Why do we feel like we have free will

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Dimebag
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Why do we feel like we have free will

Post by Dimebag » Sat Jun 08, 2019 12:00 pm

When we reflect on our decision making process, we feel as if we can make choices. Left or right, yes or no, paper or plastic, chocolate or vanilla. Most of the time due to habituation there isn’t as many opportunities to choose as we might think. Our lives are very routine based, or at least mine is.

In the morning I awake to the sound of the alarm on my phone. I do not hit snooze, I just don’t have the time. This is a choice, however, it’s not really an option when I consider the alternative, of being late. Sometimes I choose to have a coffee at home, if time permits, other times I’ll skip it and grab one at work, it really depends on how I’m doing for time. In fact, many of the choices I make are pre-dictated by time or a lack of it.

I work in a job which is fairly routined and repetitive, there are always small choices which I can make, but there are always reasons for making those choices. Very rarely do I make a choice which is not driven by something, either an internal preference, or an external demand from my environment.

And yet, I still feel like I am making choices. Is it because I could do the things I choose not to do, however I consider the outcomes of those choices less desirable? I think maybe.

So what’s going on there. I am capable of making a different choice, but I don’t, because I have some predetermined goal or set of conditions which are constraining my actions. If I valued doing something differently to the way I normally do it, maybe I would do it, but would only do so if my desire for change outweighed the desire to keep all the balls in the air.

I have made a more overarching choice to be a responsible person. That is why I don’t hit the snooze button. I know that if I allow my discipline to slip and start waking up later, letting the slack build up, that I will become lazier in other areas of my life, and so I make the choice of being on top of things, rather than allowing them to slide into chaos. Are these truly choices? And am I truly free to make them?

I think as long as I can imagine two or more different options, and I can select from the more desirable of them, then I am making a free choice.

Deterministically, I know that there is a definite causal chain which leads to this choice. But it isn’t purely a chain reaction billiard ball scenario, because of the multiple different branches of causal interactions which go into a moment of choice. A free choice is one which is chosen from among more than one options, of which those different possibilities can be entertained and the most desirable option is chosen.

What separates this from mere habit is the consideration of options. The will is not free from causality, but rather, is free in that it has degrees of freedom to act.

But why is having free will important to have, or at least to imagine we have? One reason might be, it is part of a system of accountability for actions.

If a person is thought to have free will, they are deemed to have been able to do otherwise. When we talk about freedom of choice, it is in regards to choices that have already been made. So to imagine a person could have done otherwise is to implicitly imply that in the future given the same scenario, they might or should make a different choice, a better choice. Even if the person did not think when they performed the action in question, to invoke the concept of free will in response is to imply that in the future they do have a choice, due to the nature of reflection.

It is a useful concept to ensure people learn from past mistakes. It might not be true at the level of individual subatomic interaction, but at the level of thoughts and actions, in some sense it is true.

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Re: Why do we feel like we have free will

Post by scrmbldggs » Sat Jun 08, 2019 12:09 pm

We don't make choices - we're being told about what the brain decided.

Who knows why it's so friendly and shares. Why it has a pet. Maybe it's bored, maybe it's just having a bit of fun. :-P

Maybe it's mnemonic.




Edit: too many 's :pardon:
Last edited by scrmbldggs on Sat Jun 08, 2019 4:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Why do we feel like we have free will

Post by gorgeous » Sat Jun 08, 2019 2:21 pm

the brain makes decisions??? ....why do people out of body make decisions easily?....guess to you steve martin was right...we're just a brain in a jar....
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Re: Why do we feel like we have free will

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Sat Jun 08, 2019 2:25 pm

Dimebag wrote:
Sat Jun 08, 2019 12:00 pm
Re: Why do we feel like we have free will
This is about the third time you haven't answered the Question. No free will at all?
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Re: Why do we feel like we have free will

Post by Dimebag » Sat Jun 08, 2019 10:57 pm

bobbo_the_Pragmatist wrote:
Sat Jun 08, 2019 2:25 pm
Dimebag wrote:
Sat Jun 08, 2019 12:00 pm
Re: Why do we feel like we have free will
This is about the third time you haven't answered the Question. No free will at all?
You might have noticed I have fleshed out my view compared to last time around.

In summary my view is, the outcome of a choice is essentially deterministic, in that our eventual choices are determined only by past events. No quantum indeterminacy is acting at the level of choice, so such issues don’t affect the causal nature of our choices.

There is however, a virtual possibility network which is created when we are faced with a choice. The networks of our brain create separate branches of possible choice, activating areas responsible for simulation of action and imagining consequences to actions. These different branches are chosen from based on the desired outcome, or are selected against based on undesirable possible outcomes.

For example,(not a real scenario) I could hit that guy in the face who has been giving me {!#%@} at work, however, the possibility that I might then receive disciplinary action or possible termination is undesirable, so I choose not to do it, and instead my prefrontal cortex vetoes that possible action. In this case I feel like I made a choice, I could have done otherwise, had my tolerance for the outcome been higher, and my feelings of repressed anger been too overwhelming for my prefrontal cortex to veto.

Some people might look at the previous scenario and think if the person did hit the guy at work, maybe he had no choice, his emotions were in control. It depends on the person, some people have greater abilities to control emotion, their vetoing mechanisms as so strong they very rarely show emotions, and thus have greater control over them. If such a person were to hit the guy in the above example, it would be my opinion that the person made a choice to allow their emotions to control their actions.

So using this view of free will, not everyone is free all the time, it depends on the possibilities in their brain which can be entertained, as well as the ability to control their own actions rather than be controlled by more unconscious lower decision making processes. A person is not free to will what they will, they are only free to choose between desired possibilities. The greater their brain is at imagining possibilities, the greater degree of freedom they have. Under this view, determinism still holds true, and is still at work during a choice. If viewed in hindsight, the choice was always going to happen based on previous causes, but the brain creates a virtual branching of timeframes by entertaining different possible outcomes, and then collapses the virtual branch to the most desired one. Therefore we feel like there were multiple possibilities we could have chosen from, when deterministically, there was only ever one ultimately possible outcome.

So I suppose this is some form of compatibilism. I’m not sure if it’s an original position or not, however I came upon it via my own thought process.

You may proceed with your criticism. :)

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Re: Why do we feel like we have free will

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Sun Jun 09, 2019 9:19 am

In a deterministic world, there are no choices. Just a machine running its cogs.

Do you recall, have you dealt with, my last response you on this question.........that fully disposes of it................because: Its Definitional?

aka: Deal with what is, not what ideology you try to force fit it into.
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Re: Why do we feel like we have free will

Post by Dimebag » Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:28 am

bobbo_the_Pragmatist wrote:
Sun Jun 09, 2019 9:19 am
In a deterministic world, there are no choices. Just a machine running its cogs.

Do you recall, have you dealt with, my last response you on this question.........that fully disposes of it................because: Its Definitional?

aka: Deal with what is, not what ideology you try to force fit it into.
And yet, we are in a (for all intensive purposes) deterministic world, and yet, we find ourselves making choices every day.

I went back to that topic to see what question or point of yours I had missed or hadn’t been addressed but could not find it.

But the basic gist of your previous responses was, we basically feel like we make choices, so, pragmatically, we do, unless I was reading you completely incorrectly.

As I have previously stated, I do think our brains operate in a deterministic manner, and I think our brains are responsible for all of our choices. However I am not taking the stance of “my brain made me do it”. At least part of that brain, if not all of it, is what we are.

I actually listened to a podcast today of our very own Michael Shermer, his ‘science salon’ podcast, where he interviews Dr Christian List about his new book where he defends his own brand of free will, which I found to be a bit similar to that which I described here.

The podcast can be found here.

https://www.skeptic.com/science-salon/w ... l-is-real/

Definitely worth listening to it if you are still open to thinking about these ideas.

His response to critics who would say that the deterministic nature of the world precludes the concept of free will, is that when we look at the brain on a neuronal level, we can view it in deterministic terms, and can see the very billiard ball like nature of its operations. There doesn’t seem to be anywhere for free will to intervene at this level of description. But at this level of description you will never find such intentional things as free will, nor desires, goals, thoughts, etc. So it’s not the right tool of analysis if you want to describe and understand such things as free will.

At any rate, I’m not going to go deeply into his view of free will, as he has many points which he makes and I found them to be rather reasonable.

As far as my dealing with what is, and not trying to force what is into whatever ideology I hold, I am merely trying to describe the phenomena we feel, which is the sense of agency, the sense that there is a noticeable difference between deliberate and non deliberate actions, and that difference is something like free will, not the kind that most people think of whereby choices emerge out of thin air, but of a kind which is more grounded in the brain, and it’s ability to model its environment to model itself within the environment and to make predictions about how future actions may play out.

One other thing you might be referring to was my description of why our culture seems to find the IDEA of free will useful. My position there is, it is a useful concept which enables people to “feel as if” they could have done otherwise, I.e. take responsibility for their actions, and to potentially learn from their mistakes for next time. In a way it allows a person to create a more complex and nuanced model of their environment, so that if the same scenario happens again where they made the wrong choice last time, this time, they would remember and ensure it doesn’t happen again. It might or might not be a useful idea.

I hope I got somewhere in the ballpark of what you were meaning?

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Re: Why do we feel like we have free will

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Mon Jun 10, 2019 1:00 pm

Dime: I'm blown away, and very "honored" that you have me exactly........and therefore most of the issues as well. I'll tell you now, and follow up later that I'll listen to your link with interest.

Your analogy to "a pool shot" is very insightful. I assume "everyone" would agree its entirely determined by the initial vectors.....but do we even today have computers powerful enough to predict how closely the 8 ball will come to the side pocket? I don't think so. Hmmmmmmm.......is "free will" anything more than an inability to predict via a limitation of computer power? Kinda looks like it. .................... and to the degree thats true or descriptive of the situation.......how does that not describe/define/recognize/enshrine the fully desired experience of free will?
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Re: Why do we feel like we have free will

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Mon Jun 10, 2019 1:19 pm

Is a "choice" deterministic if you can't predict it?

/////////................................"definitional"..............................////// As all things are, and no one does.
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Re: Why do we feel like we have free will

Post by landrew » Mon Jun 10, 2019 1:23 pm

I feel I could wax eloquently for either side of the argument for free will, but what I am conceiving instead, is an infinite regress of levels to free will. On one level we have the ability to alter the outcome of events through conscious decision, unlike a bullfrog, who's life will play out in a predictable way, given the same set of variables. On the other hand, we can regard every decision we make to be the consequence of the way every molecule of our being is configured. Above that it gets a little crazy, and beyond my ability to articulate.
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Re: Why do we feel like we have free will

Post by OlegTheBatty » Mon Jun 10, 2019 1:32 pm

Dimebag wrote:
Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:28 am

One other thing you might be referring to was my description of why our culture seems to find the IDEA of free will useful. My position there is, it is a useful concept which enables people to “feel as if” they could have done otherwise, I.e. take responsibility for their actions, and to potentially learn from their mistakes for next time. In a way it allows a person to create a more complex and nuanced model of their environment, so that if the same scenario happens again where they made the wrong choice last time, this time, they would remember and ensure it doesn’t happen again. It might or might not be a useful idea.
A sense of agency is essential for everyday functioning.

Compare your functioning to that of a rape victim who has lost her sense of agency as a consequence of the attack.
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Re: Why do we feel like we have free will

Post by Dimebag » Mon Jun 10, 2019 8:14 pm

OlegTheBatty wrote:
Mon Jun 10, 2019 1:32 pm
Dimebag wrote:
Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:28 am

One other thing you might be referring to was my description of why our culture seems to find the IDEA of free will useful. My position there is, it is a useful concept which enables people to “feel as if” they could have done otherwise, I.e. take responsibility for their actions, and to potentially learn from their mistakes for next time. In a way it allows a person to create a more complex and nuanced model of their environment, so that if the same scenario happens again where they made the wrong choice last time, this time, they would remember and ensure it doesn’t happen again. It might or might not be a useful idea.
A sense of agency is essential for everyday functioning.

Compare your functioning to that of a rape victim who has lost her sense of agency as a consequence of the attack.
In such cases where agency is compromised, a persons free will could be viewed as compromised. If you fail to see possibilities you are only reacting to the world, you may have smaller choices you make but overall your mode of functioning is very reactionary and defensive, not the most free way to be.

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Re: Why do we feel like we have free will

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Mon Jun 10, 2019 8:38 pm

Dime: Define free will.

The fact that we have it is exactly how a rape victim can learn to overcome its debilitating effects.

How in the world can learning from past experiences to make better choices not be "a useful idea."
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Re: Why do we feel like we have free will

Post by landrew » Mon Jun 10, 2019 9:27 pm

bobbo_the_Pragmatist wrote:
Mon Jun 10, 2019 8:38 pm
Dime: Define free will.

The fact that we have it is exactly how a rape victim can learn to overcome its debilitating effects.

How in the world can learning from past experiences to make better choices not be "a useful idea."
It's a bad idea to suggest that a rape victim should have made better choices.
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Re: Why do we feel like we have free will

Post by Lance Kennedy » Tue Jun 11, 2019 8:49 am

It does not matter if we have free will or not. What is important is that we believe we have free will. If any researcher shows signs he or she might be close to proving we do not, we should shoot that person to save humanity from a most horrible realization.

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Re: Why do we feel like we have free will

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Tue Jun 11, 2019 9:21 am

landrew wrote:
Mon Jun 10, 2019 9:27 pm
bobbo_the_Pragmatist wrote:
Mon Jun 10, 2019 8:38 pm
Dime: Define free will.

The fact that we have it is exactly how a rape victim can learn to overcome its debilitating effects.

How in the world can learning from past experiences to make better choices not be "a useful idea."
It's a bad idea to suggest that a rape victim should have made better choices.
Thats a very stupid thing to say and thing. You don't think much "for" yourself. A real floor mop.

As stated by many before and constantly: you have piss poor reading comprehension. After that: I'd add thinking as well.

It's a bad idea to suggest that a rape victim should have made better choices. //// Thats not what I said. NOT AT ALL. I do agree that people like you who can't tell the difference between blaming and healing should never get near a person in need.
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Re: Why do we feel like we have free will

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Tue Jun 11, 2019 9:23 am

Lance Kennedy wrote:
Tue Jun 11, 2019 8:49 am
It does not matter if we have free will or not. What is important is that we believe we have free will. If any researcher shows signs he or she might be close to proving we do not, we should shoot that person to save humanity from a most horrible realization.
How would it make any difference at all?

Let's borrow a page from Descartes: "I make choices, therefore I have free will." Corollary: If what I'm thinking is not me thinking.......then.......I'm wrong. Carry on.
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Re: Why do we feel like we have free will

Post by Dimebag » Tue Jun 11, 2019 10:04 am

bobbo_the_Pragmatist wrote:
Mon Jun 10, 2019 8:38 pm
Dime: Define free will.

The fact that we have it is exactly how a rape victim can learn to overcome its debilitating effects.

How in the world can learning from past experiences to make better choices not be "a useful idea."
My definition of free will:

A mode of human functioning which allows the individual to consider outcomes of possible actions prior to carrying them out, and to select from them based on the most desirable outcome, or which might satisfy a particular goal.

Inherent in this definition is the ability to think about yourself and how your actions will affect the outcome and whatever goal you have. You must have a desired goal for this mode of functioning to be operating, and the path towards that goal must be sufficiently complex that some level of basic reflection is necessary.

Acting without prior modelling would not satisfy the conditions of my concept of free will I have put forth here.

Basically, any action which is preceded by some forethought with some desired goal in mind. I think even if you merely thought about performing an action, then performed that action, without selecting from multiple options, it would still satisfy the model, as you are still deciding whether to perform an action or not.

To your latter question, I agree, so the cultural idea of free will acts as a concept to tie learning to personal responsibility.

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Re: Why do we feel like we have free will

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Tue Jun 11, 2019 11:22 am

Dime: so learning is a good idea and you misspoke?........or were caught thinking about something else???

Excellent definition of free will........and I see I gave up trying to add to my question about "define deterministic" with the goal then of resolving the two definitions..............touching on what I already posted re predictability, Descartes, and the solipsistic world we all experience.

Like most counterfeits: if its good enough, it works. doesn't matter if its real or counterfeit, free choice or pre-determined: IF you can't tell the difference.
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Re: Why do we feel like we have free will

Post by landrew » Tue Jun 11, 2019 1:19 pm

bobbo_the_Pragmatist wrote:
Tue Jun 11, 2019 9:21 am
landrew wrote:
Mon Jun 10, 2019 9:27 pm
bobbo_the_Pragmatist wrote:
Mon Jun 10, 2019 8:38 pm
Dime: Define free will.

The fact that we have it is exactly how a rape victim can learn to overcome its debilitating effects.

How in the world can learning from past experiences to make better choices not be "a useful idea."
It's a bad idea to suggest that a rape victim should have made better choices.
Thats a very stupid thing to say and thing. You don't think much "for" yourself. A real floor mop.

As stated by many before and constantly: you have piss poor reading comprehension. After that: I'd add thinking as well.

It's a bad idea to suggest that a rape victim should have made better choices. //// Thats not what I said. NOT AT ALL. I do agree that people like you who can't tell the difference between blaming and healing should never get near a person in need.
I don't think anyone ever understands what you say.
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Re: Why do we feel like we have free will

Post by OlegTheBatty » Tue Jun 11, 2019 3:29 pm

bobbo_the_Pragmatist wrote:
Mon Jun 10, 2019 8:38 pm
Dime: Define free will.

The fact that we have it is exactly how a rape victim can learn to overcome its debilitating effects.

How in the world can learning from past experiences to make better choices not be "a useful idea."
This may be a minor quibble., but it is regaining a feeling of agency that helps victims of emotional trauma heal. It doesn't matter if the feeling reflects reality or not.
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Re: Why do we feel like we have free will

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Tue Jun 11, 2019 3:36 pm

landrew wrote:
Tue Jun 11, 2019 1:19 pm
I don't think anyone ever understands what you say.
Say lamedude.......go back and review your own posts. How often do you say "Nobody knows.........." Its quite a raging case of projection.
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Re: Why do we feel like we have free will

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Tue Jun 11, 2019 3:39 pm

OlegTheBatty wrote:
Tue Jun 11, 2019 3:29 pm
bobbo_the_Pragmatist wrote:
Mon Jun 10, 2019 8:38 pm
Dime: Define free will.

The fact that we have it is exactly how a rape victim can learn to overcome its debilitating effects.

How in the world can learning from past experiences to make better choices not be "a useful idea."
This may be a minor quibble., but it is regaining a feeling of agency that helps victims of emotional trauma heal. It doesn't matter if the feeling reflects reality or not.
Ha, ha.........well Oleg, even though I find your comment a bit ambiguous, I can agree with it because it is valid in all cases: "feelings reflect reality" only by coinicidence or culturally defined proclivities. Now.....apply that general agreement, I still don't see how it touches upon my post that you quote. "I bet".....its easier to gain a sense of control, if you have identified "realities" that work in your world? So....what are we saying any differently than each other?
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Re: Why do we feel like we have free will

Post by OlegTheBatty » Tue Jun 11, 2019 6:42 pm

A thought experiment sort of:

You are in a store. There is a small object that would fit in your pocket which you desire. No one is in line of sight. The camera view is blocked by a display. The chances of getting caught are as near zero as makes no matter. Do you steal the object or not.

Obviously you have a choice. Unlike Dimebag's examples, there are no constraining pre-conditions. Some people would steal the object. Some people would leave the object. Some people would buy it.

OK.
Your sense of agency in this situation is real, ie, your ability to choose is genuine. One objective in treating an emotional trauma victim who has lost that sense of agency is to re-establish it whether there actually are genuine choices or not.

Is that clearer?
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Re: Why do we feel like we have free will

Post by bobbo_the_Pragmatist » Tue Jun 11, 2019 8:23 pm

Oleg: I already said I could agree as all variations have the same "results." To your hypo: no....you muddied it up quite a bit. In fact........I don't think it applies at all. Rape victims are not "presented with choices." They have to be taught/reacquitainted with the fact that they CAN make a choice.

Free choice and our power to decide is present every second of the day. Now.......if one wants to define those choices as set in concrete by the Big Bang: have at it and thanks for the fish.
Real Name: bobbo the contrarian existential pragmatic evangelical anti-theist and Class Warrior.
Asking: What is the most good for the most people?
Sample Issue: Should the Feds provide all babies with free diapers?