"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?
Promising - but let's not forget the third part of the Nexus Triangle, Wanderer! ;0)
He's left this discussion but is active in Park's Apologetic's group - the "thesis" is coming together nicely - what it needs, of course, is some proper experimental data. It can make predictions, etc. but a lot depends on getting correlated data.
One thing I've noted (not discussed with the other two, as yet) is that this suggests that many animals may have a sense of self - not dissimilar to ours. What makes us different is our ability to mirror and learn from others. The only creature I am aware that can do this are crows - other apes, apparently, cannt. To some extent, other birds also exhibit a similar behavior - blue tits were observed raiding milk bottles when I was a kid - something they learned and have since no use for as milk delivery has all-but stopped here in the UK.
hmm. I'd think that canines were in that category as well. Maybe not.
It's been a terrific thread - in fact, it's generated some very important new ideas on this thesis - Jim, I think, has the closest answer, but everyone has contributed in some way.
The bios is instinct, yes, but instinct itself evolves with a species - so why a turtle knows how to be a turtle, it does not know how to be a tortoise (or vice versa).
We have instincts but they are weak in comparison to what we learn (are taught) and the ones I can think of are actually a hinderance. In fact, mammalians are restricted by our lack of instinct: and that's why I think we're the ones most likely to have a sense of self.
I suffer with a condition (which Park and I had a hearty chuckle at) that causes me to jump at the slightest provocation. It's a overloaded "fight or flight" response related to hyper-vigilance. In otherwise normal humans this stress response can cause anxiety attacks that, while not life-threatening, can be severely debilitating.
Breeding (the sexual imperative) is an instinct - you call it "lust" but that's a loaded word that religion imposes on it. In fact, religion imposes a whole lot of misappropriate contexts on our instincts. As does society - but we need a balanced society to survive in this world.
May I take this opportunity to invite all still following this, to Park's group "Reforming Counter Apologetics" where this sort of stuff is a key (and where we've discussed it in even more frightening detail by taking the memoryplex to a technological conclusion - one that could be plausible, at some future time.
I'm really interested in what you've been talking about here. I'd like to read more when I get time. I've thought similar things, especially about the way that our ability with language and communication and abstract thought, has really put a spanner in the works of our being able to follow our instincts, especially things like judgement, right and wrong and moralistic views. I'd really like the opportunity to discuss this idea more with you at some point. Alice :)
Free Will is God given - seems silly to even contemplate it as an atheist!
You say 'assuming we are not mentally ill' - although people who have so called 'mental illness' are acting just the same according to their experience - mental illness just means that they are getting different information to make their rational decisions about - the input has been distorted in a way that it isn't with people who are consider mental healthy.
I personally can't come up with a definition of freedom which could be applicable to the decision making systems of animals and people, except in the legal sense. But I don't think that we are completely deterministic either. Roughly speaking, our brains are comparing the sensory input to the contents of our memory. When there's a match, output signals will be launched. In this stable mode of operation the decision making process is probably as causal as it can be.
This breaks down when there's no match to be found and the brain has to do something new. This is most likely an unstable mode of operation, because the brain hasn't been thrown in it before. Now the usual factors are not enough to yield a decision.
We know what other systems, like the weather, or a pencil on its tip do under these kind of circumstances: details which are normally irrelevant will tip the balance one way or the other. In the brain these details could be something like the kinetics of the atoms in the synapses or the background noise. And if all these factors also happened to be in perfect balance by a miraculous coincidence, then the direction which would ultimately lead to a decision would come from the absolutely random quantum world.
With this sort of reasoning there is enough room for indeterminism in the atomic level, but the free will still does not fit in - unless the concept can also be extended to pencils and to the weather.
This is my understanding of the workings of the brain also...
Basically caused, with the possibility of randomness.
I did see an interesting show about a theory of quantum world, allowing our nervous system to go back in time slightly - or something like that.... it was a bit beyond me, and the presenters of the show I felt also.... :)
As no one yet understands the quantum world yet, that leads me to believe that we won't find out how randomness occures in terms of our thinking, until some one has done some more figuring out...
I was actually trying to argue that the quantum level is not of direct importance for the brain because there is already more than enough randomness in the fluid dynamics and in the brownian motion of the molecules in the synapses, which in turn are influenced by all kinds of things: what we have been eating, how we have been sleeping etc.
Just think of how many factors you'd need to balance, before the quantum fluctuations could be the decisive factor in which direction a sharp needle standing on its tip would fall: all the minor asymmetries in the shape of the needle, the roughness of the underlying surface, temperature, pressure and density variations in the surrounding air, light and shadows, electric and magnetic fields, and so on.
All these things that a computer simulation does not have...
In the film, Short Circuit, Number 5 would crave "input" but when you consider how much input our brains deal with minute by minute - even just riding on a bus or driving a car - while listening to music and talking to another passenger, it's a wonder our minds don't explode!
IBM's Watson project demonstrates natural language ability and mass database of facts - but in terms of a memoryplex it barely even begins to scratch what a human brain achieves.
We spend all our waking ours putting five sensory inputs into working memory and then spend eight (or so) sorting them out - compressing them if you will, and storing them on a hard disk (long-term memory).
I'm interested to know if our brains process a continuous stream of data or as information deltas (the bits that change from moment to moment). The information we receive through our eyes and ears does not change much over short periods so it makes sense that's the way it might work.
I've also noticed that some of us (all of us, perhaps) seem to pre-guess information in a predictive way. (Have you ever noticed those annoying people who try to finish your spoken sentences? They are just vocalising something that we all do.) Prediction saves work - in a way similar to that of a computer systems predicatively caching data. In our case, prediction allows us to concentrate on other things (sensory input) and simply monitor to make sure our predictions are accurate.
I agree with you that the brain has a very many factors that it is dealing with at any one time, but I disagree that it would be called randomness. It is all caused. It may be complex, but it is fully caused. Unless of course there is some quantum element to it - because I know very little about quantum physics I couldn't comment on how this randomness may occure.
It sounds as though you feel happy about the level of possibility due to the complexity of our brain function. It certainly is very complex with many causal factors present.