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  1. #1
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    The Illusion of Free Will

    I am starting a new thread as I do not want to derail Cujo's fine indictment of Catholicism

    Quote Originally Posted by Looper View Post
    Free will is an illusion, as our erudite friend Backspin rightly asserts.

    Your various brain modules have evolved to drive your behaviour for evolutionary ends. These modules vie with each other for control of your behaviour and one or some combination of them succeed w.r.t. any given project or enterprise.

    Your conscious self is a spectator of your behaviour. Your 'self' acts as retrospective press secretary to explain to the rest of the world the rationalisation for the behaviour which your dominant modules recently exhibited. Your 'self' does this so that you can impress upon the world how reasonable and rational you are and therefore how worthy a friend and collaborative colleague you make.

    You don't choose your behaviour, you retrospectively explain and justify your behaviour for the benefit of maintaining your social standing in the world.

    Free will is a bizarrely convincing self-delusion.

    Not only is free will an illusion but your 'self' is also an illusion.

    There is no 'self' who is in control of your life. There is merely an illusion of self. This 'self' is another evolved mental module. It has evolved specifically for the task of retrospectively explaining your behaviour. It cunningly convinces you that you are in control and that you choose your behaviour. But this is an illusion. We need to convince other people that we are in control of our behaviour in order to make alliances and thrive as a social animal.

    What better way to convince other people of our self-control than to first convince our 'self' that we are in control.
    Quote Originally Posted by Iceman123 View Post
    Then following that logic criminals are not responsible for their behaviour, as they had no choice?

    I find it difficult to separate self from behaviour.

    However if your theory is correct it follows that Catholiscm is redundant as no free will, it was all pre determined.
    Criminals can be incarcerated to

    1 protect society
    2 change offender's future behaviour
    3 deter other individuals from similar behaviour
    4 satiate society's evolved emotional desire for revenge against offenders of the social norms and thus strengthen the social bonds of the community

    None of these reasons requires that some ethereal spirit-like notion of 'free will' (some mysterious homunculus pilot in the skull) be demonstrated to exist as an objective reality rather than as an experienced illusion

  2. #2
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    I believe we has free will as we are individuals. If evolutionarily we were just along for the ride, we would be more harmonious with nature and others. It is our free will that goes against the norm and makes us an individual.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Looper View Post
    I am starting a new thread as I do not want to derail Cujo's fine indictment of Catholicism



    Criminals can be incarcerated to

    1 protect society
    2 change offender's future behaviour
    3 deter other individuals from similar behaviour
    4 satiate society's evolved emotional desire for revenge against offenders of the social norms and thus strengthen the social bonds of the community

    None of these reasons requires that some ethereal spirit-like notion of 'free will' (some mysterious homunculus pilot in the skull) be demonstrated to exist as an objective reality rather than as an experienced illusion

    Who said free will was a homonculus? seems like you is tilting windmills to argue against.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Looper View Post
    I am starting a new thread as I do not want to derail Cujo's fine indictment of Catholicism





    Criminals can be incarcerated to

    1 protect society
    2 change offender's future behaviour
    3 deter other individuals from similar behaviour
    4 satiate society's evolved emotional desire for revenge against offenders of the social norms and thus strengthen the social bonds of the community

    None of these reasons requires that some ethereal spirit-like notion of 'free will' (some mysterious homunculus pilot in the skull) be demonstrated to exist as an objective reality rather than as an experienced illusion
    In principle I can agree with your rather lengthy submission that our “free will” is a development of our environmental experiences as we grow, and accumulate knowledge and understanding.

    As a child, I was obliged by my parents to attend a Church of England Primary school, and CofE Sunday school. The knowledge acquired by that provided a decent introduction to acceptable moral conduct.

    As I grew up, I was presented with a different education, in which my free will chose to accept a modified version of good over evil. To make that choice, I was subjected to the views of others, along with academic attempt to develop my thinking.

    Later in life, such learning and a broader view of humanity, provide the opportunity to choose atheism as a logical choice which avoids the inculcated adaptations of the major faiths. Those faiths are marked by more similarities than differences, and the rather childish imposition of different deities. Thus the differences become window dressing and the similarities drive the logic of good moral behaviour.

    Yes, environmental factors contribute to our choices, but lifelong learning provides us with those choices and the free will to choose, based on accumulated knowledge and understanding.

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    I am going to exercise my free will and not get involved in banal philosophical discussions. Its the sort question raised by mongers in a bar when the footy has run out and will be followed by an argument over which is the best crisp flavour in Thailand

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    Looper's OP sounds exactly like the sort of shit a cult leader would write. "Mental modules" FFS.
    Looper, you should get yourself some crystals to jangle, and organise a "mental module cleansing workshop" in Pai or something.
    You'd fucking mint it.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Switch View Post
    but lifelong learning provides us with those choices and the free will to choose, based on accumulated knowledge and understanding.

    Aaah, now I see the problem for some posters...

  8. #8
    A Cockless Wonder
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    Free Will being an illusion does seem like a highly non-intuitive proposition at first, but I think the more you ponder it the more credible it appears.

    The free will illusion is seductive because we all routinely spend time in our lives internally pondering on future decisions and 'deciding' which path to take and, of course, what are we doing during that time other than exercising our 'free will'.

    But the very act of taking time to ponder options is itself a behaviour determined by the neural connections that happened to be in place at the start of the pondering process.

    Our capacity to remember the past and imagine the future, including where our 'choices' might take us in that future, results in the conjuring of an illusion of free will from an underlying deterministic reality.

    Can you imagine a creature that is just like you in its ability to imagine future possibilities and reflect on past experience. This creature is just like you in every detail but it does not have free will. It only has the illusion of free will. It feels like it is is making free choices due to its ability to ponder options, but really the choices it ultimately makes are determined by its neural wiring which in turn are determined by its past biological and experiential history.

    What would be the difference between that creature and you?

    How do you know which one you are?

    Which of those 2 creatures is the more likely product of a process of evolutionary biology?

    If all of our cognitive characteristics are evolved faculties with an evolutionary rationale then what is the evolutionary rationale behind 'free will'?

    When, on the cognitive evolutionary ladder, did we suddenly acquire this magical gift?

    What precisely is its nature in comparison with the imaginary deterministic creature which is identical in every way but lacks this essential 'free will' quality?

    I humbly submit that it is far more likely that we have a mere illusion of free will than that we actually have this mysterious, and ultimately very hard to define, existential quality.

    If you say your ability to ponder future courses of action before you mysteriously 'choose' one is 'free will' then I think that is a poor man's definition of this sacred faculty.

    'Free Will' is the modern philosophical equivalent of the medieval religious soul. We feel instinctively and intuitively like it is real (I mean you can just feel it right?) but given our humble evolutionary origins it is more likely to be an elaborate internal cognitive conjuring trick.

    We have language and form communities with moral codes. We need to justify our behaviour and we seek to influence the behaviour of others. How can this complex social enterprise proceed unless nature first instils in each of us an illusion of free will on which discussion and negotiation of those moral codes can have a sense of meaning.

    We commonly regard non-human animal behaviour as deterministic despite us sharing our cognitive organ with other mammals so where exactly is the holy seat of 'free will' in our hominid cognitive apparatus and what is its relationship to the deterministic physical neural platform on which the social software runs?

    Positing a true 'free will' seems like a reintroduction of a kind of Cartesian duality which most self-respecting atheists should shun.

  9. #9
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    Too many assumptions to bother with. Your post is a mastabaury aid…

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    The comparison between animals and human behaviour is a red herring, (pardon the pun).

    We are at a highly developed stage of our existence, as are our closest mammalian animal friends. As we do not speak chimp or dolphin, we have to rely on behavioral clues to make such comparison with related species.

    We must accept that we have developed, and continue to do so, along similar lines, over millenia. No short cuts seem possible for any species.

    Accept and understand that, humanity is a highly developed and cognitive species. We have made some progress towards this by undermining the historical imperatives to follow mainstream religious expectations.

    Scientific understanding has given us the choice to accept or reject these imperatives and expectations, at a higher level of understanding. It is possible to accept and understand that chimps and dolphins could be ahead of us, or behind us in cognitive development.

    My biggest fear is not that mainstream religion could hold back our development, but that our scintific understanding could lead us to assume that we are ahead of every other species. Chimps and Dolphins, despite their developed behaviors, are restricted to smaller environments than man is. Can we assume that will always be the case?

    Because such developments take place over very long timescales, such changes appear to be very slow in terms of lifespan. If you insist on such comparisons made in the here and now, it gives forth to such limited vision displayed by Looper.
    Last edited by Switch; 31-08-2022 at 07:11 AM.

  11. #11
    Im bored AF Backspin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrWilly View Post
    Too many assumptions to bother with. Your post is a mastabaury aid…
    So you aren't an atheist then ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Switch View Post
    Chimps and Dolphins, despite their developed behaviors, are restricted to smaller environments than man is. Can we assume that will always be the case?
    I walked into a bar, there was a chimp, a dolphin and an Irishman...

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    Quote Originally Posted by malmomike77 View Post
    I am going to exercise my free will and not get involved in banal philosophical discussions. Its the sort question raised by mongers in a bar when the footy has run out and will be followed by an argument over which is the best crisp flavour in Thailand
    You aren't exercising any free will. It was all determined by your previous experiences.

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    Quote Originally Posted by malmomike77 View Post
    I walked into a bar, there was a chimp, a dolphin and a Canadian...
    .....

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    Just for clarification, is the Op stating that everything is pre-determined and any decisions we make are not a manifestation of free will?

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    Free will can only go as far as chaos theory allows it.

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    I don't really want to get into a philosophical argument about free will. For those that want to have a serious think about it, I suggest reading the following:

    Free Will (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

    There's plenty more reading in the Biography...

    It's a bit more complex than the simplistic "Are you an Atheist" that Skiddy keeps on about...

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    Quote Originally Posted by pickel View Post
    Free will can only go as far as chaos theory allows it.

    But what about post modern, Mathuslian Chaos theory?

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    Quote Originally Posted by DrWilly View Post
    But what about post modern, Mathuslian Chaos theory?
    That only applies to socal, as he feels everything that is wrong in his life is somebody else's fault, and not the result of his own free will.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrWilly View Post
    But what about post modern, Mathuslian Chaos theory?
    Are you talking pre-or post-Weimar?



    Quote Originally Posted by Switch View Post
    Yes, environmental factors contribute to our choices, but lifelong learning provides us with those choices and the free will to choose, based on accumulated knowledge and understanding.
    In a nutshell.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Troy View Post
    ...
    It's a bit more complex than the simplistic "Are you an Atheist" that Skiddy keeps on about...
    As surprising as that concept may be…

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    Quote Originally Posted by Troy View Post
    I don't really want to get into a philosophical argument about free will. For those that want to have a serious think about it, I suggest reading the following:

    Free Will (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

    There's plenty more reading in the Biography...

    It's a bit more complex than the simplistic "Are you an Atheist" that Skiddy keeps on about...
    Your final sentence says it all really.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Iceman123 View Post
    Just for clarification, is the Op stating that everything is pre-determined and any decisions we make are not a manifestation of free will?
    I am stating it as a suspicion with gradually increasing credence rather than a firm belief.

    It is certainly counter to our lived experience. We experience the sensation (or perhaps illusion) of free will when we ponder options prior to choosing a course of action.

    But if you examine that choosing process in detail it is hard to say how the choice happens.

    How does the winning option bubble to the top of the pile?

    I would say it feels like it is driven by currents of emotion and feeling more than by reason.

    The 'reasoning' seems to happen almost more as a running commentary to justify the feelings than in the cold and detached manner that we would associate with cool logical choice making.

    You might bat a few explicit reasons and arguments around in your head while you are ruminating but eventually you just make a choice and that event happens in an instant and is almost inscrutable.

    The reasoning process seems to be window dressing to justify our choices to the world. The choices themselves seem to happen in a less reasoned and more spontaneous and almost subconscious way.

    Next time you are making some trivial decision such as what you are going to eat for dinner try to observe your mind as it juggles the options.

    The locus of free will in humans and its relationship to the deterministic physical world that grounds our existence and governs the behaviour of all other complex systems (including non-human animals) seems very far from clear when you try to pin it down.

  24. #24
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    Thinking about it more it can also sometimes feel like the reasoning process is an attempt to get an outcome to happen, but the outcome is always uncertain.

    Like we may have been reading some health literature and so the health agent activist in our head engages in the decision about dinner and we try to get ourselves to choose the healthy bean salad but the unhealthy fry-up is pushing on it its own merits.

    Eventually we decide something and eat dinner but the decision we make is only sometimes the rational intelligent option.

    I have heard our consciousness or free will compared to a rider on an elephant by the wonderfully intelligent Jonathon Haidt

    It is a great analogy I think. We are like a rider trying to get the elephant to go a certain way but mostly just along for the ride as the emotionally driven behemoth of subconsiousness crashes forward on its inscrutable emotionally driven path.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Looper View Post
    t is a great analogy I think. We are like a rider trying to get the elephant to go a certain way but mostly just along for the ride as the emotionally driven behemoth of subconsiousness crashes forward on its inscrutable emotionally driven path.
    Thus the success of the Eden Club.

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