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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1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

How did I arrive at this sequence?
Given the limited evidence, a reasonable hypothesis is N(i+1) = N(i) + 1, where N(0) = 1.

Without further evidence, it's a good guess. It's a better guess than: Number of purported gods in Christianity, number of wheels on a bicycle, number of sides on a triangle, lowest natural number that rhymes with 'door', number of digits usually found on a human hand, number of sides on a regular die.

Perhaps you did use this second algorithm. It's theoretically possible. But how likely is it? Occam's Razor predicts it's more likely that you used the first algorithm. Do you have any other principle which makes a better prediction than that?

Perhaps you were inspired by God to choose those numbers. We may find evidence that this is the case. But how likely is it that we'll find such evidence? Occam's Razor predicts that we more likely won't find such evidence. Do you have a principle that makes a better prediction than that?
"...unrestricted by physical causation or determination. Such a being would be able to choose path A or path B *without being caused to do so* by conditions in the physical universe."

Thank you. That, to me is free will.
As I understand it:

A choice is the end result of the decision process run by the brain. The brain arrives at a choice via hormones, sense input, past experience, and overall brain ability.

Free Will is having the freedom to control the decision process. As there is no real control, there really isn't Free Will. If I remember correctly, the brain makes a decision and then supplies the conscious with a reason.

If Free Will exists, brain damage, drugs, genetics or input manipulations should not matter.
'Overall brain ability is a rather vague property, is it not? What role does the imagination play? Why is it all or nothing? You seem to be comfortable with the decision making process being a combination of many attributes; why couldn't free will simply be one of them?
Brain ability would be the functions as determined by the development of the organ. Speech, grammar, logic, imagination are all seated in the brain and can vary from person to person based on the construct. Each ability can be manipulated through hormones, drugs, surgery, and/or damage. If Free Will exists, can it be manipulated? If not, how do we observe and test it? If so, how is it Free Will?
Testing for free will is similar to proving a negative.

1. Proving a negative - for example - prove there are no unicorns in the room you are in. Probably doable - as long as they aren't invisible, insubstantial unicorns. But to prove there are no unicorns at all requires searching every nook and cranny of the universe without finding one. So, the burden of proof is on the positive assertion. However, lack of proof either way may mean suspending judgement OR, being happy that the universe is unicorn free until evidence of one is collected and falsified.

2. Proving the existence of free will (a decision made independent of criteria external to the decider) would be the 'prove the positive' approach. Well, I can certainly show that people make decisions based, by and large, on completely unsubstantiated information - such as imagination, delusion, inaccurate information, faith, information generated in dreams, etc. So, by the definition I gave, free will appears to at least be a possible material component of some decisions. But what about falsification. Well, I guess the falsifier would, in turn, have to prove that there are external causes for the internal criteria - i.e. imagination, dreams, delusion, ideas, inaccurate information, faith, etc. actually originate outside of the decider.

At the end of the day - I think we begin to run into a different philosophical question altogether - exactly where is the 'border' or distinguishing divider between the self and the other than self?
I would tend to agree about the 'inaccurate information' - except that would suggest that the I got data externally that was, necessarily inaccurate before I received it - it may have also been incomplete or 'misreceived' (for instance, 'heard wrong' - been garbled) and then, misinterpreted or incorrectly processed or analyzed once 'inside' my brain/mind. Or, perhaps, it is 'misremembered.'

Oddly, this can sometimes lead to a useful idea or solution.
At the end of the day - I think we begin to run into a different philosophical question altogether - exactly where is the 'border' or distinguishing divider between the self and the other than self?

Linguistics, or perhaps, slightly more refined, semiotics.
My assumption is that any Will that a person has is tied to nurture filtered through nature and thus cannot be Free. Imagination, delusion, dreams are all products of brain filtered experiences. How a person reacts to these is also a result of the brain in action.

Proving a negative would be a problem if I were to say, "prove free will does not exist." I cannot say that Free Will absolutely does not exist. Although, based on my assumption about what Free Will means, I doubt very much that it does. I can say, if it exists then it should be possible to test for.

Looking back at previous posts, I feel that we may be talking past each other. Our Will is Free in that it is not influenced by magic, deities, voodoo, or the like. That I can certainly agree with. We are who we are.
Thanks Nerd. It's strange - while I was raised Catholic - I never thought of 'free will' as some form of intervention of god. Indeed, for me, it was a 'proof of no god' so to speak - at least a proof of no omniscient, omnipotent god with a master plan.

Interestingly, the best way for god to truly give us free will would be to pretend like he doesn't exist.

Exactly - my sense of the meaning of free will was exactly that - god doesn't exist - I am responsible for my choices. That is not to say that my choices at any given moment are even close to unlimited. But I would say that imagination (information formed largely in the mind/brain) would be one of the most difficult things for a machine to replicate. You see, programming is all about preconceived notions of possible encounters - like following traffic rules.

But what about the problem of the black swan. Strong inductive reasoning (reasoning based on a consistency of evidence with no countervailing evidence such as - things fall down) works very well - until it doesn't. So, if you see a hundred million swans and every single one is white, it would be quite reasonable to decide that whiteness is part of the definition of swanness . How does your mind adjust, then, when it sees a black swan for the first time?


Now, will you marry me? (okay - what will she do? Will she say 'yes?' Will she change her locks? Will she realize I'm making a totally inappropriate and probably unfunny joke that only I find humorous? The world may never know.)




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