Do we really choose anything?

Discuss any topics related to metaphysics (the philosophical study of the principles of reality) or epistemology (the philosophical study of knowledge) in this forum.
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RJG
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Do we really choose anything?

Post by RJG »

Do we choose the thoughts that we use in choosing?

1. If no, then do we really choose anything?
2. If yes, then do we choose the thoughts that we use in choosing the thoughts that we use in choosing?

---- 2A. If no, then do we really choose anything?
---- 2B. If yes, then do we choose the thoughts that we use in choosing the thoughts that we use in choosing the thoughts we use in choosing?

-------- 2Ba. If no, then do we really choose anything?
-------- 2Bb. If yes, then...


*************
ANSWER: No, choosing anything is logically impossible.

If free-will is the ability to choose, then free-will is logically impossible.
Last edited by RJG on January 13th, 2022, 1:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Sculptor1
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Re: Do we really choose anything?

Post by Sculptor1 »

Yes we do, but you have to know who is the "we" and where is it that the volition and desires that lead to choices are made.

Like Peter O'Tool said We can do what we wish but we cannot wish what we wish.
Schoppenhaer : We do as we will, but we cannot will as we will.
Alan Masterman
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Re: Do we really choose anything?

Post by Alan Masterman »

Once I thought I was wrong. But it turned out I was mistaken.
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RJG
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Re: Do we really choose anything?

Post by RJG »

Alan Masterman wrote: January 13th, 2022, 2:51 pm Once I thought I was wrong. But it turned out I was mistaken.
Lol :D
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Thomyum2
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Re: Do we really choose anything?

Post by Thomyum2 »

RJG wrote: January 13th, 2022, 8:46 am Do we choose the thoughts that we use in choosing?

1. If no, then do we really choose anything?
2. If yes, then do we choose the thoughts that we use in choosing the thoughts that we use in choosing?

---- 2A. If no, then do we really choose anything?
---- 2B. If yes, then do we choose the thoughts that we use in choosing the thoughts that we use in choosing the thoughts we use in choosing?

-------- 2Ba. If no, then do we really choose anything?
-------- 2Bb. If yes, then...


*************
ANSWER: No, choosing anything is logically impossible.

If free-will is the ability to choose, then free-will is logically impossible.
To make sense out your argument one way or the other, I think I'd need to ask two clarifying questions:

1) How are you defining 'choose', i.e. what exactly is meant by saying that we 'choose' something?
2) What is the difference between 'choosing' something and 'really choosing' something? In practice, how could we distinguish between these two things?
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RJG
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Re: Do we really choose anything?

Post by RJG »

RJG wrote:Do we choose the thoughts that we use in choosing? If no, then do we really choose anything?
Thomyum2 wrote:To make sense out your argument one way or the other, I think I'd need to ask two clarifying questions:

1) How are you defining 'choose', i.e. what exactly is meant by saying that we 'choose' something?
2) What is the difference between 'choosing' something and 'really choosing' something? In practice, how could we distinguish between these two things?
1. The meaning of "choose" is the conventional everyday use and understanding of the word.
2. The meaning/question of "really choosing" is to bring awareness on whether the act of choosing actually happens (i.e. is it "real"), or is it merely just an illusion (i.e. "not real") that we humans have been deluded into believing.
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Thomyum2
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Re: Do we really choose anything?

Post by Thomyum2 »

RJG wrote: January 13th, 2022, 4:53 pm
RJG wrote:Do we choose the thoughts that we use in choosing? If no, then do we really choose anything?
Thomyum2 wrote:To make sense out your argument one way or the other, I think I'd need to ask two clarifying questions:

1) How are you defining 'choose', i.e. what exactly is meant by saying that we 'choose' something?
2) What is the difference between 'choosing' something and 'really choosing' something? In practice, how could we distinguish between these two things?
1. The meaning of "choose" is the conventional everyday use and understanding of the word.
2. The meaning/question of "really choosing" is to bring awareness on whether the act of choosing actually happens (i.e. is it "real"), or is it merely just an illusion (i.e. "not real") that we humans have been deluded into believing.
My understanding of the 'conventional everyday use of "choose" is to make a selection from or decide upon one among multiple possible alternatives - is that fair?

But I'm afraid you haven't answered the second question for me. How could we tell if a choice that was made was 'real' or not? If a person tells us they are choosing something, what criteria could we use to determine if they were 'really' choosing or to demonstrate that they were just experiencing the illusion that they were choosing? What would a 'real' act of choosing look like that would differentiate it from a choosing that is just a belief?
Alan Masterman
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Re: Do we really choose anything?

Post by Alan Masterman »

Interesting point. Anybody who - like myself - has been divorced, will understand that one of the great culture shocks of divorce comes with realising that you have to start thinking for yourself - the instution of marriage is no longer making your decisions for you.
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RJG
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Re: Do we really choose anything?

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RJG wrote:1. The meaning of "choose" is the conventional everyday use and understanding of the word.
2. The meaning/question of "really choosing" is to bring awareness on whether the act of choosing actually happens (i.e. is it "real"), or is it merely just an illusion (i.e. "not real") that we humans have been deluded into believing.
Thomyum2 wrote:My understanding of the 'conventional everyday use of "choose" is to make a selection from or decide upon one among multiple possible alternatives - is that fair?
Yes, I think that is a fair understanding.

Thomyum2 wrote:But I'm afraid you haven't answered the second question for me. How could we tell if a choice that was made was 'real' or not? If a person tells us they are choosing something, what criteria could we use to determine if they were 'really' choosing or to demonstrate that they were just experiencing the illusion that they were choosing? What would a 'real' act of choosing look like that would differentiate it from a choosing that is just a belief?
The difference is whether we are "given" our choice, or if we truly did as you say "make a selection from or decide upon one among multiple possible alternatives". To select or decide anything requires thought (decision making). And if we can't choose the thoughts that are used in decision making, then did we really decide anything?

For example, if the thoughts in decision making are "given" to us, then we certainly did not really "choose" them, …right? And if we are given the thoughts to select item A as opposed to item B, or item C, then did we "really choose" item A? …or was this choice "given" to us (by the thoughts that we never chose!)?

If we don't choose the thoughts that we use in choosing, then we don't really choose anything!


*****************
Alan Masterman wrote:...the institution of marriage is no longer making your decisions for you.
In actuality/reality, none of us can logically make our own decisions. ...they are always "given" to us.
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Re: Do we really choose anything?

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RJG wrote: January 13th, 2022, 8:46 am If free-will is the ability to choose, then free-will is logically impossible.
...except that we have it. To put it another way, we have the sense impression that we have it.

You can't have it both ways. Information used to build our models of the world seems to come to us through sense impressions (unless maybe you want to consider a truly divine inspiration or some such thing). So, if I have a sense impression that I choose to have coffee instead of beer or milk, why is this impression subject to being labelled an illusion, while the impression that I see cause and effect is carved in stone? Why is the model of free will (that works well within my mind) up for grabs while the model of cause and effect (which seems to work well outside my mind) is unassailable?

It seems clear enough that neither model perfectly matches reality, which includes my mind and whatever else is outside it. It also seems clear that I don't live in a model that people created, but in actual messy reality. It is very unlikely, rounding down to impossible, that finite and imperfect people could create a model that perfectly matched reality. We should prefer to say both models are wrong.
"If determinism holds, then past events have conspired to cause me to hold this view--it is out of my control. Either I am right about free will, or it is not my fault that I am wrong."
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Thomyum2
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Re: Do we really choose anything?

Post by Thomyum2 »

RJG wrote: January 13th, 2022, 6:33 pm
Thomyum2 wrote:But I'm afraid you haven't answered the second question for me. How could we tell if a choice that was made was 'real' or not? If a person tells us they are choosing something, what criteria could we use to determine if they were 'really' choosing or to demonstrate that they were just experiencing the illusion that they were choosing? What would a 'real' act of choosing look like that would differentiate it from a choosing that is just a belief?
The difference is whether we are "given" our choice, or if we truly did as you say "make a selection from or decide upon one among multiple possible alternatives".
Well, you still haven't answered the question for me, you've just substituted new wording here by saying 'we are "given" our choice' for your original wording that a choice is "not real" or is "just an illusion". I'm asking what is the objective difference between these two. Normally we differentiate between something that is real and something that is not real by some concrete means of demonstration. For example, a magician makes a card disappear - we know this is an illusion because we can learn the method by which the magician accomplishes this whereby the card did not actually disappear but just appeared to because of the technique that was used. So how would we determine whether a person who claims to be making a choice is really doing it or not? In what way would a 'real' choice show itself that an 'unreal' choice would not?

RJG wrote: January 13th, 2022, 6:33 pm To select or decide anything requires thought (decision making). And if we can't choose the thoughts that are used in decision making, then did we really decide anything?

For example, if the thoughts in decision making are "given" to us, then we certainly did not really "choose" them, …right? And if we are given the thoughts to select item A as opposed to item B, or item C, then did we "really choose" item A? …or was this choice "given" to us (by the thoughts that we never chose!)?

If we don't choose the thoughts that we use in choosing, then we don't really choose anything!
I don't agree that thoughts are required in order to choose. Thinking and choosing are two different things and neither depends on the other. By the definition that you agreed with, that a choice is a selection made when multiple possible options are available - thoughts aren't any part of this definition. There are certainly examples to be found of people making choices without thought. Animals choose without thoughts. Even inanimate objects incapable of thought can be said to choose: water selects the path of least resistance, even if other paths are available to it, no? What makes these choices not 'real'?
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Re: Do we really choose anything?

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RJG wrote: January 13th, 2022, 6:33 pm
RJG wrote:1. The meaning of "choose" is the conventional everyday use and understanding of the word.
2. The meaning/question of "really choosing" is to bring awareness on whether the act of choosing actually happens (i.e. is it "real"), or is it merely just an illusion (i.e. "not real") that we humans have been deluded into believing.
Thomyum2 wrote:My understanding of the 'conventional everyday use of "choose" is to make a selection from or decide upon one among multiple possible alternatives - is that fair?
Yes, I think that is a fair understanding.

Thomyum2 wrote:But I'm afraid you haven't answered the second question for me. How could we tell if a choice that was made was 'real' or not? If a person tells us they are choosing something, what criteria could we use to determine if they were 'really' choosing or to demonstrate that they were just experiencing the illusion that they were choosing? What would a 'real' act of choosing look like that would differentiate it from a choosing that is just a belief?
The difference is whether we are "given" our choice, or if we truly did as you say "make a selection from or decide upon one among multiple possible alternatives". To select or decide anything requires thought (decision making). And if we can't choose the thoughts that are used in decision making, then did we really decide anything?

For example, if the thoughts in decision making are "given" to us, then we certainly did not really "choose" them, …right? And if we are given the thoughts to select item A as opposed to item B, or item C, then did we "really choose" item A? …or was this choice "given" to us (by the thoughts that we never chose!)?

If we don't choose the thoughts that we use in choosing, then we don't really choose anything!


*****************
Alan Masterman wrote:...the institution of marriage is no longer making your decisions for you.
In actuality/reality, none of us can logically make our own decisions. ...they are always "given" to us.
Given? Given to us by whom? Do you feel your thoughts are given to you?
"As usual... it depends."
stevie
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Re: Do we really choose anything?

Post by stevie »

RJG wrote: January 13th, 2022, 4:53 pm
RJG wrote:Do we choose the thoughts that we use in choosing? If no, then do we really choose anything?
Thomyum2 wrote:To make sense out your argument one way or the other, I think I'd need to ask two clarifying questions:

1) How are you defining 'choose', i.e. what exactly is meant by saying that we 'choose' something?
2) What is the difference between 'choosing' something and 'really choosing' something? In practice, how could we distinguish between these two things?
1. The meaning of "choose" is the conventional everyday use and understanding of the word.
2. The meaning/question of "really choosing" is to bring awareness on whether the act of choosing actually happens (i.e. is it "real"), or is it merely just an illusion (i.e. "not real") that we humans have been deluded into believing.
Don't know what the "we" stands for but I can express how it appears to me: Some thoughts just pop up and some need activation energy (effort). Of those that pop up I pay attention to some but don't pay attention to others. I don't experience paying attention or not as "choosing" because I am associating "thinking about" with "choosing" and I don't 'think about' a thought before I pay attention or not because the "thinking about" happened long before when generally thinking about thoughts worth to be paid attention to and not worth to be paid attention to.
Of the thoughts that need activation energy (effort) those are not chosen because there is no alternative to them because they are based on intention. So first comes intention to think and then the thought is constructed.

As to "really choosing" (after having stated that I am associating "thinking about" with "choosing"): Since I can neither find grounds for "real" nor grounds for "illusion" I've chosen to suspend judgement as to whether "real" or "illusion".
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Re: Do we really choose anything?

Post by psyreporter »

Is a thought to be perceived in a retro-perspective that requires a causal origin or is the mere potential of a thought by itself already evidence of free will?

RJG wrote: January 13th, 2022, 8:46 am Do we choose the thoughts that we use in choosing?

1. If no, then do we really choose anything?
ANSWER: the thought as potential in the face of an external world implies that a factor that can be indicated as 'free will' is necessarily applicable. If free will would not be applicable, then what underlays the thought as potential would need to be valued (predetermined), which is absurd.

My footnote provides an argument for why it would be absurd: “If life were to be good as it was, there would be no reason to exist.

I just read the following about William James's perspective on free will. William James is the "father of American psychology" which explains that he has a perspective on free will relative to psychology.

William James developed his two-stage model of free will. In his model, he tries to explain how it is people come to the making of a decision and what factors are involved in it. He firstly defines our basic ability to choose as free will. Then he specifies our two factors as chance and choice. "James's two-stage model effectively separates chance (the in-deterministic free element) from choice (an arguably determinate decision that follows causally from one's character, values, and especially feelings and desires at the moment of decision)."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_James#Free_will

His perspective may be valid and it would imply that a 'choice' can be considered predetermined from a psychology perspective, however, the potential for thought would involve something of which it can be said that it is not deterministic which would add the quality free will to a choice.
PsyReporter | “If life were to be good as it was, there would be no reason to exist.”
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Re: Do we really choose anything?

Post by Pattern-chaser »

RJG wrote: January 13th, 2022, 8:46 am Do we choose the thoughts that we use in choosing?
I think the misunderstanding inherent in this question follows from the (spurious?) assumption that "we" are, mentally speaking, solely our conscious mind, and not all of our mind.
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