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      Freewill

      I've a few questions for anyone who might be interested in thinking about "freewill".

      1.) What is freewill?

      (Assuming you take the most accepted definition of freewill being the ability of agents to freely choose among multiple possibilities of action...)
      2.) As human beings, our actions are driven by impulses or desires developed by evolution. We all experience conflicting desires from time to time and experience a state of limbo, but even our end decision was motivated by a foresighted desire (maybe choosing the desire to eat healthy and having better energy for the day over the desire to eat what you think tastes good was only swayed by avoiding medical problems when you get older). There was no amorphous spirit agent called "you" other than that foresighted desire that decided between them. As animals of evolution seen in a naturalistic view, desire (whether impulsive or more complex) seems to be all there is leading to meaningful action. So my question is how can you define yourself as a single "agent" that chooses between actions that isn't just the natural play of turbulent desires?

      3.) Whether you think freewill is compatible or incompatible with determinism, how is this view any different when it comes to indeterminism? If a definite fate makes "freewill" impossible, then how could being controlled by quantum randomness make you any more free?

      4.) Considering the above questions, how is the age old inquiry of freewill not complete and utter bullshit? Care to make an attempt?

    2. #2
      Xei
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      1, and by extension 3; I don't understand the question. A given definition should contain everything that free will is.

      I have never had a discussion about free will that wasn't in my opinion simply semantics. What precisely do you mean to imply, by mentioning evolution? How, incidentally, do actions like suicide fit?

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      2) Why would you think an action controlled by a desire is not an act of freewill?

      Or I'm interpreting it wrongly.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      1, and by extension 3; I don't understand the question. A given definition should contain everything that free will is.

      I have never had a discussion about free will that wasn't in my opinion simply semantics. What precisely do you mean to imply, by mentioning evolution? How, incidentally, do actions like suicide fit?
      For the first question I'm asking you to define what you think freewill is. The definition I (and what most people) take is the ability of an agent to freely choose a course of action among alternatives. I mention evolution because it is the process of which we are a part of that has developed the desires which drive us to action, I'm just implying that it is completely relevant to the discussion of said freewill. I'm not sure what the significance of suicide would be compared to any other action driven by desire, I suppose it would just be the desire for permanent rest, or the relief from certain feelings.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Carrot View Post
      2) Why would you think an action controlled by a desire is not an act of freewill?

      Or I'm interpreting it wrongly.
      Because I'm having a hard time seeing how we could choose the desires that lead us to our actions. Sure we could choose what desires we want or don't want, but it would only be in the light of another desire. The main point for me is that desires are a product of evolution, a matter we never had a choice in, so how are we free to choose between actions when the desires that drive them are just natural phenomena beyond our control?
      ThisWitheredMan likes this.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Wayfaerer View Post
      Because I'm having a hard time seeing how we could choose the desires that lead us to our actions. Sure we could choose what desires we want or don't want, but it would only be in the light of another desire. The main point for me is that desires are a product of evolution, a matter we never had a choice in, so how are we free to choose between actions when the desires that drive them are just natural phenomena beyond our control?
      I still don't quite get it. Using your example, if I choose not to eat what I want, I'm motivated by my desire to be healthy. If I choose to eat what I want regardless of the outcome, I believe I am giving in to a greedy desire or getting whatever you want desire.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Carrot View Post
      I still don't quite get it. Using your example, if I choose not to eat what I want, I'm motivated by my desire to be healthy. If I choose to eat what I want regardless of the outcome, I believe I am giving in to a greedy desire or getting whatever you want desire.
      Right, and what other than their relative strengths and consideration of other desires decides which desire you give into? Is there really a separate middle-man that's free? What reason would it have to choose anything?

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      Quote Originally Posted by Wayfaerer View Post
      Right, and what other than their relative strengths and consideration of other desires decides which desire you give into? Is there really a separate middle-man that's free? What reason would it have to choose anything?
      Every decision we made all boils down to what we want. Making an action for ourselves and not having it benefit us in any way is impossible. But linking every decision made to desires are a little overwhelming, it might not be desires all the time.

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      Will is the reduction of dissonance in the brain.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      Xei
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      Quote Originally Posted by Wayfaerer View Post
      For the first question I'm asking you to define what you think freewill is. The definition I (and what most people) take is the ability of an agent to freely choose a course of action among alternatives.
      That's what I thought you probably meant... so I guess you meant to say "assuming you don't take the most accepted definition"..? I don't really habitually take any definition of course, I just take the definition of my interlocutor. If you want to talk about the ability of an agent to freely choose a course of action from a set of alternatives then let's talk about that, although there's probably quite a bit of potentially important ambiguity hidden in subdefinitions there, the concepts of 'agent', 'choice' and 'freely' being some particularly suspect parts... in fact thinking about it, I'd say without defining 'free' the definition is meaningless.

      So, to your questions... I'm not clear on what you're trying to say by 2 and 3. In 2, are you saying the fact that everything we do is a consequence of previous external events contradicts agenthood? If so, why? And in 3... well I suppose I'll see what you mean by 'freedom' first.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Carrot View Post
      Every decision we made all boils down to what we want. Making an action for ourselves and not having it benefit us in any way is impossible. But linking every decision made to desires are a little overwhelming, it might not be desires all the time.
      I suppose it might seem like that, I am using desire as a very broad term here. Besides physically involuntary action, I'm guessing all action could be classified as being a product of either automatic desires (mental states that we experience automatically that have been 'programmed' by evolution to react to certain immediate stimuli: hunger, fear, aggression, sexual arousal, curiosity, etc.) and desires that are formed through reflection of the past and future (future goals or certain lifestyles that prefer or suppress certain automatic states for whatever desired reason). What else do you think could drive us to action?

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      Quote Originally Posted by Xei View Post
      That's what I thought you probably meant... so I guess you meant to say "assuming you don't take the most accepted definition"..? I don't really habitually take any definition of course, I just take the definition of my interlocutor. If you want to talk about the ability of an agent to freely choose a course of action from a set of alternatives then let's talk about that, although there's probably quite a bit of potentially important ambiguity hidden in subdefinitions there, the concepts of 'agent', 'choice' and 'freely' being some particularly suspect parts... in fact thinking about it, I'd say without defining 'free' the definition is meaningless.

      So, to your questions... I'm not clear on what you're trying to say by 2 and 3. In 2, are you saying the fact that everything we do is a consequence of previous external events contradicts agenthood? If so, why? And in 3... well I suppose I'll see what you mean by 'freedom' first.
      I guess I'm saying that an 'agent' with conflicting parts contradicts agenthood, at least regarding its ability to identify with one course of action that makes its will "free". As for the definition of "free", I suppose it would be the ability for the agent to choose what it wants unrestrained by other influences, but when the human being is a multitude of "wants" its agency seems kind of silly, let alone its freedom.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Wayfaerer View Post
      What else do you think could drive us to action?
      There's a lot. Acceptance, habitual, love, esteem, calmness, etc. Every tiny thing could be a reason. For example I'm awake at 4:30am now because I'm used to it, because my hair hasn't dry, because I love the night air, because I know I can't fall asleep too early and I don't like having a hard time to fall asleep, because it's not too late yet, because I'm waiting for certain replies on DV.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Carrot View Post
      There's a lot. Acceptance, habitual, love, esteem, calmness, etc. Every tiny thing could be a reason. For example I'm awake at 4:30am now because I'm used to it, because my hair hasn't dry, because I love the night air, because I know I can't fall asleep too early and I don't like having a hard time to fall asleep, because it's not too late yet, because I'm waiting for certain replies on DV.
      So your action right now is browsing DV and your drive for that is to see certain replies on it. Your drive for that could be something else and it could go on but it would eventually reach a desire developed by evolution wouldn't it? Or the action of staying up late would be motivated by the feeling of the night air, or avoiding the feeling of going to sleep with wet hair wouldn't it? Though "being awake" doesn't seem like it would be an action if it is habitual and there's no opposing influences on it.
      Last edited by Wayfaerer; 07-10-2012 at 10:11 PM.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Wayfaerer View Post
      So your action right now is browsing DV and your drive for that is to see certain replies on it. Your drive for that could be something else and it could go on but it would eventually reach a desire developed by evolution wouldn't it?
      Desire developed by evolution meaning? Sorry still didn't get that part.

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      What's not to get? All desires come down to genetic and environmental conditioning causing the release of either serotonin or dopamine.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      Quote Originally Posted by Carrot View Post
      Desire developed by evolution meaning? Sorry still didn't get that part.
      I meant certain states of mind that the process of biological evolution has developed for survival that makes certain actions or events like eating, drinking, finding shelter, and bonding attractive.
      Last edited by Wayfaerer; 07-10-2012 at 10:20 PM.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Wayfaerer View Post
      I meant certain states of mind that the process of biological evolution has developed for survival that makes certain actions or events like eating, drinking, finding shelter, and bonding attractive.
      Then what would you consider an action of finding eternal peace?

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      That's easy. We are motivated to reduce suffering in the mind and body. We have a cognition capable of processing information and churning out the conclusion that such peace is possible. We naturally desire it.

      (Of course that also brings into the game the paradoxical obstacle of desiring peace utilizing the very attitude that causes suffering in the first place)

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      The desire for comfort? You could also speculate about the Freudian concept of "Thanatos".
      Last edited by Wayfaerer; 07-10-2012 at 10:31 PM.

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      But why would the desires from a biological evolution not be anything we truly want? What about the action of not thinking too much into matters? You know there are a lot of happy go lucky people in this world.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Carrot View Post
      But why would the desires from a biological evolution not be anything we truly want? What about the action of not thinking too much into matters? You know there are a lot of happy go lucky people in this world.
      A major factor of evolution is variation. We can't all act the same way, it's not feasible. In some way or another we're all experiments being tested for viability. Some people are more easy going, or ignorantly blissful, others churn over ideas over and over again. This is not because they willed to be that way, they are blooming into the creation they were encoded to become.

      Everything works out in the end, sometimes even badly.


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      Quote Originally Posted by Carrot View Post
      But why would the desires from a biological evolution not be anything we truly want?
      This is my point exactly, there's nothing between us and what biological evolution did/does, so there's no need for a "chooser" that isn't just the mechanical-like interactions of biological drives and psychological drives that stem from them.

      Quote Originally Posted by Carrot View Post
      what about the action of not thinking too much into matters?
      This is kind of my point also, more so why think too much about matters that make no sense? lol

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      Quote Originally Posted by Wayfaerer View Post
      This is my point exactly, there's nothing between us and what biological evolution did/does, so there's no need for a "chooser" that isn't just the mechanical-like interactions of biological drives and psychological drives that stem from them.



      This is kind of my point also, more so why think too much about matters that make no sense? lol
      If you're putting it that way, then I don't think it's entirely desires from our biological evolution. You don't need to make sense of things to survive, you're doing it purely for yourself.

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      Xei
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      I think it's important to note that there are many things which we do are not in themselves selected for by natural selection. A good although partly hypothetical example is music, something which Stephen Pinker describes as 'auditory cheesecake'; there's something special about it which resonates in some way with the specific implementation of something which is selected for, namely our auditory system. The same is likely true of many of our cognitive faculties, such as our rationality. There are various epiphenomena do not emerge out of selective pressures.

      Quote Originally Posted by Wayfaerer View Post
      I guess I'm saying that an 'agent' with conflicting parts contradicts agenthood, at least regarding its ability to identify with one course of action that makes its will "free".
      I don't really know... is that really the human experience, of discrete and separate entities? Isn't our experience of choice making rather as a single something which sits above these desires (I guess Freud would call it a super id), weighing each?

      What would it mean to make a choice if there were not conflicting benefits? Surely by definition there must be conflicting parts for a choice to be made.

      As for the definition of "free", I suppose it would be the ability for the agent to choose what it wants unrestrained by other influences, but when the human being is a multitude of "wants" its agency seems kind of silly, let alone its freedom.
      So by freedom you essentially seem to mean a dualistic conception of the soul; a bundle of uncaused actions. I don't find it very concerning that such a thing doesn't seem to exist... of course, everything we do is the result of what went before. Action wouldn't make much sense otherwise.
      Last edited by Xei; 07-11-2012 at 12:10 AM.

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