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Free to choose
Posted: 10 January 2007 07:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 61 ]
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Free to choose?

I’m pleased to meet you.

Pleased to meet you too.

Agreed, our brain is able to consider various alternatives, which it has conjured up. When we select one of them we call that choosing.

Yes, but the point I’m stressing is the ability to create the alternatives, because, if it didn’t, there would not be alternatives and no “choosing”.

In what sense is doing that an illusion? Isn’t it simply something we do?

Yes, but so what? When you get ill and your immune system responds with immune responses, isn’t it something you’re doing?  Our brain may conjure up the alternative of the immune system not responding, but did you choose having those immune responses?

It’s true we do things. What my argument is is that we have the illusion of “choosing” because our brains create alternatives. It does that as automatically as the immune system. After all, the brain is just another biological organ.

Surely he must believe choose means something other than what we experience it to be?

It is this belief that he has and that is widely held that I am questioning.

I don’t completely agree with you on the first part. We all fell like choosing in some strange metaphysical way, that’s why there is so much discussion about this. I surely don’t feel like a lumping robot (Dawkins expression, if I’m not in error), but I believe I am one.

That is why I agree with the second part, although I don’t believe we can get rid of ALL of our illusions, but that is another debatable matter.

p.s your english is very good.

When in doubt, I use the Oxford American Dictionary in my iBook LOL

Pjay

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Posted: 10 January 2007 09:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 62 ]
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Re: Free to choose?

Hi Paulo

You make interesting points, I’m going to ponder on one and reply to one that I want to focus on for the moment.

[quote author=“StephenLawrence”]

Surely he must believe choose means something other than what we experience it to be?

It is this belief that he has and that is widely held that I am questioning.

[quote author=“Paulo Pinheiro”]I don’t completely agree with you on the first part. We all fell like choosing in some strange metaphysical way, that’s why there is so much discussion about this. I surely don’t feel like a lumping robot (Dawkins expression, if I’m not in error), but I believe I am one.

Why do we all feel like choosing in some strange metaphysical way? (I don’t anymore)

I don’t think it is connected to whether we are robots or machines or not. Or to the fact we find it very hard to feel like robots or machines.

We experience choosing to be the process that we all go through.

We experience nothing more and yet we intuitively feel there is something more.

Is this something humans have always intuitively felt?

I don’t believe it is, I think a meme is in our culture. That meme is an erroneous belief that spreads from human to human from a young age and creates the feeling.

As the writer of the article believes that if we don’t have free will we are not free to choose, he is obviously thinking of a strange metaphysical choice making and that it is synonymous with free will.

He believes to choose and to have free will, both mean we could do otherwise.

Neither do.

That is why I agree with the second part, although I don’t believe we can get rid of ALL of our illusions, but that is another debatable matter.

If I’m right to think the feeling is based on an unfounded belief then we can get rid of it. Just like if we feel that God listens to our prayers we can get rid of the feeling by stopping believing in God.

Stephen

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Posted: 11 January 2007 01:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 63 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”]Seems to me that freedom of the will and freedom of choice amount to the same thing. In what way do you (or does the Economist) see them as different?

Is this also the same thing as I’ve often seen described as the “unencumbered from constraints” view of Free Will?

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Posted: 11 January 2007 03:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 64 ]
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[quote author=“gmgauthi”]Is this also the same thing as I’ve often seen described as the “unencumbered from constraints” view of Free Will?

Hmmm ... I’m not sure.

:?

I think you’d have to try to describe the view more completely.

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Posted: 12 January 2007 06:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 65 ]
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My apologies for being so behind. Stephen raised some questions about my last post:

“Ok so if we go back to the pedophile with a brain tumour.

“In this instance what would be the justification for giving him a lesser sentence than another pedophile without a brain tumour? “.

“Do you think it would be unfair to give both a harsh sentence or do you think a harsh sentence is never fair on the person it is given to but in some cases it is of greater benefit to society to do so, than in others? “

My response, which was lost when my cat crawled on my lap, and laptop, causing an hour’s work to vanish (the ‘dog ate my homework’ brought up to date), repeated my example of judging a killing using the instance of the pedophile with a tumor: essentially, I said that it would be just and fair to give him a lesser sentence.

Having lost that response, and not having leisure to reproduce it, I thought further, perhaps Stephen was asking after my source or standard for justification and fairness.  I cannot point to a holy writ, or idea of good; rather, my source or standard for justification is informed by my upbringing, by what I learned by reading and in conversation, and by my experience in life.

My question to Stephen is: how do you decide whether an act is justified or fair?

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Posted: 12 January 2007 10:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 66 ]
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Re: Free to choose?

[quote author=“Paulo Pinheiro”]

I’m pleased to meet you.

Pleased to meet you too.

Agreed, our brain is able to consider various alternatives, which it has conjured up. When we select one of them we call that choosing.

Yes, but the point I’m stressing is the ability to create the alternatives, because, if it didn’t, there would not be alternatives and no “choosing”.

In what sense is doing that an illusion? Isn’t it simply something we do?

Yes, but so what? When you get ill and your immune system responds with immune responses, isn’t it something you’re doing?  Our brain may conjure up the alternative of the immune system not responding, but did you choose having those immune responses?

It’s true we do things. What my argument is is that we have the illusion of “choosing” because our brains create alternatives. It does that as automatically as the immune system. After all, the brain is just another biological organ.

Yes, I think I see, correct me if I go wrong, you are making two points, the first that the alternatives aren’t really possible alternatives, although we do experience thinking about them.

On this point I agree that in a sense they are not possible alternatives in reality.

Having thought about this for some time however, my view is, as far as we are concerned they are all possible alternatives.

The reason is we cannot know which one we are going to choose.

If it is impossible to know which one we are going to choose, then any one of them is possible.

I’m braced for this argument to be shot down in flames but this for me is an important part of my psychology and is what stops me being fatalistic.

On your second point about the Immune system, we can think about what the immune system may do but when it does what it does, we don’t really pick the alternative. Yes because their is no seperate I doing the picking, picking is something my whole being does and is a result of competing forces, far too complicated to understand. 

The illusory seperate I that conjours up the alternatives is still a determining factor in deciding which alternative is picked. in the case of the immune system it is hardly a factor at all, if at all.

In the case of our actions the alternatives are determining factors of greater significance but still only that and their is no seperate I doing the picking that can choose the result of the process at will.

If we have the illusion we are doing this sometimes, then it seems easy to combat, as we only have to observe ourselves to find there are plenty of times we can’t do this, like when I go to the gym determined to do 20 minutes on the bike, only to find myself observing my body getting off the bike after 15 minutes even though I haven’t asked it to and in defiant disobediance!

I don’t think we need science or philosophy to tell us this, it seems to me we only need to observe ourselves. I suppose our observations could be unreliable and science and philosophy help to back them up but what puzzles me is that people think the science and philosophy behind this are contrary to our experience and I think, if we observe ourselves closely this is not true.

Stephen

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Posted: 16 January 2007 05:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 67 ]
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[quote author=“Acher”]My response, which was lost when my cat crawled on my lap, and laptop, causing an hour’s work to vanish (the ‘dog ate my homework’ brought up to date), repeated my example of judging a killing using the instance of the pedophile with a tumor: essentially, I said that it would be just and fair to give him a lesser sentence.

Hi. (I’m new to the discussion, I’ve read most of it.)

“A lesser (or otherwise different) sentence” is getting to what for me is the key. We non-free-willists aren’t saying let everyone out of jail (I hate the way prisons are run but not enough to open the doors for dangerous criminals). I don’t believe a nfw (non-free-will) point of view always results in lesser sentences or more “lenient” treatment. It may result in more appropriate treatment, because it’ll be based on a more realistic worldview.

What we’re saying is that knowing people don’t have free will changes the way we think about them and potentially the way we treat them, in ways beneficial to all. Retribution loses it’s justification, but the other reasons for incarcerating (public safety, deterrence, even behavior-modifying punishment to a degree) remain legitimate. Knowing human behavior has causes makes us more interested in the natural causes of that behavior, though our understanding doesn’t change our basic moral code, which is not based on having free will, but on rules we’ve made up which (in theory) help us get along with each other.

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We are what we must be, do what we must do, change as we must change, according to the laws of nature.
The healthiest response to this is compassion for all, including ourselves.
Our actions have consequences, which, to the extent those involved are healthy, will be based on compassion.

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Posted: 16 January 2007 05:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 68 ]
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[quote author=“Acher”]My apologies for being so behind.

My turn to apologise now.

I’m gonna get back to you but have got so rapped up on the free will thread that I’ve not got round to it.

It has now occured to me that I had better get some work done I’ve got to fix a bike, which is to blame for having rusty cables as in another possible world it has been kept in the garage and is working properly.

Doug will be pleased to know that he is getting a well earned rest from answering my posts tomorrow and I’ll be back to you after that.

Stephen

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Posted: 16 January 2007 08:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 69 ]
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Stormrider raised a good point. Our whole system of imprisonment cries out for skeptical inquiry: there seems no clear rationale for the societal response to those actions deemed crimes - are we punishing, reforming, setting an example in order to deter, or merely quarantining a threat to society, and what counts as a crime is often questionable.

Looking back over the ‘Free Choice’ discussion, it seems to me it was driven by ambiguities in the use of ‘choice’: for example, if I go to a supermarket for cereal, I can choose between Grapenuts and Corn Flakes, or between cornflakes made by Kellogs or the store brand; however, Grapenuts is the only brand of granular wheat and barley cereal, so if I desire a Grapenuts kind of cereal, there is no choice. In another sense, there remains the choice of whether to buy Grapenuts, or to forego it altogether.

There are other issues of interest to me in the Economist article with which Stephen started this thread; questions of whether there must be ‘free will’ in order to have responsibility, whether responsibility is “the glue that holds a free society (and even an unfree one) together.”, and if “Without a belief in free will, an ideology of freedom is bizarre.” Further, if we accept a principle of strict determinism (every action has a cause), how can we meaningfully talk of choice?

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Posted: 16 January 2007 08:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 70 ]
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[quote author=“Acher”]There are other issues of interest to me in the Economist article with which Stephen started this thread; questions of whether there must be ‘free will’ in order to have responsibility, whether responsibility is “the glue that holds a free society (and even an unfree one) together.”, and if “Without a belief in free will, an ideology of freedom is bizarre.” Further, if we accept a principle of strict determinism (every action has a cause), how can we meaningfully talk of choice?

These are precisely the issues being dealt with in the other thread.

For books about freedom, responsibility, and how choice is fully compatible with determinism, see Daniel Dennett’s Elbow Room and Freedom Evolves for starters.

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Posted: 16 January 2007 09:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 71 ]
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Thank you for the recommendation.

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Posted: 16 January 2007 02:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 72 ]
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[quote author=“Acher”]
Further, if we accept a principle of strict determinism (every action has a cause), how can we meaningfully talk of choice?

Choice is definable in purely mechanical/information-processing terms.
We walk into an ice cream shop, and we are asked to make a choice (what flavor would you like?) Even if the process of picking one is determined, we don’t know which one we will pick until we pick it, we have to think about it, and the thinking we do, which is fully determined, is part of the process which results in us choosing a particular flavor. We are information processing machines, and choosing, though not necessarily predictable (too complicated, trillions of neurons), is fully determined. It IS choosing, can be called choosing, just as computer software “chooses” (If x holds, then do y)

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We are what we must be, do what we must do, change as we must change, according to the laws of nature.
The healthiest response to this is compassion for all, including ourselves.
Our actions have consequences, which, to the extent those involved are healthy, will be based on compassion.

http://www.youtube.com/user/NatureCompassion

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Posted: 19 January 2007 10:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 73 ]
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[quote author=“Acher”]

My response, which was lost when my cat crawled on my lap, and laptop, causing an hour’s work to vanish (the ‘dog ate my homework’ brought up to date), repeated my example of judging a killing using the instance of the pedophile with a tumor: essentially, I said that it would be just and fair to give him a lesser sentence.

Having lost that response, and not having leisure to reproduce it, I thought further, perhaps Stephen was asking after my source or standard for justification and fairness.  I cannot point to a holy writ, or idea of good; rather, my source or standard for justification is informed by my upbringing, by what I learned by reading and in conversation, and by my experience in life.

My question to Stephen is: how do you decide whether an act is justified or fair?

Hi Acher

I don’t know. I don’t think any one deserves to suffer the consequences of their actions but we all have to.

When we are inflicting the suffering it cannot be justified on their deserving it in the sense that they could have done otherwise. Can it ever be fair on them?

Can we make the golden rule work somehow? I’m pessimistic but I would like to be wrong.


Iran has a choice whether to keep on trying to make a nuculear weapon or not. Given the circumstances they are in, I think form their point of view it will look like the best thing they can do is continue with the program.

they will probably be bombed, sanctions imposed against them and so on.

Will this be justified bacause they had a choice. No. but that reason will be given, how fair we were to give them so many chances but they took none of them.

I have no answers here but I do think that if we stopped believing in ‘should’, ‘ought’ and ‘deserve’ terms and focused on the fact that in a given situation people will behave as they behave, we can all work together to bring about better circumstances. without thinking they shouldn’t have done that so they are the problem.

I watched a program on Iran again (only a coincidence)

It was very distressing, a youmg woman was hanged from a crane in public for having sex before marriage.

this is absolutely abhorrent to us, why not to many Iranians?

the reasons they believed she deserved what she got because she knew the penalty and she had a choice. she could have decided not to but she didn’t.

It is much easier to see how warped this is when looking at another countries attitudes than our own. but the attitude is warped in any case.

Neither pedophile deserves what happens to them. they are both in the same boat. Neither could have done otherwise in the circumstances at the time.

because we can see the cause of one’s actions we accept that for him. when we can’t see the cause we don’t accept it.

My interest in a case like this is not what should we do about it but how would our feelings change if we did not believe in free will.

If our feelings change then our thoughts and behaviour will change.

it is not just our feelings that would change what about the ‘criminals’

Very few people think of themselves as bad, they justify their actions to themselves somehow.

if we didn’t believe in free will they could not justify it in the sense the person deserves it, in the could do otherwise sence. I think many crimes happen as a result of this kind of justification.

This is not just to do with criminal cases, in fact they are a very small part of it.

It is to do with how we feel about ourselves our family our neibours our country and other nations.

We would stop blaming in the deep sense we do and I think be able to cooperate better to find solutions to our problems. I think we would simply be ‘nicer’

Hatred would be reduced look at the two pedophile cases to see that and our ability to forgive, well we could hardly not.

These are just two examples. We would live in a completely different world if we didn’t believe in free will.

Philosophers tend to concentrate on good things that we would lose.

but we lose nothing, we can still have all the choice and freedom we want.

Because they are so focused on keeping the ‘free will’ we want, most miss the point that their is a free will we don’t want.

Our emotional responses are trained along the lines of could do otherwise at the time in the circumstances.

So it is hard to emotionally feel what harm that may be doing and so is not considered important.

I hope more people will start to realise this is important and start to enquire into the damage it may be doing.

Stephen

p.s if I don’t reply to any responses, it will be because I’ve got lots to do and need to keep of this topic for a while

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Posted: 21 January 2007 06:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 74 ]
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[quote author=“Acher”]if we accept a principle of strict determinism (every action has a cause), how can we meaningfully talk of choice?

This question may help me to make the point I’m trying to make.

Choice means, consider possible alternatives and pick one out as the best.

I don’t know if determinism is true but if it is, we can do this, there is no problem.

So if it appears to you that it is a problem, then you must believe choice means something other or more than this.

It’s the other meaning or the more than meaning that I am arguing against.

If I’m right to think we don’t experience choosing to be other or more than the definition given.

Then why do we believe and feel as if it does?

Stephen

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Posted: 24 April 2007 08:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 75 ]
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Hi Occam,

[quote author=“Occam”]I’m getting in on this late, but it seems you are saying that your choice is determined by your information and motivations so you are not free to make any other choice.  As such, free will is not involved.

Occam

I can now return to this and put what I’m saying in a format that Doug and I can agree on.

Given that the determining factors were as they were, I could pick no other option than the one I picked.

What people commonly believe is that a real choice is one in which we could have made another choice despite the fact that the antecedal causes of the result of the choice were as they were.

We can’t do this.

I think the writer of the article thought we needed to be able to, to be free to choose. 

Stephen

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