How much of our mind is our own?

by jgnat 48 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • Oubliette

    Another thought to consider, the findings of countless experiments in classical operant conditioning are that behavior can indeed be modified, but the results are hardly comparable to reprogramming a computer, especially among animals with higher cognitive powers, especially humans.

    In other words, operant conditioning does not, and indeed cannot, obviate free choice.

  • Apognophos

    Since the human brain is complex, obviously it's hard to predict, but I don't see why a failure of humans to condition another human to act a certain way 100% of the time says anything about free will. Sometimes humans do the opposite of what they are expected to purely out of contrariness. That contrariness is not a choice either; it's the result of an assertion of the ego, which bucks when someone tries to exert too much control over it.

    The ego, in turn, is a useful component of our psyches, which developed this way for a reason. Leading others requires an ego, and leadership creates organization in a group, which confers obvious survival benefits over disorganized groups.

    I don't need to go on, right? The basic idea in determinism is that everything goes back to a physical cause. What's baffling to me is why anyone thinks that the human brain is not a slave to cause and effect like the rest of the world. The only two possibilities I can think of are metaphysical assumptions (i.e., religion), or a failure to root out those assumptions after leaving a religion. Granted, the idea of free will is comforting and for ego-preserving reasons we seek to keep believing in it. It's probably better to go through life mostly believing that we are choosing to do things, for our own mental health.

  • sparky1

    "A human being is a deciding being."-Viktor E. Frankl M.D. PhD

    "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."-Viktor E. Frankl M.D. PhD

  • Apognophos

    So computers do have free will? Because when I ask mine to do something intensive, it doesn't respond right away... that must mean it's thinking about whether to obey me!

  • Oubliette

    Apognophos: The only two possibilities I can think of are ...

    The fact that you can only think of two possibilities does not mean that are not, or could not, be more. Surely you aren't suggesting that, are you?

    Apognophos: I don't need to go on, right?

    I'm tempted to say, "That's your choice," but according to you it is not. Whether or not you will "go on" is purely a function of your pre-programmed subroutines burned deeply down into your neural network, the temperature in your present environment, what you had for your most recent meal, how much sleep you did or didn't have last night, the last time you had sex and whether or not your dog growled at you or wagged its tail this morning. (Naturally, there is a much longer list of contributive factors than this; my short list is merely meant to be illustrative).

    And in my saying so I do not mean to be snarky, I am merely pointing out the logical implication of your comments in this thread in response to your own question.

    I will, however, add these two points because I feel compelled to do so:

    1. The greatest minds of all humanity throughout all of our history have wrestled with the question of free will. Every expert agrees it is still NOT a solved problem. And yet you suggest it is, at least for yourself. And since YOU have settled it in your mind, you seem to expect that everyone else will naturally fall in line and accept your assertions.
    2. I remain unconvinced.

    Your move. Or not.


  • Apognophos

    The fact that you can only think of two possibilities does not mean that are not, or could not, be more. Surely you aren't suggesting that, are you?

    Um, no, that's why I said "I can think of".

    And in my saying so I do not mean to be snarky, I am merely pointing out the logical implication of your comments in this thread in response to your own question.

    No snarkiness taken, I agree with you of course. I was bound to stop where I did.

    The greatest minds of all humanity throughout all of our history have struggled with the issue of free will.

    Yes, but the only "struggle" has been between people who want to believe in free will and people who want that less and are looking at the cold hard facts.

    The difference today is that we know so much about the way our brains work chemically, the way animals' minds work (the same as ours, it turns out!), and the way that computers work. It all points to an underlying system of cause-and-effect as simple as a billiard ball being struck by a cue and then striking other balls in turn. Except that our head has billions of balls (neurons) in it.

    On the other hand, I have not seen a single good argument for free will on this thread, or elsewhere. All you have said so far is, "You did something, therefore you have free will!" As I said, that is completely missing the point of the question of free will. Do you really believe that anyone in the world is claiming that people don't deliberate on things, or that people don't do things? If you don't believe that, then why are you mentioning that people deliberate on things and do things?

  • Oubliette

    I think you grossly oversimply the "struggle" over this question.

    Also, I am fairly well informed about the results of modern research both in the biological areas of neuroscience as well as the behavioral. In neither camp, as least as far as I'm aware, has anyone declared this debate settled. Evan David Eagleman, who strongly asserts that free will is vastly overstated, refrains from stating that it does not exist.

    I believe you also oversimply the comparison between lower animals and humans. While we do share many similarities in biology (from genetics to body plans) there is nevertheless a vast gulf between our cognitive abilities and the other animals. It is arguable that the more intelligent animals are, the more self-aware they are, the more the possess consciousness, and the more likely it is that they possess a measure of free will also.

    That being said, we are not computers. That analogy is just a non-starter.

    Why do you believe the burden is on me to "prove" that free will is real? You are the one asserting that it is not. I suggest that places the onus on you to prove your case.

    That fact that we perceive it as real is strong evidence that it is real. The phrase, "Perception is reality," is more than a marketing slogan. It is how things work in our brain. Reality is, after all, just a construct of our minds as our brains attempt to make a coherent story out of the sensory input it receives from our various senses.

    If there is such a thing as objective reality there is clearly no way we can know it. Until recently we ONLY had our five senses to try to make sense of the world around us. As I know you are well aware, they only give us a very limited and often distorted view of what's "out there." Still, until the invention of devices such as telescopes, microscopes, infrared and ultraviolet detectors, microwave receivers and x-ray film, we were completely blind to much of the physical reality around us.

    Now we see more and as a result now we understand more. This knowledge has greatly expanded our perception of reality. What's "out there" hasn't changed, but a whole lot more of it can now get "in there," that is: into our brain.

    All the while, what we perceive to be real is real to us, and it continues to be real until we ourselves or someone else can show us there is more to know. This is just one of the amazing things about the scientific revolution.

    And yet, while our knowledge base has expanded exponentially over the last century or so, and with it our perception of reality, the central issue of free will has remained unchanged.

    Neuroscientists and behavioral psychologists have discovered much about what makes us tick, what it means to be human. Part of that discover is that many of the things we do are indeed beyond our conscious control. Indeed, much of our neural activity seems to operate at a level that is invisible and unknowable to us. Yet that still does not mean that there is not a higher level at which we are in control.

    The sum is greater than the parts. A toaster or a race car both have mechanical and electrical parts. We could talk about the nuts and bolts and electrical wiring of each and we'd never understand what they do and how they work without seeing the big picture. In fact, one can work a toaster or drive a car without understanding how either works.

    By the way, I'm fond of high performance German racing machines, ... but I digress.

    All that being said, you may find David Eagleman's Neurolaw webpage interesting.

    There he discusses "how new discoveries in neuroscience should navigate the way we make laws, punish criminals, and develop rehabilitation."

  • Apognophos

    If they can learn to differentiate between reward and non-reward and seek out the reward, does that mean that slugs, bees, etc. have free will? Isn't it hardwired in us to look for a reward, for survival purposes? So if someone is punished for a crime, and decides not to do it anymore, isn't it the inevitable outcome of the fact that animals stop doing things that hurt them?

    How on earth does free will work? Can you possibly suggest a mechanism for it in the brain? Can you give even one example of someone using their free will, at any point in their life?

    Bees like pollen and they seek out pollen. Humans like ___?, and yet they don't ___?

  • Apognophos

    There's no point in writing the same thing over and over again, so I'll just quote myself until you get the point. All that you're doing is appealing to a "God of the gaps" mindset and using the fallacy that all unprovable claims are equally likely. I hope you're at least a theist, so that your argumentation is consistent and not hypocritical.

    Your assertion that free will exists is vastly more improbable than the idea that we are simply chemical-electrical-thermal machines that arose as naturally as snowflakes, and have as much self-determination.

  • Oubliette

    Apognophos: There's no point in writing the same thing over and over again, so I'll just quote myself until you get the point.

    OK, now you're just being an insulting little twit. Obviously, the subtle art of discussion and reasoned debate is lost on you.

    FYI: I'm an atheist, but you're clearly too wrapped up in your own biases to see that.

    The safety that comes from the lack of physical proximity of this electronic forum gives you a loose tongue and a reckless courage which you have not earned, clearly do not deserve and of which you are unworthy.

    Do not bother to attempt to engage me again. I will not respond.

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