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Susan Blackmore (Dec. 15)
Posted: 23 December 2006 03:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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I think you are misconstruing what I’m saying. There are no “special powers” involved. Any other animals with beliefs and desires that cause their actions have free will just as much as humans do. If primates have beliefs and desires, they have free will too. Since children have beliefs and desires, they have free will too.

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Doug

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Posted: 04 January 2007 08:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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I’m coming a bit late to this discussion, since I only just got the chance to listen to Ms. Blackmore’s interview. In general, as I suppose is apparent from my contributions to the “free to choose” thread, I am in agreement with Doug on the nature of free will. The perspective I take is that it may be objectively true, as contemporary science strongly suggests, that such things as consciousness, free will, and the self are illusory. However, our natural history, and the neurological mechanisms it has generated, have resulted in these pervasive and entrenched illusions because they have functional value. They allow us to interact in effective ways with our environment and each other and, at least until the historical era, they have had some adaptive value in an evolutionary sense. Furthermore, as Ms. Blackmore herself points out, while an abstract intellectual realization of their illusory nature is realatively easy to come to, it requires decades of intensive practice to break the intuitive perception that we exist as real, integrated “selves” with the capacity for deliberation and free choice. Perhaps, then, we might be better served by not jettisoning these apparently useful ideas so intrinsic to our nervous systems? I can make use of the relativistic truth that velocity and mass are inextricably related when planning interstellar travel even though I cannot rid myself of the intuitive perception that they are unrelated. In fact, imagining the world around me to be purely Newtonian is actgually a pretty fair and useful approximation most of the time. Likewise, imagining that free will exists (within the definition that Doug provides at the top of the thread, or that I provide in “free to choose”) and that “I” exist as an active agent in the world may be an illusion at some level, but it may also be a fair and useful approximation of the truth in most circumstances. This would obviate the need to put every child through decades of meditative practice to overcome their native perceptions of the universe, which I doubt is practical or necessary even if we wish to take advantage of some of the possibilities opened up by the realization that consciousness is what the brain does, etc.

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