If you see a difference, then please explain the difference between the ability to choose and free will.

I have noticed a tendency of many people to suggest that the ability to make a choice and the property or concept of free will are two different things.

I want to be clear: I am not implying that they are or are not. I am curious to understand how people view this. It seems that you could see:

A. No difference
B. A distinct difference
C. A distinction without a difference
D. Something else

I would love to see your explanation, no matter what your answer. I have no interest, in this context, in what any philosopher you can quote had to say. I am curious about your understanding and your ability to state it. 

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Yes - but if those 'controls' are 'compelled' by what are - ultimately - 'outside' deterministic factors - is it a distinction without a difference?

(Wonderist - I'm looking for many people to take a crack at this as well - just so you don't think I'm circling a black hole)
"(Wonderist - I'm looking for many people to take a crack at this as well - just so you don't think I'm circling a black hole)"

Fair enough.
"I know I disappoint you."

Not at all. What disappoints me is when people assume they've got me pegged without asking questions to test their assumptions. Anyone who asks questions and seeks knowledge has my respect. I don't know everything, and I don't expect others to, either. There are many areas in life and thought that I'm quite clueless about. In those cases, I ask questions and seek knowledge. Don't always find it, but at least I'm trying.

"Could human Chauvinism be part of the problem?"

I think there's something to that. The debate has, since ancient times, been fueled by the intuition that humans are categorically different than animals, or even nature itself. As science progresses, that intuition is constantly degraded, but the history of the debate is so ingrained that those ideas inevitably pop up, over and over again. E.g. "Unless free will is truly categorically different than cause-effect, then it's not 'real' free will." It doesn't help that the concept of supernatural 'free will' is crucial to the dogma of Christianity. To avoid that, I try to change contexts by avoiding that word which has so many historical connotations, 'free'. The only true solution to the problem will come from science, which inexorably degrades assumptions of human chauvinism, and is inherently mechanistic, being based on systems of logic and math for its predictive power. Until science figures it out, though, we'll have to make do with philosophical concepts to fill in the blanks.
According to Benjamin Libet (a scientist, not a philosopher) we have "free won't". Here's the wiki page:


and here is a link to his book:


He takes the concept of free will out of the subjective world of philosophy and into the objective world of science. Interesting stuff.
These are great links. The second one is also fascinating just looking at the titles (and subtitles) of the suggested books in 'also liked' at the bottom. It seems apparent that, even among neuroscientists, when it comes to understanding the mechanisms of choice, decision making, imagination, and creativity the jury is still out ...
QM does have effects in the macro world. Two examples are:-

1. Radioactive material decays with a half life. The moment and momentum of each decay is indeterminate, but the effect it has on a photographic plate is observable, and in the macro world. That is how Marie Curie discovered the effects of radioactive radium.

2. When an electron in an atom becomes excited, (has energy added), it may correspondingly moved to a higher region of orbital probabilities. Subsequently it may lose the previously added energy, moving back to a lower region of orbital probabilities. When and where it will move back is indeterminate.

However, as the electron drops back, it emits a photon whose wavelength corresponds to the energy gained then lost, (a quantum). This results in flashes of visible, (or invisible), electromagnetic radiation, which we use in fireworks for pleasure, in street lights for illumination/safety reasons, and in x-ray machines for medical and other purposes. These effects are in the macro world yet due to QM.

Yes, QM works at the sub-atomic level, but can have effects at the supra-atomic level. Thus it is not illogical to think that QM might be able to affect our minds, (but I know of no evidence for that -yet).
Yes. To assert that what happens at the quantum level - considering that it is the foundation of everything - isn't significant to consciousness, seems a bit myopic. But to assert anyone knows precisely what role it plays is also, to say the least, suspect.

I really don't get how anyone can actually look at the world and see anything that isn't intrinsically part of the overall thing - the universe. Determinism itself is an expression that all things interact. Nothing is fully isolated from anything else. The iron in my hemoglobin that brings the oxygen to the cells in my brain so they can metabolize and operate as key features of my consciousness was formed in the alchemical furnace of supernovae billions of light years away and ago. The significance of that is only a matter of scale in all dimensions, including time.
I tend to agree Glen - with the caveat that simple assertion that one thing operates completely separately from another is also on the border of woo woo land. The universe is like a giant wool sweater - pull on a loose bit of yarn sticking out anywhere and the whole thing could start to unravel .... ;^)

Seriously though, if you are tempted to attempt to jump to any specific conclusions about the nature of a relationship between QM and 'option selection mechanisms in the human brain' without a clear pathology - then give all your money to J.Z. Knight, do not pass go, do not collect $200, and start over.
"At the moment QM is unusable by the best minds."

I wouldn't say that. There are countless practical uses of QM. You're using several of them to read this post. QM is one of the most successful and accurate theories in science. It's undeniably true. If it's ever overturned, it will be overturned like Newton was, by something even *more* accurate.

The question is "what does QM mean for determinism?" That connection has not been, and probably never will be, fully established. I stick with determinism for the simple reason that it doesn't give up looking for deeper causes, whereas indeterminism can lead to us stopping the search. "Well, the universe is fundamentally random. No point asking how or why. It just is."
I tend to keep looking because I there is still stuff that remains to be seen.
Hi Gila,

There are quantum theories of mind, though, from what I gather, they've got some fundamental problems to resolve.

Quantum mechanics has absolutely NO bearing on free will, that I can see, other than undermining the determinists argument that everything is predetermined.
"Quantum mechanics has absolutely NO bearing on free will, that I can see, other than undermining the determinists argument that everything is predetermined."

Only pre-determinists argue that. In contrast, post-determinists don't argue that. Both are determinists. And in any case, it is not QM that undermines pre-determinism, since QM can be interpreted deterministically. What would undermine pre-determinism is either indeterminism or arguments such as the anti-prophecy machine argument.




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