"I think therefore I am." Descarte's most basic tenet of free will. But how "free" is it?The more I study this and make observations of the people around me, the more I am convinced that free will is nothing more than an illusion.

 

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clarke.

 

Now let me rephrase Clarke's third law in context of this discussion:

 

"Any sufficiently complex memoryplex is indistinguishable from free will."

 

Note the phrase memoryplex, not memeplex. I'm referring here to our collective memories from the earliest retained memory right up to this instant. That instant has now passed (a few milliseconds ago) and as you continue to read, those instants are similarly passing into your collective memoryplex.

 

If our decisions are based on what we know (assuming that we're not mentally ill) and what we know is the memories we have formed, then free will simply isn't.

 

I've thought about this for some time now and I'm only summarising here, but if this is correct, it has frightening implications. For instance, what you've just read, based on what you already know, has influenced you - and you have no choice in what you're about to do: reply, ignore, digest, etc... everything is based on your experience to date plus this last few dozen words of argument.

 

So how "free" is your will?

Tags: free will

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Replies to This Discussion

One of the reasons that I don't think people should jump to the conclusion (without proof) that there is no freewill is that so doing would require that nobody should be held responsible for their behavior no matter how seemingly inhumane it was. It would necessitate for example that the Nazis should not be held responsible for what they did to the Jews. I think we need to be sure that there is no freewill before we take a posture such as what happened to the Jews during WWII wasn't the Nazis' fault and the cause and effect argument does not provide that surety. 

You mentioned the mind as a quantum computer. Do you think there is or is not a difference between living and nonliving energy? 

There is no freewill, John.

Doesn't matter what the Nazis did - or anyone else for that matter - those actions are the products of interactions between the memoryplexes - or in a case such as this, a memeplex - which is why I have said, the ramifications for the penal system and society as a whole are dire and profound.

Note that I'm using a memeplex here - that's another layer of abstraction above the memoryplex. It's a bit like converting from analog to digital and then back to analog again.

Nazis were influenced by a memeplex - that Jews (and whole bunch of other folk who are often ignored) should be exterminated.

The memoryplex is where the memeplex hides: and that is where we derive our judgment from. Memoryplexes are the caves where the memeplexes hide.

As far as your objection that relinquishing the notion of free will entails that we should not hold people responsible, I think this is entirely false. Yes, with no free will this means that there are always causes for people's actions, and hopefully this means that we will try to address those root causes before damning a man for being in the unfortunately wrong time and place. That said, I think of this ethical situation thusly: if we find that someone or some thing is causing damage to us or to people and things we hold dear, we should do what we can to prevent such damage from occurring. Say someone robs our convenience store. We can try to force him to pay resitution, or do time to show him that such behavior will not be tolerated. It may be possible to show this man better alternatives to his own problems, and if we can help him we also help ourselves. In such a way a man might be held responsible for his actions AGAINST US, whereas he is not being held responsible in any cosmic sense. I think this is the humane approach. A lot of good could come from understanding a man's circumstances before crucifying him (did I spell that word right?). It is also possible that such a man can not be made to serve the good of the group (society, humanity, whatever). In these cases you as the one perceiving damage to your interests are perfectly in the right position to defend your interests against those who would deny them to you.

 

You can go on and on explaining the ethical dimensions of this position, but the point is that I think this provides a superior, not an inferior, ethical position. It has direct ramifications for our judicial and prision systems, for one thing. And to take children as another example, do we simply punish them when they are destructive? Or do we rather try to take into consideration their circumstances (they are children after all), their motivations up to that point (to explore the world and discover how things work), and then try to show them the best way of doing things in the most understanding way possible? As for the Nazis, if we find ourselves in a war over ideas (perhaps some very horrible ones indeed), we simply put all our strength into the matter and put an end to it. If we have the stronger position, our ideas win. If their ideas have actually made them stronger, then they will have the advantage. And so on and so forth.

 

I'm going to have to agree with the other poster (not sure who that was at this point) and say that there does not seem to be any difference between living and non-living energy. Where are you going with this? (I hesitate to ask).

@Wanderer - how cool would it be if we could "fix" people's memoryplexes so they didn't choose to offend in the first place?

One day perhaps.

This theory has led me to be more careful how I teach my children.

Hah, an interesting idea. I do like this idea of memory-plexes and meme-plexes and whatnot. Very cool concept, btw. And yes, it is difficult enough to be patient with children who constantly try to destroy everything! Mine are in the process of just that at this very moment, it seems. How much harder would it be if we felt we had to hold them personally responsible for all their actions? I am reminded of the Simpsons episode where Skinner's mother (Agnes?) kept a record of all the money she spent raising him, then made him repay every cent.

Wow, John you are using a theist argument again. 

 

One of the reasons that I don't think people should jump to the conclusion (without proof) that there is no freewill is that so doing would require that nobody should be held responsible for their behavior no matter how seemingly inhumane it was. It would necessitate for example that the Nazis should not be held responsible for what they did to the Jews. I think we need to be sure that there is no freewill before we take a posture such as what happened to the Jews during WWII wasn't the Nazis' fault and the cause and effect argument does not provide that surety.

 

Replace free will with God.  Your strawman is unwarranted.

@Wanderer regarding: "As far as your objection that relinquishing the notion of free will entails..."

As I see it you basically are saying that when we encounter injustices we should make every effort to rectify them and incorporated in this make every effort to attempt to understand and consider in the solutions the mitigating circumstances that might have contributed to the perpetration of them by others. If this is a reasonable reformulation my question is how do we do it if we do not have self-determination?

On the question of whether there is a difference between living and nonliving energy I think there may very well be. However, I would like to talk about one thing at a time and I am really interested in your answer to the above question. As such, if you don't mind let's put the living vs. nonliving energy matter on the back burner for now.
Your question is, how do we act to fight injustice if we have no free will? The quick and easy answer is, just like we act in every other way. As for how we act in moral ways, it is a simple matter of prior causes, as the determinist argument goes. We are motivated (caused) to think, just as any other animal only with more sophistication. I.e., we can bounce ideas around in our more complex brain for a longer amount of time, and with greater ability to predict likely outcomes. So far all we have is a matter of degree (quantity), there is no qualitative difference between our brains and the brains of a chimp, for example. Just as a chimp can plan out a complicated military maneuver (they use ambushes, for example), we can see ahead to likely outcomes and plan accordingly. Morals are NO DIFFERENT. We think ahead to the likely outcome of behaving in a certain way and we think whether the outcome will be destructive to ourselves or others, or beneficial. I think this is a plain-enough explanation.
Hi Wanderer:

Firstly, I do not agree that chimps don't have freewill.

Next - As I see it you are saying that to fight injustice we should size up the existing circumstances, ponder on the appropriateness of the associated actions we may take and then decide to exercise some. If this is a valid reformulation then my response is as it was at the beginning: In that the decision on what actions to take must be based on wants how can you escape that the wants might be the result of freewill?
Okay fine. If humans have it than its likely that chimps do too.

I cannot escape that any motivation might be the result of free will, but what does this mean? It means that I can’t disprove it. That’s all. Your argument seems to be, free will might exist because it can’t be proven that it doesn’t. I hope you see the problem with this formulation of your argument. But if I have it wrong, then please, correct me.

That said, I would like to make light of the fact in a relevant manner. That is, inasmuch as the vast majority of the sane has always held that free will exists, I think the onus is primarily on you et al DNE’ers to demonstrate that it does not rather than on non-DNE‘ers to demonstrate that it does.

 

Now, re-phrased:

 

That said, I would like to make light of the fact in a relevant manner. That is, inasmuch as the vast majority of the sane has always held that SOME GOD exists, I think the onus is primarily on you et al ATHEISTS to demonstrate that it does not rather than on THEISTS to demonstrate that it does.

 

Now, to be fair, this isn't a simple issue of is or isn't free will, as it can easily be re-worded as is or isn't determination.  But your wording choice doesn't work there.

@Wanderer:

Please respond to my "Hi Wanderer:" answer to you so that the train of thought of our intercourse is not lost. Some have jumped in on your behalf and my experience with you is that you are more than intelligent enough to speak for yourself.

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