Thursday, May 14, 2009

Exercise your free will NOW! (read this)

I occasionally get asked about how my idea that we all have a Model of Reality(which is our memory) which makes us us, precludes the notion of 'free will'.

What happens is that someone will ask a question regarding it, when it comes up in our ongoing marathon here:-

then I'll explain how 'free will' is an illusion.

Then an interesting thing usually happens. Sooner or later the commenter will have a comment which pointedly states that he/she uses his/her 'free will' in some way or other. (Proving to him/herself that there is such a thing because it can be 'brought up' I imagine.)

I'm not trying to say that I am in some kind of better position to understand reality than anyone else, after all, I just have a 'model of reality' myself.

Still, I think that this is a helpful idea in several important ways.

Admitting that your mind, right now, is a model of reality that you have built up since you were born and will continue to build on throughout your life gives us answers to philosophical conundrums such as the notion of solipsism, 'Brain-in-bucket' thought experiments, "Who are you?" type koans and things like this.

Who am I? Well I am the streaming consciousness having the accrued model of reality which no-one else has or could ever have.

Why does this obliterate free will? Well you were born a blank slate and at THAT time you could be said to have a free will or no will at all.

Excepting some instinctual needs which are exactly the same for everyone, we are born into a situation which we must learn to deal with.

We must learn to communicate, which means building a model of reality.

Even the most vociferous opponent of the 'model of reality' can't say that babies through several years have any meaningful options concerning who their care-givers are and what the care-givers education, financial situation, physical location etc. including what their 'model of reality' is.

I'd like to hear from some proponents of 'free will'. Exactly when, in a child's life does he/she attain this state of having 'free choice'?

When did you start imagining that you have/had free will? Did someone tell you that it was something that you had?

I'm thinking that if you are a proponent of free will, you have no choice but to believe you have it, BUT do you have any rationale for your belief of free will, or is it just part of your model of reality?


Pliny-the-in-Between said...

I think this particular post was extremely useful in understanding what you mean by free will (or lack there of) - or is that just my programmed response talking? ;)

I guess I'm less deterministic about the definition of free will. I certainly believe that we are strongly confined by our basic pre-programmed evolutionary machinery, by inheritance of our parentally supplied proto-world view, and by our experientially created reality model(s).

But that doesn't mean that within those confines our specific responses are pre-ordained - limited though they may be.

Is that similar to what you are saying here?

pboyfloyd said...

"Determinism is the philosophical proposition that every event, including human cognition and behavior, decision and action, is causally determined by an unbroken chain of prior occurrences."

I don't believe this at all because it seems to reduce us to robots.

I do think that we need a model of reality to have a sense of self, a sense of where we end and where everything else begins.

We need a model of the world to negotiate THAT.

We need a model of 'interaction with others' and so on, all making up our model of reality, which we use to decide which action to take.

All these things add up to a very complicated model which is impossible to juggle constantly but we have 'focus', 'curiosity' which explains gut-feelings and intuition(which are just as likely to be right as wrong).

I think that we like to imagine that we have free will as much as we like to imagine that we could get up one morning and go for a jog until we hit the ocean, then turn back and jog all the way back etc. a la "Forrest Gump.".

But the character 'Forrest Gump' was an idiot, and I think that we'd be idiots to do such things although we might imagine 'being free' to do them.

I'm free to 'not be a crack addict!'

I'm free to 'not go to MacDonald's!'

pboyfloyd said...

Or are you just saying "I'm intelligent" when you say, "I have free will"?

Stacy S. said...

You bring up food.

Are you exercising your free will (or lack of) when it comes to food choices? Or does that not count?

"Should I have the bowl of ice cream that's on my left? or right?"

pboyfloyd said...

No, no Stacy, you pick the kind of food you like!

Use the free will you think you have and eat the food you hate! Yea!

jim said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog!

I'm in total agreement with you about free will's illusory nature. Thought you might like this link-

The article by Galen Strawson, 'Luck Swallows Everything' (link's at the bottom of the page) is especially pertinent, I think.

Take care!

jim said...

Oops! F....d up my linkback. Fixed it now, I hope.

Harry C Pharisee said...

You're right, there's no such thing as free will. I charge for it.

GearHedEd said...

Thanks, Ian!

You've convinced me that I need to get back to writing my book. The USB key I was writing it in got zapped in an electrical storm and I lost the last chapter I had written. No worries, tho...I remember what I had written.

And no, I won't tell the plot. Some of the things that were said in the marathon blog by various people skirt close to the main theme.

pboyfloyd said...

Jim, a fellow 'true' disbeliever! LOL

Harry, the 'power of your mind-model compels you!"(repeat as loudly as necessary!)

Ed, I hope it's a Pop-up!

GearHedEd said...


See Brian's latest screed... it's all about the additional benefits of reading...


Harvey said...

I posted this today on Dinesh's surviving plog. Thought it migh be equally appropriate here, even at this late date.

The question of "free will" is only germane if you believe in a god in the first place. Hence, the "argument ad baculum" If, as many of us on this blog have indicated, you either have concluded that God does not exist or that there may be one, but it has no interest in its "creation", then of course we have free will! It is obvious that that we are "free" to decide every time there is a potential choice. The idea of predestination presupposes a deity. The idea that we are totally "programmed" so that all of our responses are simply reflexes may have at least some basis in fact, inasmuch as we are all products of evolution, both individually and as "tribes", but we are still free to make decisions based upon experience, learned information and/or "gut feelings" every time a "choice" appears. Personally, I think we are "programmed" to make every decision based on anticipated "good" outcomes or maximum avoidance of "bad" outcomes ("Egoistic Hedonism"), but discussion of this viewpont is probably for another time

GearHedEd said...

Once upon a time, when I was in the army, I didn't shit for eight (yes, 8!) days.

If that wasn't an exercise in free will, then nothing will ever be...

oneblood said...

Bet you had trouble with multiple choice.

"Hmmm, now what am I compelled to put if I don't know the answer...I unfortunately have to think about that."

Irony and determinism go well together.

'Compelled to Choose' the pb autobiography. I would choose to buy that. Or would I be compelled?


You really don't see the paradox?

pboyfloyd said...

That's great Harvey, sounds like Dinesh-baby is trolling for topics! He could at least have said, "Hi!" LOL

(more likely just co-incidence.)

Ed, Either you were possessed by a demon or you had a reason to not shit!

"The power of peristalsis COMPELS you!"


Multiple choice questions compel you to check the correct answer/what you believe IS the correct answer.

OR, knowing you don't have a clue you decide to leave it blank or guess(either way that's hardly free will, knowing that you're picking at random.

Everyone(anyone?) How do you suppose that we HAVE people with obsessive compulsive behavior?

Can a sociopath 'choose' to be different?

Can you 'choose' not to be the 'you' that 'you've' always been?

I don't think so.

If you 'change', there was an outside influence, ALWAYS.

Think about it.

Oh yea, D'Souza is compelled to defend free will, the doctrine of his faith, don't you think?

GearHedEd said...

I think eating MRE's for two weeks straight might have had something to do with it...

oneblood said...

"If you 'change', there was an outside influence, ALWAYS."


So you don't believe there's any such thing as internal influence?

pboyfloyd said...

You seem to be saying, oneblood, that if you can't 'find' the outside influence to explain your behaviour, THEN, your 'gut-feeling', your 'random choice' is somehow an inside influence.

I'm I right?

I thought that you would put this down to the influence of the Holy Spirit guiding you, BUT then you'd be admitting that I'm right, right?

oneblood said...

Pboy, you didn't answer my question.


Also, I was just at a Highland Games competition. It was pretty cool seeing the ethnic and racial diversity of the contestants.

All of them looked pretty good in kilts. And man, they were massive.

Admittedly, being close to them for the hammer throws was a little disconcerting. Part of me had forgotten they do 360 degree turns before the release of the hammer. Yikes.


Oh yeah, and I tried Haggis finally. They were selling 'Haggis Pockets.' It's definitely a unique flavor.