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Free will.

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Zum
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Zum
Posted 03/11/09 - 5:10 PM:

Hi, I'm Zum. I'm kind of new. Free will. Seems like most choices, as choices of something individual here and now, aren't free in any meaningful sense. The machine that consistently turns out these choices on a daily basis--go to work, go to the bank, eat, etc.,--is set on automatic. In adulthood, we become volition machines. The machine's operating system includes a function that consistently sets before us, when needed, the sound reasons for our daily actions. On most days, this reminder will do. In case we are balky or rebellious or tired, there is another gear that calls up emotion--generally that of fear. This gear has a complex array of pictures, too, that it flashes before our eyes. These pix bring to the imagination the context of our Original Choice--that is, our choice to build the machine or allow it to be built. When we violate what the above machine sets forth as acceptable behavior, we are acting under the influence of a second, adverse, machine, that has its own gear and its own standard... These daily "choice" machine operate under the influence of an Original Choice...or Original Choices.

Original Choice. At a certain point we said, "Ill go with the program," or "I'll flout the program and get away with it," or "I'll flout the program and go to prison and get even," or "I'll become the best I can be"--one or more of those Original Choices. If the Original Choices have been effectual throughout life, they were made in the context of various powerful emotions and events. But our responses to these contextual prompts--the emotions and events-- seem to have been just as determined as the programmed daily choices described above. There is a feeling of freedom when a choice like that is made, but when you look at the model, you can't find the freedom. Or, at least, I can't.

Maybe some people have free will--whatever it is--and others don't. Maybe some contexts make free will at least possible, while others make it impossible.

Do criminals who go to prison for their crimes, who are executed for their crimes, have free will? I think not, or at least not usually. The inner resources that would make free will--whatever it is--operable have not been developed. These individuals are dominated by emotion--often desire and rage. Should they then not be punished? Well, some of them have already suffered all their lives... Ideally, they should be taught spiritual practices. Volunteers actually do this, in some prisons. To my way of thinking, this is beyond cool...

What would free will look like if it existed? This will be the closest I can come to an image of it: Free will would exist within a single choice and a related series of choices linked to it. The individual would envision the kind of person he or she wants to become, or the kind of value system he or she wants to be able to honor and abide by. Slowly he or she or would realize this vision, creating the chooser who is to make the subsequent choices.

We can all imagine certain historical and contemporary figures who may have had, or may have, freedom in this sense. Zum
happycynic
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Posted 03/11/09 - 5:41 PM:

Charlotte Stuart wrote:
Free will. Seems like most choices, as choices of something individual here and now, aren't free in any meaningful sense. The machine that consistently turns out these choices on a daily basis--go to work, go to the bank, eat, etc.,--is set on automatic. In adulthood, we become volition machines.


as a man thinks then so is he... (i got in a lot of trouble at school though.)

The machine's operating system includes a function that consistently sets before us, when needed, the sound reasons for our daily actions.


mmmm...

In case we are balky or rebellious or tired, there is another gear that calls up emotion--generally that of fear.


yes!

Free will would exist within a single choice and a related series of choices linked to it.


other way around. some choices we make restrict us, the only machine being the universe. other choices free us, the universe being made of us.
Zum
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Posted 03/12/09 - 11:39 AM:

It's me, Zum. In reply to the reply: It's really true that some choices we make restrict us, for sure. Such choices seem to cramp inner space, so to speak. The rest of the comment I don't understand--the part about the universe. Please explain.

I'm sort of coming from the, you know, classical argument about "free will"; I read Schopenhauer, the creature.

I can imagine a human condition that would approach freedom-- that would be "freedom-for-humans." There would be a lot of interior discourse; it would occur, not as compulsive babbling, but as measured and careful auto- conversation within a relatively neutral space. I think that the owner of this space might need to be capable of enduring, or even of choosing, pain and discomfort for the sake of whatever, and postponing pleasure and gratification indefinitely for the sake of whatever. Interesting: I think many Americans do this all the time, but self-discipline of that sort is entirely out of beat with our public discourse. We do it; we don't talk about it.

I'm not saying that because we do it, we are free. (Who are "we"? Okay, I'm admittedly talking about a stereotypical model here. Such models can have some truth...) think we not infrequently train ourselves to choose consistently and reliably in accordance with a goal. I think the choice of the goal is often made in a context of social constraint. There is a superfluity of persuasions in our reality that tell us what we want...and what we should want/ must want.

Consciously accepting a socially promoted goal, modifying it to suit oneself, working up the discipline required to achieve it, then, having achieved it, fine tuning it to one's liking--that would be a degree of freedom-for-humans, I guess.

That freedom is an issue for us is suggested by the (sometimes wild) success of books and movies about mavericks. Catcher in the Rye. "Into the Wild."
happycynic
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Posted 03/12/09 - 1:36 PM:

not sure total freedom exists. without influence, we would be truly random. for example, if dna were random (it's not,) or if it were free, it would not be constrained to so few different pairs of proteins. perhaps it would use the whole alphabet. but it would not produce life as often.

you could say that every choice diminishes freedom, but if we assume that some choices diminish freedom, it's reasonable to think that reversing some of those choices increases it. but no matter what we do, it seems to be within the confines of reason:

if not the reason that we should not do a because it will result in b, then the reason that a will result in b regardless of the actions of humanity. if you jump off a cliff, you demonstrate the freedom to choose, the first time. if you don't jump, you'll have that freedom of choice many times in the future. but if exercise your freedom to jump, it's not likely the freedom to choose will remain in the future.

some freedoms exclude others, so to talk of "total freedom" may not be realistic even with examples that are less extreme. but some freedoms include others, and by including some we exclude some. cooperation between different people may offer freedoms exclusive to that cooperation, but then most people see cooperation as a burden, not as freedom, even if some things are not possible otherwise. without cooperation between some people at some point, i doubt we'd have the freedom to explore space, we'd be "forced" to stay on earth, and ultimately destroyed by the death of the sun (if not the lack of change in perspective.) perspective affects freedom, too, as you suggested with your comment about interior conversation.

the closest thing to total freedom is a near-perfect balance of choices (that is, assuming we can make choices, which i believe is possible.)
Nihil Loc
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Posted 03/12/09 - 5:08 PM:

Our minds are sustained by an immensely complex series of automatic processes, over much of which we have no direct control. The scope of any one person's ability to choose freely is restricted by factual circumstances and chance happenings.

Wherever there is the plausibility of using free will as an explanation for our actions, there are also predetermined factors (material causes) which may fundamentally help to explain those actions.

Edited by Nihil Loc on 03/12/09 - 10:02 PM
Zum
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Posted 03/14/09 - 12:17 AM:

This is Zum. I think happycynic's got it right, absolutely. You choose A; in doing so, you necessarily reject B. The philosophical angst I'm acquainted with arises from the insight of Green Force (is it?)--that our choices are influenced or determined by complex automatic processes with which we may not be directly acquainted... The emotion generated by such speculations may arise from a deeply fundamental, existential query: who has the power?
I'm trying to recall all the details of a novel I read: Arthur Koestler's Arrival and Departure. During his period, Freudianism still had great influence, not only as a form of therapy, but also as a popular deterministic philosophy... In the tale there is in progress an unspecified l940's-l950's war; the protagonist is heroic--utterly dedicated to the cause of victory and freedom; he is noble like Beau Geste, but is a real guy, persistent like Chevalier Bayard, but in a war with more advanced weaponry. He parachutes into a city; he has been fighting forever; he means to go on fighting forever.
The city where he lands is full of people the war has not directly impacted. I guess he has a psychological breakdown in this city; perhaps he also falls in love. So he experiences a dual disorientation... He consults a Freudian psychologist. Her character is as far from his as could be imagined. She is easy-going, ironic, opportunistic.
She shows him, with skill, and Koestler shows us, with skill, that every particular in the hero's psychology, and each of his motives, and his dedication to freedom can be traced to childhood events. A biblical quotation which he considered sacred and which never failed to inspire him derives its power from the loss of a pet dog. It is revealed that his presumed courage under torture is really a form of volitional paralysis that, because of his neurosis, overcomes him when he subjected to others. All that has seemed admirable and remarkable in him is trivialized and explained in terms of inner necessity and psychological neurosis. The psychologist's findings imply that his life up to that point has been absurd.
As a result of the therapy, he is cured; his symptoms disappear and now possesses the new understanding of himself.
He immediately returns to the front and immerses himself in the cause of freedom.

Koestler's book seems to be in line with Green Force's cautious statement at the end of the post of 3/l2. Actually, I guess Koestler might rephrase it a little: Although predetermined factors (material causes) may fundamentally help to explain our actions, free will is also a plausible explanation of them.
smokinpristiformis
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Posted 03/14/09 - 3:09 AM:

Was that a deliberate double post or were you forced by the circumstances ? kooky
Zum
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Posted 03/26/09 - 1:28 AM:

Random thoughts: those who say that, logically, there can be no free will point out that strong drives direct--they would say, "determine"--our choices. These drives, in turn, result from the impact of our circumstances and life experiences upon our innate personalities. If a phenomenon is adequately explained by known factors, there is no need to postulate unknown ones. So it's idle to speculate that the will is in any way free. What would such freedom be,
anyway?

"Yeah, but when I make a choice, I know that I am acting freely."

"What you experience as freedom is fulfillment of desire. I want to go to the Prom, I'll go; I'm going! But this desire has been wired into your personality. The act satisfies this wired-in craving for pleasure, excitement, dressing up. The choice to satisfy it is inevitable and automatic, unless an opposing desire of equal or superior strength is also wired in, and overthrows it. And you did not build the machine."

From the wings I say, "But possibly you can rebuild or remodel it."

He says, "A choice to remake the machine that is yourself--supposing that that could be done--would be no freer than any other choice... The former choice, too, would be conditioned by the machine that exists, as it interacted with environmental influences. If you got in trouble with the police say, your personality (sensitive-- disliking pain and preferring pleasure) would interact with environmental factors (unpleasant roommates, scant food, incessant boredom). You might choose to clean up your act...

From the wings I say, "I see what you're saying. But it still seems to
me that as soon as you begin purposefully tinkering with the machine, if the tinkering is done with care and common sense, or one of the available guide books, something like freedom begins to emerge..."

* * * *
Interesting point: When I remember something I've done well, it looks retrospectively like a free action. When I recall something I've done badly, I can see the environmental causal factors very clearly.

Zum
libertygrl
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Posted 03/26/09 - 11:16 AM:

perhaps freedom of will is more like an awareness of potential paths...
Monk2400
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Posted 03/26/09 - 4:54 PM:

libertygrl wrote:
perhaps freedom of will is more like an awareness of potential paths...


If so, then there must also be a entity and a force. A force that propells the entity towards/along a given path.

I would say that freedom requires mono-realism--the premise that there is only one reality. Freedom in the traditional sense is incompatible with multiple reality theories.

Why? Because if there are multiple realities, then all possible paths are ultimately explored. Hence, freedom to take a given path in any given reality is only illusary, since one cannot escape the fact that one exists within one possible world, where the actor in question (the volitional agent) only actually takes one particular path.

IOW, possible paths refer us to myriad possible worlds, each of which is just as real as the others. If the actor looks back of the whole of its life-course, the fact is that its course is absolutely determined, because it is, say, possible world #2876 and not possible world #2875 or #2877. Hence, there is no real ability to 'change' the possible world one exists in, hence 'freedom' is an illusion.

Unless the entity and the force are distinct from the phenomenal manifold that they view, ie, the possible world. If there was a free-floating entity/force that merely engaged a possible world purely as a witness, it may be possible for said entity to move between possible worlds, and hence between absolutely determined life-courses, and thus preserve a measure of freedom, even though the 'shows' it 'watches' are all distinct and determined.

Such an entity/force could range over possible worlds #2875-#2899 and any number of others when carving its own unique 'course' through reality. Another way of saying this is that the entity manifests a series of connected events from the set of all possible events relative to a given POV. What becomes 'actual' for this entity is a matter of 'choice', even though, strictly speaking, this entity does not create any phenomenal world nor change any phenomenal world.

Its rather like making your own episode of Seinfeld by selecting scenes from all the existing episodes and choosing what order to view them in, connecting them in a seamless manner. Only the set of possible episodes is infinte.

8)
Monk2400
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Posted 03/26/09 - 5:19 PM:

Some might say that a being whose final destination, course, and configuration that is able to be affected, adjusted, and transformed by an interaction of its natural machinery and the greater environment is the definition of a free being. Even though there are mechanical principles at work, the final result is unpredictable. Hence, randomness, or chaos, prevents reality from becoming stagnant and grinding to a halt.

Genetic mutation is freedom manifest in the biological world. Choosing vanilla over chocolate even though you like chocolate better is freedom manifest in the human world. In both cases, something unexpected happens, the ultimate outcome of which may or may not have any significance.
Zum
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Posted 03/27/09 - 12:27 AM:

This is Zum. I'm studying the new posting. Monk 2400 is talking about entities and realities in the abstract, of course and the conditions under which they would be free. (So far, nobody has defined "free...")

Presumably entities are nonspecific beings; realities are their environments in the most wholistic sense, I suppose: the set of circumstances that allows, contains and limits them, probably. My concern is for the entity human being and his or her predicament on earth.

Here's a good one: do we have, on earth, a single reality or multiple realities? I am appropriating Monk's term and maybe changing its use--a thing that always happens in discussions... So William Shakespeare wrote his plays 400 years ago, give or take; if we master his diction, we can find ourselves in them. The predicament of Shylock is that of oppressed, despised people everywhere now. In every generation Macbeth murders and suffers. Everywhere Cordelia refuses to speak the nonsense required of her, and gets herself into deep trouble. So it can seem that there is a reality that extends at least from Shakespeare's time and encompasses our own. Yet, when I ask, "Was the reality of Shakespeare's period the same as our present one?" I immediately come to believe that those people, in many ways, must have been wildly different from us. It would seem not only that they lived and spoke differently, but also that their body language their body language and style of perception--intimate basic things-- and style of perception and priorities--many intimate things--must have differed from ours. In that sense, we seem not to share a reality with them... Certain philosophers--Hegel, Nietzsche--think that contradiction is what it is all about.

Analogous to the varying realities we can postulate for differing time periods and geographic locations on the earth are the varying realities we can suppose for persons of different levels of spiritual and ethical development. My brother wrote a paper on Ghandhi; they made him do this when he went to Delhi to take part in peace studies of some sort. I read the paper and was struck down with amazement at how different Ghandhi was from people like me and my neighbors. When war broke out in his country, Ghandhi, by then an old man, walked unarmed throughout the embattled territory, moving from encampment to encampment, asking men engaged in war--caught in the reality of war-- to lay down their weapons. I think some did. When he began each day, he knew it was improbable he would end it alive. This was an uncommon man, uncommon behavior.


The reality of Gandhi at the time he performed those actions was categorically different from my present reality, as I noodle around with these ideas. "Reality" here is being used in terms of subjective environment, the intramental domain, with its particular landscape...

Did Gandhi have more freedom, in his condition of heroism or quixotism (depending on how one sees the matter), than an average person has, on an average day?

"Perhaps freedom of the will is more an awareness of potential paths."
Monk2400
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Posted 03/27/09 - 12:13 PM:

Charlotte Stuart wrote:

This is Zum. I'm studying the new posting. Monk 2400 is talking about entities and realities in the abstract, of course and the conditions under which they would be free. (So far, nobody has defined "free...")

Presumably entities are nonspecific beings; realities are their environments in the most wholistic sense, I suppose: the set of circumstances that allows, contains and limits them, probably. My concern is for the entity human being and his or her predicament on earth.


The question is not one of culture, of mannerism, of state of knowledge. The question is metaphysical. Is there a single continuous reality/universe that is all and ONLY what exists? Or, are there, in addition to this 'actual' world, infinite parallel 'possible' worlds, each of which, to itself is 'actual' and all the others are 'possible'?

In logic, possible world semantics has allowed a way of expressing truth in terms of what is necessary vs. what is contingent or possible. A fundamental truth is something that is present in all realities, no matter what particular form they take. God, for instance, should be conceived as a being that is present in all realities, lest it be made merely a contingent feature of some one particular possible universe.

There is a question of the ontological import of such semantics. Do these worlds really 'exist' like our actual world? Is there a parallel me writing a slightly different sentence in a parallel world? If so, if possible worlds are real in an ontological sense, if our actual world is merely one dimensional frequency on the continuum of cosmic existence, then I suggest that 'freedom' as a fundamental condition of living beings is non-existent.

This hinges on whether the theory of multiple realities (or possible worlds) is the best theory to describe the sum total of Reality. It's a theory, one that has some advantages, especially for logic, and may have some grounding in physics and cosmology. One advantage is that it ties up Reality into a nice neat package. Everything happens because everything is possible. All worlds are manifest, or, at least, are implicit in Reality, to be manifest by the action of some agency, ie, consciousness.

For freedom to exist, we need one single reality, one and only one actual world. And it must be dynamic in time, that is, it must move forward in time, creating itself as it goes. If we have a single universe but it is static in time, eg, if it is primarily 4-dimensional, then, in its essence, there is nothing dynamic about it. The 'open' future we perceive is an illusion, because reality, as 4-dimensional--extended in space and time, is 'finished', is 'complete'. Then the appearance of freedom is nothing but a lack of knowledge on our part. We are blind to the totality of reality, hence do not see the full form of the 4-dimensional universe.

If freedom is to exist, then the universe needs to be dynamically shaping itself as it moves into the future. I would suggest that this means it can have no 'past' either, that the present configuration of the universe at this very instant is all and only what exists. The past and future are both merely possibilities, and unreal. In philosophy this view is sometimes referred to as 'presentism'.

Real freedom is compatible with presentism, but not with a 4+ dimensionally extended universe, which is static. Freedom does not seem to be compatible with the universe having a real past but an open future, because then we still have a deterministic causal chain operating, and even though the future is open, the past is not, and everything that is built into the future is built on the patterns manifest in the past. Hence, for this type of world, it is necessary to propose an entity or force that can act outside of the causal stream--acausally.
And then we are back where we started: How is such a being/entity/force possible? Does it even make sense to say a thing can act acausally?


Charlotte Stuart wrote:

Here's a good one: do we have, on earth, a single reality or multiple realities?


In a sense, every individual is a unique 'reality'. The question is, is there a common, shared canvas upon which all manner of plays are performed?

If there is no shared canvas, then each individual is a self-contained universe. And hence, the problem of other minds becomes a question of mere appearances. In this case, multiple reality theory has more explanative power, since it allows that all possible worlds exist, and thus is is natural and inevitable that any given universe, ie, any given individual, exists.

Obviously we don't share many experiences and dispositions are Elizebethian folks. But there must be something common binding us to them in space and time, lest monorealism is false.

8)
happycynic
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Posted 03/28/09 - 4:00 AM:

i've never accepted the many worlds hypothesis on any grounds except that it's possible to leap from one world to another with each choice you make. just as we are natural time travelers from the past to the present, and our consciousness naturally travels backwards (to remember) and forward (to experience,) we could be natural travelers from one reality to another. it means if you marry libertygrl, you would travel every day to a universe where you were married to her, unless you travelled to a universe where you divorced her.

but the question is what about the other universes you don't choose to be in? do they exist in the way that we exist, or do they exist in a sort of cat (from shrodingers perspective) way? the answer (from the assumption of free will) is that we exist in a cat like way from shrodinger's perspective, but from the cat's perspective, we exist until we choose not to.

it's a little more complicated than that, because the choices we make limit others, ie we can choose squares or circles but not square circles. the cat cannot choose what happens to the lethal sample, but he can choose to avoid that crazy shrodinger to the best of his ability. plus we assume that to live = to exist, but no experiment will ever prove this in a way that cannot be disproven. what if the dead cat simply travels to another universe where the dead live and the live just sit and rot? (and squares are circle) and logic is reversed?

other than the fact that it is very silly, people living in a straightlaced universe where no soul has or ever will create music on their armpits (in that universe, occam is no fun at all,) scientists believe there is no armpit music in any universe until such music is proven to exist. there are irrational believers in armpit music, who naturally have never made such music (because there are no armpits,) but we know better, even though we assume the implications of armpit music on the nature of the universe are small to none. it's also possible that many-worlds hypothesis is defined entirely by whether people posess armpits.

this is what happens when reality is defined by recursive existence, and then applied to our sense of normality. in other words, we'll never know because we don't know what's truth and what's bias from a many-worlds hypothesis. there may be a world with zero "straight" lines, and their sense of logic may be much more flexible or sophisticated than ours will ever be. (obviously there are no straight lines in our world, thanks to stars and gravity, but perhaps there is no concept of a straight line in some other world.)
Zum
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Posted 03/28/09 - 9:33 PM:

In the mini multiworld universe of which Forum consists, each individual perforce determines what the question is for him or for her...

Here is another approach to my question regarding freedom with respect to humans. It relates to a paragraph by F. Scott Fitzgerald in his novel The Great Gatsby. The author says that his protagonist, Gatsby, began at age seventeen to envision the being he wanted to become, and at age thirty-something, he had become just the sort of man a seventeen-year-old boy would idealize and create.

Fitzgerald, of course, wasn't concerned over whether his character's choice was free or mechanical; he was presenting his character in an ingenious way; and he was, incidentally, alluding to the power of holistic choice, or ambition, which, as the self-help books point out, includes persistent visualization... So this present post sets aside, for the moment, the question whether personal choice is free, in order to inquire about something else:

Does the maturity (or lack thereof) of the chooser affect the quality of the thing desired--supposing that it manifests? (In the work of fiction, Gatsby gets the self he wanted-- a thirty-three year old teenager's idol, a self full of flaws.)

Nihil Loc
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Posted 03/29/09 - 10:19 PM:

For those who need a little help, like I do, in pondering this discursive romp into free will, try the following video.

Imaginging the Tenth Dimension, part 2 of 2

The video says that the 7th dimension is the sum of all possible time lines and uses a little picture diagram to indicate the various ways the universe could turn out. This doesn't seem to address the idea that physical laws indicate the possible and impossible ends (time lines). The number of ends is finite because they are limited by the laws of what is possible in a world. Thus, the 10th dimension expresses all possible universes, in which fundamental laws could be different.

But what exactly is the difference between the 4-d trajectory of our universe as a single line that excludes all other lines and a 7-d series of trajectories, which includes all possible 4-d lines?

There is a paradox lurking around here. We can't delineate one time line over another, unless as Smoki says we have some kind of giant greater-than-all computer which enables us to calculate, thus determine, what will happen to our world in exacting detail. We would do so with desire to change the inevitable outcomes it presented. Humankind could see the change affected in anyone at every stage in the future as if peering into a 4-dimensional mirror.

That peering would be coterminous with living hesh trajectory maybe.


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Posted 03/30/09 - 10:31 AM:

I guess, choosing the chooser is the closest we can come to freedom. Meta-choice.

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