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Ch. 1 - The Divided Self 
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - The Divided Self
I agree, LevV, but just wanted to point out that the statement you quoted was Robert's, not mine.



Sun Mar 16, 2014 11:03 am
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - The Divided Self
LevV wrote:
Although I don't fully understand the philosophical arguments in support of his statement, my historical readings tell me that humans can rationalize all and any form of the most despicabl moral behavior. This tell me that our ultimate decision to act or not to act in areas of morality comes from a place that is deeper that our powers of reasoning.


My example of hitting the desk clerk would be an example of my intellect overriding my gut instinct because I actually feel strongly that such violence would be wrong. It seems to me that overriding our instinct, or planning out and executing many deliberate conscious acts, does constitute free will.

But clearly there are times that we do something that we have to rationalize after the fact including despicable moral behavior. Perhaps there are times when the driver and the elephant are aligned and there are times when they are at odds with one another. For those times, perhaps there are two possible outcomes: 1) the driver has his way (free will) or 2) the elephant has his way (at which time the driver puts on his lawyer hat). Sounds rather schizophrenic, but maybe we are to some extent.


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Sun Mar 16, 2014 11:53 am
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - The Divided Self
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It seems to me that overriding our instinct, or planning out and executing many deliberate conscious acts, does constitute free will.


If you plan out and execute deliberate acts, you have to ask why? Are you trying to make more money? Are you acting on the knowledge that resisting temptation will also deliver you from liver damage? Reasons are like logic code in a computer; just because they are information does not mean they don't supervene on physical systems. It also doesn't mean they are free from causality. They are segments of causal information. The algorithms that determine our choices and reasoning are far more complex than a computer, and analog to boot. But still at the whim of causality.

The reasons you act are all there before you decide, a petabyte slate of decision making neurons. At that instant the "reason" or "decision" occurs to you, it seems like you "came up with it", but in reality it manifested from what Daniel Dennet calls the hidden layer of the mind. There's a key to understanding this in that reasons and ideas 'occur' to us. They don't pop into our heads out of the aether. They come from the arrangements of neurons, the informational network in our minds. There is causation from the ground up.


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Sun Mar 16, 2014 12:15 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - The Divided Self
I don't doubt that all thoughts are computer code for our genes' survival machine. As such free will might be an illusion, but one that is subjectively meaningful. Love may be a chemical reaction, but we still feel it.


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Sun Mar 16, 2014 1:47 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - The Divided Self
geo wrote:
I don't doubt that all thoughts are computer code for our genes' survival machine. As such free will might be an illusion, but one that is subjectively meaningful. Love may be a chemical reaction, but we still feel it.


Welcome to the "No Free Will" club.

Or maybe the "Robots with Feelings" club.



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Post Re: Ch. 1 - The Divided Self
Someday I hope to understand what you and interbane are saying about this topic. You're both pretty cautious about claims, so the fact that you have some conviction about it makes me wonder what I'm missing. It's not surprising that if free will is an illusion, we would have built-in resistance to seeing it.



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Post Re: Ch. 1 - The Divided Self
DWill wrote:
Someday I hope to understand what you and interbane are saying about this topic. You're both pretty cautious about claims, so the fact that you have some conviction about it makes me wonder what I'm missing. It's not surprising that if free will is an illusion, we would have built-in resistance to seeing it.


If you are a materialist, it is a short trip to determinism regarding free will I think (although not everyone agrees). As disturbing as the idea is, I find the argument very convincing. Although of course it hardly ever occurs to me in day-to-day life. We all act as if we could have chosen otherwise.



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Post Re: Ch. 1 - The Divided Self
It comes from understanding determinism, as Dexter points out. Not just understanding it, but getting to the point where it 'clicks'. Every quark, every molecule, every neural pathway, etc, all operate according to rules. A vast web of complex if/then mechanics. How can you have any muscle movement, or any thought, that doesn't require these corresponding underlying mechanisms, ad infinitum back to the moment you were born? Even quantum randomness doesn't offer a solution.

The illusion part is that reality is far too complex to predict everything a person will say or do or think, even when it's ourselves. It all may very well be determined, but to run a "simulation" of reality would require a computer as complex as reality itself. So we may know intellectually that everything is at the whim of cause and effect, but it doesn't change the experience one bit.


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Post Re: Ch. 1 - The Divided Self
Interbane wrote:
Not just understanding it, but getting to the point where it 'clicks'.

Good to know that I'm really two steps away. My obstinate question at this point would be, do you think free will being an illusion is more than a technicality? Is there some major, or even minor, adjustment we should be making in how we view personal responsibility and achievement?



Mon Mar 17, 2014 7:27 am
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - The Divided Self
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My obstinate question at this point would be, do you think free will being an illusion is more than a technicality? Is there some major, or even minor, adjustment we should be making in how we view personal responsibility and achievement?


It's a technicality, but one that surfaces in unexpected ways in conversation. As far as adjusting views, I'm sure everyone is different. It adds nuance to many concepts, but doesn't really change anything. Everyone is still "responsible" for the same old things.


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Post Re: Ch. 1 - The Divided Self
DWill wrote:
Interbane wrote:
Not just understanding it, but getting to the point where it 'clicks'.

Good to know that I'm really two steps away. My obstinate question at this point would be, do you think free will being an illusion is more than a technicality? Is there some major, or even minor, adjustment we should be making in how we view personal responsibility and achievement?


Sam Harris talks about this (you should read his mini-ebook on Free Will), about how it should change our views on moral responsibility. Which is not to say we shouldn't punish people.

I'm not suggesting he's the only one to read on this (you can read his exchange with Daniel Dennett for one thing), but here's an article talking about it:

http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/life ... -free-will

It does seem kind of odd to be talking about persuading people about ideas or about what we should hold people responsible for, or what kind of legal system to have, while at the same time acknowledging the illusion of free will. It's hard to wrap your brain around that, if that expression even makes sense now!



Mon Mar 17, 2014 4:09 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - The Divided Self
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It does seem kind of odd to be talking about persuading people about ideas or about what we should hold people responsible for, or what kind of legal system to have, while at the same time acknowledging the illusion of free will.


Behavioral modification works in a deterministic universe. Punishment and holding someone accountable is to modify future behavior, as well as the behavior of others. In a sense, punishment makes more sense in a deterministic universe. A variety of free will is that if the universe is deterministic, we should become progressively better at predicting what will happen. We use determinism to our advantage, identifying how to mold the future. Enforcing moral behavior is essential to a better future. Determinism doesn't change that, instead it solidifies it.


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Post Re: Ch. 1 - The Divided Self
Interbane wrote:
Quote:
It does seem kind of odd to be talking about persuading people about ideas or about what we should hold people responsible for, or what kind of legal system to have, while at the same time acknowledging the illusion of free will.


A variety of free will is that if the universe is deterministic, we should become progressively better at predicting what will happen. We use determinism to our advantage, identifying how to mold the future.


Meet Hari Seldon.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hari_Seldon


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Mon Mar 17, 2014 6:01 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 1 - The Divided Self
Interbane wrote:
Behavioral modification works in a deterministic universe. Punishment and holding someone accountable is to modify future behavior, as well as the behavior of others. In a sense, punishment makes more sense in a deterministic universe. A variety of free will is that if the universe is deterministic, we should become progressively better at predicting what will happen. We use determinism to our advantage, identifying how to mold the future. Enforcing moral behavior is essential to a better future. Determinism doesn't change that, instead it solidifies it.

Except that punishment might not be the best way to modify behavior, which prison sentences often illustrate. And even when the conditions of immediacy and consistency are met, punishment often doesn't change behavior lastingly. It also creates a lot of resentment, obviously.

Will we get any better at predicting what will happen? Maybe if we succeed at creating laboratory conditions in our world. For that to happen, there would need to be a sea change in our aspirations for the kind of life we want.



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Post Re: Ch. 1 - The Divided Self
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Except that punishment might not be the best way to modify behavior, which prison sentences often illustrate.


This is true. There should still be punishment, but it should capitalize on our moral emotions, which work to modify behavior. I think the humiliation that accompanies a sentence is more effective than the confinement.


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