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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Re: Do we really choose anything?

Post by RJG »

RJG wrote:If free-will is the ability to choose, then free-will is logically impossible.
chewybrian wrote:...except that we have it. To put it another way, we have the sense impression that we have it.
…or is it possible that we only have the "illusion" that we have it?

chewybrian wrote: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).
Aren't illusions also sense impressions? How do you know your sense impression isn't just an illusion?

chewybrian wrote: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?
Did you actually choose the thoughts that were used in choosing the coffee? …or were these thoughts "given" to you (...i.e. just somehow "popped into your head")?

...if you did not actually choose those thoughts that were used to pick the coffee, then you really didn't choose the coffee.

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RJG wrote: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".
Thomyum2 wrote: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.
The objective difference is that "logic" tells us that choosing is impossible. Refer back to the OP to see the irrefutable logic.

Thomyum2 wrote:Normally we differentiate between something that is real and something that is not real by some concrete means of demonstration.
Agreed. And sound logic is about as concrete (objective) as we can get.

Thomyum2 wrote: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?
We know it is an illusion because we have learned that logic gives us truths. And if something is logically impossible, then no amount of illusions (or sense impressions) could, or should, convince us otherwise.

RJG wrote:If we don't choose the thoughts that we use in choosing, then we don't really choose anything!
Thomyum2 wrote:I don't agree that thoughts are required in order to choose.
It doesn't matter if it is thoughts or feelings or whatever that "makes" our choice. If we don't choose these things that "make" our choice, then we didn't really make our choice; we really didn't choose anything.

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LuckyR wrote:Given? Given to us by whom? Do you feel your thoughts are given to you?
Yes, logically, our thoughts are "given" to us. Why do you ask? Do you actually believe that you choose the thoughts that you use in choosing???

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stevie wrote: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.
Did you "choose" which thoughts to pay attention to (or give effort to) and which thoughts not to pay attention to (or not give effort to)? If so, then did you also choose the thoughts that were used in choosing which thoughts to pay attention to (and give effort to)?

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psyreporter wrote: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?
Logically, since we can't be aware of a thought 'before' we are aware of it, then this is evidence of the impossibility of free will.

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RJG wrote:Do we choose the thoughts that we use in choosing?
Pattern-chaser wrote: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.
If you are saying/implying that our thoughts (and resulting choices) are "given" to our conscious selves, then I agree with you. If we (our conscious selves) don't know what we chose until 'after' we (our physical non-conscious bodies) made the choice, or to put more simply, if we don't know what we choose until 'after' we chose it, then this is not necessarily considered as having free-will.


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Observational Note: We believe we have free-will because we have been pre-conditioned at a young age to believe it. It seems to me that most people here prefer to passionately defend these indoctrinated beliefs, rather than using logic to find the real truths of the matter.
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Pattern-chaser
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Re: Do we really choose anything?

Post by Pattern-chaser »

RJG wrote:Do we choose the thoughts that we use in choosing?
Pattern-chaser wrote: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.
RJG wrote: January 14th, 2022, 12:16 pm If you are saying/implying that our thoughts (and resulting choices) are "given" to our conscious selves, then I agree with you. If we (our conscious selves) don't know what we chose until 'after' we (our physical non-conscious bodies) made the choice, or to put more simply, if we don't know what we choose until 'after' we chose it, then this is not necessarily considered as having free-will.
It isn't? Why not?
Pattern-chaser

"Who cares, wins"
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RJG
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Re: Do we really choose anything?

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RJG wrote:…if we don't know what we choose until 'after' we chose it, then this is not necessarily considered as having free-will.
Pattern-chaser wrote:It isn't? Why not?
If we didn't consciously/knowingly select our choice, then what is so "free" about that? If our choices are "given" to us (to our conscious selves), then we did not consciously select them! ...meaning no free-will!

If we wish to define "free-will" as choices "given" to us (or made for us), then your view would be correct. But I don't think most people interpret free-will as choices "given" to us. I think most people interpret "free will" with consciously choosing.
Last edited by RJG on January 14th, 2022, 1:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Do we really choose anything?

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RJG wrote: January 14th, 2022, 12:16 pm
LuckyR wrote:Given? Given to us by whom? Do you feel your thoughts are given to you?
Yes, logically, our thoughts are "given" to us. Why do you ask? Do you actually believe that you choose the thoughts that you use in choosing???
Still dodging my question: who gives you your thoughts?
"As usual... it depends."
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RJG
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Re: Do we really choose anything?

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LuckyR wrote:Given? Given to us by whom? Do you feel your thoughts are given to you?
RJG wrote:Yes, logically, our thoughts are "given" to us. Why do you ask? Do you actually believe that you choose the thoughts that you use in choosing???
LuckyR wrote:Still dodging my question: who gives you your thoughts?
The answer is irrelevant to the fact that we are "given" our thoughts (and resulting choices), which logically implies there is no real free-will. We can only guess at the who or what that "gives" us the thoughts/choices.

But in an attempt to answer your question -- I suspect our thoughts are "given" to us by our physical, non-conscious selves (in partial agreement with Pattern-chaser's view). We only become conscious of our thoughts and choices 'after' they have already been made. We can't be conscious of X, without there first being X to be conscious of.

So now that I've answered your question, can you not "dodge" my question -- Do you actually believe that you choose the thoughts that you use in choosing?
Last edited by RJG on January 14th, 2022, 2:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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LuckyR
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Re: Do we really choose anything?

Post by LuckyR »

RJG wrote: January 14th, 2022, 2:05 pm
LuckyR wrote:Given? Given to us by whom? Do you feel your thoughts are given to you?
RJG wrote:Yes, logically, our thoughts are "given" to us. Why do you ask? Do you actually believe that you choose the thoughts that you use in choosing???
LuckyR wrote:Still dodging my question: who gives you your thoughts?
The answer is irrelevant to the fact that we are "given" our thoughts (and resulting choices), which logically implies there is no real free-will. We can only guess at the who or what that "gives" us the thoughts/choices.

But in an attempt to answer your question -- I suspect our thoughts are "given" to us by our physical, non-conscious selves (in agreement with Pattern-chaser's view). We only become conscious of our choice 'after' the choice has already been made.

So now that I've answered your question, can you not "dodge" my question -- Do you actually believe that you choose the thoughts that you use in choosing?
Well since according to you we give our thoughts to ourselves, then by definition: yes, we are choosing the thoughts that we use in choosing.
"As usual... it depends."
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Re: Do we really choose anything?

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@RFG

Surely, it is about the way in which thoughts are navigated in one's inner world which results in choice. Thoughts in the form of images and words come into the mind and, it may be that the stream of consciousness is not entirely within conscious control because thoughts can be intrusive. However, through focus and mindfulness it is possible to observe thoughts and choose which thoughts to attend to and follow. It is also on this basis that human beings decide on choices in action. Of course, it is possible to follow habits and patterns related to conditioning. However, the ability to sift thoughts and gain mastery of thought is what enables human beings to be active, conscious beings rather than be robotic machines.
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RJG
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Re: Do we really choose anything?

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LuckyR wrote:Well since according to you we give our thoughts to ourselves, then by definition: yes, we are choosing the thoughts that we use in choosing.
So then it appears that you agree with me that we do not "consciously" choose our thoughts, nor our choices; they are "given" to us by our non-conscious, physical selves. And therefore, without conscious choosing, there can be no free-will.
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Re: Do we really choose anything?

Post by JackDaydream »

@RJG

You may not have got a message about my reply to your post because I put your username message wrong. but hopefully you saw it. I also wish to add that your own argument is similar to the behaviourist understanding, that of saying that free will is an illusion. This was the approach of BF Skinner in his book, 'Beyond Freedom and Dignity'. This approach can be challenged by the emphasis on cognition and reflection in what has been developed in the cognitive behavioral model, which enables people to understand the basis of cognition as a way of changing thinking and behaviour.

In addition, sometimes it is argued that there is no free will because each thought and emotion has a cause, whether genetic or as aspects of nurture. In recognising these causal pathways it may be more about the nature of interconnectedness and relationships more than anything else. No human being has come into this world independently of the chains of causes, but to say that such factors are determinants ends up with a picture of human beings as passive beings and denies the importance of the inner world, as if were a hollow interior experience.
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RJG
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Re: Do we really choose anything?

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Hi Jack, yes I see your comments above, here is my response:
JackDaydream wrote:Surely, it is about the way in which thoughts are navigated in one's inner world which results in choice. Thoughts in the form of images and words come into the mind and, it may be that the stream of consciousness is not entirely within conscious control because thoughts can be intrusive.
All thoughts are "intrusive" (they pop into our head without our conscious permission). Also, "conscious control" (aka free-will) is logically impossible. All the thoughts that we are conscious of have already been scripted for us, for it is logically impossible to be conscious of a non-scripted (content-less) thought. Without something to be conscious of, there is nothing to be conscious of.

JackDaydream wrote:However, through focus and mindfulness it is possible to observe thoughts…
Yes, that is all we can do. We can be conscious of the thoughts playing out in our head. We cannot logically script (author, pre-select, or choose) these thoughts that we are conscious of. If we are conscious of them, then they have already been scripted/chosen. period.

JackDaydream wrote:... and choose which thoughts to attend to and follow.
…does it take thought to "choose" which thought we should attend to and follow? …for why did we choose thought A as opposed to thought B?

Again, if we can't choose the thoughts that do our choosing, then logically we can't really choose anything (including which thoughts to think). We can only think the thoughts that we have already been "given" (already scripted for us).

Another way to look at it:
If you pre-selected your thoughts, you would have to think to do so. But then those thoughts would also have to be pre-selected. Thus, since the pre-selection of thoughts would require pre-selecting other thoughts, the pre-selecting of thoughts would fall into an infinite regress and no thoughts would ever be selected. So, no, you cannot pre-select your thoughts.

JackDaydream wrote:It is also on this basis that human beings decide on choices in action. Of course, it is possible to follow habits and patterns related to conditioning. However, the ability to sift thoughts and gain mastery of thought is what enables human beings to be active, conscious beings rather than be robotic machines.
Jack, this is feel-good indoctrination that we have all been told from an early age on. But if we can temporarily suspend our indoctrinated beliefs, and look at this from a purely logical perspective, then we can clearly see the logical impossibility of "consciously selecting our own thoughts" and many of our other false notions (indoctrinated beliefs).

Most of us don't want to believe in truths that are "ugly". If the desire to defend our indoctrinated (feel-good) beliefs is greater than our desire to find real and possibly ugly truth (based on sound logic), then we will happily continue believing in the feel-good non-truth, ...ignorance may be bliss after all.
Last edited by RJG on January 14th, 2022, 5:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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JackDaydream
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Re: Do we really choose anything?

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@RJG

It depends which way the matter is viewed, like two sides of a coin. You see my belief in free will as a form of indoctrination. On the other hand, I see your emphasis as being an ideology of denying the creativity of freedom. To say that we are indoctrinated is to leave out the possibility of questioning for ourselves, which philosophy gives us, through the use of language and concepts.
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RJG
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Re: Do we really choose anything?

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JackDaydream wrote:It depends which way the matter is viewed, like two sides of a coin. You see my belief in free will as a form of indoctrination. On the other hand, I see your emphasis as being an ideology of denying the creativity of freedom. To say that we are indoctrinated is to leave out the possibility of questioning for ourselves, which philosophy gives us, through the use of language and concepts.
I think you misunderstand me. I am saying that the belief in free-will stems from our indoctrination. We are taught this from a very young age. ...agreed? BUT, if we look at this belief from a purely logical perspective, then we can see that free-will (aka conscious control) is not logically possible.

That's all.

We don't have to accept that we get truths (and falses) from logic. But if we do accept logic as a means to truth, then we can see the flaw (the logical impossibility) of free-will. -- And yes, it is an "ugly" logical truth, but is this sufficient reason to deny it?
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JackDaydream
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Re: Do we really choose anything?

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@RJG

Logic is part of the means for finding 'truth', but not the only part of discovery of knowledge and truth. It involves knowledge gained by the senses and empirical discovery but alongside intuition and imagination. The processes of logic are a means of verification, but the aspects of this process is more complex. It seems to me that the argument that we do not choose is far too simplistic. It may be that we are acted upon by outside influences, but we also act upon this and the outer world rather than simply reacting. The paradox may be a complex interplay of being acted upon and also having an active role in the external web of causation.
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RJG
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Re: Do we really choose anything?

Post by RJG »

JackDaydream wrote:Logic is part of the means for finding 'truth', but not the only part of discovery of knowledge and truth. It involves knowledge gained by the senses and empirical discovery but alongside intuition and imagination. The processes of logic are a means of verification, but the aspects of this process is more complex. It seems to me that the argument that we do not choose is far too simplistic. It may be that we are acted upon by outside influences, but we also act upon this and the outer world rather than simply reacting. The paradox may be a complex interplay of being acted upon and also having an active role in the external web of causation.
Jack, maybe you are right. But from my perspective, if something is logically impossible, then no amount of speculation (empirical or otherwise) can alter that fact/truth. ...we can either accept it or deny it, ...it's [not] our choice to make! :wink:
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Re: Do we really choose anything?

Post by JackDaydream »

@RJG

I don't see how you came to the conclusion that it is logically impossible to have choice. Thoughts do not rise up rather into consciousness, like the sea, from depths beyond conscious awareness. Personally, I am inclined to think techniques such as those within mindfulness meditation are ones which create a pathway to greater freedom or free will. It may be that freedom of choice and consciousness do not come through mere necessity but can be developed through attention to thoughts, as they arise from the depths of the mind. In this way, it could be argued that free will is connected to understanding and self awareness as a possibility, which can be aquired as a technique or art through practice of attention, rather than being controlled like a puppet on strings.
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