Free will, is it a blessing or a curse?

Use this forum to discuss the September 2021 Philosophy Book of the Month, If Life Stinks, Get Your Head Outta Your But's by Mark L. Wdowiak
PoeticUniverse
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Re: Free will, is it a blessing or a curse?

Post by PoeticUniverse »

Subconscious trains of thought vie for attention,
Dueling choirs competing for first place
Toward actions in the will’s ‘I’—to produce
Future, for this is the main task of thought.

Who you are is your repertoire—your brain;
What you are now is the mind’s ‘eye’ of it,
Which ‘I’ e’er but obtains from who you are.
Aye, aye: the brain generates what ‘I’ witness.
tsihcrana
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Re: Free will, is it a blessing or a curse?

Post by tsihcrana »

Seems to me there is no free will. Only the illusion of it.

So-called 'choice' arises from subconscious processes that are entirely unchosen. It will not always be this specific route, but for the purposes of illustration:

1. A sensory experience arises.
2. The prefrontal cortex employs historically-gained knowledge of cause/effect to project a future outcome.
3. This projection is emotionally reacted to in the limbic center.
4A. If the emotional reaction is bad the prefrontal cortex will be compelled to rerun the projection whist altering some what-if-I-did-this variable.
4B. If the emotional reaction is good the projected course of action is accepted as a 'choice'.

(There is a trade-off of effort Vs reward going on here, and sometimes the ideal projection may be so effort-intensive there is no net reward. Similarly, the processing itself is effort-intensive, and a less than ideal outcome might be acceptable if the search for a more ideal one is proving too onerous, and so on).

The process of 'choosing' is more accurately a process of using historically-entrenched knowledge of cause and effect to discover our innate emotional bias toward potential outcomes. We don't choose the way experience of the world around us will be subconsciously stored, and therefore have no control over what projections our mind will proffer with respect to a given stimulus (or set of stimuli). Nor do we have any control over what emotion emerges in response to a stimulus. The best we can hope for is to control our emotions after the fact of their emergence: dissociation/courage/repression/avoidance/distraction/acceptance...

Just like (I expect) everyone else in the world I do, however, have the subjective experience of making choices. I also have the subjective experience that what I see is 'over there' though, when in reality the light from 'over there' departed that place and traveled 'over here' some time ago. Then it entered my eye and was later processed into an illusory projection of 'overtheredness'. Knowing the truth of this illusion does nothing to rescue me from it - I can't choose to see the visual world inside my head where it really is even though I objectively know that's what's actually happening. The illusion is hard-wired into my experience.

It's just the same with the illusion of choice - I can objectively understand that I am bound by the deterministic laws of physics and therefore cannot do what I choose but only what those laws determine I must, and I can understand how and why the illusion of choosing comes about, but I can't escape the subjective experience of 'weighing my options' and making a 'choice'. It's one of those instances where the truth does not set you free.
PoeticUniverse
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Re: Free will, is it a blessing or a curse?

Post by PoeticUniverse »

tsihcrana wrote: September 25th, 2021, 11:44 am It's one of those instances where the truth does not set you free.
All good.

Yes, there's no becoming free of the will that is fixed to the moment of usage. Through learnings and experiences the successive fixed wills can have a larger repertoire to draw on, and so then the forced choices can turn out better.

The knowledge of this "truth" undermines a lot of other philosophical dilemmas, at least, and also gives us some compassion for people doing what they have to do.

I also see in the world that a really stuck will can even be immune to any learning toward the stuckness, which is usually bad, smashing into the same brick wall of life time after time, but can even be deadly, such as getting covid after refusing to be vaccinated.

Some really persistent stuck thoughts can keep surfacing, but instead of people noting, Ah, there's that silly old repeating thought showing up again!", they feel that because they thought of it that it must be gospel, so, why not bring it up to others again, this reinforcing it more, even getting to the level of preaching it no matter what. I read all the time about some big anti-vax radio host getting covid and dying; they couldn't even get the 7th grade science of viruses.

And then there are the election deniers and the global warming deniers… not to mention the overly religious sermonizing on and on.
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LuckyR
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Re: Free will, is it a blessing or a curse?

Post by LuckyR »

tsihcrana wrote: September 25th, 2021, 11:44 am Seems to me there is no free will. Only the illusion of it.

So-called 'choice' arises from subconscious processes that are entirely unchosen. It will not always be this specific route, but for the purposes of illustration:

1. A sensory experience arises.
2. The prefrontal cortex employs historically-gained knowledge of cause/effect to project a future outcome.
3. This projection is emotionally reacted to in the limbic center.
4A. If the emotional reaction is bad the prefrontal cortex will be compelled to rerun the projection whist altering some what-if-I-did-this variable.
4B. If the emotional reaction is good the projected course of action is accepted as a 'choice'.

(There is a trade-off of effort Vs reward going on here, and sometimes the ideal projection may be so effort-intensive there is no net reward. Similarly, the processing itself is effort-intensive, and a less than ideal outcome might be acceptable if the search for a more ideal one is proving too onerous, and so on).

The process of 'choosing' is more accurately a process of using historically-entrenched knowledge of cause and effect to discover our innate emotional bias toward potential outcomes. We don't choose the way experience of the world around us will be subconsciously stored, and therefore have no control over what projections our mind will proffer with respect to a given stimulus (or set of stimuli). Nor do we have any control over what emotion emerges in response to a stimulus. The best we can hope for is to control our emotions after the fact of their emergence: dissociation/courage/repression/avoidance/distraction/acceptance...

Just like (I expect) everyone else in the world I do, however, have the subjective experience of making choices. I also have the subjective experience that what I see is 'over there' though, when in reality the light from 'over there' departed that place and traveled 'over here' some time ago. Then it entered my eye and was later processed into an illusory projection of 'overtheredness'. Knowing the truth of this illusion does nothing to rescue me from it - I can't choose to see the visual world inside my head where it really is even though I objectively know that's what's actually happening. The illusion is hard-wired into my experience.

It's just the same with the illusion of choice - I can objectively understand that I am bound by the deterministic laws of physics and therefore cannot do what I choose but only what those laws determine I must, and I can understand how and why the illusion of choosing comes about, but I can't escape the subjective experience of 'weighing my options' and making a 'choice'. It's one of those instances where the truth does not set you free.
A perfectly reasonable theory. Of course some might describe the "to all subjective experience it seems like A is happening, but really B is happening, in the absence of any proof" idea as perhaps the ultimate rationalization.
"As usual... it depends."
tsihcrana
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Re: Free will, is it a blessing or a curse?

Post by tsihcrana »

LuckyR wrote: September 26th, 2021, 12:34 am A perfectly reasonable theory. Of course some might describe the "to all subjective experience it seems like A is happening, but really B is happening, in the absence of any proof" idea as perhaps the ultimate rationalization.
I get your point, but would argue that there is at least some proof. Every single physical interaction we currently understand (at > quantum scale) is 100% beholden to cause and effect. Why should we believe our brains and the processes arising therein are any different? Is there sufficient proof to say one way or another? No, but it certainly seems more probable than not for our brains to be beholden to deterministic processes like every other larger-scale substance. So there isn't really an 'absence of any proof', only an 'absence of conclusive proof'.
tsihcrana
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Re: Free will, is it a blessing or a curse?

Post by tsihcrana »

Apologies, I'm again being sloppy with words. I should have replaced 'proof' with 'evidence'. After all, how can you have 'some proof'?
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Papus79
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Re: Free will, is it a blessing or a curse?

Post by Papus79 »

About as much blessing or curse as having Santa Clause at the North Pole or the Easter Bunny visiting every spring.
People aren't fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, we're fundamentally trying to survive. It's the environment and culture which tells us what that's going to be.
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LuckyR
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Re: Free will, is it a blessing or a curse?

Post by LuckyR »

tsihcrana wrote: September 28th, 2021, 4:21 am
LuckyR wrote: September 26th, 2021, 12:34 am A perfectly reasonable theory. Of course some might describe the "to all subjective experience it seems like A is happening, but really B is happening, in the absence of any proof" idea as perhaps the ultimate rationalization.
I get your point, but would argue that there is at least some proof. Every single physical interaction we currently understand (at > quantum scale) is 100% beholden to cause and effect. Why should we believe our brains and the processes arising therein are any different? Is there sufficient proof to say one way or another? No, but it certainly seems more probable than not for our brains to be beholden to deterministic processes like every other larger-scale substance. So there isn't really an 'absence of any proof', only an 'absence of conclusive proof'.
A couple of things. You are throwing around the word "physical" casually. Everyone agrees that the behavior of billiard balls when struck is physical. No one knows exactly how decisions are made, and many would not describe how they suppose it occurs as physical (in the sense of billiard balls).

Thus transposing our experience with simple physical systems into decision making is very far from the level of proof, to the point of being inadvisable.
"As usual... it depends."
PoeticUniverse
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Re: Free will, is it a blessing or a curse?

Post by PoeticUniverse »

LuckyR wrote: September 29th, 2021, 2:48 pm Thus transposing our experience with simple physical systems into decision making is very far from the level of proof, to the point of being inadvisable.
It would be that the will has to reach a certain decision because of what its brain connections have become up to that point.
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LuckyR
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Re: Free will, is it a blessing or a curse?

Post by LuckyR »

PoeticUniverse wrote: September 29th, 2021, 3:24 pm
LuckyR wrote: September 29th, 2021, 2:48 pm Thus transposing our experience with simple physical systems into decision making is very far from the level of proof, to the point of being inadvisable.
It would be that the will has to reach a certain decision because of what its brain connections have become up to that point.
Again, a perfectly reasonable theory.
"As usual... it depends."
tsihcrana
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Re: Free will, is it a blessing or a curse?

Post by tsihcrana »

LuckyR wrote: September 29th, 2021, 2:48 pm A couple of things. You are throwing around the word "physical" casually. Everyone agrees that the behavior of billiard balls when struck is physical. No one knows exactly how decisions are made, and many would not describe how they suppose it occurs as physical (in the sense of billiard balls).

Thus transposing our experience with simple physical systems into decision making is very far from the level of proof, to the point of being inadvisable.
I get your drift, but I'm happy to use the word physical in the way I did because I don't believe mind/brain duality is a thing.
Anand_Haqq
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Re: Free will, is it a blessing or a curse?

Post by Anand_Haqq »

. You have been born free.

. By nature, one cannot be free from anything ... because there is anything or anybody in which you can be free from.

. But, as you get older ... society goes on creating shackles and subtle slavery strategies to keep you cripple and paralyzed.

. But you, as such, are free ... by nature.

. You have only surrendered to the wrong entity.

. You have only surrendered to those who have taken out your own freedom. They have done it not because they have the power to ... but rather due to your own incapacity to hold in your hability to do what you want, in the way you want ... and whenever you want.

. Freedom is your very birthright.

. You only have forgotten this truth.

. You are only to remember it.
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Sushan
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Re: Free will, is it a blessing or a curse?

Post by Sushan »

Nick_A wrote: September 3rd, 2021, 3:36 pm Have you ever thought about the difference between the action of free will and the reaction to desire?
"God...does not constrain the will. Rather, he sets it free, so that it may choose him, that is to say, freedom. The spirit of man may not will otherwise than what God wills, but that is no lack of freedom. It is true freedom itself." Meister Eckhart
Every action has a reaction, or consequences. And the doer should be strong enough to take the responsibility of what he does and face the consequences. If human spirit's will goes hand in hand with what God wills, how today's world has gone into chaos with all the wrong doings of people? Either the God should have evil thoughts, or the free will should be a bad thing.
“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers”

– William James
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Sushan
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Re: Free will, is it a blessing or a curse?

Post by Sushan »

PoeticUniverse wrote: September 3rd, 2021, 5:25 pm
Nick_A wrote: September 3rd, 2021, 3:36 pm "God...does not constrain the will. Rather, he sets it free, so that it may choose him, that is to say, freedom. The spirit of man may not will otherwise than what God wills, but that is no lack of freedom. It is true freedom itself." Meister Eckhart
Oh, dishonest Eckhart, you dishonestly cite 'God' as if it's truth and then do it some more in adding that for sure free will with consequences is true freedom! Blah, blah, blah, suppositions… Obey or burn…

Misleading

Their ingrained beliefs the priests’ duly preach,
As if notions were truth and fact to teach.
Oh, cleric, repent; at least say, “Have faith”;
Since, of unknowns ne’er shown none can e’er reach.

The Postering Cleric

I just love how the religious preacher
Talks so firm and sure and then gets louder,
As if to show how true his warnings are,
Eyes closing, head tilting up toward afar.
I agree. The concepts of God and heaven, and Satan and hell are sued to control humans by preachers throughout the history. Though none of them have seen any of these, and many did not live up to the standards that they wanted the common ppopulation to live by, they went on controling general population. The main hindrance for that was God's free will. And they found a way to control that free will as well. The concept of every action having consequences. So though people had free will they feared to act on their own because of the consequences. In that case there have never been a true free will.
“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers”

– William James
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Formless777
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Re: Free will, is it a blessing or a curse?

Post by Formless777 »

Nobody can prove that free will exists. It is a presumption, but the evidence is quite equivocal.

Within a religious context however, free will is framed as a curse, as it deliberately keeps us from God and is the source of all evil.

And when you frame free will in such a fashion, you can justify any level of brainwashing, torture, and tyranny.
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