Sunday, May 24, 2009

Free will, God's goodness and sociopathy.

Free will, God's goodness and sociopathy.

As you probably know, I am not a believer in free will. I base this on the idea that Decartes, "Cogito ergo sum!", is WRONG because it was already implied that he existed in his first word, which is doubly, just 'implied' by the Latin.

'Cogito', means 'I think'.The 'I', implies his existence. Long boring story short, I'm sure that Decartes didn't look at a rock and imagine, "It thinks therefore it exists!"

So, I think that we need a more pragmatic 'beginning' for our philosophy. I think, therefore I am a streaming consciousness which percieves my material body and other material bodies, with my senses, through time and space etc. etc.

I have come to the conclusion that our mind is our streaming consciousness together with all the information that we have stored since we were born which makes up a model of reality which is our memory and that we operate within THAT model comparing incoming information to it.

This explains the 'buffer' between the input from eyes, ears etc. and what is actually happening in the world.("I thought I thaw a puddy tat!)

I think that my 'model' model goes a long way to explaining religion, historical ways of thinking etc. AND sociopathy which I'm going to get to in a minute.

The question whether if God is good why did he create evil, or why did HE give us the freewill to BE evil becomes moot if we don't believe that there ARE gods and we don't believe that there is such a thing as freewill.

Still, I believe that God, goodness, evil, and freewill are incorporated into the majority of people's model of reality. I think that it would be impossible to escape growing up without having to deal with these ideas.

I think that, in sociopaths, all the way from the toddler bully up to the most heinous criminals(Hitler and Stalin jump to mind) came/come to be like that, not from any inate, freewill EVIL, not from any free will 'causa sui', but because their model of reality had/has been damaged, broken, fucked up, however you want to say it.

I believe that this kind of thing is BOUND to happen and the only way to fix it is to understand what is going on.

Imagine that you're in pain. There are only so many ways to deal with it. You could take medication if it's available. You could distract yourself OR you could try to pour THAT pain all over someone else. I think that we ALL do a bit of all three sometimes. (e.g. "I'm sorry I 'bit your head off', there.." Follow up with a description of the pain you were in.)

So, you see, you can entertain a cartload of drivel in your model of reality and project YOUR "failings" and/or pain onto others as part of your EVIL freewill, you know, if you're a sociopath, or you can deny the mountain of drivel which we pick up in our experience of life, admit that there is NO FREE WILL for anyone.

This doesn't make anyone at all less culpable for any crimes that they commit or any less culpable for bullying or gassing six million Jews, but it does give us some license to view them as 'damaged goods', a little(or a lot) fucked up in the 'head'.

Hey, maybe the religious message that you ought to give your freewill over to your favorite higher power is supposed to 'work' BECAUSE you only imagine you have it in the first place, and the pastor/minister/guru/or whatever ought to know better than you what to do(give HIM your extra cash, for example.(hehe)).


mac said...

Not only is the free will imagined, but the Higher power that you are to give this free will over to, is imagined as well.

Hasn't been so much imagining since John Lennon was around ;-)

Anonymous said...

"Hasn't been so much imagining since John Lennon was around."


According to pboy, John Lennon didn't do any imagining at all.

Harvey said...

It seems to me that Pboy is very close to reality in this construct. It is abundantly apparent that we are a "work in progress" during our entire lives, in that we are born as a blank slate upon which life immediately begins writing its experiences. The slate is, of course, not entirely blank at birth, since we are the product of our evolutionary forebears, but then our "tribes" and other social groups, which have themselves evolved over millennia, begin "writing" on the slate.
However, it seems to me that we do have internal "free will" of a sort, which generally guides how we choose to react to situations that may arise. At times, we may even "choose" to go against what our evolution and upbringing would suggest to be the "right" choice because we are able (unlike most other animals) to project hypotheses and various possible outcomes of those "choices" and, in most cases. we are able to include non-"realistic" issues like emotions, "moral" sense, etc. in our projections. Although this certainly does not represent "free will" in either the epistemological or the Biblical sense, I think it is clearly something beyond totally instinctive and "knee jerk" reaction to learned behaviors.

Stacy said...

I've read this three times over as many days and all i have to say is ...

pboyfloyd said...

Okay, I'm not being clear there.

I admit that that was a bit hashed together, and as one anti-blog critic put it(of the majority of blogs), really 'first drafty'.

Unlike D'Souza and guys like him, I'm trying more to 'get you to agree' rather than to persuade you.

I think that any comment is is good comment, even Stacy's, "..." (with explanation). LOL

I understand your POV Harvey, I have to admit that I can't help feeling like that myself sometimes.

I liked your comment, mac because, it was funny, it agrees with me and it gave oneblood kind of a 'seed' to base his criticism on.

oneblood. Do you really think that I'm trying to say that we have no imagination at all?

Tell me that you are kidding! As a theist, as I understand it, your model of reality is essentially the same as mine EXCEPT that you have an additional very complicated, self-contained religious component with it's own jargon(spirituality, sin, miracle, redemption etc.).

This is even more complicated by the fact that different sects use some of this jargon in different 'senses'(example: evangelists LOVE to use the word 'witness' as a verb to demonstrate their 'in-groupiness'.)

Any thoughts?

Stacy said...

Apparently NOT!! ROFLMAO!! LOL!! ;-)

(sorry - couldn't help myself)

Stacy said...

I DO love ya pboy! :-)

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

pboy, have you read Steven Pinker's "The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature"?

If not I think you'd find it interesting.

pboyfloyd said...

No, I havn't read that one, Pliny.

I CAN read a review of it now.

I'll look.

pboyfloyd said...

Pinker seems to go out of his way to strawmanify 'blank slate' by disconnecting it from genetics altogether BUT he is 'juggling' three 'theories of human nature' claiming THEM to be somewhat interconnected.

His main proponent FOR 'blank slate' is John Locke, who is a little too dead to adjust HIS theory to accomodate genetics.

This(genetics) is the club that Pinker uses to beat Locke with.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Well pboy,

There seems to be what you're saying, and what you say you're saying. I've been addressing what you say you're saying.

What you say, seems to be relatively similar to a logical deduction one can make about 'Choice.' Meaning let's move beyond the God of Freewill, because he says, "You can do whatever, whenever." That's not what hardcore Freewillies would say, but I assert that it is implicit within their approach.

But what you say that you are saying is completely deterministic. Hence the John Lennon comment.

I don't think you are a determinist. I think you are a compatibilist with determinist leanings.

This being said, I've been wrong before, I'll be wrong again, and I could be wrong now :-D and if not now sometime later today LOL.

What say ye Sir Percival Boy?

pboyfloyd said...

Well, oneblood, I say that if we choose for a reason, there doesn't seem to be a need to use any free will that we have.

If we are just reacting to circumstances and we go with what 'feels' right, we're not really making a choice, we're making a decision REGARDLESS of any choices and THAT might turn out to be a BAD thing but it's still not free will because whether we acknowledge it and think it through or not it's still not free will.

Decide in haste, repent at leasure, kind of thing.

I don't imagine that many criminals are sitting waiting for their court appearance thinking, "Man, my free will is such a BITCH!"

GearHedEd said...

"I think that, in sociopaths, all the way from the toddler bully up to the most heinous criminals(Hitler and Stalin jump to mind) came/come to be like that, not from any inate, freewill EVIL, not from any free will 'causa sui', but because their model of reality had/has been damaged, broken, fucked up, however you want to say it."

Interesting observation. Similarly, I once noticed a trend: several of the officers at one duty station I served in had very odd names.

There was Captain Bump, 1st Lieutenant Bullwinkel (no shit), and my platoon leader's first name was "Tracy" (a girlie name, except he was male).

I imagined what kind of harrassment they must have endured as children, and thought to myself, "I'll bet they used to say (as they were picking the wedgies out of their bully-ridden asses), "You just wait! I'm gonna be an Army Officer when I grow up!""

Anonymous said...

I am, similarly, rather against the religious version of "free will" as in "we can do anything we want." I am also, however, blatantly opposed to determinism. What exists seems to be behavioral probabilities based upon numerous factors which act in probabilities rather than something which is determined. I wrote about this a few months ago here:
The comments also illuminate my positions further and the reasons for such.

Furthermore, the reason for the "buffer" between our senses detecting a stimulus and our brain processing it is due to the way in which our brains perceive; they create a model which we experience. This takes some time.

As for the "damaged" models some individuals hold, this could be applied to anyone capable of committing a crime if you ascribe to a purely deterministic model. The truth about the "free will"/determinism discussion may very well be a blend of the two ideas; many aspects of behavior are determined from previous experiences, yet "free will" may arise from two equal choices. The ability to identify absolute causality in behaviors will require many new advances in technology.

Furthermore, your brain does not "remember" every experience, but rather "remembers neural connections" based upon these experiences, replicating the pathways neural signals passed to recreate the "experience" as a memory.

Anonymous said...


I don't know if I quoted this before, but Hume had a pithy way of summing up Freedom.

"A person P is free when the following condition is satisfied: If P chooses to do action A, then P does A."

Now coming back to freewill. You wrote...

"Well, oneblood, I say that if we choose for a reason, there doesn't seem to be a need to use any free will that we have."

With respect to you and Hume, I think I can make a tautology. -All freewill is choicemaking-

As an aside, a reason for choosing necessarily points to our contemplation of it, not our enslavement to it.

So the tautology would fit what you've been saying and even though I have 'is' instead of 'comes from' or some such thing, subtly it predicates freewill upon choicemaking instead of the other way round (even though I have it phrased the opposite way).

I think your 'mind model' is completely reasonable but fits better with this "tautology" as a component instead of determinism.

What do you think?

Also, I've noticed about myself, through contemplating other philosophical and religious issues, that I have a tendency to think "binarily." Even though this is human and common, I'm not sure if it's correct.

God-Not God
Dialectic (stress on di)

What if God-Not God was a spectrum with two different ends? Not meaning it goes from Zeus to Not Zeus, but in the way our minds are ordering these concepts. What if to our mind all these things are inextricably related, yet not quite tenable to us as such?

I'm posing these questions in order to stress that there doesn't seem to be many areas where binary thinking doesn't set up shop, and perhaps Freewill and Determinism are limited in scope because they are purported to be so overarching and thusly polar.

pboyfloyd said...

Well mors dei, and oneblood. Food for thought indeed.

I could go the 'fun' way and tell you guys that I 'knew' you would say something like that but I'm trying to choose my words carefully(not because they may be my last, as the movie villain says, though they might be, but as you point out, chances are slim that they will be.)

I think that the very idea that we don't have a final free will 'say' is abhorrent to us.

But if we're pressed for a reason for our choice, any choice we make, I really believe that a lot of the time, truth be told, we'd say, "No reason really, I chose that(whatever) because I was presented with a choice, I made a 'Custer decision', and I really wasn't expecting to get 'drilled' on it, thank you very much!"

Or, "Hey, get off my back, I didn't really give a crap one way or the other!"

Of course, on the broader topic of choices, maybe, since everyone has a unique model of reality, there might be more free will for you than I can percieve.

Still, going back to questioning, say, a single non-trivial decision, put to the test I think that we 'cast around' for reasons after the fact, depending on the outcome OF a decision adding layers upon layers of justification, plausible deniability etc.

oneblood, without looking things up and such, since we know that you're a Christian, what would you say was your favorite parable from the 'man' himself.(don't say the 'prodigal son' 'cos that's like saying 'the Ace of Spades in a card-pick thingy).

I want to know which parables you chose from, if you chose the first one to pop into your mind, what it means to you, could it be interpreted another way that is clearly 'wrong' to you, is the parable a 'clincher' for you?(i.e. does it 'speak to your 'spiritual heart' and convince you that 'the LORD' is not 'a liar or lunatic'?)

Anonymous said...

Interesting question pboy. I guess I'll wait to see how you're going to relate this to the topic at hand.

Two things before I give you my favorite parable. First I'd have to say my favorite Jesus story is the fragment that some guy put at the end of John 8.

And secondly Jesus could have been crazy. I think CS Lewis' challenge is bogus. Why I identify as Christian is more personal than dogmatic.

So, my favorite parable is the one about the workers wages. It is an egalitarian message (obviously Christian oriented).

pboyfloyd said...

' I guess I'll wait to see how you're going to relate this to the topic at hand."

I told you, it was a subject that I thought you'd be familiar with.

The, "CS Lewis' challenge", thing was short-hand to say 'genuine'. Perhaps one particular parable sticks in your mind as a 'knowledge from the beginning' kind of thing that Jesus might say.

Here thd 'choice' process is what was 'point', so you did almost everything you could to miss the point.

What were your sctual choices(not just 'all the parables') and what kind of process of ellimination did you go through and such?

Believe me when I tell you that there is/was no 'trick' motive such as 'getting you to agree with c.s.lewis' or anything along those lines.

Anonymous said...

Sorry pb, I must've come across the wrong way. I didn't think you had an ulterior motive. I just couldn't see exactly where you were going to go with it.

I kind of did a run through in my head of a couple of them: the tardy landowner, the fig tree, and the workers wages.

The tardy landowner was part of my visual memory, so was the fig tree (and I made fun of it recently on Asylum's blog)...actually come to think of it most of the parables have some sort of connection in my mind to visual memory.

I still don't see how you're going to get around 'you chose that because you chose that' reasoning.

pboyfloyd said...

"I still don't see how you're going to get around 'you chose that because you chose that' reasoning."

But oneblood, the question is asking YOU how YOU came to choose one out of several.

You seem to be trying to jump over any reasoning that YOU put into choosing, imagining my answer, then 'not knowing how I come to 'that' conclusion.

The mind works in mysterious way, I say unto thee.

Anonymous said...

It seems like I had options. How did I not?

pboyfloyd said...

Okay, we seem to be 'drifting' here, I don't KNOW why you started us 'drifting'.

If you go back to my original question, and follow along with my request to choose you're favorite and on 'til the end, NOT saying that well, you kind of did that over two or three comments, 'dipping your toe in, leerilly testing the water'.

I'd just like to know the thought PROCESS, which you are making impossible by breaking it down like this.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Now I'm sure I'm missing something. But I'll bite and hope it's what you're looking for.

The parables that I listed were the ones that popped into mind. My thought process went along the lines of the context you gave and how I would interpret what you meant by my 'favorite parable.'

From these combined contexts, I assumed you meant the one that I felt most in accord with. To me this ruled out the fig tree, and the tardy landowner. I felt they were too dogmatic. The workers wages one is Christian oriented but to me it puts an interesting spin (somewhat logical to boot) on the Judeo/Christian idea of justice and mercy. So I chose that one.

Is this helpful? That was my thought process as best as I can remember. If I'm still missing what you want, I apologize.

pboyfloyd said...

I think that we can agree that there is more going on than simple free will, some simple notion of free will.

There's the, "What is it that you REALLY want from me?"

The, "How do I translate the language that you used?"

"Am I being 'led' to a conclusion that I don't wish to support here?"

I think that most of the choices we deal with every day concern how we say things to others, taking into account a myriad of things such as who we are talking to, how we feel at the moment etc. etc.

I don't think that 'etc.' does that justice at all, all the many 'red flags'(if we're considering something philosophically and such.

For example, I like this format for conversing, because, I think that you and I have no reason to lie to each other, and that in itself MIGHT make a few of the 'onion layers' of how you and I choose to communicate to each other.

All I'm trying to say is that where our freedom, our free will, seems most obvious, we are still constrained by our image of ourselves and an image of who it is that we're taling to and on and on really.

All of this is automatic, extremely complicated, and, if you think about it, very layered.

You and mors dei seem to be saying that you both think that there IS a point that, when 'peeling off the layers', one would come to a crystal clear thing called 'free will'.

What do you think of THAT!?

Anonymous said...

Don't get mad...

I think it's just a matter of perspective.

There's a pear, a carrot, and a banana sitting in front of you, each of which could be a snack to sate your hunger.

Pboy says "I cannot overcome hunger, it drives me to eat."

Oneblood says, "Talking about myself in the third person is great." No really, he says "Look, I could have a pear, carrot, or banana."

And there we have it.

pboyfloyd said...

Don't limit my choices, oneblood.

If I wanna be mad, I'll poison myself with mercury, HAH!

Okay on the choice thingy, a pear, a carrot and a banana?

First thing that pops into my mind is, "YOu call that FOOD?"

Bearing that in mind, I'm going to eat the 'thing'(bleh) that is least offensive to me.

That would be, no 'choice' at all here, the banana!

I 'hear' it has potassium, which, I 'hear' is good for me.

There's 'comes to mind' a whole cascade of trivial memories concerning 'what I've heard about' and 'how enjoyable was the fruit or veggie the last time I ate one and such.

Hardly 'free choice', but even if I liked all three equally, how would making a random pick, make it any 'freer' a choice.

Let's put this in terms of God 'picking YOU' to submit your 'will' to him.

How did God pick YOU? Okay, he chose your mom and dad and the EXACT sperm at the EXACT time they 'did the nasty' etc. etc.

But we can see that that is ridiculous. A bunch of randoms doesn't add up to 'a destiny' any more than two wrongs make a right, right?

Anonymous said...

Let's put it this way, are you allowed to eat the pear? Are you allowed to eat the carrot?

You're basically saying that the answer is no. Right?


"Hardly 'free choice', but even if I liked all three equally, how would making a random pick, make it any 'freer' a choice."

But we are somewhat equating the idea of randomness with 'free.'

How about we say it like this, a person is free to choose between contexts. Or a person is free to recontextualize an object of choice.

pboyfloyd said...

But you aren't making free will any clearer by saying that kind of thing.

Aren't you, at this point, 'playing' God, dancing around the issue while I take stabs at it and you say, "Well, not really, what about 'this' or what about 'that'?"

If you KNOW what you mean BY free will, HELL, spit it on out and we'll wipe it down and have a look!


Anonymous said...

pboy, you are one of a kind. :-D

I didn't think I was being ambiguous. To move something from one context to another (for example) is something that requires awareness of contexts and their maleability. It's not a tree branch, it's a walking stick.

I think that's pretty clear.

In fact one could say that technology is a manifestation of compatibilism.

What say ye p?

pboyfloyd said...

You mean like a blind man's stick, feeling around to see what fits?

But, of course we're going to 'find' the context that best fits our 'life-so-far' model, we HAVE TO, no option, y'see.

Anonymous said...

We don't have to do anything, and ultimately that's the point.

pboyfloyd said...

Well, we react to minute to minute, hour to hour etc. circumstances of our lives.

Yes, we have to. No reaction to a stimulus is just a 'no response' reaction, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

So, you admit there are different types of actions, different types of reactions, but nobody has access to more than one at any given time.

I surrender pboy. With respect.

pboyfloyd said...

You've been very helpful, oneblood, thanks.