Thursday, February 9, 2012

381: The Brain, determinism and Free Will

In The Critique of Pure Reason (first published in 1781), the German philosopher Immanuel Kant maintained that causation was one of the fundamental concepts that rendered the empirical world comprehensible to humans.

By the beginning of the twenty-first century, psychology was beginning to show just how pervasive human reasoning concerning cause and effect is.

Even young children seem to naturally organize their knowledge of the world according to relations of cause and effect.

Causal determinism states that future events are necessitated by past and present events combined with the laws of nature.

Imagine an entity that knows all facts about the past and the present, and knows all natural laws that govern the universe.

If the laws of nature were determinate, then such an entity would be able to use this knowledge to foresee the future, down to the smallest detail.

Biological determinism is the idea that all behaviors, beliefs, and desires are fixed by our genetic endowment and our biochemical makeup, the latter of which is affected by both genes and environment.

These interpretations of determinism leave little room for a free will. On the other hand, suppose your free will means your ability to choose A over B…just like that.

No reason for the choice…just out of the blue you choose A, because you are driven by free will. Somehow that doesn't feel good. You think, you need a motivation for your choice.

But was it free will then, or a choice determined by motives. And where do those motives come from? Aren't they caused by other thoughts or experiences?

Somehow we must find some explanation, that allows causation and on the other hand can not causally explain, why we chose A over B, which could mean that determinism is compatible with free will.

We could argue that determinism does not matter; what matters is that individuals' wills are the result of their own desires and are not overridden by some external force.

So, what is free will. Thomas Hobbes (1588 - 1679), claimed that a person acts on their own only when the person wanted to do the act and the person could have done otherwise, if the person had decided to.

You also can speak of free will as positive liberty, defined as having the power and resources to fulfill one's own potential (this may include freedom from internal constraints), as opposed to negative liberty, which is freedom from external restraint.

But you also could argue that there are cases where a coerced individual's choices are still free because such coercion coincides with the individual's personal intentions and desires.

David Hume (1711 - 1776) discussed the possibility that the entire debate about free will is nothing more than a merely "verbal" issue.

He suggested that it might be accounted for by "a false sensation or seeming experience" which is associated with many of our actions when we perform them. On reflection, we realize that they were necessary and determined all along.

It seems that we don't need brain scans and neuroscientific evidence to come to the conclusion, that the idea of free will is a verbal issue.

Just think about the meaning of the word "free" in relation to willing. Free from what? We can not act without a reason or a cause. And if we can not find one, Freud has taught us that there are many subconscious reasons too.

So, free will, is it really that interesting? Did Hobbes define the idea of free here the best? We act and we take responsibility for our actions, that is how the system works.

The Discussion

[13:24] herman Bergson: Thank you....
[13:24] Jaelle Faerye: Thank you Herman
[13:24] Lizzy Pleides: Thank you herman
[13:25] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Well yes, thats a clear statement of the dilemma
[13:25] herman Bergson: it is up to your free will to react or have a question ㋡
[13:25] herman Bergson: YES MERLIN....
[13:25] Sybyle Perdide: thank you
[13:25] Mick Nerido: If i were to throw dice to determine a choice that would be free will?
[13:25] herman Bergson: The more I studied the subject the less I got interested in that concept of "free"
[13:25] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Even dice are not truly random
[13:26] Jaelle Faerye: yes
[13:26] Jaelle Faerye: "free" is the keyword
[13:26] herman Bergson: Mick, there was a reason to use dice
[13:26] herman Bergson: yes Jaelle...
[13:26] herman Bergson: and to be honest..don't know what to do with it
[13:27] Jaelle Faerye: haaa
[13:27] Mick Nerido: to eliminate my choice leaving it purely to chance
[13:27] Jaelle Faerye: haven't you aver done that, Mick?
[13:27] Jaelle Faerye: throw dice
[13:27] herman Bergson: you wouldnt accept that Mick
[13:27] Jaelle Faerye: or flip a coin
[13:27] druth Vlodovic: I suspect that part of the problem is the idea of an unchangeable" core self"
[13:27] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): I have sometimes tossed a coin
[13:27] Jaelle Faerye: and find out you want the OTHER solution
[13:27] Mick Nerido: i threw a dart at a map to choose a vacation destination
[13:27] herman Bergson: all actions that are rationalisations of a situation
[13:28] Jaelle Faerye: yes
[13:28] Mick Nerido: vacation
[13:28] Bejiita Imako: ah'
[13:28] Jaelle Faerye: and the dice or coin can help us see what we don't want
[13:28] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): I'm very interested in divination actually.
[13:28] druth Vlodovic: lol "asking for advice just means you know what you want to do and don't like it."
[13:28] Jaelle Faerye: just clarify the choice as unacceptable
[13:28] Jaelle Faerye: yes
[13:28] Jaelle Faerye: maybe
[13:28] herman Bergson: yes Druth ^_^
[13:29] herman Bergson: let me put it this way....
[13:29] Jaelle Faerye: or maybe you respect someone's insight and you want to get another way of thinking around your issue
[13:29] herman Bergson: we behave...choose al the time...90% subconsciously even....
[13:29] herman Bergson: but in conscious choices........
[13:30] herman Bergson: I think there is the ability to veto our choice...
[13:30] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): is reacting on a trigger free will?...even if the reaction is very bad and you never have chosen if you had the choise?
[13:31] herman Bergson: like the golf player swings his club an d in a split second says "No, not the good swing" and misses the ball
[13:31] Bejiita Imako: but why would you want to play a bad swing
[13:31] Bejiita Imako: ?
[13:31] herman Bergson: we are conditioned to a high level in behavior Beertje..yes
[13:32] herman Bergson: No Bekiita....
[13:32] herman Bergson: in the movement of the swing he feels it isnt the right one
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: i want to hit the ball as good as i call all times sometimes very good otherwise it go not as good but i always try to go for the best shot possible
[13:32] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): so reacting on a trigger is free will?...did I understood that right?
[13:33] Lizzy Pleides: if you practice something oftenly it belongs to subconsciousness
[13:33] druth Vlodovic: if you can train your trigger then it can be
[13:33] herman Bergson: no Beertje..that is conditioned behavior...
[13:33] herman Bergson: What is the meaning of all advertising???To deprive us of our free will
[[13:34] Jaelle Faerye: depends
[13:34] herman Bergson: Bu tin the the very moment we buy the producct a split second...we can say NO
[13:34] Bejiita Imako: i use to say that some of it can be good to inform us about a good product and then it also SHOULD be good
[13:34] Mick Nerido: advertising tries to sell us something not deprive us of free will
[13:34] Jaelle Faerye: depends what you call advertising
[13:34] Bejiita Imako: however they don't have to show coca cola commercials evenry now and then for example
[13:34] Jaelle Faerye: a billboard a sign
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: i already KNOW its a good product that taste good
[13:35] Jaelle Faerye: something can INFORM you
[13:35] herman Bergson: no no...I understand....
[13:35] druth Vlodovic: it seeks to condition our responses, if you try to maintain consciousness of your decisions then the effect tends to be more limited
[13:35] Jaelle Faerye: that there is a grocery here, for instance
[13:35] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): not every product that taste good is good for your health
[13:35] herman Bergson: we are not deprived of our free will , we are just influenced....biased eventually
[13:35] Lizzy Pleides: advertising is not = information
[13:36] Jaelle Faerye: okay
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: hmm thats one thing indeed for example i don't drink a 2 litre bottle now and then but some people do and thats way too much sugar
[13:36] herman Bergson: no Lizzy…advertising is trying to control our will
[13:36] Lizzy Pleides: nods
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: its tasty but should not drink too much
[13:36] druth Vlodovic: it's not coercion, though it is an attempt at conditioning
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: should
[13:36] herman Bergson: and in such situations...I think...
[13:36] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): they try us to believe that we can't live without the product
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:36] herman Bergson: if you want to know what free will means is our ability to say NO at any given moment
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: like apple and their ipads and iphones
[13:36] Sybyle Perdide: if we are looking for free will, we have to find the gap between the different causes, that will work
[13:37] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Advertisers would take away our free will if they could
[13:37] Sybyle Perdide: or better, if there is such a gap, in which we can act free
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: dont like apple at all esp not after i read about the workers in china commiting suicide
[13:37] Mick Nerido: thats right just say no.
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: made me really sad
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: and their damn lock in policies
[13:37] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Was that because they could not get the new phone?
[13:38] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): it's your free will to NOT bye the stuff bejiita
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: tried to get an ipod working for a friend but the damn software that they require itunes didnt want to work at all,
[13:38] herman Bergson: Yes Beertje....
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: with other things u plug it in the usb transfer your stuff no prob
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: thats how it should be
[13:39] herman Bergson: At this moment I am inclined to say that free will is not defined by the freedom of wanting something, but by our ability to say any situation
[13:39] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): why so angry about that stuff Bejiita? don't have to buy that
[13:39] druth Vlodovic: you'd have to want to say "no" at some level
[13:39] Mick Nerido: I freely choose to be at Philosophy class lol
[13:40] herman Bergson: yes could say NO at any moment and not come
[13:40] Lizzy Pleides: if you see through the advertisement you can decide against the product
[13:40] Bejiita Imako: when it comes to stuff like that I am more for open solutions and luckily there are such ones too
[13:40] Mick Nerido: but there are many unconscious reasons I don'y
[13:41] Bejiita Imako: yes thats an important thing , to see through commercials and similar things
[13:41] herman Bergson: Yes Mick, but yet....
[13:41] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): i wiped my husband out free will from this chair behind the comp to be here in this class
[13:41] herman Bergson: at this moment ...
[13:41] Bejiita Imako: i always think twice
[13:41] herman Bergson: if you want a definition of free will...
[13:41] Sybyle Perdide: please
[13:41] Sybyle Perdide: :)
[13:41] herman Bergson: I would say..our ability free from any coercion to say NO
[13:41] Lizzy Pleides: the more knowledge you have the easier you can decide
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: but i like to test new things and if they are good i stick with it if they are bad i look for something else
[13:42] Jaelle Faerye: i disagree Lizzy
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: to find just the things i want
[13:42] Jaelle Faerye: the more knowledge you have, the more options you see
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:42] Jaelle Faerye: the more difficult is the choice
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: indeed
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[13:43] herman Bergson: but youstill can say NO
[13:43] Jaelle Faerye: yes
[13:43] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): true Herman..everybody can say NO
[13:43] herman Bergson: whatever options you have...
[13:43] Bejiita Imako: u can laways do that indeed
[13:43] Lizzy Pleides: what now, yes or no?
[13:44] herman Bergson: well..if determinism means that all our actions are caused ...then free willmeans...NO
[13:44] herman Bergson: which means...we ignore the causes and just say..I dont do it
[13:44] Jaelle Faerye: yes
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:44] herman Bergson: for the rst we are ok by that fact that our actions are caused....
[13:45] herman Bergson: we go to the supermarket and buy the product that was advertized on tv...we don't care...but we could have said NO
[13:45] Bejiita Imako: hmm yes at least partially depending on what it is to do at moment
[[13:46] Sybyle Perdide: but this no is caused on knowledge too
[13:46] Lizzy Pleides: because we have the knowledge about how advertisement is made
[13:46] Sybyle Perdide: it need not to be free will
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: if i work are at home for ex, choose actions depending from what my current action is
[13:46] herman Bergson: could say that the NO is cause d by other inner causes....
[13:47] Sybyle Perdide: the difficulty is to get to a point where our different knowledges and so on are in standoff situation
[13:47] Mick Nerido: thats why i use chance when i am not sure
[13:47] Sybyle Perdide: but I don't know how to manage
[13:47] herman Bergson: for instance, because you hate to follow TV commercials by buying the products
[13:47] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): one has to feel good by saying NO..otherwise it's not a good choice
[13:47] herman Bergson: yes Beertje....
[13:48] herman Bergson: the NO is a personal victory :-)
[13:48] druth Vlodovic: or "yes"
[13:48] herman Bergson: smiles..
[13:48] Bejiita Imako: depending if u like it or not
[13:48] herman Bergson: OK and then you may say YES
[13:48] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): is it all about personal victory..the free will I mean?
[13:49] druth Vlodovic: the secret I think is to be deliberate in making yourself into the sort of person you want to be, so your choices will follow
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: i think for example that this is interesting so therefore im here at the moment
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: and also have many friends here thats another thing to it
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: stuff like that
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:49] Mick Nerido: when a girl says no does she mean yes?
[13:49] Lizzy Pleides: if everbody sais NO you can say NO to the NO, what means Yes
[13:49] Jaelle Faerye: uh oh
[13:49] Bejiita Imako: makes me say yes to this
[13:49] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): nĂ³ Mick
[13:50] Bejiita Imako: u mean that they play hard to get when they like you or?
[13:50] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): she means no..
[13:50] druth Vlodovic: if your choice is just to pull against the mainstream then it's not really a choice,
[13:50] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:50] herman Bergson: Simple and correct logic Lizzy...
[13:50] herman Bergson: when they all say NO you may say YES
[13:50] herman Bergson: which is equivalent to NO NO ㋡
[13:51] druth Vlodovic: for it to be a real choice it has to be carefully considered along a number of dimensions
[13:52] herman Bergson: You know.....
[13:52] druth Vlodovic: even if the final decision is what everyone else chose as well it is still worth it to go through the process of deeply considering it first
[13:52] herman Bergson: I hardly have an idea what free will is....
[13:53] Bejiita Imako: its interesting subject for sure
[13:53] herman Bergson: I know that all behavior has causes....conscious and subconscious....
[13:53] Bejiita Imako: and tricky indeed
[13:53] Sybyle Perdide: is there someone who has an idea, Herman?
[13:53] Mick Nerido: it's something like liberty...
[13:54] herman Bergson: So when I can do what I do and nobody is keeping me from doing it...I guess I am using my free will in a deterministic context
[13:54] Lizzy Pleides: and what is liberty, .. a feeling only?!
[13:54] Bejiita Imako: id say many of my choises are based on what i do at moment but then i have based in that a group of actions i can take and choose between as i like
[13:54] herman Bergson: and that can define responsability....
[13:55] herman Bergson: I can try to kill some one....everybody would stop me...because of our moral rituals
[13:55] Mick Nerido: liberty means free to choose.
[13:55] herman Bergson: Well...
[13:55] Bejiita Imako: aaa yes things i know is wrong i cant make myself to choose on
[[13:55] Bejiita Imako: then its a no
e[13:56] herman Bergson: it is up to your own free will tho think about how fre you are to want things...
[13:56] druth Vlodovic: I remember the tactics i used on my kids to take away their choices without them knowing
[13:56] herman Bergson: I guess I have tortured your brains enough now...
[13:56] druth Vlodovic: "do you want a shower or a bath" only sounds like a choice... :)
[13:56] Bejiita Imako: same if i hold a very expensive vase, even if i could drop it free will i cant make myself to do it, or any other thing i dont want to break
[13:56] herman Bergson: So thank you all...
[13:56] Mick Nerido: Thanks Herman
[13:57] Jaelle Faerye: thanks Herman
[13:57] herman Bergson: Class dismissed..
[[13:57] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:57] Sybyle Perdide: thank you Herman
[13:57] Lizzy Pleides: thanks to YOU Herman
[13:57] druth Vlodovic: thanks herman
[13:57] Bejiita Imako: tnx
[13:57] Bejiita Imako: really nice and interesting once again
[13:57] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:57] :: Beertje :: (beertje.beaumont): very interesting Herman
[13:58] herman Bergson: Never knew that a free will could be so problematic ㋡
[13:58] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Anyone interested in psychology might be interested in a programme on Schizophrenia on BBC this morning....
[13:58] herman Bergson: Ahh....
[13:58] herman Bergson: thnx Merlin!
[13:58] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:58] Bejiita Imako: ok
[13:58] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): YW Herman. I was thinking I should tell people at the time I heard it.
[13:59] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Still available on the web
[13:59] herman Bergson: Good idea Merlin!
[13:59] Bejiita Imako: ok cu soon all

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