Everyone thinks everyone else has less free will

Dec 13, 2010 By Charles Q. Choi
Everyone thinks everyone else has less free will
Generally, everyone seems to believe they have more free will than everyone else. Credit: aussiegall via flickr

The subject of individual free will -- whether our fates are beyond our control or whether we command our own destinies -- has been hotly argued for centuries. Now scientists have revealed a new wrinkle in the debate: generally, everyone seems to believe they have more free will than everyone else.

Social psychologist Emily Pronin at Princeton University in New Jersey studies the differences between how we perceive ourselves and how we perceive others. According to her research, we tend to view our own judgment as sound but the judgment of others as irrational; recognize the biases in others but not ourselves; and see ourselves as more individualistic and others as more conformist.

Essentially, people judge others based on what they see. But they judge themselves based on what they think and feel, a difference that often leads to misunderstandings, disagreements and conflicts. Understanding the psychological basis of these differences might help relieve some of their , Pronin suggested.

When Pronin began wondering about other consequences of this asymmetry, "beliefs in free will struck me as a key place to look, since those beliefs really matter for things like how much responsibility we assign to our own and others' actions," she said. In four experiments, Pronin and graduate student Matthew Kugler investigated how much people believed that their lives and those of their peers were guided by free will, findings they detailed online Dec. 13 in the .

In the first experiment, the researchers studied the most classic tenet of free will — the notion that one's actions cannot be determined in advance. Fifty college students were asked the rate on a scale of one to seven how predictable they thought certain past and future decisions in their lives and those of their roommates were, such as their choice of major in college or their ultimate career path. On average, the participants viewed their own pasts and futures as less predictable than their roommates by about one point on that scale.

"By the standards of psychological research, this is a large effect," Pronin said.

In the second and third experiments, 28 restaurant workers and 50 students were asked how many choices they thought were available in their futures and those of peers. The volunteers generally thought they had more pathways open to them, good and bad.

In the last experiment, 58 students created models predicting their own behavior and those of a roommate on a Saturday night or after finishing college that indicated how important personality, history, circumstances, intentions and desires were for outcomes. The volunteers saw their own future actions as most strongly driven by their intentions and desires instead of being predetermined by personality, history, or circumstances. In contrast, they viewed personality as the strongest predictor of their roommates' behavior.

"People have been debating about the existence of free will for ages," Pronin said. "Our research suggests one reason why this debate is so persistent -- people seem to have two views of free will. One view is when they look inwards and are convinced of their own free will; the other view is when they look outwards, at others, and are convinced that those others' actions could have been predicted in advance."

"This work is a terrific advance," said research psychologist Roy Baumeister at Florida State University in Tallahassee, who did not take part in this study. "Most debates about free will take an all-or-nothing form -- either everyone has it all the time, or nobody ever does."

As to why such a difference might have evolved, "when thinking about ourselves, it may be adaptive to believe that we can control what happens to us, and that belief requires thinking that we have free will," Pronin suggested. "When thinking about others, it may be adaptive to recognize the predictability in others' actions so that we can be prepared accordingly."

The scientists are intrigued by the consequences of these differing views on free will, as well as how they might vary across lifespan and different cultures.

"How does it impact beliefs about personal responsibility and guilt?" Pronin asked. "Are people likely to spend more time kicking themselves about things that went wrong in their past because they think they could have controlled those things, even though they wouldn't think this in the case of others?"

Explore further: Early exposure to antidepressants affects adult anxiety and serotonin transmission

Provided by Inside Science News Service

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Bob_B
3 / 5 (11) Dec 13, 2010
May I suggest a third view:
Location: Inside a Catholic Seminary Religion class
Student: Father(a priest is referred to as Father) if God knows everything past, present, and future how can I have a free will?
Father: It is DOGMA - you may not question this, you must accept it with faith.
Magus
3.5 / 5 (10) Dec 13, 2010
I don't think anyone has free will. Including myself. I have never made a decision that was not based on past experience + current input + current state. One has to realize that they are still responsible for those decisions. Just like you wouldn't leave broken functions in your programming if you want the overall program to work properly. You removed the broken code (jail) and try to fix it (rehabilitate).
paulthebassguy
1.7 / 5 (7) Dec 13, 2010
I have free will. I could have decided to not leave this comment, but I decided to.
zslewis91
1.3 / 5 (8) Dec 13, 2010
@bob----god plays no role in such things, for god has not been proven...
@magus----/jail/*/rehab/ you lost me at "i" PS. we arent all /devs/
@paulthebassguy....IE paul the retard guy...obviously beyond your grasp. go read.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.1 / 5 (47) Dec 13, 2010
@Thrasimachus
-You see, this is how we learn about free will- scientists do actual experiments. They don't use word maths.

Thrasymachus
2.1 / 5 (17) Dec 14, 2010
Otto, this study isn't about whether we have free will, it's about how we think about our free will and how we think about the free will of others. It never takes a position on the existence of free will one way or the other. The reason for this is simple: it is beyond the ability of any experiment to determine whether a person has free will or not. No matter how that experiment is designed.
ScientistAmauterEnthusiast
4 / 5 (4) Dec 14, 2010
Otto, this study isn't about whether we have free will, it's about how we think about our free will and how we think about the free will of others. It never takes a position on the existence of free will one way or the other. The reason for this is simple: it is beyond the ability of any experiment to determine whether a person has free will or not. No matter how that experiment is designed.


Shall I cease work on my freewill detection system then? If you have free will, don't rate this comment 5 stars.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.1 / 5 (46) Dec 14, 2010
Otto, this study isn't about whether we have free will, it's about how we think about our free will and how we think about the free will of others. It never takes a position on the existence of free will one way or the other. The reason for this is simple: it is beyond the ability of any experiment to determine whether a person has free will or not. No matter how that experiment is designed.
Sorry, but I would want a scientist who actually studied behavior to tell me that sort of thing before I would accept it. That is, relative 'free will' in the absence or presence of factors which might influence it; genetics, nurture, diet, cell phone radiation, common cold, etc. etc.

A scientist would probably tell me that the existence of these factors would preclude any chance of 'free will' in any sense. And then I could relay this information to you. Would you accept it?
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.1 / 5 (46) Dec 14, 2010
Rather, the scientist would tell me that the term 'free will' cannot be used to describe any aspect of behavior whatsoever, and is therefore inappropriate when discussing decision-making.

I would then consider it's origin and use in the context of history, and surmise that it played a sociopolitical role in configuring western peoples opinions about themselves during the age of enlightenment.
The reason for this is simple: it is beyond the ability of any experiment to determine whether a person has free will or not. No matter how that experiment is designed.
-Because it doesn't exist perhaps? It is a fabrication, a conceptual exigency like the soul?
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.2 / 5 (45) Dec 14, 2010
-And that all that endless discussion and invention of esoteric terms such as 'epistemic horizon' and 'preternatalism' or whatever, to do so and appear to be getting somewhere when you're not, can be disregarded because the the whole thing was an epistemic dead end.

One does not need to be thoroughly schooled in determinism to recognize it's obsolescence.
Javinator
4.2 / 5 (5) Dec 14, 2010
Free will debates are always fun to watch. People HATE it when anyone tries to suggest to them they do not have free will. But I guess that's their choice... ;)

Of course its also fun because so many different people have different specific definitions of what free will is that people are often arguing with each other about completely different things.
Modernmystic
4 / 5 (4) Dec 14, 2010
Free will debates are always fun to watch. People HATE it when anyone tries to suggest to them they do not have free will.


It's funny (strange) what we all take away from these debates, because I tend to see the exact opposite. That some people HATE it when anyone tries to suggest that they do indeed have free will.

I think, maybe, we tend to focus on the "opposition" rather than on what "we" have in common in any discussion.

Then again I'm sure some of you are out there saying "What's this we stuff paleface".
Javinator
5 / 5 (3) Dec 14, 2010
It's funny what we all take away from these debates too, because I tend to see the exact opposite. That some people HATE it when anyone tries to suggest that they do indeed have free will.


Agreed. My bias obviously snuck into my comment.

I guess I just enjoy watching arguments/debates in general where peoples' emotions and biases get in there. Usually makes for an interesting read to see what people base their reasoning on.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.2 / 5 (47) Dec 14, 2010
It's funny (strange) what we all take away from these debates, because I tend to see the exact opposite. That some people HATE it when anyone tries to suggest that they do indeed have free will.
And yet you sir, having a spiritual bent of the calvinistic sort, might also be expressing a bias by suggesting a lack of independent thought?
Modernmystic
1 / 5 (1) Dec 14, 2010
It's funny (strange) what we all take away from these debates, because I tend to see the exact opposite. That some people HATE it when anyone tries to suggest that they do indeed have free will.
And yet you sir, having a spiritual bent of the calvinistic sort, might also be expressing a bias by suggesting a lack of independent thought?


Absolutely, sorry if I didn't make that clear. I was admitting my bias at the same time as pointing out others. Although I wouldn't call it a lack of independent thought. I'd call it a bias towards thinking I have free will.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.1 / 5 (46) Dec 14, 2010
Although I wouldn't call it a lack of independent thought. I'd call it a bias towards thinking I have free will.
So are you saying that thoughts of freedom of choice tempt you during times when your faith wavers? Or that the relative freedom to choose independently exerts itself during those times? Which is the cause and which is the effect? In times of weakness do you start making your own choices, or does deciding things for yourself rather than seeking spiritual guidance make you weak?

Or in either case is the freedom to choose an illusion because your life has been entirely predetermined by a Creature who knows everything from beginning to end?
Quantum_Conundrum
not rated yet Dec 14, 2010
Considering quantum theory calls into question the classical notions of "causality". Calvinism and other forms of fatalism allege that everything is predetermined due to causality.

If there is absolutely no free will and everything is deterministic based purely on environmental stimuli, which are themselves deterministic based purely on environmental conditions, etc, then morality is most definitely an illusion.

I cannot be at fault for my failures if I was always destined to fail. Nor can I receive thanks or reward for my successes if I was always destined to succeed.

This may be the opposite of the claims Hawking made years ago when he examined determinism, but I think it's a joke if you know absolutely that everything is pre-determined and that everything and everyone is merely a product of original conditions, and then you punish someone for their "faults" or even "crimes". But if everything is determined, even this doesn't matter, existence is a joke.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.1 / 5 (46) Dec 14, 2010
Calvinism and other forms of fatalism allege that everything is predetermined due to causality.
Actually, gods will supersedes causality. in a calvinists mind. As the Prime Mover, god gets to determine how things proceed, and whatever you might think about it.

This could be interesting- 2 religionists arguing gods will. Schlag zu.
Javinator
3 / 5 (2) Dec 14, 2010
Even if determinism is true... it's not like you know what your destiny will be anyways. No need to be so nihilistic about it.

Maybe someone's destined to succeed at something and maybe someone's destined to fail, who knows? Might as well just try to succeed anyways. Whether it's destined or not shouldn't really matter or affect how one lives his or her life.

Personally, I believe that everything's deterministic. Doesn't really affect me one way or the other. Just seems to make sense to me. If someone comes at me with something that makes more sense to me I'll probably change my view.
Modernmystic
3 / 5 (2) Dec 14, 2010
Or in either case is the freedom to choose an illusion because your life has been entirely predetermined by a Creature who knows everything from beginning to end?


If he knows everything from beginning to end, how does that preclude my free will?
Modernmystic
1 / 5 (1) Dec 14, 2010
Calvinism and other forms of fatalism allege that everything is predetermined due to causality.
Actually, gods will supersedes causality. in a calvinists mind. As the Prime Mover, god gets to determine how things proceed, and whatever you might think about it.


In that case there isn't a lick of Calvinist in me.
patnclaire
1 / 5 (1) Dec 14, 2010
How much free will does an atom in Brownian Motion have? We can observe its position but not its momentum or vice versa.
Being able to precisely, without variation, the position of a particle is deterministic and non-free will. Any degree of uncertainty and we have Free Will wiggling in.
Sanescience
not rated yet Dec 14, 2010
I suspect free will is eventually going to come down to the human brain's interaction with at some level the "quantum foam" of the universe and it's subtle effects that prevents any classical experiment from being reproducible *in detail*. Much like billiard balls on a pool table that never quite twice occupy the same locations on the table down to the plank level, ever.

The human brain at some point performs state changes based on one electron that purely by "chance" interaction with quantum variations does or does not activate a neuron. From that building block amplified by cascading networks in the brain comes free will.
Yellowdart
1 / 5 (1) Dec 14, 2010
Calvin, much like Augstine wasnt against free will. It is not that you can not chose good or bad, it is that you can no longer chose the things of heaven.

For example, if you during your prime of youth you decide to jump off a tree limb, breaking your back in the process, you can no longer walk or run. Your free will is now confined to the limitations of a wheel chair. Despite still having the choice of whether to jump or not, you can no longer use your legs to do so. Restoration must occur.

Likewise, Adam's fall, enslaved man into the wheel chair.
Yellowdart
1 / 5 (1) Dec 14, 2010
Btw, in the least, if evil can never defeat God, then it follows by default that it will always conform to whatever God's plan is.

Much like the article above, in our bias towards others compared to ourselves...how much more so, does one attempt to judge God, despite knowing even less?
Laimis
not rated yet Dec 14, 2010
It just seems to me, that some of the folks here don't get the idea. The article does not speak of whether anyone has free will or not as a philosophical (or physchologial) aspect of life. It just says, that most of the people think that their actions have more "free-path", than others do. It even warns people by saying about "everything or nothing" discusion topics...
Nevertheless - am I the only one who suddenly realised, that solipsim is not such a worthless idea after reading this?
panorama
not rated yet Dec 14, 2010
Personally I've always felt the opposite of what the article is stating. That might just be another form of personal bias on my part though.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.1 / 5 (46) Dec 14, 2010
For example, if you during your prime of youth you decide to jump off a tree limb, breaking your back in the process, you can no longer walk or run. Your free will is now confined to the limitations of a wheel chair. Despite still having the choice of whether to jump or not, you can no longer use your legs to do so. Restoration must occur
Calvins god knew you were going to do that.

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart" Jer1:5

""Unconditional election": This doctrine asserts that God's choice from eternity of those whom he will bring to himself is not based on foreseen virtue, merit, or faith in those people. Rather, it is unconditionally grounded in God's mercy alone."
TheGhostofOtto1923
2 / 5 (46) Dec 14, 2010
More Calvinism:
""Irresistible grace": This doctrine, also called "efficacious grace," asserts that the saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save (that is, the elect) and, in God's timing, overcomes their resistance to obeying the call of the gospel, bringing them to a saving faith. This means that when God sovereignly purposes to save someone, that individual certainly will be saved."

-Augustine talked about this in City of God. An elect few, chosen at birth to receive gods grace, were born into the city. They tolerated their time on earth and the need to obey mans laws. But they could do nothing to affect their salvation; which means either they were incapable of serious sin, or that god knew beforehand that they would not choose to sin during their lifetime.
Yellowdart
1 / 5 (1) Dec 14, 2010
"Calvins god knew you were going to do that."

Aye, mercy alone, predestined, not by your works.

See Augustine's point is not that God looks down the corridor of time and picks you for having less sin...it is irrelative to your sinfulness, because you have been taken off the scale of good or bad, and placed squarely upon the righteouness of Christ alone.

Yellowdart
1 / 5 (1) Dec 14, 2010
Which leads to the only resounding complaint against Calvin, if that is so, why some and not others?
Why are some used for destruction and others not?

The typical Calvinist response is that, we are all bad. But this resonates further that even fi we were all good, having been created, God is still the giver of life and has every authority over his creation.

And so Calvin, like many who think similiarly, simply trust that since God sees in full and us in part, they default to trusting God in what he has set out to accomplish in full. That man is responsible for his sin is true, and that God is soveriegn is also true. The bible teaches both, and how that all intertwines, man will most likely never fully comprehend.

When Christ asks the cup to pass, he's asking the same thing, is there another way? If there had been...he wouldnt have bled and died for it.
Otto_the_Magnificent
2.2 / 5 (37) Dec 14, 2010
Which leads to the only resounding complaint against Calvin, if that is so, why some and not others?
Why are some used for destruction and others not?
Uh, gods will?
When Christ asks the cup to pass, he's asking the same thing, is there another way? If there had been...he wouldnt have bled and died for it.
There is another explanation for Unconditional Election... that the clergy, and specifically groups such as the Franciscans, Jesuits, the Priory of Sion, the knights of malta and other xian soldier types, would be called upon to commit grave sins for the church in the manner of the joshuan campaigns. This doctrine could be invoked to ease their consciences.
trekgeek1
5 / 5 (1) Dec 14, 2010
Free will does not exist. The universe is indeterministic due to inherent randomness. This means that no future can accurately be predicted by knowing past and present states and applying a perfect model. But I don't think this matters at all. We are circuits, we take inputs and process them into outputs. If we gave someone a situation, measured their response and then set up the situation EXACTLY down to the subatomic particle once again, would they make another choice? Could they? If they do due to randomness in their brain chemistry, was that really a choice or a bit being flipped accidentally? Just my take.
Javinator
not rated yet Dec 15, 2010
Free will does not exist. The universe is indeterministic due to inherent randomness.


What is inherent randomness?
Yellowdart
2 / 5 (4) Dec 15, 2010
The universe is indeterministic due to inherent randomness.


If this is so, then science is fruitless in the end, so is that comment altogether, or any attempt to reason at all.

Posting on this blog was a meaningless endeavor.

Such arguement is already false. To make it alone, requires a non random aspect.

Another way of putting free will is that you can go against what your subatomic particles tell you to do.
Thrasymachus
1.9 / 5 (13) Dec 15, 2010
The statement, "free will does not exist" is either meaningless or false. If the statement "free will does not exist" is true, it was made because it was entirely determined to be made by the laws of physiology, biology, chemistry and physics, then it is meaningless, it has the same relationship to those laws as scratching your nose before you say it does. In other words, if it's true, there's no reason to say it, if there's no reason for it, it's meaningless. If it was made because of a random occurrence in the brain, then it is either meaningless because as above it lacks reason. Therefore, the statement "free will does not exist" is either meaningless (which is a condition for its truth) or it is false. Pick your poison.
Yellowdart
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 15, 2010
Uh, gods will?


Of course, but I'm sure you've heard of many people who struggle against God, much less Calvinism alone for that reason.

There is another explanation for Unconditional Election


This fails on account that sin is paid for regardless under Christ, unconditional or not. The doctrine, comes out of the five points of calvinism, a summary submitted by others against Arminianism. In regards to Joshuan campaigns, Calvin argued against liscence as much as any other. Further, Joshuan campaigns need no justification, as they were a direct command from God to take that piece of rectangular land and kick out the barbaic nations that held it.

The misuse of grace, as if it is a liscence to sin, is not limited to war. It can be an excuse in any facet of life. However, the Bible argues heavily against it, so did Calvin, so did and does most anyone else associated with christian theology.
Javinator
not rated yet Dec 15, 2010
If the statement "free will does not exist" is true, it was made because it was entirely determined to be made by the laws of physiology, biology, chemistry and physics, then it is meaningless


I don't understand your definition of meaningless. What is it that defines meaning to you?

You seem saying that the statement is meaningless because if existence is deterministic then nothing matters because everything is predetermined anyways.

But then why does anything matter assuming that existence is not deterministic?

I just don't see how the statement "free will does not exist" is any more meaningless than the statement "free will exists".
ectoplasm
not rated yet Dec 15, 2010
In WIRED (online) there's an article titled:
"Brain Scanners Can See Your Decisions Before You Make Them", that pertains to free will.

fMRI scans show prescient patterns that correlate to conscious decisions.

( I'd post links, but earlier attempts were blocked by "spam filter"... noobe me! )

..Joe..
Thrasymachus
1.7 / 5 (11) Dec 15, 2010
Free will is not a lack of determination, it is the presence of self-determination. Nothing matters if everything is predetermined, and nothing matters if everything is predetermined or random. The only way things can matter is if something is self-determined.
Determination is not contrary to the freedom of the will, only predetermination and/or randomness are contrary to the freedom of the will.
Yellowdart
1 / 5 (1) Dec 15, 2010

Nothing matters if everything is predetermined, and nothing matters if everything is predetermined or random. The only way things can matter is if something is self-determined.


That's a fairly absolute position. The problem is, is that you are not the only "self". And no one else has to agree that your "self" matters...

So self determination fails. You can give youself no more purpose, meaning, or worth without something outside.

Predetermined does not negate value or worth or purpose. You've most likely owned a pet, in which its very life is dependent upon what you have predetermined for it. When to eat, when to go outside, etc. Does it get distracted, does it ignore you at times? Sure. But overall, it must conform for apart from you, it will perish.
Javinator
not rated yet Dec 15, 2010
Again, you need to define what makes something matter. Just because it's not predetermined is not really a reason.

Matters to who or what?
Thrasymachus
1.7 / 5 (12) Dec 15, 2010
A proposition can only be meaningful if it can be believed to be true or false by some believer because of a reason, i.e. some other proposition believed to be true by that believer. Predeterminism denies that a proposition is believed by some believer because of its relationship to other beliefs held by that believer, but claims that it is believed because the believer is entirely predetermined to that belief because of some prior state and the laws of nature. Randomism claims that it is believed not because of some reason also believed by the believer, but because of some completely undetermined prior event. Suppose a believer believes in predeterminism. If that belief is to be meaningful to him, he must have some reason for believing it. However, the belief in predeterminism tells him that his reasons for believing it have nothing to do with why he believes it, in other words, he has no reason to believe it.
Javinator
1 / 5 (1) Dec 15, 2010
A proposition can only be meaningful if it can be believed to be true or false by some believer because of a reason, i.e. some other proposition believed to be true by that believer.

This sounds to me like this is what your personal criteria is for something to be meaningful for yourself.
However, the belief in predeterminism tells him that his reasons for believing it have nothing to do with why he believes it, in other words, he has no reason to believe it.

I would say that the reason for everything that you believe is due to all of your experiences before hand so I don't really understand your point. This reason for believing something is based on the same precedent for both deterministic and non-deterministic existences. All determinism really says is that in the same situation based on previous knowledge/experiences (exact same in every way) you'd always make the same decision.
Thrasymachus
1.4 / 5 (11) Dec 15, 2010
Actually, it doesn't just say I'd always make the same decision, it says it's absolutely necessary that I make that same decision.

And the criteria of meaning I give you is not just my personal criteria, but the relevant part of the criteria for anything meaning anything to anybody. If someone says to me, "I believe x" it is always meaningful for me to ask "why?" If they tell me that they don't have any reason for believing it, they just do, I have to conclude that they're either pulling my leg about not having a reason, or their belief in x doesn't mean anything to them.
Javinator
1 / 5 (1) Dec 15, 2010
Actually, it doesn't just say I'd always make the same decision, it says it's absolutely necessary that I make that same decision.

That's essentially the same thing.

Basically I believe it because everything seems to be pretty cause and effect. It makes sense that, given the same precursors, I would make the same choice every time. Same causes lead to the same effects.

What you're implying is that to a determinist, since everything will essentially end up in a certain way because cause and effect goes all the way from the beginning to the end, that nothing we do, think, or say matters. That is a nihilistic view of determinism.

Why, if things are not destined to be a certain way, do things "matter" then to you? Maybe it's just how I'm looking at it, but I don't see how actions, thoughts, etc. matter more or less regardless of whether or not existence is deterministic or not.
Thrasymachus
1.7 / 5 (12) Dec 15, 2010
The reason why it matters, Jav is because if free will is true, the at least part of what happens in the future happens because I make a decision that it should happen. I become responsible for the shape of the future, and that responsibility (for at least the part I can shape) stops with me. If determinism is true, then my decision doesn't matter, indeed, I don't matter. I'm just another cog in the great big machine of the universe, running for no reason whatsoever. I'm not responsible for what happens, the things and natural laws that determine me are, all the way back to the beginning of the universe. It might be a nihilistic view, but I see no other way of viewing determinism, short of admitting an overall, divine plan. Since I am a committed, indeed near fundamentalist agnostic, I am unwilling to admit to that latter view. (cont)

Thrasymachus
1.4 / 5 (11) Dec 15, 2010
I have no problem admitting that the phenomenal things I observe can be entirely determined, indeed I am almost compelled to that belief. Insofar as I can view other people as mere things, I can also believe that of them. But no way can I meaningfully entertain the idea that I am entirely determined. And according to my understanding of the rules of meaning and thought, neither can anybody else. If they claim they can, then either they're violating some rules somewhere or they have rules of thought that are totally contrary to mine. If the latter is the case I'm pretty sure meaningful communication would be impossible.
trekgeek1
5 / 5 (2) Dec 16, 2010
By "inherent randomness" I mean that there are things like particle decay which are completely stochastic according to quantum mechanics. You cannot predict when it will emit a particle. I believe that if we could record every input into your brain, and know every state of your brain, we could predict your response which is nothing more than the output of computer processor. Can you think of a good way to demonstrate your brain isn't functioning like a computer processor? And I don't mean about memristors vs transistors, but conceptually. Does a computer processor have a choice? Or is it forced to a conclusion based on states and inputs?
Javinator
5 / 5 (2) Dec 16, 2010
Thras,

First I'd just like to say, this is a nice convo about free will. I love these!

Anyways,

What part of your thinking would change when making a decision in the exact same conditions? When you make a decision about something your brain consciously and subconciously go through the pros and cons and you make your decision. With the exact same pros and cons I don't see how your brain would make a different choice in the same situation. Whether or not it makes one feel meaningful about their lives is not really an argument against the validity of the theory.

trek,

I agree that a brain works like a computer. It's actually a big reason as to why I have a deterministic view. I'm just not so sure about randomness. Our inability to currently predict something may make things seem random to us, but that doesn't make it universally random.
Otto_the_Magnificent
2.3 / 5 (36) Dec 16, 2010
Joshuan campaigns need no justification, as they were a direct command from God
Except that they didnt happen, as the complete absence of evidence for, and a great deal of evidence against, proves. But as a fairy tale with a moral or a metaphor for teaching how to spread your culture at the expense of others, it is valuable.
The statement, "free will does not exist" is either meaningless or false. If the statement "free will does not exist" is true, it was made because it was entirely determined to be made by the laws of physiology, biology, chemistry and physics, then it is meaningless, it has the same relationship to those laws as scratching your nose before you say it does.
Made by whom, and what was the intent for making it? If the maker was a liar or was telling a joke, or reciting verse which the phrase was a part of, then your argument is specious.

Or if the maker did not completely understand the meaning of what he was saying, then it would again be specious.
Otto_the_Magnificent
2.4 / 5 (37) Dec 16, 2010
What part of your thinking would change when making a decision in the exact same conditions?...I agree that a brain works like a computer. It's actually a big reason as to why I have a deterministic view.
All brains are different, of course, and accrue damage and defects from use and abuse. Brains age and so function differently over the course of time, and they are subject to influence from a dizzying range of phenomena.

To consider 'the exact same conditions' in a clinical setting is therefore meaningless. I can make a good decision on a subject in the morning and a bad one on the same subject in the afternoon.

Brains may be computers but it is doubtful whether we can ever know for certain how individual brains will deal with a given situation. Statistically we can begin to determine probabilities, and make predictions, but behavior is basically a crapshoot.

This is why the term 'free will' itself is meaningless and is never used by scientists. It is an artifact.
Otto_the_Magnificent
2.4 / 5 (37) Dec 16, 2010
What we can do as individuals, and what we of course try to do over the course of our lives, is to become accustomed to the many usual things which influence our judgement. We can try to anticipate them, understand how they affect us, and what we can do to avoid them or employ them at the proper time to make our decision-making more dependable and effective.

But we can also realize that this self-knowledge will never be perfect and that we will always make mistakes. And we can accept the role of the subconscious in forcing our hand at times, often against our will. Where does the concept of 'free will' fit into all this? Nowhere.

'Will' does perhaps, being the desire and the resolve to do things per nietzsche or Schopenhauer. All the freedom in the world will be of little benefit if we do not choose to take advantage of it. The will is a faculty which can get stronger with use. This is really the basis of cognitive therapy- our will to act and our relative comfort in doing so.
Thrasymachus
1.4 / 5 (11) Dec 16, 2010
It's a matter of perspective. If I am capable of viewing my body and its behavior as capable of being encountered by myself in experience, then I would tend to view it as being determined. But in doing so, I would implicitly have to divorce my self from my body. It's the basic subject/object distinction. Insofar as I am a subject of experiences, I can never encounter the subjectivity that forms the grounds for the possibility of any of my experiences. This "I" that is the possessor of all my thoughts and experiences can never be on object of experience. No matter what experiment you do on my brain, it will never reveal the self that I must subjectively view to be the possessor of my experiences. Objectively, the self does not exist, it cannot be an object. Subjectively, the self MUST exist, it's the very basis of subjectivity. Since objectivity is grounded in multiple subjective experiences, the logical requirements of subjectivity must override the inferences of objectivity.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.2 / 5 (49) Dec 16, 2010
This "I" that is the possessor of all my thoughts and experiences can never be on object of experience.
I think TM that you may be revealing the existance of a schism of some sort -?
No matter what experiment you do on my brain, it will never reveal the self that I must subjectively view to be the possessor of my experiences.
Right. And a scientist who is knowledgable about cognition would invariably tell you that you are trying to describe it using improper terms and concepts.

He would suggest that if you did want to gain a fundamental understanding of cognition you should actually learn how scientists have studied the ways in which humans and animals have responded to stimuli in the course of scientific analysis; and what researchers have discovered in light of these actual analyses, in addition to what they have learned about the organs which are stimulated and which convey and process stimuli.

Lots of work done in these areas, lots to learn.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.2 / 5 (48) Dec 16, 2010
No matter what experiment you do on my brain, it will never reveal the self that I must subjectively view to be the possessor of my experiences.
Perhaps then we can objectively and reasonably conclude that, like the soul and sprites and the metaphysical realm in general, it does not exist?
wildcatherder
not rated yet Dec 18, 2010
I'm afraid that the difference of one point out of seven and the quotation '"By the standards of psychological research, this is a large effect," Pronin said.' says rather more about the low threshold for significance in the science of psychology than it does about human behavior. With such a small sample (78)a 14% variation in results would never be considered significant in a more disciplined field.
BloodSpill
5 / 5 (3) Dec 18, 2010
I don't believe in free will, but I don't believe that it's possible to compute the exact future of the universe with something smaller than the universe either.

My actions are predetermined, but hidden until I actually do them.

We can't actually know if we're in the universe, or we're running as a playback. :D
Recovering_Human
not rated yet Dec 18, 2010
I have free will. I could have decided to not leave this comment, but I decided to.


No, you couldn't have. You weren't (couldn't have been) 100% certain you were going to leave that comment before you did, so it seemed possible that you wouldn't, but the fact that you did means it was inevitable all along that you would. You simply had no way to know.
tigger
5 / 5 (2) Dec 18, 2010
Lack of Free Will in not equivalent to Determinism.
Decimatus
not rated yet Dec 19, 2010
I think the biggest point for free will is the fact that all have a viewpoint from within our enclosed little worlds.

By this I mean, why do you view the world from your eyes and not the eyes of the person sitting next to you, or someone on the other side of the planet?

Your sentience is anchored somewhere, somehow. We may be deterministic animials at our core, but there has to be a realm of flexibility that exists beyond what we can detect in our own world.

Whether this involves gods, or multi-dimensional bubbles, or whatever, our perspective is grounded in something bigger than a simple physical world.

If that isn't the case, then I suppose we are just random energy fluctuations in a never ending sea of chaos.

If we can't have freewill, neither can god.
TehDog
not rated yet Dec 19, 2010
I may, or may not, have free will.
It is impossible for me to know.
komone
not rated yet Dec 19, 2010
I may, or may not, have free will.
It is impossible for me to know.

You just *had* to say that didn't you.
Code_Warrior
1 / 5 (1) Dec 19, 2010
In order for me to have free will it seems to me that there are 2 requirements:
1) There is an element of chance in my choices that prevents any outside observer from predicting my choices with 100% certainty.
2) I am able to influence the odds within the set of possibilities for any choice that I might make. This influence allows me to increase the probability of occurrence of my desired choice. Free will amounts to excercising this influence.

Since each observer has the ability to influence the odds of their personal set of choices, interactions between myself and outside observers create a superposition of possibilities that interact to determine the the set of possible outcomes for a given choice as well as the odds of their occurrence. As I apply my influence and the outside observers apply theirs, the odds of a particular outcome will eventually increase to the point of certainty, at which point the choice becomes reality.
Javinator
not rated yet Dec 20, 2010
Thras,

You appear to be saying that because your self exists and that no one can view it except you, the self exists only subjectively and, because you're the only one who observes it (indirectly), that the self does not exist objectively.

Since it doesn't exist objectively (since objectivity is a function of the number of subjective observations), there can be no determined future. Therefore free will.

This view is based on a number of assumptions that I don't agree with (which is likely why our viewpoints differ on the subject).

1) The self can only be observed subjectively by the self.

Research is constantly showing how different parts of the brain affect what we think and how we feel. There are experiments using brain signals to form images on screens. I'm not saying for sure we'll definitely get to the point where the self can be viewed by someone else, but there's no way I can definitively rule it out either.

Con't
Javinator
not rated yet Dec 20, 2010
2) Objectivity is a function of the number of subjective observations made

I actually made this argument on another thread recently, however it was in a different context. What you're suggesting applies to what we can see and apply (ie. gravity is objective because the number of observations is huge).

It is not the subjective observations that make something objective. It's an increasing number of subjective observations that let us perceive or believe something is objective.

If something exists objectively, it exists as such regardless of whether or not it is observed.
SoulmanOtto
3.5 / 5 (21) Dec 20, 2010
Since it doesn't exist objectively (since objectivity is a function of the number of subjective observations), there can be no determined future. Therefore free will.
Since it doesn't exist objectively, can't we conclude that it doesn't exist? That it's an illusion, a figment?

Behavior, which should be the result of the self operating with it's free will or not, can be tested and evaluated. Behavior is the only outward evidence of the self. We can determine that behavior is influenced by any number of things, conscious (senses, knowledge) and unconscious (diet, pain, neuro damage, T Gondii etc) which prove we can never be in full control of our decisions.

This renders free will nonexistent and by extension, the self.
Thrasymachus
1 / 5 (10) Dec 20, 2010
That's pretty close, actually. What I mean is that the "self" cannot be observed, either objectively or subjectively. However, the "self" is ineliminable from subjective experience. It's the "place" that subjective experience occurs, for lack of a better word. It's what unifies all the disparate perceptions of the body in both space and time so that they are part of the same experience. No one can ever observe themselves in this activity of experience-building, all they ever get is the finished product. In this sense, the self is much like Aristotle's notion of soul.

(cont)
SoulmanOtto
3.5 / 5 (21) Dec 20, 2010
You appear to be saying that because your self exists and that no one can view it except you, the self exists only subjectively
You're drawing a conclusion that, because we can personally 'observe' something, that it exists although no one else can observe it and it can't be shown to exist experimentally. There are many things which fit this category which, despite the adamant insistence of observers, do not exist.

The self, like the soul, is not necessary to describe any testable phenomena exhibited by human beings. This is further evidence that it might be an over-elaborate distortion of a natural animal trait by a grossly over-evolved and thus unstable and endemically flawed brain.
SoulmanOtto
3.3 / 5 (21) Dec 20, 2010
However, the "self" is ineliminable from subjective experience. It's the "place" that subjective experience occurs, for lack of a better word. It's what unifies all the disparate perceptions of the body
Prove it, using something other than words. How about some bona fide references, preferably scientific?
Thrasymachus
1 / 5 (10) Dec 20, 2010
Objectivity is created out of the already finished subjective experiences of multiple experiences and experiencers. The numbers don't matter, the translatability from one subjective experience into another does. If something exists objectively, it's found in multiple subjective experiences, so it can be thought as separate from any one of them. Something that exists objectively must be capable of being observed subjectively. Only the effects of the active self can be subjectively observed. However, such a self must be presumed to exist by every experiencer as the only way to explain their experiences. The self exists as a subjective necessity. This subjective necessity overrules the demands of objectivity for causality, because it is necessary for the creation of objectivity at all. We could be predetermined all the way down. We must think of our selves as free.
SoulmanOtto
3.5 / 5 (21) Dec 20, 2010
If something exists objectively, it's found in multiple subjective experiences...Something that exists objectively must be capable of being observed subjectively.
A tree that falls or doesn't fall in the woods exists whether anyone ever observes it or not. Particle waves collapse all the time whether observed or not. Observers are superfluous.
Something that exists objectively must be capable of being observed subjectively.
This idea has been proven false by the existance of computers which can observe, analyze, conclude and act in the same ways as humans do. For that matter so do animals. Mirrors and combs not needed.
Javinator
not rated yet Dec 20, 2010
You're drawing a conclusion that, because we can personally 'observe' something, that it exists although no one else can observe it and it can't be shown to exist experimentally.


Actually I was just trying to restate Thras' statement in different words to make sure we were having a discussion about the same thing.

Objectivity is created out of the already finished subjective experiences of multiple experiences and experiencers. The numbers don't matter, the translatability from one subjective experience into another does. If something exists objectively, it's found in multiple subjective experiences, so it can be thought as separate from any one of them.


I think we should draw the line between relative objectivity and absolute objectivity.

Something that is relatively objective would be something that most agree upon as objective. This requires multiple subjective observations.

Something absolutely objective just exists regardless of observation.
SoulmanOtto
3.5 / 5 (21) Dec 20, 2010
Actually I was just trying to restate Thras' statement in different words to make sure we were having a discussion about the same thing.
-My $.02 which you're all welcome to ignore-
Something absolutely objective just exists regardless of observation.
-Or absolutely objectively just doesnt exist regardless of observation. Because we are imperfect observers. Nicht wahr?
Yellowdart
1 / 5 (1) Dec 20, 2010
Except that they didnt happen, as the complete absence of evidence for, and a great deal of evidence against, proves.


First, absence of evidence is neither proof for or against.

Secondly, it is widely known that Jericho has been found, and is described just as the Bible describes it. Fallen walls, burnt city, including the left over grain, that no one plundered.

The only discrepency has been "traditional" dating, as Kenyon did not find any Cyperian pottery for the 1400s. However, other archaelogists have.

You may say that the Israelites simply took credit for someone else's work, and maybe so, but if that is the case you would have to prove who and why they didnt plunder the grain...as was custom.
Javinator
not rated yet Dec 21, 2010
Or absolutely objectively just doesnt exist regardless of observation. Because we are imperfect observers. Nicht wahr?


Yup. Determinism needs the assumption that there is an absolutely objective reality that exists independent of observation. Without it, determinism falls apart.
Skultch
not rated yet Dec 21, 2010
How could there not be an objective reality (in concept)? Surely, we can all agree that things exist. My question is, can there be an objective agreement of reality? Classically, our predictions work, and multiple observers agree, but what about the quantum level? I understand the uncertainty principle with regard to one observer(I think). Can two observers simultaneously observe the same exact phenomenon without influencing the other observer? Are both observers linked in some way?
Javinator
not rated yet Dec 21, 2010
Surely, we can all agree that things exist.


Actually that is not agreed upon. Existence could be a function of the mind. It's all a dream. that kind of stuff (not my personal view, but there are those that believe this).

My question is, can there be an objective agreement of reality?


But that kind of objectivity is inferred through subjective means. Hence the issue with an agreement on whether something observed can be objective.
Skultch
not rated yet Dec 21, 2010
Yeah, I don't like solipsism, either. It's interesting to discuss, but in the end, totally pointless.

Couldn't two "non-conscious" computers conduct the test? Would that make a difference? Am I going anywhere with this?

Sorry, I don't have the time to think this all the way through for myself right now. Too much work. lol
Javinator
not rated yet Dec 21, 2010
Couldn't two "non-conscious" computers conduct the test? Would that make a difference? Am I going anywhere with this?


Hmm, but are the observations made by the computer not subjective to the inner workings/interpretation made by the software in the same way that observations by humans are interpreted by the brain? Plus the computers were designed by humans and the output from those computers is interpreted through human observation.

Honestly it's a fun thought experiment, but it's one of those unfalsifiable things that we can't prove.

One cannot "know" if an observed property is objective because knowledge itself is subjective. We can only ever be pretty sure about stuff. As such, objectivity or the lack thereof can neither be proven nor disproven to our knowledge.
hush1
not rated yet Dec 29, 2010
Apologies...my apologies to everyone so far.

"How Long Is the Coast of Britain? Statistical Self-Similarity and Fractional Dimension"

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"This discussion implies that it is meaningless to talk about the length of a coastline; some other means of quantifying coastlines are needed."

"The empirical evidence suggests a rule which, if extrapolated, shows that the measured length increases without limit as the measurement scale decreases towards zero."

I am in love with this rule. The rule reminds me of will - regardless of anyone's definition and regardless of, or if, this will is free or not.

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