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GGGGG-Men
06-02-2011, 12:48 PM
Most people won't give a ****, but for the 5 out there who do....

I thought the answer was obvious, until I read this:

http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/free-will-why-you-still-dont-have-it/



Free Will (And Why You Still Don’t Have It)
May 31, 2011
Sam Harris

My last post on free will (http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/morality-without-free-will/) elicited a very heated response. Many readers sent emails questioning my sanity, and several asked to be permanently removed from my mailing list. Many others wrote to share the Good News that quantum mechanics has liberated the human mind from the prison of determinism. It seems I touched a nerve.

In the hopes of clearing up some confusion, I’ve culled another post from my discussion of free will in The Moral Landscape.



The human brain must respond to information coming from several domains: from the external world, from internal states of the body, and, increasingly, from a sphere of meaning—which includes spoken and written language, social cues, cultural norms, rituals of interaction, assumptions about the rationality of others, judgments of taste and style, etc. Generally, these streams of information seem unified in our experience:

You spot your best friend standing on the street corner looking strangely disheveled. You recognize that she is crying and frantically dialing her cell phone. Was she involved in a car accident? Did someone assault her? You rush to her side, feeling an acute desire to help. Your “self” seems to stand at the intersection of these lines of input and output. From this point of view, you tend to feel that you are the source of your own thoughts and actions. You decide what to do and not to do. You seem to be an agent acting of your own free will. The problem, however, is that this point of view cannot be reconciled with what we know about the human brain. All of our behavior can be traced to biological events about which we have no conscious knowledge: this has always suggested that free will is an illusion.

The physiologist Benjamin Libet famously demonstrated that activity in the brain’s motor regions can be detected some 300 milliseconds before a person feels that he has decided to move. Another lab recently used fMRI data to show that some “conscious” decisions can be predicted up to 10 seconds before they enter awareness (long before the preparatory motor activity detected by Libet). Clearly, findings of this kind are difficult to reconcile with the sense that one is the conscious source of one’s actions.

And the distinction between “higher” and “lower” systems in the brain offers no relief: for I no more initiate events in executive regions of my prefrontal cortex than I cause the creaturely outbursts of my limbic system. The truth seems inescapable: I, as the subject of my experience, cannot know what I will next think or do until a thought or intention arises; and thoughts and intentions are caused by physical events and mental stirrings of which I am not aware.

Of course, many scientists and philosophers realized long before the advent of experimental neuroscience that free will could not be squared with an understanding of the physical world. Nevertheless, many still deny this fact. For instance, the biologist Martin Heisenberg has observed that some fundamental processes in the brain, like the opening and closing of ion channels and the release of synaptic vesicles, occur at random, and cannot, therefore, be determined by environmental stimuli. Thus, much of our behavior can be considered “self-generated,” and therein, he imagines, lies a basis for free will. But “self-generated” in this sense means only that these events originate in the brain. The same can be said for the brain states of a chicken.

If I were to learn that my decision to have a third cup of coffee this morning was due to a random release of neurotransmitters, how could the indeterminacy of the initiating event count as the free exercise of my will? Such indeterminacy, if it were generally effective throughout the brain, would obliterate any semblance of human agency. Imagine what your life would be like if all your actions, intentions, beliefs, and desires were “self-generated” in this way: you would scarcely seem to have a mind at all. You would live as one blown about by an internal wind. Actions, intentions, beliefs, and desires can only exist in a system that is significantly constrained by patterns of behavior and the laws of stimulus-response. In fact, the possibility of reasoning with other human beings—or, indeed, of finding their behaviors and utterances comprehensible at all—depends on the assumption that their thoughts and actions will obediently ride the rails of a shared reality. In the limit, Heisenberg’s “self-generated” mental events would amount to utter madness.

And the indeterminacy specific to quantum mechanics offers no foothold. Even if our brains were quantum computers, the brains of chimps, dogs, and mice would be quantum computers as well. (I don’t know of anyone who believes that these animals have free will.) And quantum effects are unlikely to be biologically salient in any case. They do drive evolution, as high-energy particles like cosmic rays cause point mutations in DNA, and the behavior of such particles passing through the nucleus of a cell is governed by the laws of quantum mechanics. (Evolution, therefore, seems unpredictable in principle.) But most neuroscientists do not view the brain as a quantum computer. Again, even if we knew that human consciousness depended upon quantum processes, it is pure hand-waving to suggest that quantum indeterminacy renders the concept of free will scientifically intelligible.

If the laws of nature do not strike most of us as incompatible with free will, it is because we have not imagined how human action would appear if all cause-and-effect relationships were understood. Consider the following thought experiment:

Imagine that a mad scientist has developed a means of controlling the human brain at a distance. What would it be like to watch him send a person to and fro on the wings of her “will”? Would there be even the slightest temptation to impute freedom to her? No. But this mad scientist is nothing more than causal determinism personified. What makes his existence so inimical to our notion of free will is that when we imagine him lurking behind a person’s thoughts and actions—tweaking electrical potentials, manufacturing neurotransmitters, regulating genes, etc.—we cannot help but let our notions of freedom and responsibility travel up the puppet’s strings to the hand that controls them.

To see that the addition of randomness—quantum mechanical or otherwise—does nothing to change this situation, we need only imagine the scientist basing the inputs to his machine on a shrewd arrangement of roulette wheels, or on the decay of some radioactive isotope. How would such unpredictable changes in the states of a person’s brain constitute freedom?

All the relevant features of a person’s inner life could be conserved—thoughts, moods, and intentions would still arise and beget actions—and yet, once we imagine a hypothetical mad scientist dispensing the appropriate cocktail of randomness and natural law, we are left with the undeniable fact that the conscious mind is not the source of its own thoughts and intentions. This discloses the real mystery of free will: if our moment to moment experience is compatible with its utter absence, how can we say that we see any evidence for it in the first place?

None of this, however, renders the choices we make in life any less important. As my friend Dan Dennett has pointed out, many people confuse determinism with fatalism. This gives rise to questions like, “If everything is determined, why should I do anything? Why not just sit back and see what happens?” But the fact that our choices depend on prior causes does not mean that they do not matter. If I had not decided to write my last book, it wouldn’t have written itself. My choice to write it was unquestionably the primary cause of its coming into being. Decisions, intentions, efforts, goals, willpower, etc., are causal states of the brain, leading to specific behaviors, and behaviors lead to outcomes in the world. Human choice, therefore, is as important as fanciers of free will believe. And to “just sit back and see what happens” is itself a choice that will produce its own consequences. It is also extremely difficult to do: just try staying in bed all day waiting for something to happen; you will find yourself assailed by the impulse to get up and do something, which will require increasingly heroic efforts to resist.

Therefore, while it is true to say that a person would have done otherwise if he had chosen to do otherwise, this does not deliver the kind of free will that most people seem to cherish—because a person’s “choices” merely appear in his mental stream as though sprung from the void. From the perspective of your conscious mind, you are no more responsible for the next thing you think (and therefore do) than you are for the fact that you were born into this world.

Our belief in free will seems to arise from our moment-to-moment ignorance of the specific prior causes of our thoughts and actions. The phrase “free will” describes what it feels like to be identified with the content of each mental state as it arises in consciousness. Trains of thought like, “What should I get my daughter for her birthday? I know, I’ll take her to a pet store and have her pick out some tropical fish,” convey the apparent reality of choices, freely made. But from a deeper perspective (speaking both subjectively and objectively), thoughts simply arise (what else could they do?) unauthored, and yet author to our actions.

In the philosophical literature, one finds three approaches to the problem of free will: determinism, libertarianism, and compatibilism. Both determinism and libertarianism are often referred to as “incompatibilist” views, in that both maintain that if our behavior is fully determined by background causes, free will is an illusion. Determinists believe that we live in precisely such a world; libertarians (no relation to the political view that goes by this name) believe that our agency rises above the field of prior causes—and they inevitably invoke some metaphysical entity, like a soul, as the vehicle for our freely acting wills. Compatibilists, like Dan Dennett, maintain that free will is compatible with causal determinism (see his fine books, Freedom Evolves and Elbow Room; for other compatibilist arguments see Ayer, Chisholm, Strawson, Frankfurt, Dennett, and Watson here).

The problem with compatibilism, as I see it, is that it tends to ignore that people’s moral intuitions are driven by a deeper, metaphysical notion of free will. That is, the free will that people presume for themselves and readily attribute to others (whether or not this freedom is, in Dennett’s sense, “worth wanting”) is a freedom that slips the influence of impersonal, background causes. The moment you show that such causes are effective—as any detailed account of the neurophysiology of human thought and behavior would— proponents of free will can no longer locate a plausible hook upon which to hang their notions of moral responsibility. The neuroscientists Joshua Greene and Jonathan Cohen make this same point:

Most people’s view of the mind is implicitly dualist and libertarian and not materialist and compatibilist . . . [I]ntuitive free will is libertarian, not compatibilist. That is, it requires the rejection of determinism and an implicit commitment to some kind of magical mental causation . . . contrary to legal and philosophical orthodoxy, determinism really does threaten free will and responsibility as we intuitively understand them (Greene J & J. Cohen. 2004).

It is generally argued that our sense of free will presents a compelling mystery: on the one hand, it is impossible to make sense of in causal terms; on the other, we feel that we are the authors of our own actions. However, I think that this mystery is itself a symptom of our confusion. It is not that free will is simply an illusion: our experience is not merely delivering a distorted view of reality; rather, we are mistaken about the character of our experience. We do not feel as free as we think we do. Our sense of our own freedom results from our not paying close attention to what it is like to be ourselves in the world. The moment we do pay attention, we begin to see that free will is nowhere to be found, and our subjectivity is perfectly compatible with this truth. Thoughts and intentions simply arise in the mind. What else could they do? The truth about us is stranger than many suppose: the illusion of free will is itself an illusion.






http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/free-will-why-you-still-dont-have-it/

TheRuckus
06-02-2011, 12:58 PM
Fascinating. I need some time to digest and think it over before I can summon any sort of cogent response, but thank you for posting this.

Buckwheat
06-02-2011, 01:01 PM
That's ****ing awesome.

I love this kind of stuff.

GGGGG-Men
06-02-2011, 01:04 PM
Fascinating. I need some time to digest and think it over before I can summon any sort of cogent response, but thank you for posting this.

Yeah, I'm still trying to work through it all. I need to get his book "The Moral Landscape" to get the full explanation. I've read his other stuff and he's brilliant.

BDawk4Prez
06-02-2011, 01:33 PM
Good stuff.

Purple&Gold24
06-02-2011, 02:13 PM
Good stuff.

Watch Bruce Almighty.

americaspasttim
06-02-2011, 02:42 PM
Stay on topic please...

Young and Stupid
06-02-2011, 03:41 PM
Yeah, I'm still trying to work through it all. I need to get his book "The Moral Landscape" to get the full explanation. I've read his other stuff and he's brilliant.

Yeah, you should definitely check it out -- it was a great read. It caused me to modify what I plan to focus on in my thesis. Certainly recommend it.

The subject of "free will" is one which serves to be extremely multifarious. I've actually done some research on this topic as it's something that has come up in my area of interest, Philosophy -- I'd say that it branches into metaphysics -- and is something that was touched on in The Moral Landscape.

It's a very interesting question -- does the "initiating event" desecrate the foundation of free will? I don't necessarily think it does; I think that it serves as an oversimplification. Is there a line between chemical response to stimuli and the transmission which leads to a physical act?

One thing's for sure, it'd be interesting to hear both a dualist's and behaviorist's conception of the free will after taking this phenomena into consideration.

GGGGG-Men
06-02-2011, 03:51 PM
Yeah, you should definitely check it out -- it was a great read. It caused me to modify what I plan to focus on in my thesis. Certainly recommend it.

The subject of "free will" is one which serves to be extremely multifarious. I've actually done some research on this topic as it's something that has come up in my area of interest, Philosophy -- I'd say that it branches into metaphysics -- and is something that was touched on in The Moral Landscape.

It's a very interesting question -- does the "initiating event" desecrate the foundation of free will? I don't necessarily think it does; I think that it serves as an oversimplification. Is there a line between chemical response to stimuli and the transmission which leads to a physical act?

One thing's for sure, it'd be interesting to hear both a dualist's and behaviorist's conception of the free will after taking this phenomena into consideration.

I majored in philosophy and I've heard the debate on this topic before. What's interesting to me in Harris's presentation is the focus on the biological element of it. If there are motor signals being sent before the person "consciously" (for lack of a better term) makes the decision, it adds an element that goes beyond the philosophical debate which typically leaves the nature of...preprogramming of some sort up in the air (or in some archaic Phil. up to god).

Over all I'm not sure that this negates free will as much as it redefines it.

TheHighLife
06-02-2011, 04:22 PM
That second bold paragraph was worded perfectly.

giants73756
06-02-2011, 04:54 PM
Great read. I came to this conclusion while smoking one night a couple months ago. :p I'm glad I saw this article. I showed this to my friend and he says he knows of two proofs that show free will is an illusion. I'll have to ask him to show me those proofs.

CAIN=FUTURE
06-02-2011, 06:02 PM
A man will will what he wants, but what he wants is most likely determined by a past event.

Buckwheat
06-02-2011, 06:31 PM
I can't stop thinking about this.

Yankees Suck
06-02-2011, 07:54 PM
This is crazy. Definitely a knew way to think about life.

arkanian215
06-02-2011, 08:53 PM
So this means people are free of responsibility for their actions? Say this guy, for whatever reason or no reason, goes out into the street and starts slashing people with a machete. He can say he had no free will and it was just a combination of factors out of his own control that made him to it. Does he just walk?

dbroncos78087
06-02-2011, 08:58 PM
My believe about free will is that of a "mind ****". We all have free will, but because everyone else as free will around you the impact of your individual free will is severely limited to the point where your individual free will is irrelevant.

GGGGG-Men
06-02-2011, 09:33 PM
So this means people are free of responsibility for their actions? Say this guy, for whatever reason or no reason, goes out into the street and starts slashing people with a machete. He can say he had no free will and it was just a combination of factors out of his own control that made him to it. Does he just walk?

If you click on the previous article by Harris in the OP (or here: http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/morality-without-free-will/) and I imagine the book that these excerpts come from, he goes into morality without free will. It's pretty interesting.


My believe about free will is that of a "mind ****". We all have free will, but because everyone else as free will around you the impact of your individual free will is severely limited to the point where your individual free will is irrelevant.

I think that kind of plays into this take that there isn't free will. You only act based upon biochemical impulses, so it's not what we'd commonly understand as free will.

CAIN=FUTURE
06-03-2011, 12:58 AM
So this means people are free of responsibility for their actions? Say this guy, for whatever reason or no reason, goes out into the street and starts slashing people with a machete. He can say he had no free will and it was just a combination of factors out of his own control that made him to it. Does he just walk?

No. Free will does exist. At some point there was nothing, someone had to have the first original thought, FREE WILL.

db75
06-03-2011, 02:28 AM
No. Free will does exist. At some point there was nothing, someone had to have the first original thought, FREE WILL.

By the time life started, the universe as a mass of matter was thoroughly established. I would imagine that that first thought was heavily impacted by the surrounding environment and survival-driven. So, no free will.

GGGGG-Men
06-03-2011, 12:47 PM
No. Free will does exist. At some point there was nothing, someone had to have the first original thought, FREE WILL.

It's not so much a matter of the basis for the decisions as it is the stimulus neuro reactions that cause them. Regardless of what "thought" it is, there is a chemical reaction causing the action and not a conscious decision.

kmo429
06-03-2011, 12:56 PM
You had the choice to make this thread or not. You chose to ask the question. =Free Will.

GGGGG-Men
06-03-2011, 12:58 PM
You had the choice to make this thread or not. You chose to ask the question. =Free Will.

Did you read the original article? It's not quite as simple.

db75
06-03-2011, 01:01 PM
You had the choice to make this thread or not. You chose to ask the question. =Free Will.

And like G-men said, had you read the article, you wouldn't have posted that opinion.


...or you would have, but it wouldn't have been free will.

kmo429
06-03-2011, 01:10 PM
It's not so much a matter of the basis for the decisions as it is the stimulus neuro reactions that cause them. Regardless of what "thought" it is, there is a chemical reaction causing the action and not a conscious decision.

Yeah but that's a theory. Even if what you just said is true, the chemical reaction that causes the action isn't always the same, or just random, which would make free will an illusion. It's only logical that the reactions in your brain come from subconscious sources, memory, past actions, etc.

You cant tell me that someone who decides to blow up a church has no free will. Whether their actions came from subliminal reactions in the brain or not, they formed their own moral standard, they chose to believe in whatever they believed in, and they chose that they thought it was the right thing to go through with the detonation of the Christian place of worship (obviosuly just an example).

I believe that scienctific theory about free will can only be applied to certain amoral actions (actions that dont have morals, just normal responses.)


Take walking, walking isnt moral or immoral, it's just an action that doesnt really require any thought, but lets say someone you hate is drowning, then your walking, whether you walk slowly and let him drown, or walk quickly or run to try and save him, requires a choice. It becomes something that requires not just an involuntary response or amoral action, but a conscious decision, based on what type of person you are, your own moral standard, past experiences, how you feel about the person drowning, etc. maybe the decision is made before you realize it, possible in the subconscious, but it doesnt mean its not you maing the decision.


I dont know if I made my point but free will being just an illusion is something I definitely disagree with. Its really a fascinating theory, and even if it were true, like someone said on the first page, it may not evenm disprove free will, it may just redefine it.

I guess we'll find out when we die.

kmo429
06-03-2011, 01:15 PM
And like G-men said, had you read the article, you wouldn't have posted that opinion.


...or you would have, but it wouldn't have been free will.

I know I read the article after I mad ethe post. But here you are...

If all our actions WERENT "conscious decisions", then since were all human and all have the same chemical makeup, wouldnt we all read the article and agree? What makes you believe it and me not believe it? Like I said, if the theory ays its just random, then its wrong. But if it doesnt have an explanation for that, then its our free will. It's our free will to decide whether free will is real or an illusion. Its free will to decide what religion we want to be a part of, etc. if it were all merely subconscious brain activity based on prior events (And if thats the case, how was the first decision made? Take Adam and Eve for example, we all know its just a story, but he didnt eat the apple because thats how his subconscious was formed and a reaction occurred int he brain, its cause he had free will and the devil tempted him and he sinned, ETC) then typically all of us would believe this.

I hope you get what Im trying to say

GGGGG-Men
06-03-2011, 01:45 PM
Yeah but that's a theory. Even if what you just said is true, the chemical reaction that causes the action isn't always the same, or just random, which would make free will an illusion. It's only logical that the reactions in your brain come from subconscious sources, memory, past actions, etc.

Regardless of that, the proof is there that the motor signals act as much as 10 seconds before a person "decides" to do something. It's certainly not random. Everything that has shaped the your reaction to a given stimuli is ready to engage.


You cant tell me that someone who decides to blow up a church has no free will. Whether their actions came from subliminal reactions in the brain or not, they formed their own moral standard, they chose to believe in whatever they believed in, and they chose that they thought it was the right thing to go through with the detonation of the Christian place of worship (obviosuly just an example).

Listen, I entered this reading thinking "no f'n way". But it makes sense. Everything about that person's environment and whatnot would have shaped them to react the way they did. You can change your perception of your actions but the actions are not free will.


I believe that scienctific theory about free will can only be applied to certain amoral actions (actions that dont have morals, just normal responses.)

It applies to all.


Take walking, walking isnt moral or immoral, it's just an action that doesnt really require any thought, but lets say someone you hate is drowning, then your walking, whether you walk slowly and let him drown, or walk quickly or run to try and save him, requires a choice. It becomes something that requires not just an involuntary response or amoral action, but a conscious decision, based on what type of person you are, your own moral standard, past experiences, how you feel about the person drowning, etc. maybe the decision is made before you realize it, possible in the subconscious, but it doesnt mean its not you maing the decision.


Those very things are part of what takes out the element of free will. You're not consciously making the decision. You are aware of the emotions and behavior, but the neural events behind those emotions and behaviors are not consciously controlled by you (free will); they are chemical determined reactions.

Think of it like this: You have a serial killer who thinks about nothing but killing. He's captured and its discovered he has a mental condition where there is a (lets call it) a misfire in his brain. Giving him a balance of the normal amount of chemical (medication) to counter this misfire brings him back into balance. This is seen a thousand times be it a killer or just a depressed person. They are not even aware of the chemical/neural actions in their brain that cause these behaviors. Once balanced they are aware, but all of this is AFTER the fact; not before which would allow for free will.

You don't control your mind, your mind controls you.


I dont know if I made my point but free will being just an illusion is something I definitely disagree with. Its really a fascinating theory, and even if it were true, like someone said on the first page, it may not evenm disprove free will, it may just redefine it.

I guess we'll find out when we die.

Ha, I actually said that it would redefine it. This concept is entirely new to me, but the deeper I get with it, the more sense it makes.

Death can only hinder our understanding of this. Not much thought or "free will" going on in corpses.

Consider this from Harris:

Our sense of free will arises from a failure to appreciate this fact: we do not know what we will intend to do until the intention itself arises. To see this is to realize that you are not the author of your thoughts and actions in the way that people generally suppose. This insight does not make social and political freedom any less important, however. The freedom to do what one intends, and not to do otherwise, is no less valuable than it ever was.

arkanian215
06-03-2011, 02:22 PM
Yeah but that's a theory. Even if what you just said is true, the chemical reaction that causes the action isn't always the same, or just random, which would make free will an illusion. It's only logical that the reactions in your brain come from subconscious sources, memory, past actions, etc.

You cant tell me that someone who decides to blow up a church has no free will. Whether their actions came from subliminal reactions in the brain or not, they formed their own moral standard, they chose to believe in whatever they believed in, and they chose that they thought it was the right thing to go through with the detonation of the Christian place of worship (obviosuly just an example).

I believe that scienctific theory about free will can only be applied to certain amoral actions (actions that dont have morals, just normal responses.)


Take walking, walking isnt moral or immoral, it's just an action that doesnt really require any thought, but lets say someone you hate is drowning, then your walking, whether you walk slowly and let him drown, or walk quickly or run to try and save him, requires a choice. It becomes something that requires not just an involuntary response or amoral action, but a conscious decision, based on what type of person you are, your own moral standard, past experiences, how you feel about the person drowning, etc. maybe the decision is made before you realize it, possible in the subconscious, but it doesnt mean its not you maing the decision.


I dont know if I made my point but free will being just an illusion is something I definitely disagree with. Its really a fascinating theory, and even if it were true, like someone said on the first page, it may not evenm disprove free will, it may just redefine it.

I guess we'll find out when we die.

I think your conscious decision to save or allow the person to drown is only perceived as a conscious decision. We apply the word consciousness because we would like to believe that we have the freedom to do anything and aren't limited by anything. But we are limited by so many things. How often do you hear about people doing things that they have no control over (influence of drugs, genetic disorder, blind rage/heat of the moment)?

Why is the guy with muscular dystrophy not able to consciously control his muscles? Why are people depressed? If someone wants to be happy, wouldn't they just be happy? If we wanted to be hard working, smart, athletic, etc wouldn't that come to us if we had control? If we can't consciously control what happens inside us, what makes you think that what we're doing outside of our bodies is free will?

Also, who are you to decide what's amoral? Drinking is a "natural" action right? So what makes drinking wine amoral? Sex is "natural" right? So why is sex with animals or young children amoral? Walking around is "natural" but what about walking around in w/ a bikini on, nude or w/ sheets on?

GGGGG-Men
06-09-2011, 12:57 PM
More on this: http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/you-do-not-choose-what-you-choose/


Many readers continue to find my position on free will bewildering. Most of the criticism I’ve received consists of some combination of the following claims:

1.Your account assumes that mental events are, at bottom, physical events. But if the mind is distinct from the brain (to any degree), this would allow for freedom of will.
2.You admit that mental events—like choices, efforts, intentions, reasoning, etc—cause certain of our actions. But such mental states presuppose free will for their very existence. Your position is self-contradictory: Either we are free to think and behave as we will, or there is no such thing as choice, effort, intention, reasoning, etc.
3.Even if my thoughts and actions are the product of unconscious causes, they are still my thoughts and actions. Anything that my brain does or chooses, whether consciously or not, is something that I have done or chosen. The fact that I cannot always be subjectively aware of the causes of my actions does not negate free will.

All of these objections express confusion about my basic premise. The first is simply false—my argument against free will does not require philosophical materialism. There is no question that (most) mental events are the product of physical events—but even if the human mind were part soul-stuff, nothing about my argument would change. The unconscious operations of a soul would grant you no more freedom than the unconscious physiology of your brain does.

If you don’t know what your soul is going to do next, or why it behaved as it did a moment ago, you are not in control of your soul. This is obviously true in all cases where a person wishes he could feel or behave differently than he does: Think of the millions of good Christians whose souls happen to be gay, prone to obesity, and bored by prayer. The truth, however, is that free will is no more evident when a person does exactly what, in retrospect, he wishes he had done. The soul force that allows you to stay on your diet is just as mysterious as the one that obliges you to eat cherry pie for breakfast.

The second concern also misses the point: Yes, choices, efforts, intentions, reasoning, and other mental processes influence our behavior—but they are themselves part of a stream of causes which precede conscious awareness and over which we exert no ultimate control. My choices matter, but I cannot choose what I choose. And if it ever appears that I do—for instance, when going back and forth between two options—I do not choose to choose what I choose. There’s a regress here that always ends in darkness. Subjectively, I must take a first step, or a last one, for reasons that are inscrutable to me.

Einstein (following Schopenhauer) once made the same point:


Honestly, I cannot understand what people mean when they talk about the freedom of the human will. I have a feeling, for instance, that I will something or other; but what relation this has with freedom I cannot understand at all. I feel that I will to light my pipe and I do it; but how can I connect this up with the idea of freedom? What is behind the act of willing to light the pipe? Another act of willing? Schopenhauer once said: Der Mensch kann was er will; er kann aber nicht wollen was er will (Man can do what he will but he cannot will what he wills). (Planck, M. Where is Science Going?, p. 201)

But many people believe that this problem of regress is a false one. For them, freedom of will is synonymous with the idea that, with respect to any specific thought or action, one could have thought or acted differently. But to say that I could have done otherwise is merely to think the thought, “I could have done otherwise” after doing whatever I, in fact, did. Rather than indicate my freedom, this thought is just an epitaph erected to moments past. What I will do next, and why, remains, at bottom, inscrutable to me. To declare my “freedom” is tantamount to saying, “I don’t know why I did it, but it’s the sort of thing I tend to do, and I don’t mind doing it.”

And this is why the last objection is just another way of not facing up to the problem. To say that “my brain” has decided to think or act in a particular way, whether consciously or not, and my freedom consists in this, is to ignore the very reason why people believe in free will in the first place: the feeling of conscious agency. People feel that they are the authors of their thoughts and actions, and this is the only reason why there seems to be a problem of free will worth talking about.

Each of us has many organs in addition to a brain that make unconscious “decisions”—but these are not events for which anyone feels responsible. Are you producing red blood cells and digestive enzymes at this moment? Your body is, of course, but if it “decided” to do otherwise, you would be the victim of these changes, rather than their autonomous cause. To say that I am “responsible” for everything that goes on inside my skin because it’s all “me,” is to make a claim that bears no relationship to the feelings of agency and moral responsibility that make the idea of free will an enduring problem for philosophy.

As I have argued, however, the problem is not merely that free will makes no sense objectively (i.e. when our thoughts and actions are viewed from a third-person point of view); it makes no sense subjectively either. And it is quite possible to notice this, through introspection.

In fact, I will now perform an experiment in free will for all to see: I will write anything I want for the rest of this blog post. Whatever I write is, of course, something I have chosen to write. No one has compelled to do this. No one has assigned me a topic or demanded that I use certain words. I can be ungrammatical, if I pleased. And if I want to put a rabbit in this sentence, I am free to do it.

But paying attention to my stream of consciousness reveals that this notion of freedom does not reach very deep. Where did this “rabbit” come from? Why didn’t I put an “elephant” in that sentence? I do not know. Was I free to do otherwise? This is a strange, and strangely vacuous, question. How can I say that I was free to do other than what I did, when the causes of what I did are invisible to me? Yes, even now I am free to change “rabbit” to “elephant,” but if I were to do this, how could I explain it? It is impossible for me to know the cause of either choice. Either is compatible with my being compelled by the iron law of determinism, or buffeted by the winds of chance; but neither looks, or feels, like freedom. Rabbit or elephant? Or why not write something else entirely?

And what brings my deliberations on this matter to a close? This blog post must end sometime—and now I find that I want to get lunch. Am I free to resist this feeling? Well, yes, in the sense that no one is going to compel me at gunpoint to eat lunch this minute—but I’m hungry, and I want to eat it. Can I resist this feeling for a moment longer? Yes, of course—and for an indeterminate number of moments thereafter. But I am in no position to know why I make the effort in this instance but not in others. And why do my efforts cease precisely when they do? Now I feel that it is time for me to leave in any case. I’m hungry, yes, but it also seems like I’ve made my point. In fact, I can’t think of anything else to say on the subject. And where is the freedom in that?

philab
06-09-2011, 01:08 PM
Yeah, free will is a joke.

And it's even more of a joke to state that a deity has given us free will. To paraphrase Christopher Hitchens, "We have free will because God demanded it be so." Makes a lot of sense.


Think of flipping a coin. Call heads or tails. Is it truly random whether you called heads or tails? Or is there something, no matter how difficult to identify, that made you choose heads (or tails) on this occasion? The answer is quite obvious.

Wade>You
06-09-2011, 04:33 PM
So this means people are free of responsibility for their actions? Say this guy, for whatever reason or no reason, goes out into the street and starts slashing people with a machete. He can say he had no free will and it was just a combination of factors out of his own control that made him to it. Does he just walk?That's how I feel. While we may not have free will, it throws all of society into a disarray if we accept that we have no free will. Anything can be justified and people will take advantage of it. Our judicial system would crumble if it wasn't for society choosing to accept that we have free will.

I enjoyed Philosophy when I was taking it, but Philosophers are a walking contradiction at times, and they rarely ever live out their core beliefs.

GGGGG-Men
06-09-2011, 04:58 PM
That's how I feel. While we may not have free will, it throws all of society into a disarray if we accept that we have no free will. Anything can be justified and people will take advantage of it. Our judicial system would crumble if it wasn't for society choosing to accept that we have free will.

I enjoyed Philosophy when I was taking it, but Philosophers are a walking contradiction at times, and they rarely ever live out their core beliefs.

Accountability and morals are still present and when it comes to a judicial system, we're working with a jury of peers or a judge's interpretation of accountability anyway; not free will.

For instance if a man raped a woman and claimed that he was raised in a house where rape was common or that it's simply a background that makes up his current thought processes and out of his control, which might be true given no such thing as free will, a judge or jury is not likely to let him off.

Now if it's discovered that there is some sort of brain abnormality (chemical imbalance, tumor, etc.) that causes a loss in moral perception, the jury or judge is likely to have a different view of things.

You may not ever be consciously responsible for your actions, but for accountability purposes there is a sliding scale to which you will be held to the consequences.

philab
06-09-2011, 04:59 PM
So this means people are free of responsibility for their actions? Say this guy, for whatever reason or no reason, goes out into the street and starts slashing people with a machete. He can say he had no free will and it was just a combination of factors out of his own control that made him to it. Does he just walk?


That's how I feel. While we may not have free will, it throws all of society into a disarray if we accept that we have no free will. Anything can be justified and people will take advantage of it. Our judicial system would crumble if it wasn't for society choosing to accept that we have free will.

Not necessarily. Although there's a huge debate over this, what's the purpose of imprisoning someone? So society can "get even"? Or so society can be rid of the danger that someone poses to everyone else?

Only the latter jibes with a deterministic (i.e., no free will) world. A murderer has a state of mind that is unfit for society. Thus, he should be removed from society for a period of time calculated to return him to an acceptable state of mind. That his state of mind leading to the murder may have been caused by his parents (for example), and their state of minds by their parents, and all the way back forever, is irrelevant. The fact is that he shares the most immediate connection to the act of murder and that his state of mind is the most offensive to society, or is the one that crossed the threshold of acceptable states of mind.


On a broader note, the fact that we lack free will doesn't change much of anything. We've lacked free will forever and yet have still developed an intricate legal system and a complex society. What is it about recognizing that we lack free will that makes you think everything would then go to ****?

cambovenzi
06-09-2011, 06:12 PM
Yeah we react to things.
To me that doesn't mean we don't have free will.
I have the choice to do just about whatever i want.

GGGGG-Men
06-09-2011, 07:38 PM
Yeah we react to things.
To me that doesn't mean we don't have free will.
I have the choice to do just about whatever i want.

And what drives that choice (as shown) is not free will.

cambovenzi
06-09-2011, 07:54 PM
yeah ok :rolleyes:


seee you made me type that. not my free will

Nymfan87
06-09-2011, 08:19 PM
I just see this as the brain's version of turbo lag. Maybe I'm interpreting the story wrong, but I read it as saying you make a subconscious decision 300 milliseconds before your identical conscious decision.

aNYer
06-09-2011, 08:35 PM
I don't get how because our brains make the decisions before we realize it, it is separate from free will. If thats the case your separating the human from their brain. And I don't agree with that. The same factors that cause your brain to make those decision are the ones that you factor in when you make a decision that we would define as free will. You are your brain. If your brain is making the decision how is that not free will.

Young and Stupid
06-09-2011, 08:44 PM
I don't get how because our brains make the decisions before we realize it, it is separate from free will. If thats the case your separating the human from their brain. And I don't agree with that. The same factors that cause your brain to make those decision are the ones that you factor in when you make a decision that we would define as free will. You are your brain. If your brain is making the decision how is that not free will.

So when your body encounters a disruptive agent (we'll say a prokaryote microorganism) and responds by deploying lymphocytes to counteract said agent, then this process is done through your free will?

Obviously, this discussion boils down to how we define free will. My definition is more in line with the one that Harris asserts, but yours might be different. I would argue that your understanding of free will is incorrect, but that could delve into a broader difference in philosophy -- I'm a physicalist; you might not be.

As always, I agree with philab -- "free will is a joke." We've never possessed free will, but that doesn't mean that everything that surrounds us should be deemed as inconsequential or that we serve to be feeble.

aNYer
06-09-2011, 08:54 PM
So when your body encounters a disruptive agent (we'll say a prokaryote microorganism) and responds by deploying lymphocytes to counteract said agent, then this process is done through your free will?

Obviously, this discussion boils down to how we define free will. My definition is more in line with the one that Harris asserts, but yours might be different. I would argue that your understanding of free will is incorrect, but that could delve into a broader difference in philosophy -- I'm a physicalist; you might not be.

As always, I agree with philab -- "free will is a joke." We've never possessed free will, but that doesn't mean that everything that surrounds us should be deemed as meaningless.

I have more of a psychological background. Thats why this doesn't ring as true with me.

For example. A new theory with some data to back it up is that our face dictates our reaction, not the other way around. And through studying reactions we have learned that humans make the correct face to respond to stimuli (for example a scared face when frightened) before we have time to process the information. So some fell your face dictates your reaction.

But according to this definition of free will that would mean we are not scared by the sudden noise or visual stimuli, because we react too fast for that to be the case. But that doesn't make sense, cause without the stimuli we wouldn't react that way.

I don't know if this example helps illustrate why I don't see a disconnect between free will and what was described. I just don't know if I am explaining it well, and to be honest I have not even double checked what I wrote. When I have more time I will.

Ovratd1up
06-09-2011, 09:01 PM
I swear I came up with stuff that was a mirror reflection of this, when I was 15. I won't thank free will, but I will thank free drugs.

Ovratd1up
06-09-2011, 09:14 PM
I have more of a psychological background. Thats why this doesn't ring as true with me.

For example. A new theory with some data to back it up is that our face dictates our reaction, not the other way around. And through studying reactions we have learned that humans make the correct face to respond to stimuli (for example a scared face when frightened) before we have time to process the information. So some fell your face dictates your reaction.

But according to this definition of free will that would mean we are not scared by the sudden noise or visual stimuli, because we react too fast for that to be the case. But that doesn't make sense, cause without the stimuli we wouldn't react that way.

I don't know if this example helps illustrate why I don't see a disconnect between free will and what was described. I just don't know if I am explaining it well, and to be honest I have not even double checked what I wrote. When I have more time I will.

I don't know the biological terms, but it seems to me that this comparison is illegitimate. What the theory you presented suggests is that your [brain] interprets your facial reaction to stimuli, associating it with certain reactions and emotions. More or less? My interpretation of the original study quoted is that the 'conscious' mind only reacts to neurological functions physiologically; I don't know if there is a gap necessary for conscious interpretation of chemical input.

Raidaz4Life
06-09-2011, 10:00 PM
I read the article but really did not understand how it disproves free will. If somebody would care to simplify to my non-scientific brain it would be deeply appreciated.

GGGGG-Men
06-10-2011, 01:15 PM
I read the article but really did not understand how it disproves free will. If somebody would care to simplify to my non-scientific brain it would be deeply appreciated.

Hmmm....hard to simplify it much more and I think philab could probably do a better job, but essentially your "conscious" stream of thought doesn't actively make decisions (free will). It is only aware of the choices made by the brain which are determined on conditions that are inherently in you based on past experience, chemical reactions, etc.

Just as you are aware of your fingernails growing, but not in control of the growth rate, you are aware of your actions, but not in free control of them.

Labgrownmangoat
06-10-2011, 02:02 PM
I read the article but really did not understand how it disproves free will. If somebody would care to simplify to my non-scientific brain it would be deeply appreciated.

Having free will means we can do what we want to do without external control, roughly. Harris basically says that there are two common ways to demonstrate that we have free will. One is to say that you can, right now, make a decision among different choices as to what you will do next. The other is to look backward and say that you could have done something different than what you did -- freely made another choice. His criticism of these methods is that neither can actually be proven to be true. You can think that you have a choice as to what you will do next, or had a choice as to what you did, but you can't prove it since you are not going to (or didn't) take some other option.

He basically points at biological, environmental, and random reasons for our behavior in lieu of us having free will as he defines it. /end Harris synopsis

In my book he's playing a semantic game with the notion of free will. If a sufficiently complex set of deterministic and random factors are at work in creating our decisions and our decision-making apparatus that nobody (including ourselves) can accurately predict what we will do, I call that free will. Regardless of the ingredients that get us to that point, it's hard to call our decisions deterministic without being able to predict them if given the right information. Indeed, this is why all of us, including Harris, are happy to maintain notions of moral responsibility and culpability. If he carried this philosophical argument into action, he would have to abandon a good number of other values he, and all of us, use in making judgments.

aNYer
06-10-2011, 02:04 PM
I don't know the biological terms, but it seems to me that this comparison is illegitimate. What the theory you presented suggests is that your [brain] interprets your facial reaction to stimuli, associating it with certain reactions and emotions. More or less? My interpretation of the original study quoted is that the 'conscious' mind only reacts to neurological functions physiologically; I don't know if there is a gap necessary for conscious interpretation of chemical input.

My point is, the fact that your brain is making decisions before what we consider our conscious will doesn't mean that it is making decisions absent of your will.

Several years ago I was highly disturbed by what felt like the highly predictable nature of the human brain under certain circumstances. And it was something I wrestled with emotionally. But I don't think that because outside influences dictate the way we perceive things does it mean we aren't controlling our actions. But again, this all debates what your interpretation of free will is more then debating any point being made.

philab
06-10-2011, 02:07 PM
I read the article but really did not understand how it disproves free will. If somebody would care to simplify to my non-scientific brain it would be deeply appreciated.


Hmmm....hard to simplify it much more and I think philab could probably do a better job, but essentially your "conscious" stream of thought doesn't actively make decisions (free will). It is only aware of the choices made by the brain which are determined on conditions that are inherently in you based on past experience, chemical reactions, etc.

Just as you are aware of your fingernails growing, but not in control of the growth rate, you are aware of your actions, but not in free control of them.

The "science" here is rather inconsequential. This is evidence that stimuli affect our so-called "decisions" before we become aware that we in a "decision-making" process. When presented with the "choice" between, e.g., fight or flight, turns out the various stimuli and information our minds and bodies process subconsciously have already made the decision for us. Or at least so says the bolded, scientific parts of that article.

But again, this is rather inconsequential. This only goes to push back 10 or so seconds what should be pushed back ad infinitum. It's the philosophy of determinism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Determinism), just on a really small scale ... just an arbitrary cross-section of the overall phenomenon.

And Harris acknowledges the same. The rest of the article moves away from science and into skewering the philosophies of compatibilism and libertarianism (in re: metaphysics, not politics). And that's what my posts in this thread have been focused on as well. I hadn't mentioned any of the "science" here until this post.

Raidaz4Life
06-10-2011, 11:02 PM
Wouldn't that mean we are 100% products of our environment then? And if that were the case wouldn't that suggest there is no such thing as inherent personality?

philab
06-10-2011, 11:25 PM
Wouldn't that mean we are 100% products of our environment then? And if that were the case wouldn't that suggest there is no such thing as inherent personality?

Yes to the first.

Not sure what the second means. People still have personalities. And a deterministic view of the world would seem to suggest that all personalities are inherent, and even deeper than that, frankly.

Ovratd1up
06-11-2011, 04:14 PM
My point is, the fact that your brain is making decisions before what we consider our conscious will doesn't mean that it is making decisions absent of your will.

Several years ago I was highly disturbed by what felt like the highly predictable nature of the human brain under certain circumstances. And it was something I wrestled with emotionally. But I don't think that because outside influences dictate the way we perceive things does it mean we aren't controlling our actions. But again, this all debates what your interpretation of free will is more then debating any point being made.

I do feel that the brain's processes determine thoughts before and independent of what we consider our own will. This study does seem to back that up. Where do you see room for our 'conscious' mind to intervene with the biology? I don't see it at all, I think the conscious interpretation is only what follows from these functions, very much connected in the process and not 'free' to originate thought at all.


Wouldn't that mean we are 100% products of our environment then?

and genetics..

the_jon
06-11-2011, 06:00 PM
Yes there is free will. It's called international waters.

Yendil
06-11-2011, 06:20 PM
I don't believe in determinism. Though cause and effect can have a value in a broad sense. At some point, there was no cause to determing your first effect, a thought formed somewhere initially. I've had this topic beaten to death in philosophy over the years. But there was still that initial thought

philab
06-11-2011, 06:30 PM
I don't believe in determinism. Though cause and effect can have a value in a broad sense. At some point, there was no cause to determing your first effect, a thought formed somewhere initially. I've had this topic beaten to death in philosophy over the years. But there was still that initial thought

What requires it to be a thought?

Also, a first, undetermined event does not cut against determinism. "Prime Mover" is the traditional term for this.

VCU4LIFEGOVIKS
06-12-2011, 01:05 PM
Great read.

aNYer
06-12-2011, 11:19 PM
I do feel that the brain's processes determine thoughts before and independent of what we consider our own will. This study does seem to back that up. Where do you see room for our 'conscious' mind to intervene with the biology? I don't see it at all, I think the conscious interpretation is only what follows from these functions, very much connected in the process and not 'free' to originate thought at all..

The issue here is that if that were the case you are separating what your brain does and you. There is no you and your brain, you are your brain.

Because if your brain's impulses are to do something, you are eventually going to make that same decision. I am sure you would not argue that your brain would want to do one thing and "you" another, would you?

Young and Stupid
06-13-2011, 01:03 AM
The issue here is that if that were the case you are separating what your brain does and you. There is no you and your brain, you are your brain.

Because if your brain's impulses are to do something, you are eventually going to make that same decision. I am sure you would not argue that your brain would want to do one thing and "you" another, would you?

You seem to be thinking of it in the manner in which the dualist separates the mind and the body. The assertion is not that the body (or the brain which directs the nervous system which controls the body) is somehow separate from the mind, but that the two are not one in the same. That sounds antithetical, but it is a part of the physio-chemical view of man.

I made the example before -- when your body deploys lymphocytes to combat an unknown agent, you wouldn't say that this is within our control, would you? Yes, our brains (directly) power our immune system, but you wouldn't claim that this is something we have chosen to do through our free will. Could you will your body to not combat such an agent? No.

That's not to say that the brain is completely separate from the "I" -- as someone who has a psychological background, I'm sure you're aware that there are different compartments (the conscious, subconscious and unconscious) that fit within these broader domain known as "the mind."

As I said earlier, I'm a physicalist so I'm of the belief that the body (more specifically, the brain) encompasses our very existence. However, I wouldn't assert that "we are our brain" in the manner you seem to be articulating. Yes, without our brains we would cease to exist; however, we (meaning: self-identity and consciousness as opposed to strict existence) aren't everything that our brain is.

aNYer
06-13-2011, 09:44 AM
What I was getting at is that the poster seemed to be implying that your brain could come to one decision on impulse, and then could come to a different decision.

I actually believe that our personalities go further then just our brains and in a sense are influenced on a cellular level. But all this, again, boils down to me not seeing us as separate from our autonomic brains and more as an outward expression of everything that makes us who we are.

save the knicks
06-13-2011, 08:21 PM
This is all communist propaganda

No free will = no free market = no free people

Ovratd1up
06-14-2011, 01:02 PM
What I was getting at is that the poster seemed to be implying that your brain could come to one decision on impulse, and then could come to a different decision.

No, I was posing this as what I thought your view was; I don't think this at all.

Great discussion by the way. I haven't learned close to as much on the topic as I wish, but I do plan on doing so. Hopefully we can keep this alive so that it's not replaced by some Facebook thread.

nastynice
05-24-2012, 03:08 PM
bumping an old thread I was directed to...

well, first let me say reading that article was brutal, I ended up listening to a 3 part audio on youtube, I think its pretty much the same thing

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dodTNPp12rg

I'm not sure if I entirely understand what this guy's getting at, so if I seem confused go ahead and let it be known

Hypothetically, if what he says is true, can we then clone an animal's genetic info, have both of these two animals with the same genetic info placed in a completely enclosed environment, make the two environments exactly the same, and if sam harris' ideas are true, both animals should be making the exact same moves as one another? Such as, if a looks to the right, b looks to the right, if a drinks water, b drinks water. Is this basically what he's getting at?

He seems to be taking the idea of environmental/physical factors affecting one's decisions, and then taking one hell of a leap and saying free will is an illusion. HUGE gaps in his thinking, from what I'm understanding.

natepro
05-24-2012, 03:21 PM
I don't think it's quite as exact as that, but perhaps if you could get every single thing exact it would be.

I think epigenetics might still play some role that we wouldn't be able to control for, since we don't even entirely understand it I think, but if this is some hypothetical world where we can control literally every single variable, then... maybe? I don't really know the answer to that.




There's also some interesting debate between Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett about free will, too:

http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/04/06/free-will-sam-harris-vs-dan-dennett/

Tongue-Splitter
05-24-2012, 03:39 PM
My brain makes a decision before I'm conscious of the decision? Am I not my brain, is my brain not me?

Can't wait to see this over-thought theory used in religious debates.

I never have to play Temple Run again. Because it doesn't matter how good or bad I am, my brain is playing the game ten seconds into the future, and I'm just watching. Same thing with all video games. If I'm not playing a video game, then I'm just watching a movie, and actual films have better graphics. This thought really saved me a lot of hours in my life.

Might as well never consider any major life decisions either. I might as well just flip a coin because the decision has already been made, and I will leave the discovery of that decision on a 50/50 chance. But then again, if the decision has already been made, chance cannot possibly play a role. Because my brain cannot see the result of a coin flip, but if my brain has already made a decision, what if it made a decision contrary to the results of the coin flip?

I'll save myself some time and not think about this. Even though my brain (which is not a part of me nor an extension of myself) already made that decision for me. Have to listen to that separate entity of the old brain.

matthewredskin3
05-24-2012, 03:48 PM
I'm going to have to get really high and read this. I think that's the only way I'll be able to wrap my mind around it :laugh2:

GGGGG-Men
05-24-2012, 03:50 PM
My brain makes a decision before I'm conscious of the decision? Am I not my brain, is my brain not me?


You're not your brain. You are consciousness and based on the recent discovery of some form of consciousness in jellyfish (who have no brain), it gets even more obscure.

I think the point is, the "you" or your sense of "I" is not a controllable thing, but the result of conditioning and environment and history, etc., so that when faced with a decision, there is the determined reaction based on everything you have been created from and it's not technically in any real form of control.

natepro
05-24-2012, 03:53 PM
It's already used quite frequently in religious debates.

Even the decision to flip a coin, or not flip it, has already been decided before you know it has. We can show on fMRI's that people's brains have reached a decision before they know they've reached it.

You cannot deny that you have an unconscious mind, or else you would've died the first time you went to sleep since you wouldn't be able to keep breathing. So why does it seem so absurd to you that your unconscious mind is doing other things as well?

It's not as if you're not experiencing it when you play a video game or take part in any other activity. The illusion that you are making a choice to eat something instead of something else when you're hungry, for example, will remain, even when you know you don't actually have it.

If someone gives you a choice between seeing one movie or the other, you're not going to think about the fact that you made up your mind on what movie you want to see before you even realized it. You're going to think you choose to watch one movie over the other because you feel like you'd rather see that movie. The illusion is just too great to dispel, even when you know about it.

But none of what you said changes the fact that our brains must obey the laws of physics. Our thoughts and emotions and action are a result of chemical processes in our brain. Rewind the tape of your life to any point where you had to make a decision, make sure your brain-state is the same as it was last time, and you'll make the same decision you did before, because you have to. There would have to be a change in brain-state for anything else to happen.

Hustla23
05-24-2012, 03:57 PM
This probably gets refuted in a later study.

dbroncos78087
05-24-2012, 03:59 PM
bumping an old thread I was directed to...

well, first let me say reading that article was brutal, I ended up listening to a 3 part audio on youtube, I think its pretty much the same thing

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dodTNPp12rg

I'm not sure if I entirely understand what this guy's getting at, so if I seem confused go ahead and let it be known

Hypothetically, if what he says is true, can we then clone an animal's genetic info, have both of these two animals with the same genetic info placed in a completely enclosed environment, make the two environments exactly the same, and if sam harris' ideas are true, both animals should be making the exact same moves as one another? Such as, if a looks to the right, b looks to the right, if a drinks water, b drinks water. Is this basically what he's getting at?

He seems to be taking the idea of environmental/physical factors affecting one's decisions, and then taking one hell of a leap and saying free will is an illusion. HUGE gaps in his thinking, from what I'm understanding.

Am I the only one that chuckled at the irony of this first line in this thread?

nastynice
05-24-2012, 04:00 PM
My brain makes a decision before I'm conscious of the decision? Am I not my brain, is my brain not me?

Can't wait to see this over-thought theory used in religious debates.

I never have to play Temple Run again. Because it doesn't matter how good or bad I am, my brain is playing the game ten seconds into the future, and I'm just watching. Same thing with all video games. If I'm not playing a video game, then I'm just watching a movie, and actual films have better graphics. This thought really saved me a lot of hours in my life.

Might as well never consider any major life decisions either. I might as well just flip a coin because the decision has already been made, and I will leave the discovery of that decision on a 50/50 chance. But then again, if the decision has already been made, chance cannot possibly play a role. Because my brain cannot see the result of a coin flip, but if my brain has already made a decision, what if it made a decision contrary to the results of the coin flip?

I'll save myself some time and not think about this. Even though my brain (which is not a part of me nor an extension of myself) already made that decision for me. Have to listen to that separate entity of the old brain.

as confusing as this sounds, its actually seems right on par with the op. Sam Harris seems to babble a lot about nothing, this was the trend I noticed with him before reading this article, and has only been strengthened after reading it. If someone throws a baseball at your head and you duck, did your physical brain already know in 10 seconds advance you were going to duck? Obviously not. Yet he makes a vague reference to a certain study and completely takes it out of context by applying across the board. Are we supposed to just nod our heads with that?

I do like the fact that he thinks outside the box, but its like he's trying to so badly to "come up" with some type of ground breaking original idea that he just gets lost in a haze of nothingness. As far as him just to bring it up as thoughts to ponder, ok, I'm ok with that. But for him to try and draw out some sort of conclusion from it, he's reaching pretty hard.

Part of it may be that I'm just not understanding what he's trying to say...

GGGGG-Men
05-24-2012, 04:13 PM
Sam Harris seems to babble a lot about nothing,

:pity:

I fold

natepro
05-24-2012, 04:15 PM
as confusing as this sounds, its actually seems right on par with the op. Sam Harris seems to babble a lot about nothing, this was the trend I noticed with him before reading this article, and has only been strengthened after reading it. If someone throws a baseball at your head and you duck, did your physical brain already know in 10 seconds advance you were going to duck? Obviously not. Yet he makes a vague reference to a certain study and completely takes it out of context by applying across the board. Are we supposed to just nod our heads with that?

I do like the fact that he thinks outside the box, but its like he's trying to so badly to "come up" with some type of ground breaking original idea that he just gets lost in a haze of nothingness. As far as him just to bring it up as thoughts to ponder, ok, I'm ok with that. But for him to try and draw out some sort of conclusion from it, he's reaching pretty hard.

Part of it may be that I'm just not understanding what he's trying to say...

I think most of it is that you're not understanding what he's saying.

It's not that there's some precognition, which is what you'd need for your baseball example to work. But if someone throws a baseball at your head, you're also going to react before you consciously think oh **** there's a baseball flying at my head I should move out of the way! If you had to do that every time, people would be killed and injured way more than they are. It's not hard to imagine why we'd evolve to have unconscious reflexes like that.


Maybe it would help if you read something instead of watching a video: http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-illusion-of-free-will

natepro
05-24-2012, 04:17 PM
:pity:

I fold

I think (hope?) he just doesn't get it and ends up maybe glossing over a little? I don't know. I don't think even Deepak Chopra would say that.

Tongue-Splitter
05-24-2012, 04:26 PM
You're not your brain. You are consciousness and based on the recent discovery of some form of consciousness in jellyfish (who have no brain), it gets even more obscure.

I think the point is, the "you" or your sense of "I" is not a controllable thing, but the result of conditioning and environment and history, etc., so that when faced with a decision, there is the determined reaction based on everything you have been created from and it's not technically in any real form of control.
I'm not trying to argue for or against this theory. Personally, I am of the mindset that this can neither be proven nor denied. The guy brings up some compelling points, but in the end there is no proving it any way. I think you could accept that conclusion, couldn't you?

After all, this is a THEORY. Just like a flat Earth was a theory. It is not a fact. Studies are conducted that are completely debunked in other studies.

It's a theory that I personally think is bologna. Obviously, that has a lot to do with my faith. But also, I see too many holes in it. I cannot for a second believe that all of art in the history of the world were chemical reactions. And if this theory is true, then all of art can be boiled down to chemical reactions and science with no heart or emotion.

I find the whole theory to be heartless and dull and capable of making life entirely moot.

natepro
05-24-2012, 04:30 PM
You are grossly misusing the term theory.



Edit: And whether or not it is "heartless and dull and capable of making life entirely moot," which I don't agree with anyway, says nothing about whether or not it's true.

GGGGG-Men
05-24-2012, 04:48 PM
I think (hope?) he just doesn't get it and ends up maybe glossing over a little? I don't know. I don't think even Deepak Chopra would say that.

Maybe, but if you don't like him, you don't like him and I don't think that's a shell that can be cracked in this climate.


I'm not trying to argue for or against this theory. Personally, I am of the mindset that this can neither be proven nor denied. The guy brings up some compelling points, but in the end there is no proving it any way. I think you could accept that conclusion, couldn't you?

After all, this is a THEORY. Just like a flat Earth was a theory. It is not a fact. Studies are conducted that are completely debunked in other studies.

It's a theory that I personally think is bologna. Obviously, that has a lot to do with my faith. But also, I see too many holes in it. I cannot for a second believe that all of art in the history of the world were chemical reactions. And if this theory is true, then all of art can be boiled down to chemical reactions and science with no heart or emotion.

I find the whole theory to be heartless and dull and capable of making life entirely moot.


Rather than sit through my horrible attempt at explaining why that use of "theory" is not correct, check out this site:

http://www.notjustatheory.com/

It focuses on the evolution side of it, but the understanding of what "theory" means applies across all science.


Anyway, the fact that you say your faith stands in the way of your accepting this kind of proves the point; you are not reacting on a conscious reasoning level, but merely applying all learned and conditioned traits to base an automatic dismissal.

Like it or not, that's what we are....a pile of chemicals with an electric charge. You want to throw in conscious or soul, that's your business, but none of it negates the proven studies that we make our decisions without free will. Actually....that should play into the faith thing more than be at odds with it.

Tongue-Splitter
05-24-2012, 04:53 PM
You are grossly misusing the term theory
In what way? Is this not a theory? Are you saying that theories are facts? I don't understand how I'm misusing it so terribly. Would you prefer "thought" instead?


Edit: And whether or not it is "heartless and dull and capable of making life entirely moot," which I don't agree with anyway, says nothing about whether or not it's true.
You're right. It has nothing to do with whether or not it's true. I don't believe it's true, and I'm leaving it at that.

One thing I will debate is the heartless and dull nature of a world in which this thought is a fact. If every stroke of a brush, if every reaction in a play, if every word, sentence, paragraph and all of prose is developed through a chemical process of the brain (your words), how can anything have any meaning? What is the meaning of life if every single thing is preordained?

To me, it's pointless. I might as well take a shotgun and double-suicide off a bridge if every decision of mine is preordained, because that would take all the excitement out of life for me. However, I would never be able to do that because something else is controlling me. That's not only heartless, it's terrifying. My brain has a sort of antibosis relationship with my consciousness?

Then how do I know if I'm enjoying something or if my brain is telling me to enjoy it? If I don't have the will to decide what I do and do not like, then I don't like anything, and it's all my brain - which is not me - so therefore, I am nothing. It's like the end of the third Dune book. When one of the Atreides descendants joins his consciousness with the worms of Arrakis. Perpetual consciousness, no control.

Do you understand the existential conflicts that arise with this thought? It's mind-numbing. If you truly believe this, just think of your life. You do not own it. Everything you enjoy has been decided for you, so you really don't enjoy anything. Disappointments are what two thousand years of circumstance has dictated to be a disappointment, and entertainment is what thousands of years have dictated entertainment to be. You don't like Seinfeld. You don't like Game of Thrones. You don't like Glee (Obviously, the first three forms of entertainment that came to mind and they are not indicative of what you or I do or do not like). Your brain, which is separate from you, has decided that for you. Therefore, everything that you do - school, work, raising a family, retiring - is all for some other entity. You are conscious of these events happening to you, but you had nothing to do with it. Nothing whatsoever. You were just aware of all the hard work.

If you've ever accomplished anything, remove that sense of accomplishment. Did you ever win an epic game of Risk? No, your brain did. Did you ever turn in a fantastic essay at any level of school? No, your brain did.

And your brain is not you.

Tongue-Splitter
05-24-2012, 05:01 PM
Rather than sit through my horrible attempt at explaining why that use of "theory" is not correct, check out this site:

http://www.notjustatheory.com/

It focuses on the evolution side of it, but the understanding of what "theory" means applies across all science.


Anyway, the fact that you say your faith stands in the way of your accepting this kind of proves the point; you are not reacting on a conscious reasoning level, but merely applying all learned and conditioned traits to base an automatic dismissal.

Like it or not, that's what we are....a pile of chemicals with an electric charge. You want to throw in conscious or soul, that's your business, but none of it negates the proven studies that we make our decisions without free will. Actually....that should play into the faith thing more than be at odds with it.
Whether or not it's a theory is semantics. Use whichever word you prefer. Whether or not this is a fact is not up for debate. Scientists have been wrong for thousands of years, and there's no indication they won't be wrong for thousands more.

I understand your argument. I know that we cannot openly discuss religion on this site, so I am going to have to stop my debate right there because everything that I believe about my religion supersedes any points you might have about this idea (valid as they might be).

I do have to give you crazy props though. If you can find happiness with this line of thinking, you're better at it than I am. And that's not supposed to be a knock against your beliefs or an attack against you, it's just an observation of somebody with a completely different mindset.

GGGGG-Men
05-24-2012, 05:14 PM
Whether or not it's a theory is semantics. Use whichever word you prefer. Whether or not this is a fact is not up for debate. Scientists have been wrong for thousands of years, and there's no indication they won't be wrong for thousands more.

Well if you're dismissing it as just another theory which can be wrong, then it definitely is part of the debate. I'm not sure what you mean by scientists being wrong. New discoveries build upon and enhance old understanding, but it's not simply them being wrong. They just become more right. Nothing is 100%, b/c it's impossible to be 100% right when there is always something more to be known.

Germ theory keeps you going to the doctor, theory of gravity keeps you from throwing valuables into the air....these aren't things that will be wrong one day. Scientists might just build upon the existing theory which is always the BEST understanding of whatever subject is at hand, given the facts of that subject.


I understand your argument. I know that we cannot openly discuss religion on this site, so I am going to have to stop my debate right there because everything that I believe about my religion supersedes any points you might have about this idea (valid as they might be).

No reason to go down that road. It's not really about religion anyway, just making the point of the though process involved. You can use the example of flushing the toilet multiple times a day every time you use it and then one day the plumbing goes out, you're not supposed to flush, but as soon as you're done you reach for the handle anyway.

That's not a brain misfire really, it's your uncontrolled actions, as with anything else, based on what you've always done/believed, etc. We don't have as much control as we think.


I do have to give you crazy props though. If you can find happiness with this line of thinking, you're better at it than I am. And that's not supposed to be a knock against your beliefs or an attack against you, it's just an observation of somebody with a completely different mindset.

Nah, I find happiness hiking in the woods, loving my wife, staring at a mountain or a star filled sky or listening to music or watching a Giants game.....this is just about accepting what's being proven to me.

whitesoxfan83
05-24-2012, 05:39 PM
I don't believe so but nothing any of us say can be proven so whatever you come up with is your own philosophy and it doesn't matter who thinks its right or wrong.

nastynice
05-24-2012, 05:47 PM
I think most of it is that you're not understanding what he's saying.

It's not that there's some precognition, which is what you'd need for your baseball example to work. But if someone throws a baseball at your head, you're also going to react before you consciously think oh **** there's a baseball flying at my head I should move out of the way! If you had to do that every time, people would be killed and injured way more than they are. It's not hard to imagine why we'd evolve to have unconscious reflexes like that.


Maybe it would help if you read something instead of watching a video: http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-illusion-of-free-will

Yes, I agree we have an unconscious mind which controls some of our conscious actions. He's taking it another step and saying we cannot help what our unconscious mind does, and also that it affects ALL of our conscious decisions. Is this correct?

A point illustrated in that link, "if I had his genes and life experience and an identical brain (or soul) in an identical state—I would have acted exactly as he did."

This statement is based off of?....theory he's come up with? Theory based off of...?

This is pretty much what I'm getting from it.

Its interesting, but at the end of the day it seems pointless. What he's saying falls in the same category as this example of moving from point A to point B. According to mathematics, an object from point A can NEVER reach point B. Because when moving from A to B, you will always reach a point in which you are half way there. Take that halfway point and make it your new starting point, continue traveling to point B, and again you will reach another half point. This can happen an infinite number of times, thus leading to the conclusion that there will ALWAYS be some amount of distance between the object moving from A to B and point B. Its thought provoking, its cool to sit there and ponder it, but to try and decipher some conclusion from it and apply it to real life is just pointless. In the real world, this is just nonsense.

I don't think anyone's trying to argue against environmental factors having an impact on us as people, and how that affects to what we "choose" to do. However he has taken a HUGE leap to arrive to his conclusion, made HUGE assumptions, filled HUGE gaps with these assumptions, and is trying to sell us the idea of us not being "us" based off of the nothingness he's filled in the blanks with.

I used the example of ducking from a baseball just to show how sloppy his reasoning comes across to me. He seems to have taken an idea and just indiscriminately applied it across the board. No one would ever allow this haphazard type of reasoning to enter the realm of any form of "science", yet he can do it and no one seems to have a problem with it

nastynice
05-24-2012, 05:56 PM
I don't believe so but nothing any of us say can be proven so whatever you come up with is your own philosophy and it doesn't matter who thinks its right or wrong.

true

natepro
05-24-2012, 07:19 PM
In what way? Is this not a theory? Are you saying that theories are facts? I don't understand how I'm misusing it so terribly. Would you prefer "thought" instead? It seems to have already been addressed, but yes.. theories are facts.



You're right. It has nothing to do with whether or not it's true. I don't believe it's true, and I'm leaving it at that.

One thing I will debate is the heartless and dull nature of a world in which this thought is a fact. If every stroke of a brush, if every reaction in a play, if every word, sentence, paragraph and all of prose is developed through a chemical process of the brain (your words), how can anything have any meaning? What is the meaning of life if every single thing is preordained?

To me, it's pointless. I might as well take a shotgun and double-suicide off a bridge if every decision of mine is preordained, because that would take all the excitement out of life for me. However, I would never be able to do that because something else is controlling me. That's not only heartless, it's terrifying. My brain has a sort of antibosis relationship with my consciousness?

Then how do I know if I'm enjoying something or if my brain is telling me to enjoy it? If I don't have the will to decide what I do and do not like, then I don't like anything, and it's all my brain - which is not me - so therefore, I am nothing. It's like the end of the third Dune book. When one of the Atreides descendants joins his consciousness with the worms of Arrakis. Perpetual consciousness, no control.

Do you understand the existential conflicts that arise with this thought? It's mind-numbing. If you truly believe this, just think of your life. You do not own it. Everything you enjoy has been decided for you, so you really don't enjoy anything. Disappointments are what two thousand years of circumstance has dictated to be a disappointment, and entertainment is what thousands of years have dictated entertainment to be. You don't like Seinfeld. You don't like Game of Thrones. You don't like Glee (Obviously, the first three forms of entertainment that came to mind and they are not indicative of what you or I do or do not like). Your brain, which is separate from you, has decided that for you. Therefore, everything that you do - school, work, raising a family, retiring - is all for some other entity. You are conscious of these events happening to you, but you had nothing to do with it. Nothing whatsoever. You were just aware of all the hard work.

If you've ever accomplished anything, remove that sense of accomplishment. Did you ever win an epic game of Risk? No, your brain did. Did you ever turn in a fantastic essay at any level of school? No, your brain did. Let's assume, for the sake of discussion, that there is free will. Do you really still own your life?

Did you decide what sex you'd be? No. But that makes up so much of your identity.

Did you decide your sexual orientation? No. But that makes up so much of your identity as well.

Did you decide who your parents would be? No. But they had perhaps the most significant impact on your life out of anyone you'll ever know.

Did you decide what race you'd be? No. But this can significantly impact how you see the world, and how the world see, reacts to, and treats you.

Did you decide where you'd be born? No. But this can effect your health, your life expectancy, the education you are able to receive, the people you will meet, almost every one of your future relationships, and will likely effect the way you will die as well (people living in Boston don't die of earthquakes in Los Angeles, for example).

Did you decide when you'd be born? No. Someone born in 1433 is going to have a significantly different live, in almost every aspect, from someone born in 2033. Life expectancy, education, health care, all of that will be vastly different, and all of it will have a huge impact on your life.

Did you decide the religion you were born into? No. Not everyone holds onto the religion of their parents, but most people do. Were there a bet for money, I would happily take the far larger odds that you had done the same than that you were some completely different religious affiliation from your parents. But this fact can be easily observed simply by looking at the rest of the world. Most of America is Christian in some form. Hinduism is the predominant religion in India. Buddhism is the predominant religion in China. Islam is the predominant religion in Saudi Arabia. Certainly we would not assert that this happened by some crazy random happenstance. People generally fall into the religion of their parents, and that religion was entirely out of your control at birth.


All of this, and more... and you want to argue that your unconscious mind making decisions before you're aware of them means your life basically has no purpose? Nonsense. If those things didn't strip purpose for your life, there's no reason that a lack of free will, as it is classically understood, means your life is meaningless.


And your brain is not you. This is demonstrably false. Any alteration to your brain can significantly change who you are. When you can take a medication that alters the chemicals in your brain and stops you from being manic or depressed, or even causes you to have suicidal thoughts, then you are proving that you are your brain. We could go in, sever your corpus callosum, and when you saw an object with one eye instead of the other, you'd be able to draw a picture of it but not say the word for it. If you get into a car accident and get a head injury, you could go from someone that can intelligent speak about your beliefs on free will do a drooling vegetable in a bed capable of little more than instinctual reactions. You're not locked inside somewhere, unable to control you're body. You're just changed, fundamentally.

Without your brain, there is no "you."

natepro
05-24-2012, 07:20 PM
I don't believe so but nothing any of us say can be proven so whatever you come up with is your own philosophy and it doesn't matter who thinks its right or wrong.

Sarcasm?

GGGGG-Men
05-24-2012, 07:26 PM
Without your brain, there is no "you."

What about the fact that jellyfish have now been known to have decisive hunting and essentially consciousness without having a brain? Is there something more to it than just brain?

natepro
05-24-2012, 07:35 PM
Yes, I agree we have an unconscious mind which controls some of our conscious actions. He's taking it another step and saying we cannot help what our unconscious mind does, and also that it affects ALL of our conscious decisions. Is this correct?

A point illustrated in that link, "if I had his genes and life experience and an identical brain (or soul) in an identical state—I would have acted exactly as he did."

This statement is based off of?....theory he's come up with? Theory based off of...?

This is pretty much what I'm getting from it. It's based off the laws of physics. Your brain is a physical machine. It has to obey the laws of physics. People will try to get you caught up in "quantum mechanics" nonsense, but almost 100% of the time they use that phrase they will be demonstrating the fact that they have no idea what quantum mechanics actually is.

You quoted part of that paragraph, but I think you missed the important part of it:

As sickening as I find their behavior, I have to admit that if I were to trade places with one of these men, atom for atom, I would be him: There is no extra part of me that could decide to see the world differently or to resist the impulse to victimize other people. Even if you believe that every human being harbors an immortal soul, the problem of responsibility remains: I cannot take credit for the fact that I do not have the soul of a psychopath.

There is no demonstrable mechanism by which it can be shown that we made decisions, have emotions, or create actions separate from what is happening in our brain. Damage the brain, and you damage the ability to do any of those things. Alter the brain, and you alter the ability to do any of those things. If this wasn't true, drinking alcohol or taking medication would have no real effect on you. Alcohol changes the functioning in your brain, and as a consequences changes you, for a time.

The point of all of it is, you are a slave to your brain-state. You cannot simply choose to not be depressed if there is a chemical imbalance in your brain making you so. To be able to do so would be the definition of free will, but we clearly, obviously, demonstrably cannot.


Its interesting, but at the end of the day it seems pointless. What he's saying falls in the same category as this example of moving from point A to point B. According to mathematics, an object from point A can NEVER reach point B. Because when moving from A to B, you will always reach a point in which you are half way there. Take that halfway point and make it your new starting point, continue traveling to point B, and again you will reach another half point. This can happen an infinite number of times, thus leading to the conclusion that there will ALWAYS be some amount of distance between the object moving from A to B and point B. Its thought provoking, its cool to sit there and ponder it, but to try and decipher some conclusion from it and apply it to real life is just pointless. In the real world, this is just nonsense. That's a fun mental trick, but... that's about where it ends. I fail to see how it relates.


I don't think anyone's trying to argue against environmental factors having an impact on us as people, and how that affects to what we "choose" to do. However he has taken a HUGE leap to arrive to his conclusion, made HUGE assumptions, filled HUGE gaps with these assumptions, and is trying to sell us the idea of us not being "us" based off of the nothingness he's filled in the blanks with. There's nothing about not being "us" in there. You did not necessarily choose who you are, but that doesn't make you any less you. I don't see, and you have yet to show, any of these HUGE things.


I used the example of ducking from a baseball just to show how sloppy his reasoning comes across to me. He seems to have taken an idea and just indiscriminately applied it across the board. No one would ever allow this haphazard type of reasoning to enter the realm of any form of "science", yet he can do it and no one seems to have a problem with it The problem here is, he is a scientist, and he is doing science.

He got his PhD, in neuroscience, using fMRI machines to "conduct research into the neural basis of belief, disbelief, and uncertainty," which is pretty much exactly what we're talking about.

But more than that, this is science. You're trying to refute it with some philosophy, but he has provided scientific reasonings for his arguments, and you have yet to refute them with any scientific reasoning of your own.

natepro
05-24-2012, 07:37 PM
What about the fact that jellyfish have now been known to have decisive hunting and essentially consciousness without having a brain? Is there something more to it than just brain?

They might have something that acts as a brain, in the same way that they believe dinosaurs had "brains" that weren't, necessarily, brains in other parts of their body. But there's little question that altering your brain changes you in ways altering a hand or foot does not.

Tongue-Splitter
05-24-2012, 07:48 PM
It seems to have already been addressed, but yes.. theories are facts.


Let's assume, for the sake of discussion, that there is free will. Do you really still own your life?

Did you decide what sex you'd be? No. But that makes up so much of your identity.

Did you decide your sexual orientation? No. But that makes up so much of your identity as well.

Did you decide who your parents would be? No. But they had perhaps the most significant impact on your life out of anyone you'll ever know.

Did you decide what race you'd be? No. But this can significantly impact how you see the world, and how the world see, reacts to, and treats you.

Did you decide where you'd be born? No. But this can effect your health, your life expectancy, the education you are able to receive, the people you will meet, almost every one of your future relationships, and will likely effect the way you will die as well (people living in Boston don't die of earthquakes in Los Angeles, for example).

Did you decide when you'd be born? No. Someone born in 1433 is going to have a significantly different live, in almost every aspect, from someone born in 2033. Life expectancy, education, health care, all of that will be vastly different, and all of it will have a huge impact on your life.

Did you decide the religion you were born into? No. Not everyone holds onto the religion of their parents, but most people do. Were there a bet for money, I would happily take the far larger odds that you had done the same than that you were some completely different religious affiliation from your parents. But this fact can be easily observed simply by looking at the rest of the world. Most of America is Christian in some form. Hinduism is the predominant religion in India. Buddhism is the predominant religion in China. Islam is the predominant religion in Saudi Arabia. Certainly we would not assert that this happened by some crazy random happenstance. People generally fall into the religion of their parents, and that religion was entirely out of your control at birth.


All of this, and more... and you want to argue that your unconscious mind making decisions before you're aware of them means your life basically has no purpose? Nonsense. If those things didn't strip purpose for your life, there's no reason that a lack of free will, as it is classically understood, means your life is meaningless.

This is demonstrably false. Any alteration to your brain can significantly change who you are. When you can take a medication that alters the chemicals in your brain and stops you from being manic or depressed, or even causes you to have suicidal thoughts, then you are proving that you are your brain. We could go in, sever your corpus callosum, and when you saw an object with one eye instead of the other, you'd be able to draw a picture of it but not say the word for it. If you get into a car accident and get a head injury, you could go from someone that can intelligent speak about your beliefs on free will do a drooling vegetable in a bed capable of little more than instinctual reactions. You're not locked inside somewhere, unable to control you're body. You're just changed, fundamentally.

Without your brain, there is no "you."
First of all, as far as the brain thing, I had you confused with GGGGG-Men.

As far as the rest, yeah. A lot of people are given the short end of the stick on things, but it's (in my opinion) their choice to do what they will with their situation.

And as far as what you're arguing, there are ten thousand things that are not in your control. From airplanes to getting eaten alive by coyotes. But I'll be damned if I ever believe that what I enjoy is not my decision.

natepro
05-24-2012, 07:50 PM
First of all, as far as the brain thing, I had you confused with GGGGG-Men.

As far as the rest, yeah. A lot of people are given the short end of the stick on things, but it's (in my opinion) their choice to do what they will with their situation.

And as far as what you're arguing, there are ten thousand things that are not in your control. From airplanes to getting eaten alive by coyotes. But I'll be damned if I ever believe that what I enjoy is not my decision.

Then you need to recognize that you do not have an accurate view of reality.


But I have to ask... if that illusion is one you're fine with, and it doesn't take the enjoyment out of your life, why would the illusion of free will, despite knowing you don't actually have it, do any differently?

nastynice
05-24-2012, 08:02 PM
It's based off the laws of physics. Your brain is a physical machine. It has to obey the laws of physics. People will try to get you caught up in "quantum mechanics" nonsense, but almost 100% of the time they use that phrase they will be demonstrating the fact that they have no idea what quantum mechanics actually is.

You quoted part of that paragraph, but I think you missed the important part of it:

As sickening as I find their behavior, I have to admit that if I were to trade places with one of these men, atom for atom, I would be him: There is no extra part of me that could decide to see the world differently or to resist the impulse to victimize other people. Even if you believe that every human being harbors an immortal soul, the problem of responsibility remains: I cannot take credit for the fact that I do not have the soul of a psychopath.

There is no demonstrable mechanism by which it can be shown that we made decisions, have emotions, or create actions separate from what is happening in our brain. Damage the brain, and you damage the ability to do any of those things. Alter the brain, and you alter the ability to do any of those things. If this wasn't true, drinking alcohol or taking medication would have no real effect on you. Alcohol changes the functioning in your brain, and as a consequences changes you, for a time.

The point of all of it is, you are a slave to your brain-state. You cannot simply choose to not be depressed if there is a chemical imbalance in your brain making you so. To be able to do so would be the definition of free will, but we clearly, obviously, demonstrably cannot.



Well, like you gotta consider both the ying and the yang, feel me. You are 100% correct, give someone some pure mdma and they will be pretty happy. So there's no doubt that CHEMICALS AFFECT THE BRAIN STATE. But it works the other way too. Scare the **** out of someone, and certain chemicals are released. So on the flip side, the BRAIN STATE ALSO AFFECTS THE CHEMICAL BALANCE. In order to get on board with what he's saying (the way I'm understanding it), it seems that you have to ignore the latter. Or assume the latter simply isn't true.

I see what ur saying about the other part you just quoted, thanks for pointing that out. So that kinda takes me back to what I mentioned earlier, this SHOULD be demonstrable in an extremely controlled setting. Well, hypothetically at least, maybe in the real world somewhat I don't know.





That's a fun mental trick, but... that's about where it ends. I fail to see how it relates.


Well, that's exactly how it relates. I do think what he's saying is a fun brain exercise...then that's about where it ends. He seems to have taken it to the next step.



There's nothing about not being "us" in there. You did not necessarily choose who you are, but that doesn't make you any less you. I don't see, and you have yet to show, any of these HUGE things.


The huge leap of going from - a man with a tumor in his frontal cortex experiencing personality change - to - every aspect of our personality is based off of the physical environment of which we have no control over (even if we do, that control was truly not in our control). I mean, you must agree, that is quite a leap, and I do not see what has made him so confident in taking that leap.



The problem here is, he is a scientist, and he is doing science.

He got his PhD, in neuroscience, using fMRI machines to "conduct research into the neural basis of belief, disbelief, and uncertainty," which is pretty much exactly what we're talking about.

But more than that, this is science. You're trying to refute it with some philosophy, but he has provided scientific reasonings for his arguments, and you have yet to refute them with any scientific reasoning of your own.

Yea, I'll be real, I'm kinda ignorant on this whole topic. I actually would have categorized this article as philosophy, so maybe my understanding is just not good. I don't think that invalidates the things I'm saying however. I do feel my points are legitimate. I guess the only issue is maybe they've already been answered, but for some reason I'm not understanding it.

The reason I brought up science is because in science you can't just indiscriminately jump from A to F without any basis. That's what it seems that he's doing. He took an example of one study showing thoughts might be formed up to 10 seconds before us even being "conscious" of it, and then he just applied it across the whole board. Its like me dropping a feather from a roof, timing it, and then saying this is the speed at which gravity pulls objects to the core of the earth. That's just one of the jumps he seems to be making. The other is as I pointed out earlier in this post, he seems to accept the chemical composition affecting the brain state, but not the other way around. Another, him seeing how a brain tumor can affect thought, and then haphazardly coming to the conclusion that only physical things can affect "thought". And I realize maybe science only deals with the physical (measurable), but thought isn't physical either, so philosophy must play a role in helping to discuss the topic.

Angry Norwegian
05-24-2012, 08:09 PM
I don't believe so but nothing any of us say can be proven so whatever you come up with is your own philosophy and it doesn't matter who thinks its right or wrong.

This represents a dangerous version of relativism. According to this, there could be a culture with a deeply held conviction that they should stab babies in the eyes with knitting needles. According to your line of thought, this is fine, as the culture has come up with their own philosophy that works for them.

Just saying, making that leap is pretty huge, and it attempts to characterize all ethics, morality, philosophy, and political theory as relative, and therefore interchangeable and equal.

GGGGG-Men
05-24-2012, 08:44 PM
They might have something that acts as a brain, in the same way that they believe dinosaurs had "brains" that weren't, necessarily, brains in other parts of their body. But there's little question that altering your brain changes you in ways altering a hand or foot does not.

Yeah of course. I think I'm just amazed by jellyfish.....500 million years without a brain or central nervous system.

Young and Stupid
05-24-2012, 09:04 PM
Huh. This has turned into a throwback thread of sorts: One where (somewhat) intelligent discussion is taking place over a sustained period of time. Unless I'm missing them, these tend not to take place in the GD forum anymore. No surprise that Nate is involved.

Now, if only we could go back to discussing the R-word. That'd be something.

natepro
05-24-2012, 11:30 PM
I appreciate the compliment.

natepro
05-25-2012, 12:49 AM
Well, like you gotta consider both the ying and the yang, feel me. You are 100% correct, give someone some pure mdma and they will be pretty happy. So there's no doubt that CHEMICALS AFFECT THE BRAIN STATE. But it works the other way too. Scare the **** out of someone, and certain chemicals are released. So on the flip side, the BRAIN STATE ALSO AFFECTS THE CHEMICAL BALANCE. In order to get on board with what he's saying (the way I'm understanding it), it seems that you have to ignore the latter. Or assume the latter simply isn't true. The reflex is still a response to a stimulus, meaning there is still a change in brain state. You cannot have an action without the existence of the brain state for it to happen. If a ball is thrown at your head but you don't see it and no one alerts you that it's coming, you're only going to react after it hits you. If you see it coming, the visual information is going to go to your brain, and your brain will cause the reflex.

Basically: There is no flip side.


I see what ur saying about the other part you just quoted, thanks for pointing that out. So that kinda takes me back to what I mentioned earlier, this SHOULD be demonstrable in an extremely controlled setting. Well, hypothetically at least, maybe in the real world somewhat I don't know.

It's not an "extremely controlled setting" that you'd need, it's a perfectly controlled setting. Literally every single thing needs to be exactly the same in order for this experiment to have a chance of working. I assume I don't need to say that such a thing is, currently and probably forever, completely impossible.






Well, that's exactly how it relates. I do think what he's saying is a fun brain exercise...then that's about where it ends. He seems to have taken it to the next step. There is actual science behind what he's saying. That's what you seem to be missing.






The huge leap of going from - a man with a tumor in his frontal cortex experiencing personality change - to - every aspect of our personality is based off of the physical environment of which we have no control over (even if we do, that control was truly not in our control). I mean, you must agree, that is quite a leap, and I do not see what has made him so confident in taking that leap. The tumor changing personality is not the basis for his argument, it's an example of it. There's a difference. He's not saying because a tumor can change personality then your brain determines who you are, etc., etc., there's no free will. He's saying there's no free will, and here is an example to illustrate how a change in the brain can fundamentally change who you are.





Yea, I'll be real, I'm kinda ignorant on this whole topic. I actually would have categorized this article as philosophy, so maybe my understanding is just not good. I don't think that invalidates the things I'm saying however. I do feel my points are legitimate. I guess the only issue is maybe they've already been answered, but for some reason I'm not understanding it.

The reason I brought up science is because in science you can't just indiscriminately jump from A to F without any basis. That's what it seems that he's doing. He took an example of one study showing thoughts might be formed up to 10 seconds before us even being "conscious" of it, and then he just applied it across the whole board. Its like me dropping a feather from a roof, timing it, and then saying this is the speed at which gravity pulls objects to the core of the earth. That's just one of the jumps he seems to be making. The other is as I pointed out earlier in this post, he seems to accept the chemical composition affecting the brain state, but not the other way around. Another, him seeing how a brain tumor can affect thought, and then haphazardly coming to the conclusion that only physical things can affect "thought". And I realize maybe science only deals with the physical (measurable), but thought isn't physical either, so philosophy must play a role in helping to discuss the topic.
Harris has a bachelor's in Philosophy, and there is some philosophy here, but it's basis is in actual, hard science.

You can, actually, drop a feather from a roof and figure out the terminal velocity for an object falling towards the earth, if you can control for the other variables. A pound of feathers and a pound of gold, if dropped from high enough up, will both reach the same speed and no faster.

It was not an example he was using, but a study that shows that our brain forms thoughts before we're even consciously aware they're there. That goes directly against the classic definition of free will. It is direct support for his evidence.

Mostly, though, I'd say that having a lack of understanding of this subject, as you admit yourself you likely have, is holding you back here. Keep reading up on it. You don't even have to go with Harris. Daniel Dennet has good stuff on it (though they disagree slightly, but not on the fundamental question), you can search "free will" at Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution is True blog to find a bunch of posts about it, PZ Myers probably has some posts about it at Pharyngula... there are a lot of resources to learn more. I get raising objections and asking questions, but to dismiss it out of hand because it seems counterintuitive, as you seem to be doing here, is not going to advance your understanding or expand your knowledge base.

nastynice
05-25-2012, 06:06 PM
The reflex is still a response to a stimulus, meaning there is still a change in brain state. You cannot have an action without the existence of the brain state for it to happen. If a ball is thrown at your head but you don't see it and no one alerts you that it's coming, you're only going to react after it hits you. If you see it coming, the visual information is going to go to your brain, and your brain will cause the reflex.

Basically: There is no flip side.



ok, I think I get what ur saying.




It's not an "extremely controlled setting" that you'd need, it's a perfectly controlled setting. Literally every single thing needs to be exactly the same in order for this experiment to have a chance of working. I assume I don't need to say that such a thing is, currently and probably forever, completely impossible.



I think as of right now its already possible to create two completely identical controlled environments. The tricky part is in getting the completely controlled "subjects". I'm not too schooled on cloning, but maybe this route can help us get there. If not, at the very least then two clones can be compared against a third similar and obvious correlations should reveal themselves.







There is actual science behind what he's saying. That's what you seem to be missing.


As is with my example. Isn't math a science?










Harris has a bachelor's in Philosophy, and there is some philosophy here, but it's basis is in actual, hard science.


hmm. maybe. So, to me, it seems he's making a claim which is not falsifiable. So doesn't this kind of exit the realm of science and enter a different one, such as philosophy?




You can, actually, drop a feather from a roof and figure out the terminal velocity for an object falling towards the earth, if you can control for the other variables. A pound of feathers and a pound of gold, if dropped from high enough up, will both reach the same speed and no faster.

yea, so its all these variables which he has not seemed to have properly accounted for. He seems to have taken a few examples in which the physical affects the mental, and then just smeared it across the board assuming this is how every minute situation in life works. Which actually may be true, but in no way has he coherently mapped it out, or even attempted to. This is why I feel like he speaks philosophy rather than science.

Do you get what I'm saying? Am I just asking for something I shouldn't be asking for? Does it make no difference?





It was not an example he was using, but a study that shows that our brain forms thoughts before we're even consciously aware they're there. That goes directly against the classic definition of free will. It is direct support for his evidence.

yea, but in two seconds I showed a direct contradiction to his direct support, using the baseball analogy. Not to say that completely throws his study out the window, but he has done a very poor job in explaining exactly how it relates to what he's saying. Or maybe I'm doing a poor job understanding, I dont know, lol

**or is it simply a "non-concrete" example he's giving, maybe for added affect more than anything?



Mostly, though, I'd say that having a lack of understanding of this subject, as you admit yourself you likely have, is holding you back here. Keep reading up on it. You don't even have to go with Harris. Daniel Dennet has good stuff on it (though they disagree slightly, but not on the fundamental question), you can search "free will" at Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution is True blog to find a bunch of posts about it, PZ Myers probably has some posts about it at Pharyngula... there are a lot of resources to learn more. I get raising objections and asking questions, but to dismiss it out of hand because it seems counterintuitive, as you seem to be doing here, is not going to advance your understanding or expand your knowledge base.

Thanks for the info, much appreciated. I will definitely give it a quick look, especially those other guys. I don't know about Sam Harris man, me being ADD like I am kinda just started browsing and watching random videos of his, me being muslim and hearing what he says about islam, truly SHOCKING and disappointing how the guy states outright lies so calmly and confidently as tho its fact. Well, I'm not trying to get into any detail cuz I know religious talk isn't allowed on here, so I'll leave it at that. If he is so ignorant on that subject yet speaking so confidently about it while making blatant errors, it makes me wonder if he is doing the same with this whole "free will" subject, but if you tell me he is legit on this subject, I'll take your word and listen to him a bit more. But definitely gonna check out some of the other names u dropped, thanks

Young and Stupid
05-25-2012, 06:55 PM
I don't want to interject (actually I want to, but I won't); so I'll let Nate dissect your response. Instead, I'll just take issue with the quoted portion as I'm an avid reader of Sam Harris.


I don't know about Sam Harris man, me being ADD like I am kinda just started browsing and watching random videos of his, me being muslim and hearing what he says about islam, truly SHOCKING and disappointing how the guy states outright lies so calmly and confidently as tho its fact. Well, I'm not trying to get into any detail cuz I know religious talk isn't allowed on here, so I'll leave it at that. If he is so ignorant on that subject yet speaking so confidently about it while making blatant errors, it makes me wonder if he is doing the same with this whole "free will" subject, but if you tell me he is legit on this subject, I'll take your word and listen to him a bit more. But definitely gonna check out some of the other names u dropped, thanks

I'm sure you're well aware of the fallacy you've utilized -- his (supposed) misconception of the Muslim religion has nothing to do with the topic at hand. I am, however, genuinely curious -- and the Gods (pun intended) of PSD are watching over us; so we can't delve into the R-word too deeply -- of the "blatant errors" Harris has committed when speaking about Islam. What are these 'errors' you speak of? Be specific please.

nastynice
05-25-2012, 07:07 PM
I don't want to interject (actually I want to, but I won't); so I'll let Nate dissect your response. Instead, I'll just take issue with the quoted portion as I'm an avid reader of Sam Harris.



I'm sure you're well aware of the fallacy you've utilized -- his (supposed) misconception of the Muslim religion has nothing to do with the topic at hand. I am, however, genuinely curious -- and the Gods (pun intended) of PSD are watching over us; so we can't delve into the R-word too deeply -- of the "blatant errors" Harris has committed when speaking about Islam. What are these 'errors' you speak of? Be specific please.

Yea, true they're different topics, but it just makes me question how legit he is in GENERAL. I happened to know about that topic, so when I heard him speaking I was like wat the hell?? I even looked it up to make sure I wasn't the one who was mistaken. But to someone who doesn't know the subject (or, in my case in which I don't know much about the free will subject) they would just believe what he's saying it true.

Like I said, if u guys say he knows his free will stuff, then I'll take ur word, I'm still open to what he has to say on the subject.

I'll pm you what he said, I don't wanna risk the thread getting closed or posts getting deleted. Believe me, I wish I could put it out here, i think in general religion can be a very stimulating subject for us to debate, especially since we have such a wide range of views on it.

StinkEye
05-25-2012, 07:35 PM
I don't think we have any choice but to live our lives as if we have free will. So on that note, IDGAF.

natepro
05-26-2012, 01:56 AM
I think as of right now its already possible to create two completely identical controlled environments. The tricky part is in getting the completely controlled "subjects". I'm not too schooled on cloning, but maybe this route can help us get there. If not, at the very least then two clones can be compared against a third similar and obvious correlations should reveal themselves. It's not remotely possible to attempt the kind of controls for the type of experiment you're talking about. Literally one small thing different, of even the slightest significance, and the whole thing is done. It's just not possible.





As is with my example. Isn't math a science? Math is a science, yes. But what you're talking about in your example is nonsense. No one travels half the distance to something, then stops, then travels half the distance again, then stops, then half again, then stops.. that's insanity. If something is an inch away, then I'm going to travel an inch to get it, not .5 inches, then .25 inches, etc.






hmm. maybe. So, to me, it seems he's making a claim which is not falsifiable. So doesn't this kind of exit the realm of science and enter a different one, such as philosophy? It is falsifiable, I think. If we can show that there is something that exists outside of the brain, making decisions that are not dependent on brain state, then all of this is moot. But of course, that has not remotely been demonstrated yet.






yea, so its all these variables which he has not seemed to have properly accounted for. He seems to have taken a few examples in which the physical affects the mental, and then just smeared it across the board assuming this is how every minute situation in life works. Which actually may be true, but in no way has he coherently mapped it out, or even attempted to. This is why I feel like he speaks philosophy rather than science.

Do you get what I'm saying? Am I just asking for something I shouldn't be asking for? Does it make no difference?
No. I'm talking about the variables involved in dropping a feather to test gravity. You can't just say because there are a bunch of variables involved in that, then there are a bunch of variables involved in this other, wholly unrelated thing.

The facts of this are, really, quite simple: You cannot form a thought without the brain state existing for that thought. You cannot perform an action without the brain state existing for that action. People do not get depressed, or feel love, or excitement, or joy, or anger, or fear, without some kind of chemical reaction causing those emotions. There is nothing that you have said thus far that contradicts any of that.






yea, but in two seconds I showed a direct contradiction to his direct support, using the baseball analogy. Not to say that completely throws his study out the window, but he has done a very poor job in explaining exactly how it relates to what he's saying. Or maybe I'm doing a poor job understanding, I dont know, lol

**or is it simply a "non-concrete" example he's giving, maybe for added affect more than anything?
You showed an example that I showed you was incorrect.




Thanks for the info, much appreciated. I will definitely give it a quick look, especially those other guys. I don't know about Sam Harris man, me being ADD like I am kinda just started browsing and watching random videos of his, me being muslim and hearing what he says about islam, truly SHOCKING and disappointing how the guy states outright lies so calmly and confidently as tho its fact. Well, I'm not trying to get into any detail cuz I know religious talk isn't allowed on here, so I'll leave it at that. If he is so ignorant on that subject yet speaking so confidently about it while making blatant errors, it makes me wonder if he is doing the same with this whole "free will" subject, but if you tell me he is legit on this subject, I'll take your word and listen to him a bit more. But definitely gonna check out some of the other names u dropped, thanks Both PZ and Coyne at their respective blogs, while they may talk about it, are biologists and not as qualified on the subject as Sam Harris is, simply because it's right in his field of study.

And as has already been pointed out, his opinions on Islam don't really have anything to do with this.

nastynice
05-26-2012, 02:42 PM
It's not remotely possible to attempt the kind of controls for the type of experiment you're talking about. Literally one small thing different, of even the slightest significance, and the whole thing is done. It's just not possible.



cop out. People test hypothesis by setting arbitrary parameters all the time. something to some degree can be tested. What happened to the visionary in you? :)





Math is a science, yes. But what you're talking about in your example is nonsense. No one travels half the distance to something, then stops, then travels half the distance again, then stops, then half again, then stops.. that's insanity. If something is an inch away, then I'm going to travel an inch to get it, not .5 inches, then .25 inches, etc.


my bad, I didnt explain what I was saying very well. In my example, no one is stopping then going. What I'm saying is in one motion, from a to b, MATHEMATICALLY speaking, there will always be some distance, no matter how minute, between the moving object and point b. This is obviously not the case in real life.




It is falsifiable, I think. If we can show that there is something that exists outside of the brain, making decisions that are not dependent on brain state, then all of this is moot. But of course, that has not remotely been demonstrated yet.
...
The facts of this are, really, quite simple: You cannot form a thought without the brain state existing for that thought. You cannot perform an action without the brain state existing for that action. People do not get depressed, or feel love, or excitement, or joy, or anger, or fear, without some kind of chemical reaction causing those emotions. There is nothing that you have said thus far that contradicts any of that.


Interesting. So what about the fact that we have "organized thought"? If the physical brain state leads to a "mental consciousness" being achieved, then have we not already demonstrated that there is another player involved other than just the physical brain state? Or is this simply just an illusion? Must it be assumed that consciousness is an illusion?

I think everyone agrees that even if there is something outside of the brain state making decisions, it will still be dependent on the physical brain state. It seems that the disagreement comes into play when we discuss to which degree it is dependent on the brain state. Sam Harris says 100%. Also disagreement in wether this "consciousness" is merely a product, or is it an actual originator of idea.

Also, how could it possibly be demonstrable? Even if something outside of the physical brain state made a decision, once it makes the decision, it will have affect on the physical brain. The physical and the mental are in harmony, one cannot change without causing a change in the other. At this point the only difference is how someone interprets it....which one caused the other?

Don't tell me this ain't philosophy :)




No. I'm talking about the variables involved in dropping a feather to test gravity. You can't just say because there are a bunch of variables involved in that, then there are a bunch of variables involved in this other, wholly unrelated thing.

Of course there are variables involved in what sam harris is stating. You just said yourself that trying to test this would be impossible due to the fact that there are just too many variables which we cannot account for.









You showed an example that I showed you was incorrect.



I showed an example that showed sam harris' example (the study in which he could measure intention 10 seconds before it reached consciousness) to be incorrect. You showed me that everything is based off of reaction to a stimulus in response to me saying that both chemicals affect brain state and brain state affects chemical release. Reading into it I realized what I said makes no difference as far as what sam harris is saying. The confusion was due to me.




Both PZ and Coyne at their respective blogs, while they may talk about it, are biologists and not as qualified on the subject as Sam Harris is, simply because it's right in his field of study.

ok, I'll keep that in mind


And as has already been pointed out, his opinions on Islam don't really have anything to do with this.

I'm not bringing up his opinions on anything, nor does it make a difference to me what his opinions are, I'm bringing up the fact that he takes non fact and presents it as fact in order to try and back up his statements. I just hope he doesn't do this with any type of regularity.

natepro
05-27-2012, 12:10 AM
cop out. People test hypothesis by setting arbitrary parameters all the time. something to some degree can be tested. What happened to the visionary in you? :)
It's far from a cop out. Go back and read the experiment you want to do here. You were talking about two animals doing the exact same actions at the exact same time because they'd been cloned. There is no way it is possible to make that happen. There are WAY too many factors that we just cannot control. Genetically identical, and completely identical in every single way, as you'd need for what you're proposing, are two very different things. It has nothing to do with being or not being a visionary, and everything to do with being a realist. It's just not possible.







my bad, I didnt explain what I was saying very well. In my example, no one is stopping then going. What I'm saying is in one motion, from a to b, MATHEMATICALLY speaking, there will always be some distance, no matter how minute, between the moving object and point b. This is obviously not the case in real life. The problem you're talking about (it's know as one of Zeno's paradoxes, by the way) is not a mathematical one, but a philosophical one.

Take the one you brought up, for example. Before you can go halfway, you have to go 1/4th of the way. Before that, 1/8th. Before that, 1/16th. Before that, 1/32nd. Before that, 1/64th. Before that, 1/128th. Before that... are you getting the idea? Not only, according to this line of thinking, could you never arrive, you couldn't even leave.

This is just reductio ad absurdum. And at this point, I don't even remember what this has to do with what we're talking about.



Interesting. So what about the fact that we have "organized thought"? If the physical brain state leads to a "mental consciousness" being achieved, then have we not already demonstrated that there is another player involved other than just the physical brain state? Or is this simply just an illusion? Must it be assumed that consciousness is an illusion? Organized thought is, I believe, a by-product of us being social creatures. I think another example of it would be the SETI project. You could (and maybe still can, I don't know) basically donate computing power to them, so that when you're not using your computer they download a little information to it, your computer processes it and re-uploads it to them. With millions of computers doing this, they don't have to have one central supercomputer, and it likely allows them to process more data more quickly, and at a reduced cost.

There is no extra computing power appearing anywhere, there's nothing outside of the computers working on the data, it's just a bunch of computers in communication, basically sharing resources.

The same seems to be true for organized thought. People aren't in a trance somehow sharing brain power or something. It is individual people, working toward a singular goal, and working together to achieve it. No extra consciousness is achieved, and the only gain is minds working together, but no "supermind" is formed in reality.

I don't see any way that this is related to whether or not consciousness is an illusion, or why it would indicate that it is.


I think everyone agrees that even if there is something outside of the brain state making decisions, it will still be dependent on the physical brain state. It seems that the disagreement comes into play when we discuss to which degree it is dependent on the brain state. Sam Harris says 100%. Also disagreement in wether this "consciousness" is merely a product, or is it an actual originator of idea.Why would it have to be? If you're just going to propose things that operate outside of the brain state, making decisions and causing emotions, then you may as well propose something that is not bound by operating through the physical brain state while you're at it. There is the same amount of supporting evidence in either case.

Sam Harris says 100%, because there is where the evidence points. There is still no reason I've seen to change that. Until you can demonstrate that a person can make a different decision from the same brain state, or that there is something operating outside of the brain making decisions, I will continue to see no reason to change it.


Also, how could it possibly be demonstrable? Even if something outside of the physical brain state made a decision, once it makes the decision, it will have affect on the physical brain. The physical and the mental are in harmony, one cannot change without causing a change in the other. At this point the only difference is how someone interprets it....which one caused the other?

Don't tell me this ain't philosophy :) Beats me. But I'm not the neuroscientist, or the one trying to demonstrate something we, thus far, have zero evidence of the existence for.

It is not simply how you interpret it. One has evidence in support of it, the other has none. If you want to assert that there is something outside of the brain making decisions, then you need to recognize that you are doing so with no evidence to support that assertion. It is, at best, an assumption.






Of course there are variables involved in what sam harris is stating. You just said yourself that trying to test this would be impossible due to the fact that there are just too many variables which we cannot account for.

No. Trying to test YOUR hypothesis is impossible to test.

What are the variables involved in what Harris is stating?



I'm not bringing up his opinions on anything, nor does it make a difference to me what his opinions are, I'm bringing up the fact that he takes non fact and presents it as fact in order to try and back up his statements. I just hope he doesn't do this with any type of regularity.
Whether or not they're "non-facts" is debatable, but unfortunately not here. Either way, his comments on religion and on neuroscience are two different things.

nastynice
05-28-2012, 12:37 AM
^^yea, I guess, this ***** pretty deep.

at the end of the day he has made a claim which is not falsifiable nor testable (in its entirety) yet calling it science. I DO enjoy what he has to say tho, and although these ideas have come to me before, it was never to this amount of depth. So he's definitely pushing the envelope as far as my thinking is concerned.


The example I gave was mathematics, not philosophy. Or does the idea of infinity being introduced turn it into philosophy? How is it reductio ad absurdum? Yea, it really has nothing to do with anything, I just brought it up to compare it to what sam harris is saying about free will, very thought provoking but makes no difference when it comes to real life.

As far as his non-facts being debatable, they actually aren't. Certain facts leading to certain conclusions may be debatable, but the facts themself are not.

I feel like in the op it is almost more about what is the definition of "me". Am I merely a product of my brain? Or is my brain the physical means in which I carry out intent? Do I control my brain or does my brain control me? I feel like I know the answer, but who knows...many things to consider

whitesoxfan83
05-28-2012, 12:40 PM
This represents a dangerous version of relativism. According to this, there could be a culture with a deeply held conviction that they should stab babies in the eyes with knitting needles. According to your line of thought, this is fine, as the culture has come up with their own philosophy that works for them.

Just saying, making that leap is pretty huge, and it attempts to characterize all ethics, morality, philosophy, and political theory as relative, and therefore interchangeable and equal.

Such a society would not last long because they'd all end up blind.

And as much as I hate to say it all ethics, morality, philosophy, and political theory are relative and interchangeable.

JLynn943
05-28-2012, 06:38 PM
Eh, this doesn't really seem to eliminate the possibility of free will to me. Applying this to a well-known conception of the self by George Herbert Mead (where the self is the interplay between the "I" and the "me"), the author just seems to be explaining the "me" with a neurological basis while not addressing the "I" sufficiently. I would like to see more information regarding the studies he references such as on how "some" conscious decisions can be predicted 10 seconds before the individual is aware, but in general all he seems to have accomplished is argue that free will is limited/influenced by our brain state (as well as the social context we are acting in), not caused by it.

natepro
05-30-2012, 07:48 PM
If you have some free time, the new Point of Inquiry podcast is on Consciousness and Free Will. I think it's about a half hour long.

I'm listening to it now, so I can't really give you a review of how it is, but it should be interesting nonetheless. Here's the link if you'd like to listen, or you can find it in iTunes by searching for "Point of Inquiry."

http://www.pointofinquiry.org/christof_koch_consciousness_and_free_will/

Trace
05-30-2012, 10:44 PM
I would like to chime in a bit since this is relavent to my field of expertise, but have you decided on the definition of 'free will'? I already see relativism thrown around already, that's not a very good sign.

Physicists have their own.
Neurologists have their own.
Behaviorists have their own.
Philosophers have their own.
etc

It's kind of pointless if we don't decide on a single definition and that about that definition without placing Harris' studies out of context. Given the conflict Dennett and Harris have over their ideas of free will, I think most will find it easier and less of a debate to discover each other's differences in their concepts of free will.

As well, Sam Harris' 'research' isn't exactly ground breaking. I think some of you are giving him way too much credit for introducing the concept of free will as an illusion. This is by no means a 21st century idea.

This concept has been floating around for a very long time (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6640273?dopt=Abstract&holding=npg).

natepro
05-30-2012, 11:02 PM
As I understand it, the definition of free will that Harris is working with (and that I think we've mostly gone with in this thread) is if you could rewind the "tape" of your life to any point where you had to make a decision, and from the same brain state, with the same amount of foreknowledge you had at the time, basically with everything being exactly the same, you could still make a different decision.

Trace
05-30-2012, 11:11 PM
As I understand it, the definition of free will that Harris is working with (and that I think we've mostly gone with in this thread) is if you could rewind the "tape" of your life to any point where you had to make a decision, and from the same brain state, with the same amount of foreknowledge you had at the time, basically with everything being exactly the same, you could still make a different decision.

So a dualistic concept of free will?

jtrinaldi
05-30-2012, 11:11 PM
Sorry Mods for this rant, do not say that I am Gay Bashing at all,I am just trying to understand an argument made from other people.

I am Catholic so of course I believe in Free Will. no offense to anyone in here, but It annoys me that Gay people who claim that they are christian say that it is not their fault that they are Gay, citing that God made them that way. One of the main points of Catholicism is that God gave us free will, thus blaming God as the reason that you are Gay is rejecting one of the main points of the Catholic faith.

natepro
05-30-2012, 11:13 PM
Sorry Mods for this rant, do not say that I am Gay Bashing at all,I am just trying to understand an argument made from other people.

I am Catholic so of course I believe in Free Will. no offense to anyone in here, but It annoys me that Gay people who claim that they are christian say that it is not their fault that they are Gay, citing that God made them that way. One of the main points of Catholicism is that God gave us free will, thus blaming God as the reason that you are Gay is rejecting one of the main points of the Catholic faith.

This is a nonsensical argument. It'd be like arguing that black people can't say god made them black because they have free will.

Trace
05-30-2012, 11:18 PM
And this is why I don't use PSD for discussions regarding philosophy or science or philosophy of science. I don't want to be an apologist every time I discuss something remotely controversial (based on life exp. everything is controversial) in either schools.

Johann
05-30-2012, 11:20 PM
This is a nonsensical argument. It'd be like arguing that black people can't say god made them black because they have free will.

I'm pretty sure these are totally different ideas.

Apples to Oranges.

One is physical, and one is emotional/mental.

Trace
05-30-2012, 11:21 PM
I'm pretty sure these are totally different ideas.

Apples to Oranges.

One is physical, and one is emotional/mental.

General consensus within science says they're both the same (in essence, biologically deterministic not socially deterministic). But clearly, people have different beliefs. All the power to them.

natepro
05-30-2012, 11:21 PM
So a dualistic concept of free will?

Basically, yeah. A property dualistic concept. Some people here are more of the substance dualists, others probably couldn't even be classified as that.

But I think we've seen nothing that can remove our thoughts and actions from the laws of physics.

natepro
05-30-2012, 11:25 PM
I'm pretty sure these are totally different ideas.

Apples to Oranges.

One is physical, and one is emotional/mental.

Both are physical, one is just visible. We can point to the guy that had a stroke and woke up a homosexual if you'd like evidence of this.

Everyone that makes that argument (if they're not a suppressed homosexual, of course) cannot remotely pinpoint when they decided to be attracted to the opposite sex instead of the same sex. They simply assume that the way they are is the natural way to be, because it happens to coincide with their belief system.

As I said, it's nonsense.

Johann
05-30-2012, 11:37 PM
General consensus within science says they're both the same (in essence, biologically deterministic not socially deterministic). But clearly, people have different beliefs. All the power to them.


Both are physical, one is just visible. We can point to the guy that had a stroke and woke up a homosexual if you'd like evidence of this.

Everyone that makes that argument (if they're not a suppressed homosexual, of course) cannot remotely pinpoint when they decided to be attracted to the opposite sex instead of the same sex. They simply assume that the way they are is the natural way to be, because it happens to coincide with their belief system.

As I said, it's nonsense.

Show me the evidence. I am open to suggestions.

natepro
05-30-2012, 11:51 PM
Show me the evidence. I am open to suggestions.

Evidence of what? That people are born gay?

Trace
05-31-2012, 12:13 AM
Basically, yeah. A property dualistic concept. Some people here are more of the substance dualists, others probably couldn't even be classified as that.

But I think we've seen nothing that can remove our thoughts and actions from the laws of physics.

I find it odd that people will treat our other organs in a mechanistic way but when it comes to our brain, scientists are accused of being reductionists.

Before even dwelling into the science, it's not hard to conceive of a deterministic world as every action of our every day operates within an endless cause and effect relationship. Already we can see the beginnings of libertarian (not to be confused with the political ideology) logic crumbling apart. Even quantum physicists would think twice about using the inherent unpredictability of subatomic particles and try applying it to our macroscopic world (this is what free will apologists of certain beliefs fail to understand).

As for the science, there's very little doubt within neuroscience about free will as an illusion. There have been experiments where participants have been asked to answer a moral dilemma and based upon the relative activation of the brain centers (whether it was hedonic or domain-general processes of the brain) researchers were able to reliably predict the participant's answers.

There's also studies that have shown differential levels of activation within the lateral prefrontal cortex can predict a participants tendencies (risk taking vs impulsiveness) during a gambling task.

Based on everything that I've read, everything that I've seen, everything that I've researched on, there's very little doubt in my mind that a mechanistic or at the very least, a deterministic process operates what we know of to be 'free will'.

Personally, I subscribe to the idea (or fact, in my field), that experiences of conscious volition that immediately precedes our actions and which we infer to be the cause, do not play a casual role in causing our actions. It is unconscious processes (Bereitschaftspotential) that serve as proximal causes of these actions and are responsible for shaping human behavior.

Regardless, nate, how do you reconcile neuro/bio ethics with common law (not case law, just mean law in general around the world)? I surely can't.

Johann
05-31-2012, 12:18 AM
Evidence of what? That people are born gay?

"Both are physical, one is just visible. We can point to the guy that had a stroke and woke up a homosexual if you'd like evidence of this"

Oh, I thought you were asking me :(

Trace
05-31-2012, 12:19 AM
Show me the evidence. I am open to suggestions.

Start with chromosomes 7, 8, and 10, H-Y antigen, along with the Xq28 region of the X chromosome.

Johann
05-31-2012, 12:36 AM
Start with chromosomes 7, 8, and 10, H-Y antigen, along with the Xq28 region of the X chromosome.

One of the diseases Chromosome 7 causes can be Maple Syrup urine disease.

Now you're making me hungry :laugh2:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/325979.stm
Those studies were in 1993/1999

NYKalltheway
05-31-2012, 12:37 AM
there's no such thing as free will... each person has a few different paths he can take, but no free will

nastynice
05-31-2012, 12:40 AM
there's no such thing as free will... each person has a few different paths he can take, but no free will

so if he has the ability to take diff paths, then isn't that him exerting his free will?

natepro
05-31-2012, 12:40 AM
"Both are physical, one is just visible. We can point to the guy that had a stroke and woke up a homosexual if you'd like evidence of this"

Oh, I thought you were asking me :(

I just wasn't sure what you were asking for.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2058921/Chris-Birch-stroke-Rugby-player-wakes-gay-freak-gym-accident.html

There was a thread on it here, too.

Trace
05-31-2012, 12:41 AM
so if he has the ability to take diff paths, then isn't that him exerting his free will?

Well within his definition, few implies a limitation, which isn't entirely free.

natepro
05-31-2012, 12:45 AM
so if he has the ability to take diff paths, then isn't that him exerting his free will?

I have the ability to reply to this post, ignore this post, or report this post. But I'm only going to choose to do one of those things, and were I to "rewind the tape" and go back to the point of when I first read this post, with the exact same brain state I was in the first time I read it, my choice would've been exactly the same. That's not free will.

Johann
05-31-2012, 12:49 AM
I just wasn't sure what you were asking for.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2058921/Chris-Birch-stroke-Rugby-player-wakes-gay-freak-gym-accident.html

There was a thread on it here, too.

Yeeaaahhh... People seem to think this is a hoax. Me included.

NYKalltheway
05-31-2012, 12:52 AM
Well within his definition, few implies a limitation, which isn't entirely free.

Indeed...

Since you don't have a choice (or at least we're not aware of having a choice before birth) of where to be born etc, the strongest argument is that you are randomly positioned on the planet in a random environment. I saw a post by Nate saying stuff about gender, parents, religion etc which is pretty much spot on.

Of course, that's not really what free will is about. It's part of it.

Free will is having choice. Real life example * Don't know about you guys, but I'm having some crazy *** deja-vu's where I actually know what the guy/girl I'm speaking to is going to say next and as hard as I try not to say what I know I'll say, I end up saying it anyway :D (not sure if what I just said makes sense to even 1% of the readers here :p ) * [these deja-vu's I'm referring to are not epileptic signs, that has been confirmed by neurologists]

Another odd thing is love. You can't really decide who to love. Whoever says you can, well please explain because I think this is a mystery since forever :)

natepro
05-31-2012, 12:54 AM
Yeeaaahhh... People seem to think this is a hoax. Me included.

Who knows. It's anecdotal anyway.


But I don't think you'll find a major psychological association that doesn't believe people are born with their particular sexual orientation, either way.

nastynice
05-31-2012, 12:57 AM
I have the ability to reply to this post, ignore this post, or report this post. But I'm only going to choose to do one of those things, and were I to "rewind the tape" and go back to the point of when I first read this post, with the exact same brain state I was in the first time I read it, my choice would've been exactly the same. That's not free will.

so then doesnt that mean there's no ability to take diff paths? If you rewind and 100 out of 100 time you do the same thing, and you can only possibley do that one thing, doesn't that mean then there was just one path which you could have possibley taken?

NYKalltheway
05-31-2012, 01:00 AM
As the wisdom of my people has said repeatedly in the "ancient" times , you cannot escape your destiny. (and then came religion and gave hopes of free will and poor people > rich people :D )

natepro
05-31-2012, 01:01 AM
so then doesnt that mean there's no ability to take diff paths? If you rewind and 100 out of 100 time you do the same thing, and you can only possibley do that one thing, doesn't that mean then there was just one path which you could have possibley taken?

I could've taken any of the three options I listed. But once the decision was made in my subconscious to take one, there is not amount of do-overs that is going to lead me to a different choice.

nastynice
05-31-2012, 01:10 AM
Indeed...

Since you don't have a choice (or at least we're not aware of having a choice before birth) of where to be born etc, the strongest argument is that you are randomly positioned on the planet in a random environment. I saw a post by Nate saying stuff about gender, parents, religion etc which is pretty much spot on.

Of course, that's not really what free will is about. It's part of it.

Free will is having choice. Real life example * Don't know about you guys, but I'm having some crazy *** deja-vu's where I actually know what the guy/girl I'm speaking to is going to say next and as hard as I try not to say what I know I'll say, I end up saying it anyway :D (not sure if what I just said makes sense to even 1% of the readers here :p ) * [these deja-vu's I'm referring to are not epileptic signs, that has been confirmed by neurologists]

Another odd thing is love. You can't really decide who to love. Whoever says you can, well please explain because I think this is a mystery since forever :)

yea, well we're probably all born with certain characteristics varying in type and degree, making different people more/less likely to act in particular ways, but that doesn't necessarily take the concept of free will out of the equation. Like all these studies about behavior pattern and its neurological basis, they're all trends and similarities that we see, its not necessarily you are just born as such, period.. Nothings really so specific to the point that 100% of people will all act exactly a

Dude, I hella feel u on that deja vu thing, sometimes I'll just be strolling and I already know a certain person is gonna come around the corner and then it happens, its like wtf!! trips me out

natepro
05-31-2012, 01:25 AM
yea, well we're probably all born with certain characteristics varying in type and degree, making different people more/less likely to act in particular ways, but that doesn't necessarily take the concept of free will out of the equation. Like all these studies about behavior pattern and its neurological basis, they're all trends and similarities that we see, its not necessarily you are just born as such, period.. Nothings really so specific to the point that 100% of people will all act exactly a

Dude, I hella feel u on that deja vu thing, sometimes I'll just be strolling and I already know a certain person is gonna come around the corner and then it happens, its like wtf!! trips me out

There are WAY too many factors that go into making up a person and their responses to various things to ever be able to say "100% of people will act exactly" any way. It just can't be done.

But that doesn't really have anything to do with whether or not there is free will.

Trace
05-31-2012, 01:32 AM
yea, well we're probably all born with certain characteristics varying in type and degree, making different people more/less likely to act in particular ways, but that doesn't necessarily take the concept of free will out of the equation. Like all these studies about behavior pattern and its neurological basis, they're all trends and similarities that we see, its not necessarily you are just born as such, period.. Nothings really so specific to the point that 100% of people will all act exactly a

Dude, I hella feel u on that deja vu thing, sometimes I'll just be strolling and I already know a certain person is gonna come around the corner and then it happens, its like wtf!! trips me out

That's already soft determinism which is in no way compatible with libertarian free will.

That's not what neuroscience is saying. Determinism does not imply fatalism.

As for just 'trends and similarities'? Not really.

Cognitive biases like introspection illusion are quite fun to manipulate in experiments.

nastynice
05-31-2012, 01:43 AM
There are WAY too many factors that go into making up a person and their responses to various things to ever be able to say "100% of people will act exactly" any way. It just can't be done.

But that doesn't really have anything to do with whether or not there is free will.

yea, I see what ur saying. We all had some kind of reaction to some original stimulus or something, and I guess its true that everything we do could somewhat be said to be a reaction, to something which was previously done, or to something which just physically is in our brain. But I guess thats what life is, its all based off of stimulus, be it physical, chemical, visual, auditory, etc., its all that we know and are

nastynice
05-31-2012, 01:46 AM
That's already soft determinism which is in no way compatible with libertarian free will.

That's not what neuroscience is saying. Determinism does not imply fatalism.

As for just 'trends and similarities'? Not really.

Cognitive biases like introspection illusion are quite fun to manipulate in experiments.

yea I guess many things do go beyond trends and similarities, true there are certain things which we can manipulate to very exact degrees, I really don't know too much about it myself

natepro
07-18-2012, 01:47 PM
This is a bit of a random top, and this can probably be moved to the science forum now, but I'm reading Harris' book The Moral Landscape and he raises an interesting point I'd not thought of before:


Where do our thoughts come from? Obviously we think we are the author or our thoughts, but that is clearly not the case. If there is a bottle of water sitting in front of you, you do not think "I should think about drinking that water," followed by "I should drink that water." You simply have the thought to drink it, or not to. The thought arises out of your unconscious mind without you being aware it is there until it is there.

Does that make sense?

GGGGG-Men
07-18-2012, 01:50 PM
1. LOVE THAT BOOK

2. Yes makes perfect sense. You are conditioned to think, feel and act as you do.

natepro
07-18-2012, 01:54 PM
1. LOVE THAT BOOK

2. Yes makes perfect sense. You are conditioned to think, feel and act as you do.

It's been quite good. The amount of footnotes he have is just impressive. It's like 1/3rd of the book. I thought I was just getting about halfway into it, then realized I'm almost done. But I'm quite enjoying the read.

Young and Stupid
07-18-2012, 10:21 PM
It's been quite good. The amount of footnotes he have is just impressive. It's like 1/3rd of the book. I thought I was just getting about halfway into it, then realized I'm almost done. But I'm quite enjoying the read.

Finally picked that up, huh?

Yeah, I was actually a little bummed out when I finished the book. As you said, the footnotes take up so many pages that it makes the book appear much longer than it really is. When I turned the page and saw that I was done, my initial reaction was: "Aw, that's it?"

Of course, it's preposterous to proclaim "that's it?" because there's so much substance there, but still.

SugeKnight
07-19-2012, 02:19 AM
neat

Leftcoast_yg
07-19-2012, 04:26 AM
Check out my new post of Free Will and Rationality before quoting.

hoggin88
07-19-2012, 08:48 AM
Check out my new post of Free Will and Rationality before quoting.

Feel like including any science or even philosophy in your quote? Because quoting a holy book is not going to be convincing.

natepro
07-19-2012, 11:06 AM
I imagine this will be deleted, but, given that I have no idea what is and isn't deleted anymore:

This presupposes that we believe we have free will to begin with, which we don't. Given that "you think you have free will" seems to be a major foundation of the argument here, then removing it sends the rest of this falling to the ground into a useless pile of nothingness. The rest of it is just pointless word games masquerading as intelligent discourse.

Angry Norwegian
07-19-2012, 11:17 AM
Philosophy Forum...

StinkEye
07-19-2012, 11:41 AM
lol @ OP

religious people eat this bull **** up

nastynice
07-19-2012, 12:25 PM
Philosophy Forum...

I second a philosophy/religion forum. With such diversity on this board its a shame we gotta tip toe around so many deep and heavy issues and ideas

nastynice
07-19-2012, 01:03 PM
so I kinda agree with both sides on this to a certain degree.

For those who believe there is no such thing as free will, what could possibly convince you otherwise? I mean, as far as we know, we can demonstrably prove free will over and over again, but the answer from you seems to be, no it actually wasn't free will, what you did was so due to your past experiences/emotions leading to your current brain state. So at this point, it doesn't seem a topic which you can possibly change your view on, because past me (or anyone) exerting my "will" to demonstrate it, what else can possibly be done to provide evidence for the opposite side of this argument?

GGGGG-Men
07-19-2012, 01:18 PM
I second a philosophy/religion forum. With such diversity on this board its a shame we gotta tip toe around so many deep and heavy issues and ideas

The political forum used to be Politics and Religion, but people couldn't behave.

natepro
07-19-2012, 01:20 PM
so I kinda agree with both sides on this to a certain degree.

For those who believe there is no such thing as free will, what could possibly convince you otherwise? I mean, as far as we know, we can demonstrably prove free will over and over again, but the answer from you seems to be, no it actually wasn't free will, what you did was so due to your past experiences/emotions leading to your current brain state. So at this point, it doesn't seem a topic which you can possibly change your view on, because past me (or anyone) exerting my "will" to demonstrate it, what else can possibly be done to provide evidence for the opposite side of this argument?

I have yet to see free will proven demonstrably over and over again.

I've seen the illusion of free will demonstrated, just as we can demonstrate optical illusions, but it doesn't mean either actually exists.


We can show this very simply: When did you decide to type out that post and hit reply? Did you decide you were going to decide to do it, or did the idea simply arise in your mind? Obviously the second is true, so... where did that thought come from? Obviously not your conscious mind, or you would've been aware of it before you made the decision. Even if you'd been torn on the decision, contemplating that decision had to arise from somewhere, and again it was not your conscious mind. Your brain state, influenced by the posts you read, the things going on around you, the sight of the white box where your text would go, etc., all influenced your decision, but you couldn't go back and make a different decision, because you didn't really make the initial one that led to what I'm replying to.

nastynice
07-19-2012, 02:55 PM
I have yet to see free will proven demonstrably over and over again.

I've seen the illusion of free will demonstrated, just as we can demonstrate optical illusions, but it doesn't mean either actually exists.


We can show this very simply: When did you decide to type out that post and hit reply? Did you decide you were going to decide to do it, or did the idea simply arise in your mind? Obviously the second is true, so... where did that thought come from? Obviously not your conscious mind, or you would've been aware of it before you made the decision. Even if you'd been torn on the decision, contemplating that decision had to arise from somewhere, and again it was not your conscious mind. Your brain state, influenced by the posts you read, the things going on around you, the sight of the white box where your text would go, etc., all influenced your decision, but you couldn't go back and make a different decision, because you didn't really make the initial one that led to what I'm replying to.

ok yea, what I mean is we can demonstrably prove the "illusion" of free will over and over again, but outside of this "illusion" how could it be possible to show free will?

Like at a certain point, don't we just have to accept the definition of free will as a human making a choice of their own accord? Of course our past events shape us into who we are and how we perceive things, I don't see how anyone can argue against that, but at the same time does that make us slave to our physical state? I don't think so. Or else what is it that differentiates the non living (subject 100% to and slave of laws of nature) from the living?

The definition of free will, and how that translates to reality, seems to be very blurry in itself, making this whole topic very unclear. According to your definition, is proving free will even a possibility?

nastynice
07-19-2012, 02:57 PM
The political forum used to be Politics and Religion, but people couldn't behave.

:(

Its understandable tho, with the attitudes some people bring (maybe myself included ;)) I can actually see things getting pretty ugly pretty quickly

natepro
07-19-2012, 03:12 PM
ok yea, what I mean is we can demonstrably prove the "illusion" of free will over and over again, but outside of this "illusion" how could it be possible to show free will?

Like at a certain point, don't we just have to accept the definition of free will as a human making a choice of their own accord? Of course our past events shape us into who we are and how we perceive things, I don't see how anyone can argue against that, but at the same time does that make us slave to our physical state? I don't think so. Or else what is it that differentiates the non living (subject 100% to and slave of laws of nature) from the living?

The definition of free will, and how that translates to reality, seems to be very blurry in itself, making this whole topic very unclear. According to your definition, is proving free will even a possibility?

The problem is, this ignores the level to which we can show, using fMRI, that it is an illusion. You can't just hand wave that away as you seem to be trying to do here.

The thing that separates us from the non-living is that we are, obviously, living. That doesn't mean we're not slave to the laws of nature, though. We're still effected in just the same way by the four fundamental forces (gravity, strong and weak nuclear force, electromagnetism). We're still subject to the same laws of physics as every other non-living thing. If you would like to show evidence that we're not, as you're seem to be proposing here, then you're welcome to do so, but it's an absurdly uphill climb you're creating for yourself by doing so.

The definition of free will seems pretty clear: At any moment, are you free to make any possible decision, or is the decision you will make dictate by your physical brain state?

If we transplanted any one of us into the mind of Hitler, but changed not a single thing, down to a single atom, in doing so, would we be able to make any decisions differently than he did? There is nothing to support this idea. If we could, however, then it would be exactly what we mean by free will.

And none of this addressed the questions I asked you, the most important being: Where do your thoughts come from?

flips333
07-19-2012, 04:44 PM
This is college dorm room stoned at 5 in the morning BS. (I have a summer student who brought this up with me... God summer students are the bane of my existence). If there was no free will, then by god behavior would be a hell of a lot easier to predict. Without some form of free will then Psych studies would account for 99.9 % of the variance like physics studies can.

flips333
07-19-2012, 05:00 PM
The problem is, this ignores the level to which we can show, using fMRI, that it is an illusion. You can't just hand wave that away as you seem to be trying to do here.

The thing that separates us from the non-living is that we are, obviously, living. That doesn't mean we're not slave to the laws of nature, though. We're still effected in just the same way by the four fundamental forces (gravity, strong and weak nuclear force, electromagnetism). We're still subject to the same laws of physics as every other non-living thing. If you would like to show evidence that we're not, as you're seem to be proposing here, then you're welcome to do so, but it's an absurdly uphill climb you're creating for yourself by doing so.

The definition of free will seems pretty clear: At any moment, are you free to make any possible decision, or is the decision you will make dictate by your physical brain state?

If we transplanted any one of us into the mind of Hitler, but changed not a single thing, down to a single atom, in doing so, would we be able to make any decisions differently than he did? There is nothing to support this idea. If we could, however, then it would be exactly what we mean by free will.

And none of this addressed the questions I asked you, the most important being: Where do your thoughts come from?

The hitler example makes no sense because you can't transport someone into hitler and to chane one molecule. That is sill, and would require you to believe in dualism (which from my interactions with you... I think I can assume you are not)... Free will the ability to chose comes not from some mythical thing but from our brains itself. If you want to argue that because a brain impulse precedes an action there is no free will then fine but you are making a leap there that seems pretty astronomical.

Your clear definition is a cop out honestly,and really you are arguing that dualism is silly, which it is, but most solid neuroscentists would tell you that to claim where a thought came from in the real world ( you might be able to create some clever experiment to do this but then your results are only applicable to that very specific and likely clever situation.) is very very very hard.

We are probability machines, you can prime us and make behaviors more likely or less likely,but you can't predict it perfectly. There is random error in the system, people don't do what they should. You can't look at one region lighting up to something that is not the constituents of the behavior itself and perfectly predict behavior.

That and fMRI and PET are in no way perfect pictures of the brain.... Temporally or spatially both are extremely flawed, and then the statistical conversion to a standard space, and the hoops jumped through to create the statistics showing what is and what isn't significant are all flawed... I'm not saying its not valuable, but trust me when I say you should read it with a grain of salt... Often times they have these wonderful things lighting up, but they have no correlation to behaviors in the real world. Neuroscience is growing more and more away from caring what their results mean for a person not laying down in a 5 tesla magnet.

flips333
07-19-2012, 05:03 PM
ok yea, what I mean is we can demonstrably prove the "illusion" of free will over and over again, but outside of this "illusion" how could it be possible to show free will?

Like at a certain point, don't we just have to accept the definition of free will as a human making a choice of their own accord? Of course our past events shape us into who we are and how we perceive things, I don't see how anyone can argue against that, but at the same time does that make us slave to our physical state? I don't think so. Or else what is it that differentiates the non living (subject 100% to and slave of laws of nature) from the living?

The definition of free will, and how that translates to reality, seems to be very blurry in itself, making this whole topic very unclear. According to your definition, is proving free will even a possibility?

It's not interesting. People go out and attempt to show situations where we think we have control but dont, and for the most part pass that off as a lack of free will. Numerous of these clever little studies fail, and to "proove it" you would have to be able to perfectly predict complex behavior.

flips333
07-19-2012, 05:10 PM
This is a bit of a random top, and this can probably be moved to the science forum now, but I'm reading Harris' book The Moral Landscape and he raises an interesting point I'd not thought of before:


Where do our thoughts come from? Obviously we think we are the author or our thoughts, but that is clearly not the case. If there is a bottle of water sitting in front of you, you do not think "I should think about drinking that water," followed by "I should drink that water." You simply have the thought to drink it, or not to. The thought arises out of your unconscious mind without you being aware it is there until it is there.

Does that make sense?

Sam Harris is more a philosopher than a scientist, he's a pop writer trying o write science for the masses, makes it cool and controversial,but it doesn'tt make him right. His claim of knowing where the thought comes from is just as BS as any other theory.


But dear lord I wish I had his skill at writing pop science: doing actual science is hard, and getting a job doing it is even harder.

GGGGG-Men
07-19-2012, 05:14 PM
:(

Its understandable tho, with the attitudes some people bring (maybe myself included ;)) I can actually see things getting pretty ugly pretty quickly

yeah it got hostile....I did as well. Hard not to with that topic.

nastynice
07-19-2012, 06:08 PM
The problem is, this ignores the level to which we can show, using fMRI, that it is an illusion. You can't just hand wave that away as you seem to be trying to do here.


I'm not trying to hand wave it away, I guess I'm just not familiar with fMRI.


The thing that separates us from the non-living is that we are, obviously, living. That doesn't mean we're not slave to the laws of nature, though. We're still effected in just the same way by the four fundamental forces (gravity, strong and weak nuclear force, electromagnetism). We're still subject to the same laws of physics as every other non-living thing. If you would like to show evidence that we're not, as you're seem to be proposing here, then you're welcome to do so, but it's an absurdly uphill climb you're creating for yourself by doing so.


No, that's not what I meant. Let's say someone kicks a rock down a hill, the rock has absolutely no control over its path, it can't choose to veer right or left, it is 100% subject to laws or physics or whatever. Whereas a person stumbling down a hill does have certain extent of choice, it can to some degree choose in which manner to affect its path. I'm not saying living things are not subject to physical law.


The definition of free will seems pretty clear: At any moment, are you free to make any possible decision, or is the decision you will make dictate by your physical brain state?

If we transplanted any one of us into the mind of Hitler, but changed not a single thing, down to a single atom, in doing so, would we be able to make any decisions differently than he did? There is nothing to support this idea. If we could, however, then it would be exactly what we mean by free will.


I can't say you're wrong. But in reality what ur saying makes no sense. I'm NOT hitler, period. I am me, that's it. I'm not saying I necessarily disagree with you, but what I'm having trouble wrapping my head around is the certainty, or the science label, people seem to be putting on this concept. To me if falls more along the lines of questions such as, is conscious actually real? Is life a dream or figment of imagination? I mean you can't really say one way or another, but the reality is at a certain point you just have to accept life as it is.

Of course everything we are, everything about us, is based off of stimulus, be it internal or external. What else is there? There's nothing else to life but stimulus and the reactions these stimulus produce. Yet you're saying the only way to prove free will is to show something outside of this. That makes no sense, cuz what else is there? You've encompassed everything we know of life and say it cannot be attached to any of this, show something outside of this. This makes no sense to me.


And none of this addressed the questions I asked you, the most important being: Where do your thoughts come from?

My thoughts come from my mind. My experiences. My understanding. As does everybodys.

nastynice
07-19-2012, 06:12 PM
Sam Harris is more a philosopher than a scientist, he's a pop writer trying o write science for the masses, makes it cool and controversial,but it doesn'tt make him right. His claim of knowing where the thought comes from is just as BS as any other theory.


But dear lord I wish I had his skill at writing pop science: doing actual science is hard, and getting a job doing it is even harder.

Thank you. This was exactly what I thought when I saw a couple of his speeches, and I thought it was blatantly obvious. But for a minute there I thought I was the only one seeing it as such.

He DOES bring up some powerful ideas of philosophy and I"m not trying to dismiss the things he says, but he seems to be trying to sell it as science which is where starts becoming hard to follow.

natepro
07-19-2012, 07:29 PM
Sam Harris is more a philosopher than a scientist, he's a pop writer trying o write science for the masses, makes it cool and controversial,but it doesn'tt make him right. His claim of knowing where the thought comes from is just as BS as any other theory.


But dear lord I wish I had his skill at writing pop science: doing actual science is hard, and getting a job doing it is even harder.

Sam Harris has a PhD is neuroscience and did his PhD work in studying this very thing using fMRI. There's no doubt that philosophy is involved in his argument, but you cannot question whether or not he's a scientist.

He's also not the only one supporting this idea.

natepro
07-19-2012, 07:32 PM
This is college dorm room stoned at 5 in the morning BS. (I have a summer student who brought this up with me... God summer students are the bane of my existence). If there was no free will, then by god behavior would be a hell of a lot easier to predict. Without some form of free will then Psych studies would account for 99.9 % of the variance like physics studies can.
A lack of free will doesn't mean behavior will be predictable. Unless we can tap into the unconscious mind, and interpret things before they ever hit the conscious mind, then it's entirely impossible. Nor has anyone, that I've seen, said it is.

But to act as if we can make any decision at any point in time, regardless of our brain state, is to deny that are brains are physical machines subject to the laws of physics. It's as simple as that.

NYMetros
07-19-2012, 07:32 PM
I think I'm too dumb to understand the bolded part in the OP, cause I don't get it. I'm pretty sure I have free will though.

natepro
07-19-2012, 07:43 PM
I'm not trying to hand wave it away, I guess I'm just not familiar with fMRI.


No, that's not what I meant. Let's say someone kicks a rock down a hill, the rock has absolutely no control over its path, it can't choose to veer right or left, it is 100% subject to laws or physics or whatever. Whereas a person stumbling down a hill does have certain extent of choice, it can to some degree choose in which manner to affect its path. I'm not saying living things are not subject to physical law.




I can't say you're wrong. But in reality what ur saying makes no sense. I'm NOT hitler, period. I am me, that's it. I'm not saying I necessarily disagree with you, but what I'm having trouble wrapping my head around is the certainty, or the science label, people seem to be putting on this concept. To me if falls more along the lines of questions such as, is conscious actually real? Is life a dream or figment of imagination? I mean you can't really say one way or another, but the reality is at a certain point you just have to accept life as it is.

Of course everything we are, everything about us, is based off of stimulus, be it internal or external. What else is there? There's nothing else to life but stimulus and the reactions these stimulus produce. Yet you're saying the only way to prove free will is to show something outside of this. That makes no sense, cuz what else is there? You've encompassed everything we know of life and say it cannot be attached to any of this, show something outside of this. This makes no sense to me.



My thoughts come from my mind. My experiences. My understanding. As does everybodys.

Your thoughts come from your mind, yes.

Your mind is subject to the laws of physics.

One brain state cannot give you two different outcomes.

You cannot keep the same brain state, but make a different decision.

Thoughts are not magic, and they do not appear out of thin air.


To quote directly from Harris' book:

"The truth seems inescapable: I, as the subject of my experience, cannot know what I will next think or do until a thought or intention arises; and thoughts and intentions are caused by physical events and mental stirrings of which I am not aware."


Until the idea enters your head that you want a drink of water, you don't know that you will want a drink of water. Until the idea enters your head that you're going to reply or not reply to this post, you don't know whether or not you will reply to this post. How can you claim to have free will, when you can't even know what thought will next enter your own mind?

Trace
07-19-2012, 09:22 PM
Harris isn't the only one with these ideas. It's a commonly accepted idea within philosophy and certain disciplines within science. I do think that neuroscientists make the mistake of ascribing any potential of free will or agency to be consciousness. Consciousness isn't a thing, it's a phenomena resulting from a process.

Showing that mental activity is preconscious is not indicative of a deterministic process.

Trace
07-19-2012, 09:41 PM
This is college dorm room stoned at 5 in the morning BS. (I have a summer student who brought this up with me... God summer students are the bane of my existence). If there was no free will, then by god behavior would be a hell of a lot easier to predict. Without some form of free will then Psych studies would account for 99.9 % of the variance like physics studies can.

Or everything IS predetermined but it's unpredictable because we don't know enough.

flips333
07-19-2012, 10:43 PM
Sam Harris has a PhD is neuroscience and did his PhD work in studying this very thing using fMRI. There's no doubt that philosophy is involved in his argument, but you cannot question whether or not he's a scientist.

He's also not the only one supporting this idea.

where does he do his work now? yes he got the education... but is he doing research now...? maybe i am wrong but i dont see how he would even have the time to. I see that he's still publishing every now and then but most of his "work" is in popular culture not peer reviewed journals.

flips333
07-19-2012, 10:55 PM
A lack of free will doesn't mean behavior will be predictable. Unless we can tap into the unconscious mind, and interpret things before they ever hit the conscious mind, then it's entirely impossible. Nor has anyone, that I've seen, said it is.

But to act as if we can make any decision at any point in time, regardless of our brain state, is to deny that are brains are physical machines subject to the laws of physics. It's as simple as that.

this is silly... you want to argue with dualists fine... you want to make a semantic argument fine...but that doesn't change that this is just mental masturbation that cant be shown either way.

what even is the unconscious mind? its bull crap...its a way of saying the **** we dont know... must've come from somewhere, we dont know, so its the unconscious. ooooooooooohhhhhoooooooo.

the truth is neuroscience is in its infancy and we have the equivalent of a stone axe to examine this stuff.

can you do anything at any given moment... no thats silly. If you are going to set the bar so high and say free will is you can do anything any time yes you can knock that down.... but any extreeme argument in behavioral science is really really likely to fail (cant think of one that doesnt). If free will is when presented with choices one sometimes makes an actual choice then yes.... free will exists.

nastynice
07-19-2012, 11:37 PM
Or everything IS predetermined but it's unpredictable because we don't know enough.


I guess I just derive from a different school of thought. I know some people are very into it, thinking life isn't in their hands, and everything is destiny, destiny this destiny that, and I DO agree with this to a certain degree. Obviously you can't choose what situation you're born into. But at the same time I can't be blind to the idea that people have to at one point or another just get off their *** and make **** happen, and take responsibility for what it is that they have done.

natepro
07-19-2012, 11:54 PM
this is silly... you want to argue with dualists fine... you want to make a semantic argument fine...but that doesn't change that this is just mental masturbation that cant be shown either way.

what even is the unconscious mind? its bull crap...its a way of saying the **** we dont know... must've come from somewhere, we dont know, so its the unconscious. ooooooooooohhhhhoooooooo.

the truth is neuroscience is in its infancy and we have the equivalent of a stone axe to examine this stuff.

can you do anything at any given moment... no thats silly. If you are going to set the bar so high and say free will is you can do anything any time yes you can knock that down.... but any extreeme argument in behavioral science is really really likely to fail (cant think of one that doesnt). If free will is when presented with choices one sometimes makes an actual choice then yes.... free will exists.

The unconscious mind is the part of your mind not that undertakes action without you being aware it's happening. If we didn't have it, we'd have to make our heart beat, focus constantly on breaking, on blinking... I'm honestly kind of shocked by the question.

Obviously saying you can do "anything" comes with qualifiers. But to use the single most simple example, if you are walking down a path and come to a fork in it, your only choices being left and right, there is no reason to think that you can make both choices from the same brain state. True free will would say you could.

natepro
07-19-2012, 11:56 PM
I guess I just derive from a different school of thought. I know some people are very into it, thinking life isn't in their hands, and everything is destiny, destiny this destiny that, and I DO agree with this to a certain degree. Obviously you can't choose what situation you're born into. But at the same time I can't be blind to the idea that people have to at one point or another just get off their *** and make **** happen, and take responsibility for what it is that they have done.

At no point have I seen anyone argue, including Sam Harris, nor do I believe anyone is arguing, again including Harris, that people shouldn't "get off their *** and make **** happen and take responsibility for what it is that they have done." But none of that really changes what anyone in here has said, either.

nastynice
07-20-2012, 12:05 AM
At no point have I seen anyone argue, including Sam Harris, nor do I believe anyone is arguing, again including Harris, that people shouldn't "get off their *** and make **** happen and take responsibility for what it is that they have done." But none of that really changes what anyone in here has said, either.

Maybe I'm jumping the gun here, but it stands to reason that if free will is an illusion, then personal responsibility is just as much an illusion.

What other dots are to be connected from this idea to reality? (that's not a rhetorical question)

nastynice
07-20-2012, 12:10 AM
But to use the single most simple example, if you are walking down a path and come to a fork in it, your only choices being left and right, there is no reason to think that you can make both choices from the same brain state. True free will would say you could.

This just seems like a cop out to me, borderline nonsense. Because no matter how many times someone says right or left in order to show fee will, you can ALWAYS say SOMEthing from you past experiences made that decision for you. I mean, like I said, all this life is is stimulus, internally within ourselves and externally within the universe, so obviously anything we know or experience will be in these terms, how can you throw everything we know and understand this life to be out of the window in order to "demonstrate" free will. You are setting non-demonstrable parameters and asking for something to be demonstrated within those parameters.

flips333
07-20-2012, 12:22 AM
The unconscious mind is the part of your mind not that undertakes action without you being aware it's happening. If we didn't have it, we'd have to make our heart beat, focus constantly on breaking, on blinking... I'm honestly kind of shocked by the question.

Obviously saying you can do "anything" comes with qualifiers. But to use the single most simple example, if you are walking down a path and come to a fork in it, your only choices being left and right, there is no reason to think that you can make both choices from the same brain state. True free will would say you could.

True free will? like nothing has an impact on our choices and we are just as likely to make one choice as the other? No one has thought that in psychology in modern history. Don't need an fmri to tell ya that.

Brain state? Now what does that mean? That given a certain firing pattern right has to happen or left has to happen? Yes you are right, but i could just say that the brain state you are refering to is after someone make the choice. This is why I say perfect prediction of behavior. If this is true i should be able to predict the behavior, even before they approach the crossroads, just by knowing the "brain state". Your mind is you and you are your mind. Anyone who says the choice is independent of the brain is silly, (again anyone who is arguing dualism is just misinformed). It's why the hitler comment example you gave makes no sense.

Unconscious is easy to talk about if you talk about heart beats, but when you start talking about things rising out of the uncounscous into the conscious you have stepped into a philisophical argument. You can't say with any certainty that the unconscious, or for that matter the conscious mind is an actual construct. It's a way in which we think about the brain, but has little to do with cytoarchitecture. The unconscious mind that controls your heart beat and the unconscious mind that controls thirst aren't the same thing... You can group them together as uncoscious processes, but it doesn't make it a single construct. It's not like there aren't neurons that fire in BOTH conscious and unconscious processes. There is no conscious brain and unconscious brain, and you can't separate the brain and the mind.

nastynice
07-20-2012, 12:35 AM
Your mind is you and you are your mind. Anyone who says the choice is independent of the brain is silly,

you can't separate the brain and the mind.

an idea I was trying to get at. nicely put

Trace
07-20-2012, 10:34 AM
an idea I was trying to get at. nicely put

I think you were arguing for dualism though...

nastynice
07-20-2012, 03:41 PM
I think you were arguing for dualism though...

I don't know, maybe. I don't even really know what dualism is. But what I quoted is definitely part of the idea I'm trying to get across

flips333
07-20-2012, 05:16 PM
I don't know, maybe. I don't even really know what dualism is. But what I quoted is definitely part of the idea I'm trying to get across

dualism is the idea that there is something more to who we are than our physical being. That there is part of us that is independent of our bodies, being the mind separate from the brain, the soul separate from the body.

This is an unmeasurable thing... this is not something in the realm of science... So i find it pointless to argue about dualism. You will notice in many of the points made about this you will see that a lack of evidence for the other side being bandied about, because it's not possible to prove either way. I hate it when science holds up lack of evidence for proof of non-existence. That should be the realm of nonscientific folks.

Scientists should be be... if you can understand this oxymoron, open skeptics. Meaning we shouldn't discount the existence of things because no one has shown us evidence, but also shouldn't believe things are settled without much evidence. Belief that something is there even though you can't see it has led to some of our greatest advances, Think of Medel, Pateur and microorganisms... fantastical discoveries because they finally found a way to turn the invisible visible.

I am open to the idea that we have no free will, I am highly skeptical that anything proves this. My evidence on the contrary is the variety of human behavior and it's inconsistency from one time to the next. The ability to chose in some fashion, if you don't want to call it free will fine, is actually as of right now, the best explanation for the seeming randomness of behavior.

nastynice
07-20-2012, 07:00 PM
dualism is the idea that there is something more to who we are than our physical being. That there is part of us that is independent of our bodies, being the mind separate from the brain, the soul separate from the body.


so just for my knowledge, if one admits their consciousness, is this not then showing that dualism must exist? Regardless of its relation to the physical brain, and without getting into what controls what, isn't the fact that consciousness DOES exist pretty much accepting that their IS a mind separate from the brain?

flips333
07-20-2012, 09:58 PM
so just for my knowledge, if one admits their consciousness, is this not then showing that dualism must exist? Regardless of its relation to the physical brain, and without getting into what controls what, isn't the fact that consciousness DOES exist pretty much accepting that their IS a mind separate from the brain?

No you can think of concsiousness as a process of the brain. It's silly to think that that consciousness could exist aside from the electrical impulses in your brain.

nastynice
07-20-2012, 10:03 PM
No you can think of concsiousness as a process of the brain. It's silly to think that that consciousness could exist aside from the electrical impulses in your brain.

true, but same can be said about the "mind", right? The mind and consciousness seem to be one and the same to me, I don't see what would make these two differ from one another

flips333
07-20-2012, 11:30 PM
I don't understand how this relates o the quote... but concsiousness is thought of as part of the mind... Mind can be used to represent the sum of brain processes. But in general I think of the word mind as being a word with many different meanings to many different people.

nastynice
07-22-2012, 12:26 PM
I don't understand how this relates o the quote... but concsiousness is thought of as part of the mind... Mind can be used to represent the sum of brain processes. But in general I think of the word mind as being a word with many different meanings to many different people.

well the whole reason I originally quoted you was because it is being proposed that it be proven that something outside of the mind, or brainstate, or whatever, is actually controlling it. I'm saying (let's just assume for argument sake) even IF something outside the brainstate IS controlling it, the immediate reaction will be a physical change in the brain state, be it electrical impulse or whatever, and so then it will just be said see, the brain state is what's in control. Because all we can measure is the brain state, how can we possibly measure this thing outside of it? If we CAN physically measure it, it automatically becomes a part of this physical brainstate. So, as you said, what I'm saying is brain and mind is just one thing, like you can't somehow separately measure a "mind" doing activity without using the brain to measure it.

Yea I agree, its hard to give a precise definition of what mind is

flips333
07-22-2012, 07:32 PM
well the whole reason I originally quoted you was because it is being proposed that it be proven that something outside of the mind, or brainstate, or whatever, is actually controlling it. I'm saying (let's just assume for argument sake) even IF something outside the brainstate IS controlling it, the immediate reaction will be a physical change in the brain state, be it electrical impulse or whatever, and so then it will just be said see, the brain state is what's in control. Because all we can measure is the brain state, how can we possibly measure this thing outside of it? If we CAN physically measure it, it automatically becomes a part of this physical brainstate. So, as you said, what I'm saying is brain and mind is just one thing, like you can't somehow separately measure a "mind" doing activity without using the brain to measure it.

Yea I agree, its hard to give a precise definition of what mind is

And this is why arguing scientifically for dualism or against dualism makes no sense. It's not a rational observable belief. So attempting to show it is not in existence is as futile as showing it is.

DenButsu
07-23-2012, 10:33 AM
Without reading the entire thread, and I'm familiar with Harris' arguments (I've read his book on the subject), I actually tend to disagree with him on this matter.

He generally goes back to the "neuro" level of the brain showing signs of having made a decision moments before we're cognizant of deliberately choosing that decision ourselves.

But how many important decisions that we make are actually made on that micro time scale? Almost none, I'd argue. Choosing a college, mulling over whether to ask that girl or guy out on another date, deciding what clothes to wear for a particular outing, figuring out the best way to bring up a difficult issue at work or among your friends...

The experiments that Harris continually goes back to are essentially flippant split-second choices between (MERELY two) options that have little-to-no consequence on the real-life outcomes of the research subjects. The reality of our decision making (not between a cup of coffee or tea, as Harris would posit, but in terms of much more complex dilemmas), in my opinion, can't really be reduced to a black and white collection of simple binaries.

But they really don't take into account considered deliberation, which is an entirely different form of decision making. I suppose one could argue that deliberation is just the sum of many tiny predetermined neuro-events that all preceded every step in the decision making process.

But I'm pretty much in the Daniel Dennett camp on this one. Being a determinist doesn't rule out, in practical, effective terms, free will.

flips333
07-23-2012, 02:00 PM
Without reading the entire thread, and I'm familiar with Harris' arguments (I've read his book on the subject), I actually tend to disagree with him on this matter.

He generally goes back to the "neuro" level of the brain showing signs of having made a decision moments before we're cognizant of deliberately choosing that decision ourselves.

But how many important decisions that we make are actually made on that micro time scale? Almost none, I'd argue. Choosing a college, mulling over whether to ask that girl or guy out on another date, deciding what clothes to wear for a particular outing, figuring out the best way to bring up a difficult issue at work or among your friends...

The experiments that Harris continually goes back to are essentially flippant split-second choices between (MERELY two) options that have little-to-no consequence on the real-life outcomes of the research subjects. The reality of our decision making (not between a cup of coffee or tea, as Harris would posit, but in terms of much more complex dilemmas), in my opinion, can't really be reduced to a black and white collection of simple binaries.

But they really don't take into account considered deliberation, which is an entirely different form of decision making. I suppose one could argue that deliberation is just the sum of many tiny predetermined neuro-events that all preceded every step in the decision making process.

But I'm pretty much in the Daniel Dennett camp on this one. Being a determinist doesn't rule out, in practical, effective terms, free will.

that's a really good way of putting it thought I actually don't know dennett.

I wonder where Damasio and the dual process theory required for the somatic marker hypothesis would fall in this debate. Or if he'd even bother with it. I love this quote from him "I have a difficult time seeing scientific results, especially in neurobiology, as anything but provisional approximations."

DenButsu
07-23-2012, 08:40 PM
that's a really good way of putting it thought I actually don't know dennett.

I wonder where Damasio and the dual process theory required for the somatic marker hypothesis would fall in this debate. Or if he'd even bother with it. I love this quote from him "I have a difficult time seeing scientific results, especially in neurobiology, as anything but provisional approximations."

If you have a spare 100 minutes or so, here's a great Dennett lecture on determinism, free will and evolution: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrCZYDm5D8M

GGGGG-Men
07-24-2012, 01:08 PM
Dennett really is great. In the infamous Harris, Hitch, Dawkins group he's very under-appreciated comparatively.

Trace
07-24-2012, 04:49 PM
Dennett really is great. In the infamous Harris, Hitch, Dawkins group he's very under-appreciated comparatively.

He's under-appreciated because he's close-minded. He loves denigrating and ignoring ideas that he doesn't agree with. Almost everything he writes is a polemic against strawmans of people he believes are doing science or philosophy wrong. At least Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris approach foreign ideas objectively and argue against the idea, not the debater.

He also has to stop using words like Orwellian or Stalinesque. Fear mongering may work for the FOX crowd but you're not scaring any scientists away with your poor philosophy.

The Churchlands and Ronnie De Sousa are better philosophers when it comes to stuff like this. Maybe I'm just biased because they're Canadian.

Angry Norwegian
07-24-2012, 10:12 PM
I'm a thoroughgoing determinist, so, we'll go with that.

GGGGG-Men
07-25-2012, 05:02 PM
He's under-appreciated because he's close-minded. He loves denigrating and ignoring ideas that he doesn't agree with. Almost everything he writes is a polemic against strawmans of people he believes are doing science or philosophy wrong. At least Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris approach foreign ideas objectively and argue against the idea, not the debater.

He also has to stop using words like Orwellian or Stalinesque. Fear mongering may work for the FOX crowd but you're not scaring any scientists away with your poor philosophy.

The Churchlands and Ronnie De Sousa are better philosophers when it comes to stuff like this. Maybe I'm just biased because they're Canadian.

You don't think Dawkins or Harris or Hitchens denigrates or tear down strawman?

Trace
07-25-2012, 07:56 PM
You don't think Dawkins or Harris or Hitchens denigrates or tear down strawman?

Maybe outside of the scientific community but not within it. Even against a respected philosopher like Plantinga (who isn't your common apologist), Dennett chooses to denigrate his opponent rather than argue against his points. It was a very disappointing debate and just solidifies the stereotype that atheists are nothing but antagonists. Very disappointing.

Stephen Law's debate was much much better.

DenButsu
07-26-2012, 11:14 AM
I've never seen Dennett do that before, Trace. Got any specific examples?

Trace
07-26-2012, 01:45 PM
I've never seen Dennett do that before, Trace. Got any specific examples?

Watch Plantinga vs Dennett. Dennett basically mocks him for the entire debate.

NYKalltheway
07-27-2012, 08:42 PM
http://www.theoi.com/Daimon/Moirai.html

kjoke
07-29-2012, 09:39 PM
There are always limitations.