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Do non-human animals have free will?
Posted: 25 November 2012 04:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 151 ]
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GdB - 25 November 2012 12:57 AM
Lois - 23 November 2012 12:31 PM

You are not free to either act or not act on your wishes and beliefs. 

Right. That is exactly the naive understanding of free will: as uncaused free will (or maybe self-caused free will, like the Baron of Münchhausen in the swamp).

muenchhausen.gif

Thanks for posting that.

The picture does bring home that belief in free will by this definition is harmful.

Seeing the Baron in the swamp we do nothing because he can get out himself. And if he doesn’t, well that’s his choice.

Stephen

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Posted: 25 November 2012 12:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 152 ]
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GdB - 25 November 2012 04:28 AM
TimB - 25 November 2012 01:20 AM

That is not quite correct.  Our actions are usually also a product of stimuli outside of our brain and outside of our body.  Though the processing is pretty much done through the brain.

Of course. But all the stimuli go through the brain. But not every stimulus will be translated to a movement via brain circuits that translate to wishes or beliefs on higher level. I assume that is what you mean? Our bodies’ processes are mostly automatic. But those processes that are actions work via wishes and beliefs, i.e. their implementations in the brain.

Some of our “actions” occur without regard to wishes or beliefs, for example, blinking.

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As a fabrication of our own consciousness, our assignations of meaning are no less “real”, but since humans and the fabrications of our consciousness are routinely fraught with error, it makes sense, to me, to, sometimes, question such fabrications.

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Posted: 25 November 2012 12:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 153 ]
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TimB - 25 November 2012 12:41 PM
GdB - 25 November 2012 04:28 AM
TimB - 25 November 2012 01:20 AM

That is not quite correct.  Our actions are usually also a product of stimuli outside of our brain and outside of our body.  Though the processing is pretty much done through the brain.

Of course. But all the stimuli go through the brain. But not every stimulus will be translated to a movement via brain circuits that translate to wishes or beliefs on higher level. I assume that is what you mean? Our bodies’ processes are mostly automatic. But those processes that are actions work via wishes and beliefs, i.e. their implementations in the brain.

Some of our “actions” occur without regard to wishes or beliefs, for example, blinking.

—In fact all of them do.  We have just persuaded ourselves that there is some “self” that is somehow able to step outside of our mind and supercedes our determining factors.

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Posted: 25 November 2012 01:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 154 ]
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I think that the concept of “mind” itself is an obfuscating construct.  But it is ubiquitous.

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As a fabrication of our own consciousness, our assignations of meaning are no less “real”, but since humans and the fabrications of our consciousness are routinely fraught with error, it makes sense, to me, to, sometimes, question such fabrications.

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Posted: 25 November 2012 01:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 155 ]
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But Lois, I am not as convinced as you are that our awareness of our wants and our recognition of our beliefs are always, as you would say, “very weak antagonists in the presence of countless much stronger (determining factors) “.

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As a fabrication of our own consciousness, our assignations of meaning are no less “real”, but since humans and the fabrications of our consciousness are routinely fraught with error, it makes sense, to me, to, sometimes, question such fabrications.

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Posted: 25 November 2012 01:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 156 ]
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Lois - 25 November 2012 12:51 PM
TimB - 25 November 2012 12:41 PM

Some of our “actions” occur without regard to wishes or beliefs, for example, blinking.

—In fact all of them do. 

So your decision, say, to marry, is of the same kind as your stomach digesting food? For you there is no difference between just a bodily movement and an action?

Lois - 25 November 2012 12:51 PM

We have just persuaded ourselves that there is some “self” that is somehow able to step outside of our mind and supercedes our determining factors.

Now that is true. But if there is no such self, how can this self be unfree? So you should say, not that we are not free, but that the concept of free will does not apply to anything, also not humans.

On the other side, I am pretty sure that in daily life you can distinguish between a coerced and a free action.

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Posted: 25 November 2012 04:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 157 ]
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Lois - 25 November 2012 12:51 PM

—In fact all of them do.  We have just persuaded ourselves that there is some “self” that is somehow able to step outside of our mind and supercedes our determining factors.

as gdb said, this usually comes in the form of a soul. However, many secularites still think in terms of ‘vestigial dualism’—particularly, many believe in a ‘self’ that is ‘trapped’ by determining factors, including the factors which more rightly *are* the self.

[ Edited: 25 November 2012 05:00 PM by isaac ]
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Posted: 25 November 2012 04:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 158 ]
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StephenLawrence - 25 November 2012 04:43 AM
GdB - 25 November 2012 12:57 AM
Lois - 23 November 2012 12:31 PM

You are not free to either act or not act on your wishes and beliefs. 

Right. That is exactly the naive understanding of free will: as uncaused free will (or maybe self-caused free will, like the Baron of Münchhausen in the swamp).

muenchhausen.gif

Thanks for posting that.

The picture does bring home that belief in free will by this definition is harmful.

Seeing the Baron in the swamp we do nothing because he can get out himself. And if he doesn’t, well that’s his choice.

Stephen

good point, stephen—after all, it’s the politics and law and relationships that ‘free will philosophy’ affects which really matter to me…

[ Edited: 25 November 2012 04:59 PM by isaac ]
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Posted: 25 November 2012 04:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 159 ]
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GdB - 25 November 2012 01:32 PM
Lois - 25 November 2012 12:51 PM

We have just persuaded ourselves that there is some “self” that is somehow able to step outside of our mind and supercedes our determining factors.

Now that is true. But if there is no such self, how can this self be unfree? So you should say, not that we are not free, but that the concept of free will does not apply to anything, also not humans.

On the other side, I am pretty sure that in daily life you can distinguish between a coerced and a free action.

saying there is no ‘self’ is a lot like saying there is no free will.  Both are terms for useful concepts.

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Posted: 25 November 2012 09:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 160 ]
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TimB - 25 November 2012 01:22 PM

But Lois, I am not as convinced as you are that our awareness of our wants and our recognition of our beliefs are always, as you would say, “very weak antagonists in the presence of countless much stronger (determining factors) “.

Can you show evidence of that?

Have you ever decided what you would do under certain circumstances only to find out that when the circumstance arises you do something completely different? People do this all the time. 

Have you ever made a decision you think was a bad one, for which you could kick yourself, but when you think about it later, you realize that given who you were at that moment, and your environment,  your action was inevitable? This works especially well years after the event.  You may still not like the decision you made but I think if you are honest you would see that determining factors made the decision for you.  You may also think that if the same thing happened again you would act differently, only to find that you are acting the same way as before.  That doesn’t mean that you can never act in a different way.  You can, but it’s because your determining factors have changed.  You may be more mature, for example or the environent is different.  But human nature makes you think you caused it by force of will.  My contention is that you didn’t   and “force of will” is a myth.  And it has nothing to do with taking responsibility for our actions or being irresponsible, either.  We will be exactly as responsible as our determining factors make us, no more and no less.  If you’re determined to feel guilty for a bad decision you will feel guilty and you will “try” to do better next time, but you have no actual choice.  Our minds love to create stories about our decisions and we believe them.

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Posted: 25 November 2012 09:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 161 ]
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GdB - 25 November 2012 01:32 PM
Lois - 25 November 2012 12:51 PM
TimB - 25 November 2012 12:41 PM

Some of our “actions” occur without regard to wishes or beliefs, for example, blinking.

—In fact all of them do. 

So your decision, say, to marry, is of the same kind as your stomach digesting food? For you there is no difference between just a bodily movement and an action?

Lois - 25 November 2012 12:51 PM

We have just persuaded ourselves that there is some “self” that is somehow able to step outside of our mind and supercedes our determining factors.

Now that is true. But if there is no such self, how can this self be unfree? So you should say, not that we are not free, but that the concept of free will does not apply to anything, also not humans.

On the other side, I am pretty sure that in daily life you can distinguish between a coerced and a free action.


—My contention is that we cannot, we only think we can.  It’s ALL coerced.  A decision to marry is similar to our stomach digesting food, except we are not kidding ourselves that we are in charge of digestion.  We will marry or not depending on determining factors, whether that thought disturbs us or not. And we will insist that it was our free will that made the decision because that’s how our minds work.

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Posted: 25 November 2012 11:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 162 ]
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Oh man, so many confusions…

isaac - 25 November 2012 04:53 PM
Lois - 25 November 2012 12:51 PM

as gdb said, this usually comes in the form of a soul. However, many secularites still think in terms of ‘vestigial dualism’—particularly, many believe in a ‘self’ that is ‘trapped’ by determining factors, including the factors which more rightly *are* the self.

To start with the positive. This is true as true can be. Many of those incompatibilist determinists see it this way: there is ‘self’, and this self is ‘forced’ by the natural laws to do as it does. To state it very clear: natural laws do not force anything. They describe how nature runs.

A stone running downhill is not ‘forced’ to do so. This is metaphoric speech. Nature is just as it is, stones move in the direction of the centre of gravity. Why, one could even say the stone ‘wants’ to run downhill.

isaac - 25 November 2012 04:57 PM

saying there is no ‘self’ is a lot like saying there is no free will.  Both are terms for useful concepts.

Yep, that was tricky of mine to say that. My answer to this: where there is no self, there are no ‘coercion’ and no ‘free will’. Only when there is a ‘self’ these concepts mean something. One cannot ‘coerce’ a stone to roll down. One can also not ‘convince’ a stone to roll down.

Now the problem of the incompatibilist determinists is that they apply concepts that do not work together: talking about determinism, and a self that is determined, is mixing two discourses that do not mix. The opposite of ‘free’ is ‘being coerced’, not ‘determined’.

So this is flat wrong:

Lois - 25 November 2012 09:09 PM

—My contention is that we cannot, we only think we can.  It’s ALL coerced.  A decision to marry is similar to our stomach digesting food, except we are not kidding ourselves that we are in charge of digestion.  We will marry or not depending on determining factors, whether that thought disturbs us or not. And we will insist that it was our free will that made the decision because that’s how our minds work.

On the level of determinism, nothing is coerced. Events happen as they do, and we can describe them with help of laws of nature and initial conditions. Part of what our brain does, is evaluating feelings and arguments, which does not happen with digestion. Of course, this evaluating feelings and arguments runs on a determined state machine. So, yes, we are determined. (I must repeat this again and again, people seem to miss this.) So the idea we are an independent, uncaused, self that has command over what we do, is definitely wrong. But that our brain processes on higher level constitute feelings, wishes, beliefs, reasons and consciousness etc. makes it possible to distinguish between free and coerced actions: free actions are actions in accordance with our wishes and beliefs; coerced when they are not.

I would very much prefer that people stop arguing as if I defend libertarian free will. Saying “You are wrong, we are determined!” is just not an argument against my position. Saying “But Libet!” neither: as said earlier, this is an experimental proof of something we know already: that the concept of libertarian free will is incoherent.

The ‘slogan’ version of my position is: free will means you can do what you want, but it is logical absurd to say it means you can want what you want.

Lois - 25 November 2012 09:02 PM

We will be exactly as responsible as our determining factors make us, no more and no less.  If you’re determined to feel guilty for a bad decision you will feel guilty and you will “try” to do better next time, but you have no actual choice.

So feeling guilty is the basis of responsibility? What about a criminal we sentence to jail, who does not feel guilty at all? Was he not responsible for his action? Don’t we say “Your action was based on the wrong reasons, and because you acted according to them, we punish you?” Was he ‘coerced’ to rob the bank? And therefore we punish him?

[ Edited: 26 November 2012 07:06 AM by GdB ]
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Posted: 25 November 2012 11:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 163 ]
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GdB - 25 November 2012 11:43 PM

The ‘slogan’ version of my position is: free will means you can do what you want, but it is logical absurd to say it means you can want what you want.

Why deny that it means both?

Stephen

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Posted: 26 November 2012 12:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 164 ]
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Lois - 25 November 2012 09:02 PM
TimB - 25 November 2012 01:22 PM

But Lois, I am not as convinced as you are that our awareness of our wants and our recognition of our beliefs are always, as you would say, “very weak antagonists in the presence of countless much stronger (determining factors) “.

Can you show evidence of that? ...

 

Evidence that our awareness of our wants and our recognition of our beliefs are sometimes strongly influencing factors in our actions?

I can propose scenarios, as you did. (I’ll give one scenario, but there could be countless others.)

Every day, a person thinks about a certain (let’s say) car that he wants.  The more he thinks about it, he becomes more explicit in thinking about the details of exactly what he wants that car to be like.  He begins to think about how he can go about acquiring that car.  He thinks about the details of how he can get the money to pay for the car.  He thinks about where he can go to get that car to get the best price.

When he ultimately takes the action of telling a salesman “I’ll take it.”,  that action, of saying “I’ll take it.”, is surely influenced by and a product of, in part, all of that prior thinking about the car that he wanted.

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As a fabrication of our own consciousness, our assignations of meaning are no less “real”, but since humans and the fabrications of our consciousness are routinely fraught with error, it makes sense, to me, to, sometimes, question such fabrications.

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Posted: 26 November 2012 07:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 165 ]
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Tim, thinking and awareness are not the same thing. Indeed, as per Libel’s study, awareness seems to be much less than a weak antagonist, as it plays no role whatsoever. You are not aware of you stomach making the decision to digest food because such a decision happens on the level of the brain that doesn’t give rise to conscious awareness. Thinking about a car is more complex and for some reason makes us aware of doing the computing—although with a slight delay. Awareness is a spectator, not an antagonist nor a protagonist.

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