What is Free Will?

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kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 29 Jan, 2010 11:51 am
@ACB,
ACB;123429 wrote:


How do we distinguish between (internal) compulsion and non-compulsion? Does it depend (as I suggested earlier) on whether the brain processes involved are normal or abnormal? If so, which specific type(s) of abnormality negate freedom, and which do not? Is compulsion an all-or-nothing matter, or are there degrees of compulsion (e.g. in the case of a mild addiction)? And so on. I think more detail is needed to resolve this issue.


That is a good question. I don't know the answer to that, and I don't think that it is really a philosophical question, but rather a psychological-medical question. But one comment I have on it is that a good test is whether any kind of punishment would deter someone from a kind of action. For example, we (at least think) that putting a person in prison will deter him from future episodes of theft, and deter others from thievery. In fact, that is one of the reason we punish thieves. But it is different for a kleptomaniac. Punishment does not deter kleptomaniacs from stealing. The Utilitarian theory of punishment is based on this truth. That is why Utilitarianism is a compatibilist theory of punishment.
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Fri 29 Jan, 2010 12:38 pm
@ACB,
ACB;123376 wrote:
What about hypnotism? If a hypnotised person is caused to perform a bizarre or uncharacteristic act without experiencing any pressure of being forced to do it, must we say he did it of his own free will?

Can we never be compelled without realising it?


Let me rephrase.

You're absolutely right that we can be compelled to do things and not know it. But we must make sure we do not overstate this. We must not, for instance, assume that all chemical processes occuring in our brain, or anywhere else in our body, are compelled. This is why I want to clarify. If we say an involuntary action, like a heart beating, is compulsion, it seems to me it's different than the being compelled we're speaking of here*. The being compelled I imagined we were speaking of here, must be within the confines of something we would say X person would do, or is capable of doing. For instance, we wouldn't say, "Jim is beating his heart", would we? His heart beating is not something we would consider as his doing. We would instead say, "His heart is beating", as if the heart were an independent entity. Here we begin to seperate Jim from his bodily function. Once we draw this seperation, I feel, we should stop applying compulsion and free will. It is no longer a consciousness we're speaking of; free will and compulsion are no longer terms which apply.

Now, how this relates:

It's been explored many times within this thread: Well, what if our actions boil down to biological/chemical processes, do we really then have free choice?

I believe this question confuses matters.

I think people are attempting to mix things which are considered capable of being done and experienced, with things which are not considered capable of being done or experienced. I think that each should be evaluated differently (although not always seperately), and the latter should not have the terms (or any variation of) 'compelled' or 'free' applied. We must evaluate what humans are capable of doing as being compelled or freely done only. When we begin to doubt that we can freely choose or be compelled simply because there are biological/chemical causes, we are confusing matters. In other words, the compulsion and free will come after the fact, and are usuaully experiential matters (except those times where we do not know we're being compelled - clarified above). They are part of an epiphenomenon related to consciousness. In the same way that we would say that something makes us happy, despite there being being chemical causes for why we are happy. But our being happy is still us being happy, no matter the cause. We must distinguish between the experience of us being happy and the causes which biologically led to our happiness. Or, at least I think we ought to. And actually, for a more stretched analogy, I think it's like questioning if we're conscious at all, simply because there are millions of neurological processes which are the cause of our consciousness. We don't question our consciousness or any other experience simply because there are causes, do we? So why free will?

And once again, just as a keepsake: Not all causes compel.

* I understand it's hard to know where to draw the line, though. Because, as noted, some involuntary actions we should apply "compelled" to. It's really tough to say sometimes.

Quote:

How do we distinguish between (internal) compulsion and non-compulsion? Does it depend (as I suggested earlier) on whether the brain processes involved are normal or abnormal? If so, which specific type(s) of abnormality negate freedom, and which do not? Is compulsion an all-or-nothing matter, or are there degrees of compulsion (e.g. in the case of a mild addiction)? And so on. I think more detail is needed to resolve this issue.


I think there has to be different levels of compulsion, as the reasons someone is compelled are not always equal. I am compelled to obey the law, for instance, but the force of compulsion may not be as great as perhaps a very strong addiction to a hard drug. I'd say I may be more compelled to do the hard drug than I would be compelled to obey the law in some cases (depends on the law I'm breaking and punishment).
 
TickTockMan
 
Reply Fri 29 Jan, 2010 02:43 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;123494 wrote:



I think there has to be different levels of compulsion, as the reasons someone is compelled are not always equal. I am compelled to obey the law, for instance, but the force of compulsion may not be as great as perhaps a very strong addiction to a hard drug. I'd say I may be more compelled to do the hard drug than I would be compelled to obey the law in some cases (depends on the law I'm breaking and punishment).


I wonder now if we need to make a distinction between "compelled" "impelled" and "inclined".
 
Arjuna
 
Reply Fri 29 Jan, 2010 02:58 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;123494 wrote:
It's been explored many times within this thread: Well, what if our actions boil down to biological/chemical processes, do we really then have free choice?
Hi! I'm butting in again. I looked for how "will" is being defined in this thread and I couldn't find it. The idea of free will depends on the existence of a "self" which can make decisions.

It's here that metaphysical stuff (crap, if you think of it that way) intrudes. Freedom of the will requires that prior to any event there be more than one possible future. The self actually creates reality by raising one of the possibilities into actuality by virtue of will. This is making a choice.

If our actions boil down to biological/chemical processes, some would say this puts humans in the same category as inanimate objects like rocks. A human doesn't create reality anymore than a rock that falls during a mudslide... neither possesses a will of it's own... which is to say neither is capable of influencing reality through choice.

I hear you saying that the experience of making a choice stands as the only evidence required to support the existence of choice. I agree with that.

But I can't then be blind to the image of reality implied by the existence of choice. That image clearly denies that humans are merely objects. It imbues humans with power that rocks and robots don't have.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 29 Jan, 2010 04:33 pm
@Arjuna,
Arjuna;123526 wrote:
Hi! I'm butting in again. I looked for how "will" is being defined in this thread and I couldn't find it. The idea of free will depends on the existence of a "self" which can make decisions.

It's here that metaphysical stuff (crap, if you think of it that way) intrudes. Freedom of the will requires that prior to any event there be more than one possible future. The self actually creates reality by raising one of the possibilities into actuality by virtue of will. This is making a choice.

If our actions boil down to biological/chemical processes, some would say this puts humans in the same category as inanimate objects like rocks. A human doesn't create reality anymore than a rock that falls during a mudslide... neither possesses a will of it's own... which is to say neither is capable of influencing reality through choice.

I hear you saying that the experience of making a choice stands as the only evidence required to support the existence of choice. I agree with that.

But I can't then be blind to the image of reality implied by the existence of choice. That image clearly denies that humans are merely objects. It imbues humans with power that rocks and robots don't have.


I have made a lot of choices, but I don't think I have ever had the experience of making a choice. Could someone please describe to me how it feels? And is the experience the same each time we make a choice, or is the experience the same as between different people? And, finally, how do we know that the experience we are having is the experience of making a choice unless we know we are making a choice. Very puzzling.
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Fri 29 Jan, 2010 04:53 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;123543 wrote:
I have made a lot of choices, but I don't think I have ever had the experience of making a choice. Could someone please describe to me how it feels? And is the experience the same each time we make a choice, or is the experience the same as between different people? And, finally, how do we know that the experience we are having is the experience of making a choice unless we know we are making a choice. Very puzzling.


All I meant by experience of making choice is that we realize we are able to choose; we are conscious that we had options and then selected an option that we wanted to select. It is what people have been referring to in this thread as, "The illusion of choice". So, I just called this the experience of making choice.

TickTockMan wrote:
I wonder now if we need to make a distinction between "compelled" "impelled" and "inclined".


How would you use each term?
 
TickTockMan
 
Reply Fri 29 Jan, 2010 05:36 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;123547 wrote:

How would you use each term?


To me, "compelled" seems to imply fewer choices in a matter, sort of an either/or deal. There seems to me to be a stronger implication of force.

"Impelled" seems a bit softer, with perhaps just a touch of moral imperative,
and less of an authoritarian sense of "do this or else."

"Inclined" seems to indicate a wider range of choices in a matter, such as selecting a breakfast cereal.

I suppose that in many cases though these terms would be interchangeable. I don't even know what compelled me to bring it up now.

Would you draw any distinction between these terms? If so, what?


.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Fri 29 Jan, 2010 05:43 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;123547 wrote:
All I meant by experience of making choice is that we realize we are able to choose; we are conscious that we had options and then selected an option that we wanted to select. It is what people have been referring to in this thread as, "The illusion of choice". So, I just called this the experience of making choice.



How would you use each term?


But it isn't a "subjective experience" is it. All it means is just, making a choice. I am afraid I don't know what "the illusion of making a choice" means. Suppose I point to the vanilla bin, and say, "I choose vanilla". How can that possibly be an illusion? What else could I have done but to make a choice; to choose vanilla?
 
TickTockMan
 
Reply Fri 29 Jan, 2010 06:14 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;123560 wrote:
But it isn't a "subjective experience" is it. All it means is just, making a choice. I am afraid I don't know what "the illusion of making a choice" means. Suppose I point to the vanilla bin, and say, "I choose vanilla". How can that possibly be an illusion? What else could I have done but to make a choice; to choose vanilla?


I'm afraid I may have been the one who started yammering on about the "illusion of choice" a few pages back.

I think all I meant by that was that if we were to agree that all of our mental processes are biological/electochemical in nature, and these processes are prone to error, then how can we know with any certainty that we, as an individual self, are making choices or if its just chemistry and we're merely unwitting passengers.

However, to do this requires (I think) that we decide if we're going to regard ourselves as simple meat-puppets, or if we're going to view ourselves as rational beings, and making the determination that it makes precious little sense to try to create some sort of separation between our selves and the biological/electrochemical processes that keep us upright and functioning. The one could not be without the other, could it (unless, as Zetherin fretted, we "go all metaphysical")?

In essence, I agree when you ask in regard to choosing vanilla, "how can that possibly be an illusion?"

Now where do we go?
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Fri 29 Jan, 2010 07:47 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;123560 wrote:
But it isn't a "subjective experience" is it. All it means is just, making a choice. I am afraid I don't know what "the illusion of making a choice" means. Suppose I point to the vanilla bin, and say, "I choose vanilla". How can that possibly be an illusion? What else could I have done but to make a choice; to choose vanilla?


That's right, I suppose my happy analogy was poor. I just meant that we wouldn't question that we're happy simply because it has chemical causes, and nor should we question that we have choice simply because it has causes.

But to answer your question: Believing free will is an illusion is the position of one who doesn't believe we have free will, or that free will exists. It may be something that a fatalist would say, for instance.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sat 30 Jan, 2010 07:35 am
@TickTockMan,
TickTockMan;123572 wrote:

In essence, I agree when you ask in regard to choosing vanilla, "how can that possibly be an illusion?"

Now where do we go?


Not merely "in essence". What about, "in substance"? If we (as you allow) do make choices, then not all choices are "illusions" whatever their physiclogical causes. So, that choices have physiological causes is irrelevant. Isn't that right?
 
TickTockMan
 
Reply Sun 31 Jan, 2010 07:03 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;123644 wrote:
Not merely "in essence". What about, "in substance"? If we (as you allow) do make choices, then not all choices are "illusions" whatever their physiclogical causes. So, that choices have physiological causes is irrelevant. Isn't that right?


Again, perhaps poor word choice on my part. By "in essence" I meant in sum total, with all the various points you have made throughout this thread considered.

Yes, I believe that choices having biological/electrochemical (that is, physiological) causes is irrelevant to the degree that regardless of cause, choices are still made which lead to certain actions, such as eating a vanilla ice cream cone instead of chocolate, and cannot therefore be considered illusion.

If one were to argue otherwise, I believe then that one risks falling into the often poorly lit metaphysical the realm of the Idealist, which G.E. Moore so eloquently refuted. Is that correct?
 
lifeson90
 
Reply Wed 17 Feb, 2010 02:52 pm
@TickTockMan,
well the most interesting experiment i ever tried on the subject of freewill was simply to try and change the immediate future... if you pick a point in time by clicking your fingers and then try to change what happens afterwards for a minute or so the argument against freewill smacks you in the face because naturally it can't be done... without exaggerating it could reasonably be argued you have as much freewill as a teapot.

you were born in a body you didn't choose, you could have been a slug or a blade of grass, your face is not your face it was given to you by sheer chance, so the same thinking can be applied to the mind and every thought or feeling that happens within it.. everything that happens in your head, including your own sense of self, may only be forces of nature and it isn't me deciding what word to type next here, indeed I don't exist in any way shape or form as an entity in myself, even the illusion of myself created by the forces inside my head is an illusion in itself and so on.

we don't have freewill, do anything you like say anything you like think anything you like you can't change the future in the linear sense of time with a beginning and an end, if something exists it can't have freewill by the very fact that it exists.... only with an appreciation of this fact can anyone truly understand what they really are, from a totally detached viewpoint looking at themselves as something else completely disconnected, probably too far a step to take.

by the way i don't believe in any of that above ^^^ it's just one way of looking at it.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Wed 17 Feb, 2010 04:45 pm
@prothero,
prothero;120606 wrote:
And so does everyone else. We all presume, presuppose and behave like "free will" (the ability to do otherwise) is true. Except when one is playing word games or mind games, free will is presupposed in the practice of living and no one denies it except in theory.


Excepting perhaps the court room.

---------- Post added 02-17-2010 at 05:46 PM ----------

lifeson90;129418 wrote:

by the way i don't believe in any of that above ^^^ it's just one way of looking at it.


This is a great way to end a post. Salute!
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Wed 17 Feb, 2010 04:50 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;129452 wrote:


---------- Post added 02-17-2010 at 05:46 PM ----------



This is a great way to end a post. Salute!


Why is that? .............
 
Paggos
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 01:52 pm
@fast,
fast;111522 wrote:
I'd like to begin the process of creating a special written definition of "free will" that I agree with. I call it a special definition because I don't know what else to call it. It may start out as a stipulative definition, but as I tweak it more and more, I'd like it to resemble what some may call a lexical definition, but I want it to be highly informative and superior to typical lexical definitions. I'd like it to resemble an explanation flush with particularly important buzzwords.

As we begin talking about what you think free will is, I'll be particularly interested in the exact words you use. For example, if you use the word, "desire," and if I think that word conveys too much passion, then I may prefer to use the word, "want" instead.

Although I do want to know what you think free will is, keep in mind that what I want in the end is a good working definition of "free will" that I agree with, so despite any disagreement we may have, any help in formulating the definition that fits what I believe is true will be appreciated.

To give you an idea of what I believe is true, understand that I lean heavily towards how a soft determinist may use the term.


Free will is the act upon which humans nor a deity limits your power to make decisions, or live as a human.
For radicals, it's the full extent of power a deity gives us in order to choose the path we live on.
 
prothero
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 08:26 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;129452 wrote:
Excepting perhaps the court room.
!
Yes, when they decide you do not have free will, they classify you as "insane". So how about all those determinists who deny the existence of "free will". How should we classify them? Food for thought.
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 08:37 pm
@prothero,
prothero;133728 wrote:
Yes, when they decide you do not have free will, they classify you as "insane". So how about all those determinists who deny the existence of "free will". How should we classify them? Food for thought.


We should classify them as incompatibilists, I think:

Compatibilism and incompatibilism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 08:38 pm
@prothero,
prothero;133728 wrote:
Yes, when they decide you do not have free will, they classify you as "insane". So how about all those determinists who deny the existence of "free will". How should we classify them? Food for thought.


If they believe that you were under duress, they will conclude that you did not act freely. Otherwise, a bank teller who gave the bank robber money would have to be said to be insane. Compulsion is also a defense. Not only insanity.

Those determinists who deny free will on account of determinism are classified as hard determinists. As contrasted with soft determinists who hold that determinism is compatible with free will.
 
ughaibu
 
Reply Sun 28 Feb, 2010 08:39 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;133732 wrote:
Which determinists deny the existence of free will?
Incompatibilists. I'm an incompatibilist, but I think that determinism is false, so I have no reason to doubt the reality of free will.
 
 

 
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