph is especially confusing. What the tennis player does here (just like all those annoying sports commentators) doesn’t really differ much from what in psychology is known as confabulation. IOW, making stuff up. He could be correctly describing what had happened, but his intentions of what and why he did what he did are just stories.

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Posted: 06 January 2012 07:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1701 ]
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George - 06 January 2012 07:27 AM

I think I read it too fast. You are not saying what I thought you were saying at all. Your last paragraph is especially confusing. What the tennis player does here (just like all those annoying sports commentators) doesn’t really differ much from what in psychology is known as confabulation. IOW, making stuff up. He could be correctly describing what had happened, but his intentions of what and why he did what he did are just stories.

Think a little longer… Do you really think that, given the aim of the tennis player, make his assertion a confabulation?

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Posted: 06 January 2012 08:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1702 ]
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Technically, yes. It’s a confabulation. The fact that he may be right about why he did what he did is not important.

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Posted: 06 January 2012 09:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1703 ]
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I think by definition confabulation must involve false recall. In this case, his recall was accurate, though as GdB described the processing went on at a preconscious level and entered consciousness (it would appear) only through short-term memory. This may be how (virtually?) all conscious awareness works.

To put it a different way, if that is confabulation then all conscious experience is confabulation.

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Posted: 06 January 2012 09:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1704 ]
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I think all conscious experiences may be confabulations because we cut out a piece of reality out of the whole and try to give it a special meaning. It may appear to a red ball that it missed the hole because the blue ball hates him and kicked him right before he was going to jump in the hole, but we know that’s not really what had happened although the blue in fact may hate the red ball. It’s kind of like those photos when they ask you to add a funny dialogue to give it some meaning. There are no meanings and intentions. We make them in retrospect. They are just stories.

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Posted: 06 January 2012 09:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1705 ]
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George - 06 January 2012 09:45 AM

I think all conscious experiences may be confabulations because we cut out a piece of reality out of the whole and try to give it a special meaning. It may appear to a red ball that it missed the hole because the blue ball hates him and kicked him right before he was going to jump in the hole, but we know that’s not really what had happened although the blue in fact may hate the red ball. It’s kind of like those photos when they ask you to add a funny dialogue to give it some meaning. There are no meanings and intentions. We make them in retrospect. They are just stories.

Then what you just said was a confabulation?

Or is it only all your experiences that are confabulations?

How do you distinguish experience claims from other sorts of claims?

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Posted: 06 January 2012 10:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1706 ]
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George, you are only one step before declaring science a confabulation. Science is based on experience, i.e. on consciousness. Doug pointed exactly to the problem in your position.

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Posted: 06 January 2012 11:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1707 ]
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dougsmith - 06 January 2012 09:52 AM

How do you distinguish experience claims from other sorts of claims?

I don’t actually think we can ever know for sure what is real.

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Posted: 06 January 2012 12:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1708 ]
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George - 06 January 2012 11:58 AM
dougsmith - 06 January 2012 09:52 AM

How do you distinguish experience claims from other sorts of claims?

I don’t actually think we can ever know for sure what is real.

I don’t understand your response.

Of course, I agree that we lack foundational knowledge; all we have are the best theories available to us. But if all conscious experience is confabulation, and thereby all conscious experience claims are confabulations, then all we have to go on when we describe anything are confabulations.

I take a confabulation to be a false or imaginary conceptual construction.

So all our conscious experience claims are false or imaginary.

Your above claim (#1704) is not itself an experience claim, it’s theoretical. But I take it that your theory is based on experience, so to that extent your theory in #1704, if it were true, would be false or imaginary. That sounds to me like a reductio or a self-refutation. It’s basically another version of the liar’s paradox.

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Posted: 06 January 2012 12:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1709 ]
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George: I think all conscious experiences may be confabulations because we cut out a piece of reality out of the whole and try to give it a special meaning…

Confabulation may not be the right term but our verbal descriptions of reality are abstract imperfect representations of reality.  This is complicated by the fact that our perceptual ablitiies and our abillites to attend to our surroundings cannot possibly register a perfect one to one, and all encompassing, correspondence to what is actually there.  Yet from subjective experience, as fallible as it clearly must be, I am convinced that I have the abilities to percieve and describe my reality to some extent, and that I have the ability to assign meaning and tell stories.  I am convinced that that is part of reality as well.  And somewhere in all that, this thing that we call “will” is simply an attempt to describe my behaviors that (at least) appear to be choice making behaviors. 

To agree with the compatabilist understanding of “free will”, I think, one must only accept that one has wants, and/or beliefs that one’s behavior is in accordance with or not.  If it is in accordance, it is “free will”.

Perhaps it is also true that every behavior that we do, including every thought, and everything we say or write, and every behavior that seems to be a choice, is determined, but it is additionally true, IMO, that our verbal abilities and abilities to assign meaning, and tell stories, and to recognize our wants and beliefs is often integrated into that determination.

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Posted: 06 January 2012 11:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1710 ]
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George - 06 January 2012 09:45 AM

It’s kind of like those photos when they ask you to add a funny dialogue to give it some meaning. There are no meanings and intentions. We make them in retrospect. They are just stories.

I’m not sure that they are always just stories. We might unconsciously know why we do something and we might become conscious of that.

Even if they are just stories, the question is are some of them true stories?

If I say a spider builds a web to catch it’s dinner, is that a true story? I think the answer is no. I think we have a better evolutionary explanation.

But say I make an agreement to fix a bike by this afternoon and find myself working on it this morning. My story is that I’m working on the bike this morning because I have made an agreement and I have a goal to meet the agreement and am aiming for that goal.

If my story isn’t true I’d expect to be able to come up with an evolutionary explanation that doesn’t include aiming for the goal. Can we? If so I’m quite likely to change my mind.

Stephen

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