Darth Woodrack

The Free Will Illusion

23 posts in this topic

Note: This is written from an unbiased, nonreligious standpoint using the assumption that if something cannot be proven it should not be used in science. So, fi you religiously disagree with this, my apologies.

Free will is not, in fact, real. Our brains are simply chemical cocktails getting bombarded with electrical stimuli caused by an utterly random formation of our bodies in a perpetuating form, that became a pattern. When something happens, it sends stimuli to our minds, which causes those balls of matter to send a different signal which causes our bodies to move in a certain way. It is actually utterly random, and we do not control it. In fact, the entire universe is just bouncing particles, and we have just become, this.

A different element you might consult is the probability illusion. Probability is an illusion. As in, even if we were to say, "There's a ninety percent chance of object A getting hit by object B, instead of object C," and had statistics and science to back it up, and object C hit object A, then there was never any chance of object B being the thing to hit it.

This relates because our brains work like that, but infinitely more complex. We are receiving constant stimuli which is causing constant response. In truth, if you think about it, death is simply a total lack of stimuli. On the bright side, this proves the scientific necromancy would actually be possible once we understand how the mind works, we can start the stimuli reaction again.

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And would you consider a person brought back in this manner the same person as before?

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It would depend on how soon they were brought back. A few seconds after being pronounced legally dead, probably. After being frozen for a year, while the body is still preserved and the mind is still there, it would most likely be a very different person. Of course, to that degree it is only speculation because this technology will most likely not be even close to invention by the time our grandchildren are dead and buried.

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I'll just come out and be blunt here: your signature worries me, are you alright?

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The bottom part? The rest is a collection of starwars quotes. And the bottom part isn't for me, it's for everyone else with that problem.

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That is a beautiful thing to do, checked out your profile too, you had the same as background

Oh, and nice Ookla season getup choice!

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Thanks. It's from a joke a friend made.

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Ok I'm an atheist and I have heard this a lot of times before but I still don't get it.

 

I mean , I understand deterministic factors and how prolific they are. 

I understand that life itself might not be all that special from non living matter and that life and even consiousness might be just reactions akin to oxidation or combustion. Just more complex

How most of what we consider vital , unforgeable parts of our personality actually depends on stuff like genes, history , childhood experiences , etc

But there still is something called free will right ? 

Esp now that we can truly seperate deterministic factors from factors actually under our control ?

I mean like now that we can question free will , we can rigorously eliminate determinate factors right ??

Edited by PrinceGenocide
A little polishing
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1 minute ago, PrinceGenocide said:

Ok I'm an atheist and I have heard this a lot of times before but I still don't get it.

I mean , I understand deterministic factors and how prolific they are. 

How most of what we consider vital , unforgeable parts of our personality actually depends on stuff like genes, history , childhood experiences , etc

But there still is something called free will right ? 

Esp now that we can truly seperate deterministic factors from factors actually under our control ?

I mean like now that we can question free will , we can rigorously eliminate determinate factors right ??

Do you accept that everything in the universe follows a pattern?

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Up till now yeah I guess. Most of human history too , there was no free will. 

Even now most of the world population doesn't have free will . But now a few of us do , little bits of it atleast.

I think that will only increase in the future 

I apologise if I don't get your point. I have tried to understand this concept before but I simply can't. Maybe it's cause it's faulty logic , maybe it's cause I don't want to be free of the illusion :D or maybe it's just a thing I'm bad at 

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1 minute ago, PrinceGenocide said:

Up till now yeah I guess. Most of human history too , there was no free will. 

Even now most of the world population doesn't have free will . But now a few of us do , little bits of it atleast.

I think that will only increase in the future 

I apologise if I don't get your point. I have tried to understand this concept before but I simply can't. Maybe it's cause it's faulty logic , maybe it's cause I don't want to be free of the illusion :D or maybe it's just a thing I'm bad at 

You are not understanding this concept because of one thing, at least as far as I can tell. You are assuming that odds, as we think of them, could go either way. As in, there was a fifty percent chance of the coin landing on heads (yes I know there’s a chance of it landing on its side, I just don’t care) or tails. The coin lands on heads. This does not mean it could have landed in tails, it means that in those circumstances there is no other outcome that could have taken place. Our brains are just like that, but infinitely more complex. Our brains receive stimuli, which causes them to send out chemical reactions, electrical reactions, and so forth, causing muscle spasms, and such. Unless you are religious and believe in a soul, there is no plausible way to explain how humans could change the outcome of anything. Granted, there is no possible way of future prediction and I would grant anyone that this does not impact our lives in any way, but it is true.

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I don't disagree with your premise but I do have to ask what you were expecting to get out of this thread? Seems incredibly likely to cause arguments to break out, and specifically arguments that are not particularly productive. Most people either believe in a deterministic world or they don't and it's not a simple thing to change ones opinion on.

I will also mention that at certain scales true randomness does indeed occur, so while on a macro scale you can predict for example the result of a flip of the coin if you have all available data and enough knowledge of the forces involved, you can't predict which atom will decay in an unstable isotope in a given moment.

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As has been mentioned, there are some things on a very micro scale that are truly and actually random. I don't understand them all that well myself, but mostly stuff relating to quantum mechanics.

But regardless, I'm vaguely curious as to what sort of world you would say does have free will. I've thought about this a lot, and it seems like a weird premise to say that a world where things happen randomly would mean free will is true. Like, if there's 50/50 odds of me making a certain decision, I'm not really choosing or the other, probability is. This is still true even if the odds are 99.9999999999/0.0000000001. 

And with that, it's not like there's any option that isn't randomness or determinism. People have this mental image of making a decision that wasn't decided in advance and isn't being decided completely randomly, but unless there's something I don't understand, that doesn't make any sense.

According to the dictionary definition of free will, at the very least a deterministic world doesn't have. But even a world where every single thing that happens is completely random is still arguable. 

Honestly, I prefer the deterministic world. I really really dislike the idea that a decision I could actually have made could've just gone another way. Like, imagine going back in time and a completely thought out decision you came to goes the opposite way with the other you from the past. That makes me uncomfortable. 

So yeah, I think I'm pretty OK with just the fact that, as far as I know, my thoughts aren't being influenced by anything outside of myself. As long as my thoughts are my own, that's enough of free will for me.

Sorry if this isn't all coherent.

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These arguments will almost always devolve into an argument of semantics at some point in time. I mean depending on your definition of both 'free will' and 'determinism' you could argue that determinism doesn't preclude free-will.

And on a personal level while I generally would tell people that I don't believe in free will, that's also somewhat subject to what exactly you mean by the term. 'I' referring to the totality of the body that is currently typing these words does have the capacity to make decisions. If there are two possible decisions I will weight the evidence of both and pursue that course. The fact that this is simply the result of predetermined chemical and electrical impulses doesn't change the fact that inputs were processed and an output was achieved, a form of decision making. Some people might call such an event free will, I had two choices and nothing was precluding my choosing either one of them.

So my own answer usually also involves a question, do you consider computer systems to have free will? They perform a similar, albeit far less complex task. Take in inputs and provide an output based on internal decision making.

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I won't and can't scientifically disagree with you, that is surely a reasonable way of looking at things. Now, I am religious and do not hold this view myself, though I do mostly understand this viewpoint. I find it interesting. I do definitely agree with the probability illusion, though.

I'm just jumping in to share my point of view on free will, though you don't have to agree with it because there really isn't anything proven, just what I have faith will be proven. I believe that, first off, basically invisible matter that is "spirit." We are both our spirit (which is in the shape of our physical bodies) and our physical body. Our spirit must be connected with our nervous system somehow, especially concerning things with the brain. Now, the brain is still a great mystery in the precise mechanics of how it works. Most of it is a mystery with just a lot of theories. We don't even know why we yawn, we just have theories (used loosely, as they have in no way gotten to the point in the scientific method). Our spirit controls our body and is probably so connected with what we observe happening in the brain when we make decision.

This is an interesting topic and I love learning about other ways to look at things.

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On 19/11/2019 at 9:42 PM, Ookla the Wine Shelf said:

if something cannot be proven it should not be used in science.

The theory you're speaking of is called "Falsifiability" and its the tenet that if something cannot be *PROVEN FALSE* then it should not be considered in the scientific fabric. Nothing in this world can be "proven true". 

As for the rest of this conversation- thats a clustertruck that I do not even want to start to pull part ( I read the first post first, noted how ironic the propositions were then typed the above, then read the rest of the thread and am now Noping out :P)

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I've argued on both sides of this debate at different points in time, depending on the precise definition of free will given. Strangely, I've also used the example of flipping coins and randomness in the debate, and in nearly the opposite way you have. Since you've already made the case effectively against free will, I may as well argue for it.

We all know a coin is deterministic. If you flip it, there is an interaction between the coin and the air molecules, the precise strength and angular momentum with which it was thrown, and how it bumps against the table or palm when it lands, which causes one side to face up or the other. It's not random.

However, if I were to ask you whether a coin I'm about to flip is going to land heads or tails, not even the strongest supercomputer on the planet could give me a definite answer faster than just watching the result.

So, a coin isn't random. But it's effectively random. Any distinction between effective randomness and 'true' randomness is largely a semantic one, of no real practical consequence.

It's possible to argue the same thing about free will. If I have no free will, but not even the strongest computer can say how I'm going to react to a particular thing before I react to it, in what practical scenario is the distinction even worth mentioning?

The only scenario I've heard is a religious one, and in particular that 'true' free will not existing would be a major blow to Christian theological teachings. But (and I mean this with no offence intended to any Christians) Christianity is broad enough that I don't think it would be as large a blow as many atheists like to believe. Calvinist churches, for example, believe that God had preordained who will go to Heaven (this is a massive oversimplification, but will do for the conversation we're having here) would likely have no problem with 'true' free will not existing - if anything, it likely fits in better to their theology than a universe where free will exists.

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On 12/4/2019 at 1:11 PM, Young Bard said:

It's possible to argue the same thing about free will. If I have no free will, but not even the strongest computer can say how I'm going to react to a particular thing before I react to it, in what practical scenario is the distinction even worth mentioning?

Mm. I don't like intervening in these debates outside a philosophy classroom for many reasons that I've mentioned previously in the Discord and various docs :P That being said, one thing I'd point out that tends to be (but is not always so) at stake in free will debates is moral responsibility. That is to say, we don't seem to think that people could be morally responsible for their actions if they lack free will. (This likely stems from the same intuition as "if I take your money from you and donate it to charity on your behalf, you certainly shouldn't be morally credited with donating to charity.")

I'll note that the classical argument we give students in Philosophy #101 is actually a dilemma argument: that is to say, whether the world is deterministic or truly random, we lack free will. Contextualised within such a maneuver, the true randomness v. effective randomness distinction in effect does become toothless - but it becomes toothless because it can't salvage free will! Either way, the disturbing problem with effective randomness is just that it's not clear that free will resulting from effective randomness is any kind of thing that can result in moral responsibility. And if it can't, then the question is: sure, we've salvaged a model of free will, but at what cost? Have we simply thrown the baby out for the sake of the bathwater?

One final note is that the argument from neurology is not taken to be especially convincing at the entry level because it relies on certain problematic premises. Tim Lewens' The Meaning of Science is a great look into the limitations of the argument, though I believe Lisa Bortolotti has also written on the matter in her introductory textbook to the philosophy of science. (Of course, once we get into the actual cutting edge research, that's a different story.) Anyway, I'm not going to further engage with this topic for my own sake :) No one @ me please. Thanks!

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The big issue comes from the exact nature and definition of free will. Free will does not mean your actions are disconnected from causality, it means your actions are bound and constrained by your nature - your actions are free because your nature is what determines them, not the desires of another person overriding what you want to do - you are free to do what you want, but what you want is based on your nature and your present circumstances. If someone asks why, despite you having many opportunities to do something you don't want to, or do something you think is wrong, you wouldn't say you clearly don't have free will because you aren't using it the way they would, but rather that you are using your free will - using it to do what matters to you. Free will means to be free to do what your nature wants you to do, and based on your present circumstances, not that you will do any random thing that could be done.

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I think the world is made up of a lot of "if-then" and a lot of "or, or not", causality and free will on different levels. Deny either and you deny a basic logical concept (hypotheticals, disjunctions), ultimately.

Also, we can question anything. Like, not only every specific law of cause-and-effect ever proposed, but the law of all those laws, too. So purely by being able to ask questions, we can separate our will from necessitation as such.

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It sounds like (at least in the original post) you're breaking people down into [complex] machines that merely do what they are programmed to do. Stimuli as input, our brains do a calculation, our brains send out a message to do some action. "Intelligence" is just the idea that the programming changes and adapts over time. And all of this happens without any input from our "will."

Personally, I think it's weird to think we can pick ourselves apart in this way. What IS a "will" separate from the sum of all the experiences that made you who you are? What is left of "you" at that point? Your brain doing all these things IS your will, in my opinion. It's not doing things without your control. It's doing what you will.

That weird feeling when you do something that you wish you didn't do... That's not your brain doing something against your will. That's your will having competing interests and a lack of internal consensus.

On 11/19/2019 at 5:42 AM, Ookla the Wine Shelf said:

Probability is an illusion. As in, even if we were to say, "There's a ninety percent chance of object A getting hit by object B, instead of object C," and had statistics and science to back it up, and object C hit object A, then there was never any chance of object B being the thing to hit it.

I would say that's actually, likely, not true.

In human experience, the world appears deterministic like this. (If the object hit A then it was never going to hit B.) But on the quantum mechanical scale true probability is a very real thing according to current scientific consensus.

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4 hours ago, Jofwu said:

In human experience, the world appears deterministic like this. (If the object hit A then it was never going to hit B.) But on the quantum mechanical scale true probability is a very real thing according to current scientific consensus.

This idea has been mentioned both by you and others already, but I just want to comment on how crazy Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle is. And I don’t mean crazy in a not true way, I mean crazy in a freakishly mind bending way. My understanding is that it states our ability to predict position/velocity is inherently limited. The part that blows my mind is that the Uncertainty principle technically applies to everything. It only becomes significant on the subatomic level, but it applies to matter on the macroscopic level as well. So even though we know where some object is, we don’t “know” know because we can’t differentiate between it being in position A and some position B a thousandth of picometer distant from position A. 

Philosophically, it means to me that true knowledge is an illusion; information is by nature probabilistic. We simply don’t have to treat it as such unless we’re looking at the subatomic level.

Edited by Ooklidean Geometry
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5 minutes ago, Ooklidean Geometry said:

This idea has been mentioned both by you and others already, but I just want to comment on how crazy Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle is.

Whooops. :lol: I kind of skimmed through first, but too fast apparently.

And yeah it makes me really uncomfortable. Very weird world.

It's not very popular among scientists, but this is precisely why I'm actually partial to Bohm's interpretation over the standard Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. The idea is that things aren't actually random--there are simply too many unknown variables involved.

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