Free will, is it just an illusion?

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Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby Gillipig on Mon Jul 08, 2013 3:15 pm

I've been reading Sam Harris books for quite a while now and it was by doing so that I ended up accepting free will as an illusion. I'm interested what CC's intellectual elite (i.e the trolls and procrastinators) think about free will.
If you have some time to kill and an interest for this question, here's a video of him explaining how he views free will and why it's an illusion.
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby Haggis_McMutton on Mon Jul 08, 2013 3:21 pm

Here's my foolhardy attempt to stop 10 pages of people talking past each other.

Everyone please define "free will" before answering this.

I'll give my view later. Don't have time now.
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby AndyDufresne on Mon Jul 08, 2013 3:27 pm

There is no poll, so I am not sure how to express my opinion. :(


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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby Woodruff on Mon Jul 08, 2013 3:33 pm

Haggis_McMutton wrote:Here's my foolhardy attempt to stop 10 pages of people talking past each other.
Everyone please define "free will" before answering this.
I'll give my view later. Don't have time now.


Screw you!

Free will for me is the ability to choose my actions. I can eat a pepper or an apple...I get to pick. I can pee in my restroom or on the sidewalk outside...I get to pick. I can go to work tomorrow or I can just stay home...I get to pick.

As to whether I think that free will is an illusion...well, it's an interesting philosophical concept to me. But it comes down to practicality over philosophy, so I come down on the side of it not being an illusion. I am not DESTINED to eat the apple. I am not DESTINED to pee on the sidewalk. I am not destined to go to work. I get to pick.
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby betiko on Mon Jul 08, 2013 3:47 pm

Of course free will exists. Otherwise criminals wouldn t exist for example.
You don t always have choices, for example if you want to become an astronaut or if you want to turkey stuff scarlett johanson. Actually if you really really want to turkey stuff scarlett johanson i m sure you can fid a way, maybe not for the astronaut shit.
You just take decisions within the dictats of the society you live in. But you are free not to follow them and assume the consequences of your actions.
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby crispybits on Mon Jul 08, 2013 3:55 pm

First post here that has actually had the time to watch the video before commenting :wink:

I agree with most of what he says, especially the main point about a causal link in a deterministic universe completely undermining the concept of free will, I wish he'd expanded further in this talk on the bit he just touched on at the end about how we could structure a properly just society without the concepts of blame and retribution.
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby Nola_Lifer on Mon Jul 08, 2013 3:56 pm

Free will doesn't exist. It is like saying you have complete control over your brain and consciousness. You don't have control over these processes you only think you do.
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby Woodruff on Mon Jul 08, 2013 3:58 pm

crispybits wrote:First post here that has actually had the time to watch the video before commenting :wink:


Yeah, I didn't watch the video.
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby Woodruff on Mon Jul 08, 2013 3:59 pm

Nola_Lifer wrote:Free will doesn't exist. It is like saying you have complete control over your brain and consciousness. You don't have control over these processes you only think you do.


Why is it necessary to have complete control over those processes in order to have free will?
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby Crazyirishman on Mon Jul 08, 2013 4:04 pm

What type of free will are we talking about? Philosophic free will, or the colloquial definition of free will?
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby BigBallinStalin on Mon Jul 08, 2013 7:56 pm

Suppose the speaker of the video wished to be a woman, but couldn't afford the operation and years of speech therapy.

Does this mean he/she doesn't have free will?

Or are financial/physical constraints distinct from free will?

If financial, physical, mental, etc. constraints are distinct from free will, then people have free will. Everyone is limited in some way when it comes to some imagined alternative life we can have (different job, banging scarlett johanson, not 100% control over one's brain/consciousness, etc.), but that's how the world is.

It's not deterministic, in that you could never bang scarlett johanson. If that was your goal, some people are capable of taking that opportunity through much planning and difficult work (other people might not have to face such a high barrier). This doesn't mean they we have 'different' free wills.

Free will is about making choices. The opposite--in my opinion--is the denial of choice. For example, the government attempts to prohibit you from exercising your choice when it comes to illegal drugs, settling outside of court with criminals, etc.
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby Nola_Lifer on Mon Jul 08, 2013 8:10 pm

Woodruff wrote:
Nola_Lifer wrote:Free will doesn't exist. It is like saying you have complete control over your brain and consciousness. You don't have control over these processes you only think you do.


Why is it necessary to have complete control over those processes in order to have free will?

If you have control then you would have free will over your consciousness. For example, when you sleep and have a dream your mind will paralyze your body so that your mind can be free of bodily functions. Like kicking yourself out of bed or punching your wall. You have no free will over this, conscious choice. There is a phenomenon where some people wake up and can't move. In this sense, having free will is consciously having control over your bodily and mental functions, which we don't. We don't even have control over consciousness which we believe has power over all functions.
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby Dukasaur on Mon Jul 08, 2013 9:39 pm

AndyDufresne wrote:There is no poll, so I am not sure how to express my opinion. :(


--Andy

You can't just type "kittens" one letter at a time?
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby nietzsche on Mon Jul 08, 2013 10:51 pm

I don't see something good coming out of this thread.

But it's interesting to note that those who believe there's no free will tend to have a fatalistic or negative outlook on life, and viceversa.

What causes what? .. Would you change your belief in the existence of free will if it would give you a positive attitude.
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby Funkyterrance on Tue Jul 09, 2013 12:24 am

nietzsche wrote:
But it's interesting to note that those who believe there's no free will tend to have a fatalistic or negative outlook on life, and viceversa.


I'm ultimately a determinist and I've got a pretty positive outlook. Free will doesn't necessitate one way or another really.
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby chang50 on Tue Jul 09, 2013 1:02 am

I strongly suspect Harris is correct.The truth is often counter-intuitive,and the 'appearance' of freewill is all pervasive.For me it's impossible to claim freewill exists when we have virtually zero knowledge of what consciousness is.
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby betiko on Tue Jul 09, 2013 6:05 am

Ok I watched the video, pretty interesting.
Here's my thought: whereas our actions are mostly determined by our environment and the way we have built our minds from past experiments, there are still small choices we make in life. Those micro choices on a scale of a lifetime become macro choices added together. Small choices you may have made may give you access to new situations with new small choices you would've never had access to otherwise.
Both your consciousness and inconsciounceness will react to outcomes you will have caused.
Suppose you and me are fighting for the last chicken wing in a restaurant. We decide to play it at paper/rock/scisors best of 3. We will both play an item that will not be random, but based on the feeling we have on the other, past paper/rock/scisors played together and the perception we have of the other. Let's say you go for rock, I go for scisors based on this. IS the next move really pre determined as he gives in his example of pushing button A or button B? I know that personnally I could decide in the first place to play scisors next, and in the last moment go for paper or rock, without taking the decision yet when I start pulling out my hand and leave that to my inconscience just to mes with your thought process of your perception on me. Do we, or do we not have free will in that case? It's a hard question.
Suppose you win; you will have a moral victory on me and you will have eaten an extra chicken wing that will change slightly your body needs and mine. This will change very slightly the course of our lives after a human interaction. Our thought process will have changed very very slightly on a small level, but adding tons of experiences like that will change your behaviour.
After doing this 3 times and losing each time; is it my free will that determines that odds of winning the last chicken wing playing paper rock scisors against you is a bad idea and that I should try something else if I really want it?
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby Dukasaur on Tue Jul 09, 2013 6:27 am

I'm not bothered by the fact that free will is an illusion. As long as it's a good and tangible illusion, I can enjoy it.

nietzsche wrote:I don't see something good coming out of this thread.

But it's interesting to note that those who believe there's no free will tend to have a fatalistic or negative outlook on life, and viceversa.

What causes what? .. Would you change your belief in the existence of free will if it would give you a positive attitude.

I don't think that's true for me. I have a pretty good outlook on life, I think. I basically look to maximize enjoyment, and only rarely let my mind be distracted by the fact that the universe is essentially an evil thing and that we're all just prolonging the agony until death.

As long as some combination of beer, schnitzel, and fellatio lets me pretend that I'm enjoying my life, I'm happy to maintain the pretense.

I resolve all subjective/objective conundrums with ease. So what if I'm actually some tarantula sizzling to death on your frying pan, and this whole "human" thing is just a wild hallucination I'm having in the last instant of my life? As long as the hallucination stays solid, why not enjoy it? Ditto for free will.
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby Woodruff on Tue Jul 09, 2013 7:55 am

Nola_Lifer wrote:
Woodruff wrote:
Nola_Lifer wrote:Free will doesn't exist. It is like saying you have complete control over your brain and consciousness. You don't have control over these processes you only think you do.


Why is it necessary to have complete control over those processes in order to have free will?


If you have control then you would have free will over your consciousness. For example, when you sleep and have a dream your mind will paralyze your body so that your mind can be free of bodily functions. Like kicking yourself out of bed or punching your wall. You have no free will over this, conscious choice. There is a phenomenon where some people wake up and can't move. In this sense, having free will is consciously having control over your bodily and mental functions, which we don't. We don't even have control over consciousness which we believe has power over all functions.


We're obviously talking about vastly different things, because it doesn't make sense to me that in order to have free will I must have complete control over EVERYTHING. That seems nonsensical to me.
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby Woodruff on Tue Jul 09, 2013 7:57 am

Dukasaur wrote:I'm not bothered by the fact that free will is an illusion. As long as it's a good and tangible illusion, I can enjoy it.

nietzsche wrote:I don't see something good coming out of this thread.

But it's interesting to note that those who believe there's no free will tend to have a fatalistic or negative outlook on life, and viceversa.

What causes what? .. Would you change your belief in the existence of free will if it would give you a positive attitude.


I don't think that's true for me. I have a pretty good outlook on life, I think. I basically look to maximize enjoyment, and only rarely let my mind be distracted by the fact that the universe is essentially an evil thing and that we're all just prolonging the agony until death.

That's a hell of an interesting take on "pretty good outlook on life". <grin>
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby Dukasaur on Tue Jul 09, 2013 8:49 am

Woodruff wrote:
Dukasaur wrote:I'm not bothered by the fact that free will is an illusion. As long as it's a good and tangible illusion, I can enjoy it.

nietzsche wrote:I don't see something good coming out of this thread.

But it's interesting to note that those who believe there's no free will tend to have a fatalistic or negative outlook on life, and viceversa.

What causes what? .. Would you change your belief in the existence of free will if it would give you a positive attitude.


I don't think that's true for me. I have a pretty good outlook on life, I think. I basically look to maximize enjoyment, and only rarely let my mind be distracted by the fact that the universe is essentially an evil thing and that we're all just prolonging the agony until death.

That's a hell of an interesting take on "pretty good outlook on life". <grin>

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epicureanism#Ethics
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby nietzsche on Tue Jul 09, 2013 10:49 am

nietzsche wrote:I don't see something good coming out of this thread.

But it's interesting to note that those who believe there's no free will tend to have a fatalistic or negative outlook on life, and viceversa.

What causes what? .. Would you change your belief in the existence of free will if it would give you a positive attitude.



Actually, I was mistaken, nice too see all the different opinions.
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby chang50 on Tue Jul 09, 2013 11:05 am

Woodruff wrote:
Nola_Lifer wrote:
Woodruff wrote:
Nola_Lifer wrote:Free will doesn't exist. It is like saying you have complete control over your brain and consciousness. You don't have control over these processes you only think you do.


Why is it necessary to have complete control over those processes in order to have free will?


If you have control then you would have free will over your consciousness. For example, when you sleep and have a dream your mind will paralyze your body so that your mind can be free of bodily functions. Like kicking yourself out of bed or punching your wall. You have no free will over this, conscious choice. There is a phenomenon where some people wake up and can't move. In this sense, having free will is consciously having control over your bodily and mental functions, which we don't. We don't even have control over consciousness which we believe has power over all functions.


We're obviously talking about vastly different things, because it doesn't make sense to me that in order to have free will I must have complete control over EVERYTHING. That seems nonsensical to me.


But in order to have freewill I think you would agree that you should have control over your decisions and Harris and developments in neuroscience,if I grasp them,seem to dispute that.It seems that decisions are irrevocably made some seconds before we are aware of making them,making freewill an illusion.I don't pretend to fully understand this but it shouldn't be dismissed just because it is radically counter-intuitive.
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby Woodruff on Tue Jul 09, 2013 11:19 am

Dukasaur wrote:
Woodruff wrote:
Dukasaur wrote:I'm not bothered by the fact that free will is an illusion. As long as it's a good and tangible illusion, I can enjoy it.

nietzsche wrote:I don't see something good coming out of this thread.

But it's interesting to note that those who believe there's no free will tend to have a fatalistic or negative outlook on life, and viceversa.

What causes what? .. Would you change your belief in the existence of free will if it would give you a positive attitude.


I don't think that's true for me. I have a pretty good outlook on life, I think. I basically look to maximize enjoyment, and only rarely let my mind be distracted by the fact that the universe is essentially an evil thing and that we're all just prolonging the agony until death.

That's a hell of an interesting take on "pretty good outlook on life". <grin>

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epicureanism#Ethics


I didn't see anything in there about "the universe is essentially an evil thing and that we're all just prolonging the agony until death". That was what I thought was humorous after stating that you have a pretty good outlook. <smile>
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Re: Free will, is it just an illusion?

Postby Woodruff on Tue Jul 09, 2013 11:22 am

chang50 wrote:
Woodruff wrote:
Nola_Lifer wrote:
Woodruff wrote:
Nola_Lifer wrote:Free will doesn't exist. It is like saying you have complete control over your brain and consciousness. You don't have control over these processes you only think you do.


Why is it necessary to have complete control over those processes in order to have free will?


If you have control then you would have free will over your consciousness. For example, when you sleep and have a dream your mind will paralyze your body so that your mind can be free of bodily functions. Like kicking yourself out of bed or punching your wall. You have no free will over this, conscious choice. There is a phenomenon where some people wake up and can't move. In this sense, having free will is consciously having control over your bodily and mental functions, which we don't. We don't even have control over consciousness which we believe has power over all functions.


We're obviously talking about vastly different things, because it doesn't make sense to me that in order to have free will I must have complete control over EVERYTHING. That seems nonsensical to me.


But in order to have freewill I think you would agree that you should have control over your decisions and Harris and developments in neuroscience,if I grasp them,seem to dispute that.It seems that decisions are irrevocably made some seconds before we are aware of making them,making freewill an illusion.I don't pretend to fully understand this but it shouldn't be dismissed just because it is radically counter-intuitive.


Ok, but if "decisions are irrevocably made some seconds before we are aware of making them"...aren't we still making them, even if perhaps not as consciously as we might believe? Surely he's not suggesting that I have no choice but to pee on the sidewalk, for instance?
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