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Old 03-08-10, 01:19 PM
Retromancer Retromancer is offline
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Post 'Free will is an illusion, biologist says'

As someone who struggles with procrastination on a basis I actually find this possibility to be reassuring. There is no point in berating myself for my inability to proceed. I am who I neurologically am...

Any one on this forum willing to contemplate the very real possibility that "free will" is an illusion?

Free will is an illusion, biologist says

Just because we are often aware of multiple paths to take, that doesn’t mean we actually get to choose one of them based on our own free will.
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Old 03-08-10, 03:51 PM
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Re: 'Free will is an illusion, biologist says'

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Originally Posted by Retromancer View Post
As someone who struggles with procrastination on a basis I actually find this possibility to be reassuring. There is no point in berating myself for my inability to proceed. I am who I neurologically am...

Any one on this forum willing to contemplate the very real possibility that "free will" is an illusion?

Free will is an illusion, biologist says

Just because we are often aware of multiple paths to take, that doesn’t mean we actually get to choose one of them based on our own free will.
IMHO It is more or less based on the definition of "Free Will" one is using. A metaphysical word game if you will, at least with our present state of knowledge.

This argument has been going for a very long time. I can remember it back 50 years ago in bull sessions and it is much older than this and I do not think a definitive answer will come any time soon.

Interesting question however and has fascinated a lot of people for a very long time.

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Old 03-08-10, 04:04 PM
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Re: 'Free will is an illusion, biologist says'

I am concentrating on the following excerpts:

Such a discovery, he says, would require a new physical law that breaks the causal laws of nature. As it is, the only “wild card” that allows any room for maneuvering outside of genetics and one’s environment is the inherent uncertainty of the physical properties of matter, and even this stochastic element is beyond our conscious control.

Its true, staying inside the realm of the physical world it is not possible to prove the existence of free will.
What is important though, in my opinion is that the laws of nature also make a strict form of determinism impossible.

In short, the laws of physics are not a sufficient condition for free will but they are a necessary prerequisite.

It remains a matter of faith I think.
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Old 03-08-10, 06:52 PM
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Re: 'Free will is an illusion, biologist says'

Personally I am less interested in whether free will exists than in the implications of accepting that it is an illusion...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dizfriz View Post
IMHO It is more or less based on the definition of "Free Will" one is using. A metaphysical word game if you will, at least with our present state of knowledge.

This argument has been going for a very long time. I can remember it back 50 years ago in bull sessions and it is much older than this and I do not think a definitive answer will come any time soon.

Interesting question however and has fascinated a lot of people for a very long time.

Dizfriz
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Old 03-08-10, 07:36 PM
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Re: 'Free will is an illusion, biologist says'

There are two possibilities for the universe.

1. Is that it is entirely deterministic, and as such all your actions are a consequence of what came before. (Determinism, not to be confused with Fatalism)

2. That it has unpredictable random elements. If something is random, it isn't in your control, how could this be regarded as "Free Will".

I'm a hard determinist so I agree that free will is an illusion. Why Retro are you so keen on blaming yourself for your failures? Leave that job to others, they're more than keen to do it.
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Old 03-08-10, 09:30 PM
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Re: 'Free will is an illusion, biologist says'

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Originally Posted by Retromancer View Post
Personally I am less interested in whether free will exists than in the implications of accepting that it is an illusion...
As long as determining what a given person is going to do based on their genetics and circumstances remains impossible, and given that much of the time it feels like we're actually making decisions, and have free will, I'm not sure it would change an awful lot for me.
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Old 03-09-10, 03:02 AM
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Re: 'Free will is an illusion, biologist says'

For some of us the anxiety that comes with that "false consciousness" of decision making can be immobilizing.

And many of us impulsively act without considering the consequences of our actions. If this paradigm is true the forethought that we are berated for lacking is an illusion.


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Originally Posted by APSJ View Post
As long as determining what a given person is going to do based on their genetics and circumstances remains impossible, and given that much of the time it feels like we're actually making decisions, and have free will, I'm not sure it would change an awful lot for me.
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Old 03-09-10, 03:09 AM
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Re: 'Free will is an illusion, biologist says'

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Originally Posted by Retromancer View Post
For some of us the anxiety that comes with that "false consciousness" of decision making can be immobilizing.

And many of us impulsively act without considering the consequences of our actions. If this paradigm is true the forethought that we are berated for lacking is an illusion.
Forethought is by no means an illusion. All this says is that choice is an illusion.

Equally glibly, how can you blame those who berate you? They have no choice.

Quote:
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As long as determining what a given person is going to do based on their genetics and circumstances remains impossible, and given that much of the time it feels like we're actually making decisions, and have free will, I'm not sure it would change an awful lot for me.
That's probably the saner option isn't it :P
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Old 03-09-10, 03:12 AM
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Re: 'Free will is an illusion, biologist says'

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Originally Posted by Retromancer View Post
For some of us the anxiety that comes with that "false consciousness" of decision making can be immobilizing.

And many of us impulsively act without considering the consequences of our actions. If this paradigm is true the forethought that we are berated for lacking is an illusion.
I certainly have both of those issues,but don't see knowing that its an illusion helping me to resolve them. For the former, I don't see telling myself that the decision as to what ill ultimately do has already been made changing my immobilization.

For the latter, the action would still appear thoughtless to others, although I suppose if this were to become widely known and accepted, it could reduce the frequency of beratement.
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Old 03-09-10, 08:50 AM
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Re: 'Free will is an illusion, biologist says'

I've always kind of been of the opinion that free will is an illusion. I mean, ultimately everything happens according to natural laws that you have no control over. Having true free will would mean having a supernatural element of the self that can act outside of natural cause and effect.

Although really, I don't think whether or not we have free will matters for most of daily life. Just because your choices and actions are determined by natural physical laws doesn't mean you don't still make those choices. If believing that we have free will helps people feel better, I have no problem with that.
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Old 03-09-10, 08:56 AM
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Re: 'Free will is an illusion, biologist says'

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I've always kind of been of the opinion that free will is an illusion. I mean, ultimately everything happens according to natural laws that you have no control over. Having true free will would mean having a supernatural element of the self that can act outside of natural cause and effect.
That is just what I mean. It boils down to faith.

That is the true beauty of it all.
Nature is structured in such a way that we will never be able to answer this so crucially important question no matter how many particle beam accelerators we build.
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Old 03-09-10, 11:15 AM
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Re: 'Free will is an illusion, biologist says'

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Personally I am less interested in whether free will exists than in the implications of accepting that it is an illusion...
One of the possible implications of no free will (one form of determinism) is that it leaves no place for responsibility for one's decisions. If behavior is totally determined by "what came before" then the individual has no choice in their behaviors and thus no responsibility for the consequences of those behavior decisions.

I feel that"free will" is more a metaphysical term and prefer the more practical term of "choices".

While having "choices" may be an assumption, it is the best way to bet. Dealing with choices can lead to growth and change. The opposite does not.

In practical terms, while there are exceptions, we do make decisions and are responsible for the consequences of those decisions. Impulsive decisions are still decisions and responsibility is applicable.

To use a child as an example, Realizing that the kid is ADHD and will tend to make impulsive decisions helps with understanding but in fact we know that the ADHD child needs to be held more responsible for behavior decisions than non ADHD children.

So to recap: I do not know if we have, in an ultimate sense, free will or not. To me the stance of not having this free will is of very little use in dealing with life as we have to live it. I think in terms of having limited but real choices as more accurate in a practical sense. Assuming we do have choices is really is the only way that has much chance of being successful in dealing with life. In otherwords, it works. I used to have a sign on my wall:

The two most powerful words in the English language are "I Choose!"

Retromancer, I do not know if this added anything to your question but this is the best I have from my viewpoint

Either way, it is and will continue to be a fascinating question.

Dizfriz
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Old 03-09-10, 11:26 AM
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Re: 'Free will is an illusion, biologist says'

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Originally Posted by Dizfriz View Post
The two most powerful words in the English language are "I Choose!"
Why? The only purpose the concept of "free choice" serves is as a justification for blaming people and a perpetuation of the "Just World Bias".
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Old 03-09-10, 01:03 PM
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Re: 'Free will is an illusion, biologist says'

Originally Posted by Dizfriz
Quote:
The two most powerful words in the English language are "I Choose!"
Quote:
Originally Posted by Archon View Post
Why? The only purpose the concept of "free choice" serves is as a justification for blaming people and a perpetuation of the "Just World Bias".
Archon, I appreciate and like your posts but here I do not know what you mean by "free choice" or "Just World Bias"

If you mean that we have no ability to make choices then I am sorry but I do not feel that you can back this up. This may not be your meaning though. Could you explain more what you mean with these terms?

One good definition of reality is that which happens whether you believe in it or not. One may consider the ability to make choices may be an illusion but it practically makes no difference as the consequences for those "illusionary" choices can be real and measurable. The concept of having choices has many very applications other than what you mentioned.

Let me know, I am interested.

Dizfriz
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Old 03-09-10, 07:23 PM
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Re: 'Free will is an illusion, biologist says'

Originally Posted by Dizfriz
Quote:
One may consider the ability to make choices may be an illusion but it practically makes no difference as the consequences for those "illusionary" choices can be real and measurable. The concept of having choices has many very applications other than what you mentioned.
Bad writing alert. Change "it practically makes no difference" to "practically it makes no difference"
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