Free Will

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Free Will

Postby Summerlander » Fri Mar 16, 2012 11:40 pm

Today I got a special edition of Newscientist.  It discusses interesting topics like religion and secularism in the world and the God issue in general.  It also touches upon free will.

It reviews a book called "Free Will" by neuroscientist Sam Harris.  In this book, Harry explains why free will is an illusion.  He points out why it is still possible to make distinctions between voluntary action and mere accidents even in the absence of free will.

Today I went in a supermarket and was presented with two choices.  Chocolate and toffee sundaes.  I made a decision.  I picked the chocolate one.  It makes me think that I was free to choose.  The fact that I enjoyed that chocolate sundae at home was a manifestation or effect of my choice.  I certainly caused it.

Like 12padams deciding to write his book.  The universe needs him to write it because it certainly won't write itself.  Its coming into being is caused by 12padams choice to write it.

But the underlying reasons for making choices cannot be ignored.  I picked the chocolate sundae because I remembered the pleasurable experience of eating one months ago.  I remember that when I tried the strawberry one, it wasn't as enjoyable.  Sometimes what persuades us isn't so apparent.

12padams is writing his book because he discovered the phase, is fascinated by it, feels compelled to explore and, in general, what he was exposed to prior to making a start at the book prompted him to come up with an idea.

So, does it seem like our will is as free as we think or is free an illusion that we are in love with because it may gives us a secure sense of self and boost our ego.  The idea of free will being real certainly seems to allude to more control.

However, as Sam Harris put it:

"You can do what you decide to do, but you cannot decide what you will decide to do."

Harris also stresses that it is okay for free will to not exist because our actions (even if they are not entirely or not at all our own) still produce consequences.

Graham Lawton, the author of the article states that...

"We either live in a universe where the future is set, or one where thoughts and actions happen at random"

Feel free to debate this topic freely and sensibly whilst remembering to respect each other's beliefs.  You can throw the mystery of consciousness, existentialism, theology, secularism, theories, philosophy, science and dogmas into the mix.  Enjoy!  8)
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Re: Free Will

Postby bluremi » Sun Apr 15, 2012 5:58 pm

I just read several books on this topic, starting with Sam Harris's book you mentioned above.

To sum up my current understanding of free will, consciousness can be thought of as a series of systems working simultaneously.

The simplest creatures, such as insects and amoebae, are systems that react to stimuli using heuristics determined by their simple neurons. If you cut a cockroach's head off, it will continue to run around. It's just a series of electrical impulses moving the legs around, reacting to light/sound/texture, etc. Kind of like an organic robot.

Moving up the chain to larger animals and mammals, these creatures have much more complex brain systems. Their brains take all of the input from their sensory organs and use it to fashion an internal representation of the world. We have this basic system as well: the world we see looks nothing like we think it does. All the colors we imagine to exist are just different wavelengths of light: solid objects are not actually solid, we just perceive them to be because we can't see the spaces between atoms, or the radiation passing through them at higher wavelengths. Our brains create a world and then place us inside it, at a specific time ("now"). If you described the entire physical universe in mathematical and conceptual terms, there would be no way for you to describe the concept of the present moment. Time is a continuum, and the idea of "now" is an illusion created by our mental model. That's how we get the feeling of "existence" or "Presence". A self that exists is one that can experience the world and all it's suffering or pleasure, at a single point in time.

Humans randomly evolved one more complex layer above the already mentioned systems: our brains are able to abstract one level further, and we are able to form recursive concepts of ourselves. We have thoughts, but we can actually think about our thoughts. This third-level-abstraction is what allows us to form goals, and most importantly, it allows us to analyze the behavior of others and project goals onto them. We went from behavioral reading (that lion is hunting) to mind reading (that guy is lying to me because he wants X). These systems of abstraction can get incredibly complex, which proved to be a great evolutionary advantage. Think of poker and the limitless recursive loops our brains create (I know that he knows that I know that he wants me to think that...etc).

What we perceive as consciousness is the system that arose to represent our own "self" in our brains.

What does this have to do with free will? These systems are all part of the same larger system of organized complexity, and they loop into each other. Our brain has subconscious decision making abilities: that's where our thoughts and motivations come from. When they arise in our brain, they fall into the attention of our highest neural system, the self-referencing system, and in the act of perceiving them we ascribe them some personal agency. Our body gets bored, creates the thought "I'm getting up to do X", we become aware of the thought, and our "self-system" takes the credit for coming up with it, even though upon closer observation we have no idea where the thought came from.

You can think of us as having two minds: one is in the background, a complex system that processes all the input and comes up with solutions and thoughts and actions: the other is the foreground, our self-abstracting system of "self-awareness", which is aware of the thoughts only once they are fully formed. One invisibly does all the work, the other takes all the credit.

This means that free will is a nonsense concept. If you know the starting points of all the objects in a system, we can calculate their position at any point in time. The universe is one such system, and we are part of the universe. We can't escape causality, but our brains have evolved to mask it from us under the illusion of "self" (or the Ego, if you prefer).

This is very counterintuitive and hard to explain, so sorry for the block of text. This is a very important subject to me and I am still researching it.
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Re: Free Will

Postby Summerlander » Sun Apr 15, 2012 6:34 pm

Our body gets bored, creates the thought "I'm getting up to do X", we become aware of the thought, and our "self-system" takes the credit for coming up with it, even though upon closer observation we have no idea where the thought came from.

You can think of us as having two minds: one is in the background, a complex system that processes all the input and comes up with solutions and thoughts and actions: the other is the foreground, our self-abstracting system of "self-awareness", which is aware of the thoughts only once they are fully formed. One invisibly does all the work, the other takes all the credit.

This means that free will is a nonsense concept. If you know the starting points of all the objects in a system, we can calculate their position at any point in time. The universe is one such system, and we are part of the universe. We can't escape causality, but our brains have evolved to mask it from us under the illusion of "self" (or the Ego, if you prefer).


I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed reading your post, blueremi.  It makes sense to me and certainly resonates.  It seems like we, as the self, are the importers of the packaged product from another country. 

The product is produced, harvested and fairtraded before exportation.  All of these action happen without our awareness.  Then we get the finished piece and claim it as our own by branding the package with our logo.  It meets our standards and we can sell it to the rest of the world as "ours".

I know, it is a funny analogy to use here but think it reflects what is going on with free will.  In fact, certain patterns in our behaviour reflect the gravity of our egos whether we are conscious or unconscious to it.

I wonder if there will be counterarguments from other members.  It would provide an interesting debate... well a debate that has taken place countless times but is somewhat growing richer.

Have you heard of the cryptomnesiac case of Hellen Keller?
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Re: Free Will

Postby bluremi » Sun Apr 15, 2012 8:06 pm

I think your analogy makes sense.

Summerlander wrote:Have you heard of the cryptomnesiac case of Hellen Keller?


No, but I looked up "Cryptomnesia" on wikipedia and it was listed there, along with a few other notable cases in history. Very interesting!

Since you've heard of Sam Harris, you might be interested to hear him talk about free will and how it is possible to remove the illusion of the self temporarily. He has a way of explaining concepts very clearly.

Starting at 1:43:00: http://vimeo.com/38198059
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Re: Free Will

Postby Tony » Sun Apr 15, 2012 9:08 pm

Free will is how people name a supposed freedom of making choices. It is a relative thing, i would not call it illusionary. The term illusion or reality, neither of them apply to practicalities. We may consider everything as illusion or reality. Suppose we choose to call the world phenomena as illusion. Your body and mind are illusions, your body can suffer a delusional harm from an accident. You will be sent to a phantom hospital, treated by ghostly doctors that will give you illusionary medicines to soothe your delusionary pains. Free will is a name for the supposed freedom human beings would have to make choices. It has a relative nature, not a delusionary one.   
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Re: Free Will

Postby bluremi » Mon Apr 16, 2012 4:37 am

What do you mean by "relative?" Relative to what?
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Re: Free Will

Postby Tony » Mon Apr 16, 2012 5:48 pm

i adopted a paradoxical view on the universe, living and its phenomena. Phenomenon is everything which can be experienced by our five senses of perception. Right now a woman is giving birth to one more child in a certain part of the globe- this is an ordinary fact in human history-but it is not factual to any of us who are not being affected by the referred birth of that specific child who may mean so much to loving parents. The said event is not factual to you, but it is supposed to be actual-at least for the parents. The dying of one of your beloved ones is factual to you. It may not be relevant to those who are strangers to you. We are the world we are the children, we are all in one- is the said statement real to you, to me-can we really love, care for, everyone in the world? Is it actual or factual. Do you know what actuality means? Actuality is reality- Don't you see how this problem is subjective, depending on the subject- relying on personal values and principles, on identification, on aversion, on likes and dislikes? Everything is relative, all truths are half truths. the world is and isn't at the same time. To be- to exist. 
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Re: Free Will

Postby bluremi » Mon Apr 16, 2012 7:58 pm

My confusion came about because we are arguing for or against the existence of free will. I suggested that free will as a concept is nonsense, because of causality. You said it was relative--I think perhaps you meant to say subjective instead? Reality appears to be subjective, is what you said in your last post.

You are describing the subjective appearance of free will: I'm agreeing with you, the illusion of free will is indeed totally subjective. I'm also going a step further and saying it is a complete illusion. The very concept doesn't make sense. On what basis can any choice be made? If you prefer strawberries to bananas, you are free to choose whichever you like, but YOU are not making a choice. Just like you don't choose to have the thoughts going through your head. The self makes no choices, has no thoughts: it observes choices being made, thoughts appearing within its scope of attention. It only suffers from the illusion of choice, created in retrospect.

As summerlander quoted in his original post, "You are free to do whatever you decide to do, but you cannot decide what you will decide to do."
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Re: Free Will

Postby Tony » Tue Apr 17, 2012 12:03 am

i might as well give examples- working at the reception of a school and knowing on all the ugly consequences of being rude to people, say on the phone, for instance, cause i answered to phone calls while taking copies from the xerox machine, sometimes i get overburden and i start to lose my temper and feel like being impolite to some pricks who just cannot understand i am not a 8 armed octopus to do two tasks at the same time, understand, i don't give in the tendency to lose my temper, why? do i have any choice, knowing or being aware that being rude and responding to some faint aggressions with rudeness the outcome would be so complicated that i choose to keep my patience. Did i have any choice acting like this? Did i really exert any free-will or was i coaxed to act differently trying to maintain an apperance of tranquility in the name of what it is politically correct? Can i affirm to have had any liberty of expression responding with rudeness? Understand? all i did was acting as what seemed to be most sensible for me to do. 
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Re: Free Will

Postby APVirgin » Tue Apr 17, 2012 12:15 am

I watched an interesting Horizon documentary on the BBC on this sort of subject matter.  They did a test, if I can recall correctly, whereby several people had to chase a floating ball around the room. 

They were interviewed before and after and each had there own ideas about the best way to get the ball.  Each used what they believed to be their own unique tactic.

The scientists had strapped a camera to their head and some other sensors.  The results showed that despite each of them thinking they had chosen a particular method to get the object they all kept the object in the exact same position in their field of vision, whilst chasing it.

In other words, their subconscious was doing all the work and although they believed their free will was allowing them to use different techniques they were in fact all using the same technique.
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Re: Free Will

Postby Tony » Tue Apr 17, 2012 12:41 am

well, that was a nice comment, it closes my day, i call it a day. 21-40p.m. good night, south america. America will have to wait some more 4 or 5 hours.
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Re: Free Will

Postby Summerlander » Wed Apr 18, 2012 11:44 am

I'll have to agree with bluremi.  So far the evidence seems to favour the apparent "will" that people have but it is not "free".  People are unknowingly driven to do things.  Yes, they decide, but there is always something that leads them to decide what they decide.  Hence why I quoted Sam Harris verbatim. 

By the way, I'm 15 minutes into that vimeo link that bluremi provided.  I recommend that everyone watch it.  I certain will pending further comment. 

To add to APVirgin's post, motor cortex areas of the brain have been observed to show activity before an individual becomes conscious of making the decision to move a limb - and yet we'd have ourselves fooled into thinking that we really decided to move out of free will.
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Re: Free Will

Postby bluremi » Wed Apr 18, 2012 6:18 pm

Tony wrote:i might as well give examples- working at the reception of a school and knowing on all the ugly consequences of being rude to people, say on the phone, for instance, cause i answered to phone calls while taking copies from the xerox machine, sometimes i get overburden and i start to lose my temper and feel like being impolite to some pricks who just cannot understand i am not a 8 armed octopus to do two tasks at the same time, understand, i don't give in the tendency to lose my temper, why? do i have any choice, knowing or being aware that being rude and responding to some faint aggressions with rudeness the outcome would be so complicated that i choose to keep my patience. Did i have any choice acting like this? Did i really exert any free-will or was i coaxed to act differently trying to maintain an apperance of tranquility in the name of what it is politically correct? Can i affirm to have had any liberty of expression responding with rudeness? Understand? all i did was acting as what seemed to be most sensible for me to do.


I disagree with your repeated use of the word "I." We grow up with a very deeply ingrained concept of "self," that everything we do has a "doer" and that doer is a real person inhabiting a body.

I'm saying there's nobody inhabiting your body: it's just a body with a collection of software programs running in your brain. One of those programs is responsible for creating abstract self-models, and your entire experience of being "yourself" is contained within that little program. All the other stuff, including thoughts, emotions, decisions, actions, is completed by other software programs, but the "self" program takes all the credit because it is impossible to perceive the other programs working, because they operate outside the range of our attention or perception.

So your question of "did I do X because I was forced or because I actually chose to do it?" is a meaningless question. The "I" in your statement doesn't do anything, it's just a side effect of creating a mental model.
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Re: Free Will

Postby Summerlander » Wed Apr 18, 2012 6:52 pm

Wow, I'm at 2.07 of The Joe Rogan Experience and Sam mentions his book on free will!  I also loved their talks on war, politics, religion, and meditation in particular.  It is so rich and I resonate with his experience of removing the self because I have experienced it - indeed, the less thoughts weigh on you the better you'll feel. 

And it is definitely possible to lose the sense of self while still somehow seeing or feeling things.  The observer can disappear because there is no observer.

I posted my experience in a different forum but here it is.  I agree with Sam and know exactly what he is talking about:

"I have reached an empty mind during meditation for a fraction of a second.  What followed was a series of images (furniture mostly) that I should have recognised had I had all my mental faculties.  I was looking at furniture like it was something alien.  I didn't know what it was - and mind you this was not an OOBE because I had not moved from where I perceived myself to be.  I had no language to describe what was in front of me.  Suddenly, like a switch, I had, and I was able to mentally comment "ah...that's what it is". 

And this is where it gets interesting...

Once I recognised the images as representing objects, I was able to go from knowing and not knowing several times.  It was like a switch that I was controlling.  I could literally choose to know one moment and to not know the next.  I haven't reached this state since but I do remember that the "quietness" or stillness of mind that I had initially acquired, even if it was for a mere fraction was absolutely worth it.  It is hard to describe but it felt like no thoughts were weighing on me and I felt free and extremely happy.  It definitely gave me a new perspective on what is meant by "enlightenment" and if that's what the monks and Buddhists in general pursue, then good for them because it is a good place to be."


Tony...

The self cannot be found anywhere.  It is not an object that you can identify inside the brain/body and it is not found outside either.  In the end, we can have a range of experiences (that sometimes make us realise that there are so many things we can be) and be swayed by many interpretations, but, intrinsically, we are absolutely nothing.  The state of mind mentioned in the link is as close as we can get to realising that we are all the same: blissful nothingness.

Just like wood and metal are the same on a subatomic level...

I'm still watching the video, blu! Nice one! 8)
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Re: Free Will

Postby bluremi » Wed Apr 18, 2012 8:19 pm

Summerlander wrote:[i]"I have reached an empty mind during meditation for a fraction of a second.  What followed was a series of images (furniture mostly) that I should have recognised had I had all my mental faculties.  I was looking at furniture like it was something alien.  I didn't know what it was - and mind you this was not an OOBE because I had not moved from where I perceived myself to be.  I had no language to describe what was in front of me.  Suddenly, like a switch, I had, and I was able to mentally comment "ah...that's what it is". 


That's an amazing description. I've read of these states but I haven't been able to reach them yet.

Can you describe how long you had been meditating when you had that experience, whether you were at a retreat, if you had been practicing for many hours in a row, etc. I'm very curious.
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Re: Free Will

Postby Tony » Thu Apr 19, 2012 4:26 pm

Tony...

The self cannot be found anywhere.  It is not an object that you can identify inside the brain/body and it is not found outside either.  In the end, we can have a range of experiences (that sometimes make us realise that there are so many things we can be) and be swayed by many interpretations, but, intrinsically, we are absolutely nothing.  The state of mind mentioned in the link is as close as we can get to realising that we are all the same: blissful nothingness.

Just like wood and metal are the same on a subatomic level...
posted by Summerlander.

Reply by Tony- it is ok for me, Summerland. What gives one a sense of identity is nothing but ego-i think, Summerland the ego is necessary so that we can function rationally on our 3dimensional world, it gives us a sense of acquisitiveness through the process of comparison, otherwise, the awareness on the limitation of the ego may bring about true understanding.


I disagree with your repeated use of the word "I." We grow up with a very deeply ingrained concept of "self," that everything we do has a "doer" and that doer is a real person inhabiting a body.

reply by tony-the repetitive use of the i is necessary to depict the repetitive process of acceptance/ denial which characterizes our limiting judgement on the facts of the existence. i haven't stated the i as belonging to anything mystical or mysterious inhabitting the human being. i was sticking myself to practicalities as i gave that ordinary example.
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Re: Free Will

Postby Summerlander » Thu Apr 19, 2012 11:52 pm

bluremi wrote:Can you describe how long you had been meditating when you had that experience, whether you were at a retreat, if you had been practicing for many hours in a row, etc. I'm very curious.


No retreat and didn't have to practice for hours.  I was reading about Buddhism at the time and how monks don't expect anything to happen.  Sam Harris nailed it there.  When I had that experience I had just woken up and I was meditating lying down.  I was at first focusing on my breathing and then just on an object in my head.  An agitated mind can't clear itself instantly though.  It needs time.  Rather than trying to empty the mind instantly, I believe we should first focus on the least amount of things possible.  something simple. 

But focus and mindfulness is still required before the experience of selflessness comes and this one won't last long but it will be worth it.  If you experience the bliss of having conceptuality removed and a brief sense of losing self than it will be worth it and totally awesome for the restored self to analyse afterwards and be baffled by it.

It's like a paradoxical revelation.  Like a voice in your head saying "did you feel it? Now you know that you don't really exist!  You are nothingness".  Of, course, not really a voice but a feeling that I remembered.  From then on, the idea that death really is the cessation of being seemed blissful and not dreadful and I understood this from the perspective of a true Buddhist.  I suddenly found myself in love with the notion of being absent from life and yet enjoying the feeling of being alive and appreciating this.

Harking back to my meditation, I remember that I was very gentle about the process.  I didn't want to become impatient.  I told myself that I would be at peace if nothing was experienced.  In fact, the experience took me by surprise and I certainly wasn't expecting anything like it.  I wouldn't know what to look for - in fact, seeking can present a problem.  I think it only took a few minutes and the fact that I'd just woken up might have helped.  I was not trying to enter the phase either!  LOL!  The phase is the complete opposite as you get a strong sense of self, intense experience/sensory perception and heightened mindfulness.

The state is as hard to describe as it is to describe a very deep and profound phase experience to someone who has never been there.  There was no announcement.  It just hit me.  I felt "light" or free and there wasn't much that defined me.  The images were there, crystal clear, there was vision, but observation was not like the observation of reality that you are experiencing now.  It's like the observation wasn't being done by me... it's quite profound. 

Imagine a kid who has been bullied everyday at school but one day he is absent and they are looking for him and can't find him.  The kid's worries fall away, he is not suffering any more and he might even take great pleasure in knowing that they are looking for him but can never touch him.  He's untouchable because he is not there.  The sort of feeling the self gets post the selfless trance (or whatever you might call it) is like this but different!  The kid isn't even at home and nowhere to be found.  LOL! :D

I think anybody can experience this because whatever causes consciousness is in everyone and the sense of self can be switched off like any other - however, it seems like a hard one to switch off consciously.  I was definitely not using the same "self" that I use to perceive reality in wakefulness.  This "self" was empty or not there at all and yet, paradoxically, vision was present.

This seems to support your computer software analogy of the brain.  Maybe the vision program was functional but the left brain analysis wasn't present and the programs that effect the illusion of self weren't fully functional. :-\

Reply by Tony- it is ok for me, Summerland. What gives one a sense of identity is nothing but ego-i think, Summerland the ego is necessary so that we can function rationally on our 3dimensional world, it gives us a sense of acquisitiveness through the process of comparison, otherwise, the awareness on the limitation of the ego may bring about true understanding.


No doubt that the ego is necessary and we certainly develop and refine it throughout our years.  It is vital for our survival in the world.  But ego does not prove free will in any way.
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Re: Free Will

Postby Jeff » Sun Apr 22, 2012 7:30 pm

Wow,there is so much I'd like to respond to in this thread that I think I will never catch up, so I'll start with the freewill question:

Sam Harris's take on freewill seems to have scientific support only in Libet's experiment and another (that I can't find right now ) which used fMRI to show 'RP's 6-7 seconds before report of a subjective decision.These are (wrongly IMO) interpreted to mean that we have no causal efficacy what so ever.He seems to believe that since we do not control the laws of physics and all of our physiology, any sense of freedom is illusion.(A limited array of freechoice can still be available to a 'self' ,which btw, I believe does in fact exist,but that'll be another post.)

Just a couple of responses to this:

1.Mischaracterizations of Libet's experiments always seem to exclude the important fact that 'veto power' is retained at the the spike of the 'RP'.

2.Conscious intentions (and possibly 'mental templates for action') were made long before the RPs were singled out.By virtue of choosing to participate in the experiments themselves the subjects had formed conscious intentions to act at some later time.'Recruitment' of neurons to carry out action must occur at some later point and is not surprising.

Our committed intentions to act can be delayed,we do this when we intend to become lucid in a dream,wake up at a certain time,or go to the market later for instance.

3.The 6-7 second unconscious 'decision' may be much more complicated then commonly believed.It could be that our relative futures as well as our past decisions could weight the probabilities associated with synaptic firing and brain events correlated (correlation is not causation) with conscious events.This does not require nonphysical interruption upon the conservation laws of matter and energy.Some material/physiological events could be 'perturbed' or 'guided' by some subset of the (immaterial) laws of physics pertaining to our brains ;rather than acted upon directly somehow as colliding billiard balls behave:

http://somerandomstuff1.wordpress.com/2 ... esp-study/

http://discovermagazine.com/2010/apr/01 ... :int=1&-C=

http://www.quantumphil.org/SuarezRandFinQM


Also,the simple experience of flipping TV channels with a remote runs contrary to the material reductionist interpretations of said study.I can flip to a channel and consciously choose to change it well under 6-7 seconds if I don't like the content.....

Finally there is this:
"Our results indicate that beliefs about free will can change brain processes related to a very basic motor level,â€
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Re: Free Will

Postby bluremi » Mon Apr 23, 2012 3:18 pm

1.Mischaracterizations of Libet's experiments always seem to exclude the important fact that 'veto power' is retained at the the spike of the 'RP'.

Could you explain this? It seems interesting.

2.Conscious intentions (and possibly 'mental templates for action') were made long before the RPs were singled out.By virtue of choosing to participate in the experiments themselves the subjects had formed conscious intentions to act at some later time.'Recruitment' of neurons to carry out action must occur at some later point and is not surprising.

Our committed intentions to act can be delayed,we do this when we intend to become lucid in a dream,wake up at a certain time,or go to the market later for instance.

...

Also,the simple experience of flipping TV channels with a remote runs contrary to the material reductionist interpretations of said study.I can flip to a channel and consciously choose to change it well under 6-7 seconds if I don't like the content.....


The theory Sam Harris is arguing doesn't preclude the setting of long-term goals, nor is the speed of decision making at issue here: we make different decisions at varying speeds. When you jump at a loud noise that's your hardwired instinct reacting before you even realize what's happening. You didn't make the decision to react, just like you don't decide to pull your hand away from a hot stove. Likewise your interest in lucid dreaming or philosophy or stamp collecting, and all the results of bending your will towards pursuing those interests, are perfectly compatible with the causal nature of reality.

"Our results indicate that beliefs about free will can change brain processes related to a very basic motor level,”

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/05/free-will/

('illusions' should have no affect what so ever on brain material.Not to mention that they can't be naturally selected.)

You seem to be using a very loose definition of terms here. The article references an experiment where people read an article that suggested the illusory nature of free will, and subsequently were measured to have a lower readiness potential in their brains, causing slightly slower reaction times. It just describes a stimulus, which caused a change in their brains (thoughts), leading to a series of other changes including slower reaction times. I don't see anything here that would challenge the theory of causality. Why should illusions have no effect on brain material? An illusion is just a stimulus that causes an internal response. If the response results in a change in our internal model of the world, that's par for the course. What we think affects our mood, behavior, and health: this is pretty well known. Mental trauma causes depression and higher rates of morbidity. Saying that their brains "acted with less free will" is pretty nonsensical, but it's exactly the kind of thing you'd say if you bought into the free will delusion.

One can simply commit one intention to act if a 'particle' is found at one detector and another intention to a different act upon the results of the other.Though you can use infinite regress to claim that some prior event in a closed chain of causality caused your decision to set up the experiment,this is washed away by the truly 'indeterminate' act of information creation upon the supposed 'collapse of the wavefunction'.If you later carry out your intention to act upon the result then you have amplified an indeterminate quantum event (no story inside of space-time can explain it) into a macroscale action. This looks like a free act to me......

By the logic of this experiment a good example of free will is to base all your choices on the roll of a die. Again, the problem is that the concept of "free will" is itself nonsensical. Here the attempt is to equate it to an action without a cause, but the result is action that is still caused externally.

If I make the decision to do something if a particle is measured spin UP, and then I do it, my action isn't imbued with "free will " all of a sudden, because it was caused by the particle being measured. The chain of causality is still there. You might as well say that the electrons in the wires causing the measurement display to read "spin UP" have a free will of their own because they were propelled into action by a truly random event. The statement that "the closed chain of causality... is washed away by the...collapse of the wavefunction" is wrong. A random event doesn't imbue all the resulting events with free will.

3.The 6-7 second unconscious 'decision' may be much more complicated then commonly believed.It could be that our relative futures as well as our past decisions could weight the probabilities associated with synaptic firing and brain events correlated (correlation is not causation) with conscious events.This does not require nonphysical interruption upon the conservation laws of matter and energy.Some material/physiological events could be 'perturbed' or 'guided' by some subset of the (immaterial) laws of physics pertaining to our brains ;rather than acted upon directly somehow as colliding billiard balls behave:

http://somerandomstuff1.wordpress.com/2 ... esp-study/

http://discovermagazine.com/2010/apr/01 ... :int=1&-C=

http://www.quantumphil.org/SuarezRandFinQM


This is an interesting point. I've read about these experiments before (but I wish you would explain the content of the links and post them as reference rather than just putting them up there and making us read through them), and for me the jury is out. On the one hand they have results that seem unambiguous. On the other hand they were carried out by a researcher with a vested interest in finding confirmatory results, and the effects are small enough that experimental flaws can't be ruled out. Some suggested flaws are even listed in the comments section of the first link. Then there's the problem that we have an measured effect without a proposed mechanism of action. There's too much hand-waving going on here to comment meaningfully on it. Hopefully in a few years they'll do a more rigorous set of experiments, it would be exciting to see the results.

However, I wonder why you posted this point, since it seems completely unrelated to the free will issue and is regularly brought up in paranormal debates. If anything it seems to re-enforce the theory of causality, since it's suggesting that short-term future events can have effects on our subconscious in the present.
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Re: Free Will

Postby Summerlander » Mon Apr 23, 2012 3:59 pm

Our committed intentions to act can be delayed,we do this when we intend to become lucid in a dream,wake up at a certain time,or go to the market later for instance.


Interesting point, Jeff.  Maybe things are not as black and white as they seem in regards to said experiments.

[quote]Finally there is this:
"Our results indicate that beliefs about free will can change brain processes related to a very basic motor level,â€
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Re: Free Will

Postby Jeff » Tue Apr 24, 2012 4:29 am

bluremi wrote:
1.Mischaracterizations of Libet's experiments always seem to exclude the important fact that 'veto power' is retained at the the spike of the 'RP'.

Could you explain this? It seems interesting.



Yes.I looked through Sam Harris's book Freewill and saw that he (as many others)used Benjamin Libet's 'readiness potential' experiments to bolster the claim that freewill is an illusion.It is claimed that the RP on the EEG signifies that a subconscious 'decision' to move a finger has been made before a (narrowly defined) self is able to report the subjectice experience of having made a decision,therefore freewill is an 'illusion'.What is usually left out is the fact that the EEGs still measured RPs even when the subjects decided not to move a finger -intended to abort or 'veto' a movement- during the experiments.Therefore the decision to move or not move is not set in stone by the RP as they would have you believe.

2.Conscious intentions (and possibly 'mental templates for action') were made long before the RPs were singled out.By virtue of choosing to participate in the experiments themselves the subjects had formed conscious intentions to act at some later time.'Recruitment' of neurons to carry out action must occur at some later point and is not surprising.

Our committed intentions to act can be delayed,we do this when we intend to become lucid in a dream,wake up at a certain time,or go to the market later for instance.

...

Also,the simple experience of flipping TV channels with a remote runs contrary to the material reductionist interpretations of said study.I can flip to a channel and consciously choose to change it well under 6-7 seconds if I don't like the content.....

The theory Sam Harris is arguing doesn't preclude the setting of long-term goals, nor is the speed of decision making at issue here: we make different decisions at varying speeds. When you jump at a loud noise that's your hardwired instinct reacting before you even realize what's happening. You didn't make the decision to react, just like you don't decide to pull your hand away from a hot stove. Likewise your interest in lucid dreaming or philosophy or stamp collecting, and all the results of bending your will towards pursuing those interests, are perfectly compatible with the causal nature of reality.


The speed and timing of decision making is exactly what Libet was attempting to measure and this is what Sam Harris seems to be using as scientific support for his claim.That is why I brought this up.

What you describe above is a spinal cord reflex and this is not usually associated with conscious or free decision making so I'm not sure why you used this example?

[quote]"Our results indicate that beliefs about free will can change brain processes related to a very basic motor level,â€
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Re: Free Will

Postby Jeff » Tue Apr 24, 2012 11:51 am

Look,if we take every causal event to be like a colliding billiard ball in objective space and time ( an outdated worldview) then we must also say that the supposed big bang was the cause of each and every act in our universe.Everything would be predetermined.

(I wonder,wouldn't this require more information content than allowed by the 'holographic principle' which states that information in a volume of 3D space can be stored on it's 2D surface area? All of the known universe was supposed to be squeezed into a 'point' right..? This would also be 'computationally irreducible ' I think..I dunno...just a thought btw....)

To be logically consistent you are left with explaining why desired and undesired outcomes and our phenomenal percepts (if they are 'internal') match external events.For instance,if you now were to become convinced by something I've typed then it is a coincidence or predetermined event that your physical brain state has now reached a configuration that matches my position.....your whole process of mental reasoning would have been a puppet show.

Why should some event determined at the big bang match the 'illusory' sense of will at any particular moment? If it is an illusion then nature should not care.And like I said an illusion (internal) should have no ability to affect brain matter if we're consistent....So there's no reason for nature to evolve or naturally select such a glucose wasting brain function.An organism needs only to respond to it's environment in the rightway,reflexes will do just fine for this,no need for consciousness or illusions of agency and will....
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Re: Free Will

Postby bluremi » Tue Apr 24, 2012 1:47 pm

Jeff wrote:To be logically consistent you are left with explaining why desired and undesired outcomes and our phenomenal percepts (if they are 'internal') match external events.For instance,if you now were to become convinced by something I've typed then it is a coincidence or predetermined event that your physical brain state has now reached a configuration that matches my position.....your whole process of mental reasoning would have been a puppet show.


Right, that's what I'm saying.
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Re: Free Will

Postby Jeff » Tue Apr 24, 2012 11:40 pm

bluremi wrote:
Jeff wrote:To be logically consistent you are left with explaining why desired and undesired outcomes and our phenomenal percepts (if they are 'internal') match external events.For instance,if you now were to become convinced by something I've typed then it is a coincidence or predetermined event that your physical brain state has now reached a configuration that matches my position.....your whole process of mental reasoning would have been a puppet show.


Right, that's what I'm saying.


....and you're free to do so.. ;)
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Re: Free Will

Postby Summerlander » Tue May 15, 2012 12:04 pm

Right, a few links and quotes have come to my attention.  I'm happy to discuss this with you guys when I have more time:

"Light travels much faster than sound, as the fireworks example reminds us, but it takes longer for the brain to process visual stimuli than to process auditory stimuli. As Pöppel has pointed out, thanks to these counterbalancing differences, the "horizon of simultaneity" is about 10 meters: light and sound that leave the same point about 10 meters from the observer's sense organs produce neural responses that are "centrally available" at the same time. Can we make this figure more precise? There is a problem. The problem is not just measuring the distances from the external event to the sense organs, or the transmission speeds in the various media, or allowing for individual differences. The more fundamental problem is deciding what to count as the "finish line" in the brain. Pöppel obtained his result by comparing behavioral measures: mean reaction times (button-pushing) to auditory and visual stimuli. The difference ranges between 30 and 40 msec, the time it takes sound to travel approximately 10 meters (the time it takes light to travel 10 meters is infinitesimally different from zero). Pöppel used a peripheral finish line--external behavior--but our natural intuition is that the experience of the light and sound happens between the time the vibrations strike our sense organs and the time we manage to push the button to signal that experience. And it happens somewhere centrally, somewhere in the brain on the excited paths between the sense organ and muscles that move the finger. It seems that if we could say exactly where, we could infer exactly when the experience happened. And vice versa: if we could say exactly when it happened, we could infer where in the brain conscious experience was located."

The full article:
http://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/papers/time&obs.htm

Then, there is Daniel Dennett's ideas.  Consciousness and free will (be it real or illusion) go hand in hand.  They are linked.  It is impossible to debate about free will without including consciousness.  Dejavu is also covered here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48ol4sHa ... re=related

While he is a confirmed compatibilist on free will, in "On Giving Libertarians What They Say They Want" — Chapter 15 of his 1978 book Brainstorms, Dennett articulated the case for a two-stage model of decision making in contrast to libertarian views.
The model of decision making I am proposing has the following feature: when we are faced with an important decision, a consideration-generator whose output is to some degree undetermined produces a series of considerations, some of which may of course be immediately rejected as irrelevant by the agent (consciously or unconsciously). Those considerations that are selected by the agent as having a more than negligible bearing on the decision then figure in a reasoning process, and if the agent is in the main reasonable, those considerations ultimately serve as predictors and explicators of the agent's final decision.
While other philosophers have developed two-stage models, including William James, Henri Poincaré, Arthur Holly Compton, and Henry Margenau, Dennett defends this model for the following reasons:
First...The intelligent selection, rejection, and weighing of the considerations that do occur to the subject is a matter of intelligence making the difference.
Second, I think it installs indeterminism in the right place for the libertarian, if there is a right place at all.
Third...from the point of view of biological engineering, it is just more efficient and in the end more rational that decision making should occur in this way.
A fourth observation in favor of the model is that it permits moral education to make a difference, without making all of the difference.
Fifth — and I think this is perhaps the most important thing to be said in favor of this model — it provides some account of our important intuition that we are the authors of our moral decisions.
Finally, the model I propose points to the multiplicity of decisions that encircle our moral decisions and suggests that in many cases our ultimate decision as to which way to act is less important phenomenologically as a contributor to our sense of free will than the prior decisions affecting our deliberation process itself: the decision, for instance, not to consider any further, to terminate deliberation; or the decision to ignore certain lines of inquiry.
These prior and subsidiary decisions contribute, I think, to our sense of ourselves as responsible free agents, roughly in the following way: I am faced with an important decision to make, and after a certain amount of deliberation, I say to myself: "That's enough. I've considered this matter enough and now I'm going to act," in the full knowledge that I could have considered further, in the full knowledge that the eventualities may prove that I decided in error, but with the acceptance of responsibility in any case.
Leading libertarian philosophers such as Robert Kane have rejected Dennett's model, specifically that random chance is directly involved in a decision, on the basis that they believe this eliminates the agent's motives and reasons, character and values, and feelings and desires. They claim that, if chance is the primary cause of decisions, then agents cannot be liable for resultant actions. Kane says:
[As Dennett admits,] a causal indeterminist view of this deliberative kind does not give us everything libertarians have wanted from free will. For [the agent] does not have complete control over what chance images and other thoughts enter his mind or influence his deliberation. They simply come as they please. [The agent] does have some control after the chance considerations have occurred.
But then there is no more chance involved. What happens from then on, how he reacts, is determined by desires and beliefs he already has. So it appears that he does not have control in the libertarian sense of what happens after the chance considerations occur as well. Libertarians require more than this for full responsibility and free will.


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

Here's another interesting video that mentions split-brained people:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kf7JUXub5pA
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Re: Free Will

Postby Jeff » Sat May 19, 2012 10:18 pm

Cool,I'd like to chat more about this too.  :)

I've read some of Daniel Dennett's things before and I did read the link and watch the video.If I'm not mistaken he is an 'eliminative materialist'.I'll address that first:

His position seems to amount to saying "move along...nothing to see here".Consciousness and qualia do not exist because they can not be found in the brain; in the brain there is only the firing of neurons....patterns of electrochemical events.It is assummed that for anything to be real it must be localized and persisting material. (QM destroys that belief because molecules of up to 400 atoms have been put into superposition.I wonder 'where' the eliminative materialist might think the mass of such a molecule is 'located' before measurement? So,even the supposed building blocks of material objects ,like brains, don't have to have a location in space-time to qualify as 'real'. Turns out that his/her reason for denying consciousness-qualia can also apply to the very thing they believe is fundamental.)


[b]However,if qualia and consciousness are not 'real' ,then there is nothing to refer to! (The same can be said for the sense of self and freewill.) But clearly there is qualia and consciousness ,what else would DD be refering to if not ? And clearly I think we can say that the brain responds to it because we are typing about it,so it is a 'cause' in this sense.DD tries to explain away the thing that he is supposed to be explaining  ??? It is because of this that I believe 'eliminative materialism' is a nonsensical position.

So I do agree that there is no 'homunculus' in the brain and I'm glad that he advocates Freewill; but I disagree with most everything else he says.Moving on......

Then there's the comparison to a computer.He says the brain "expects".... makes "judgements".......  "interprets" makes "assumptions" ...."cheats"...etc. These are all things we associate with mind but he claims them here for the material of the brain -which is supposed to be a meat computer.Is this justified? I don't believe so.

Computers do what we program them to do.Computers manipulate symbols for us and it is our minds that assign meaning to these symbols.Mind interprets,expects,makes judgements and assumptions.When we ascribe these mental actions to computers we are anthropomorphizing and when we ascribe these actions to the brain I believe it may be a similar situation.Neurons and electrochemical reactions carry out predictable behavior described by the rules of chemistry and physics that we've discovered,so there is no way I can see to attribute the purposeful and meaningful aspects of our mentality as intrinsic to neurons.(In fact I kind of think of neurons and brains as 'symbols' too.)So here DD is trying to have it both ways I believe.

This is getting long so I'll post the rest of my beef with DD's views in the next post.........
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Re: Free Will

Postby Jeff » Sun May 20, 2012 12:00 am

Daniel Dennett uses the words "Absurd" and "Preposterous". I think these words apply to his 'multiple drafts' model.

The whole thing seems contingent upon the existence of neural 'Re-presentations'.I have two problems I'd like to point out about them:

1.If all external sensory inputs and memories do become multiple drafts of 'representations' in the brain that are shuffled around in parallel and there is no 'global workspace' or material place that they come together in then the 'binding problem' applies as I see it. In his version of brain-mind identity theory the binding problem seems even more acute to me....

What,in a brain,could select from all of these spatially and temporally separate 'versions' and bring them together to fool or "cheat" itself  ???

2.'Re-presentations' are a big problem for me because of self reference.Say there is an external object.As the story goes:Photons scatter from this object to the retinas where they are converted into action potentials passed around throughout the brain which 'represent' the object.Neurons refering to other neurons.

My problem boils down to this:If neurons can 're-present' objects to other neurons why do they never represent themselves AS neurons? Somehow we are supposed to believe that we see past them -'transparently' as they say- to the 'real' object.IMO this is the preposterous and absurd "magic" that should be in question.

Neurons are magical,we can see through them to the real world while they themselves possess none of the subjective properties we experience!  ;D This is like saying we see the 'real' football game when we watch it on TV.


It's a strange thing that we seem to experience apparent 'material' objects existing within 'external' space ; and when we dream or phase we seem to experience 'external' space' within a material object -the brain.  :P

For me the illusion seems to be that consciousness comes from a brain.
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Re: Free Will

Postby Summerlander » Sun May 20, 2012 9:42 pm

Hi, Jeff, I don't think you have really looked deeply enough on Dennett's views.  You are also dismissing the fact that there is no evidence of self whatsoever in the brain and that the brain creates many illusions.  Brain damage in different areas can often result in the loss of different conscious experiences... loss of types of recognition etc. etc.  I'm sorry but it seems to me that an illusion such as the self arises from a conglomerate of conscious experiences. 

As a philosopher, Dennett may not explain the mechanics and will often point the finger at the experts to explain.  Check out this video with Christof Koch (Allen Institute of Brain Science in Seattle) and review the link above on split-brained people too:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6i9kE3Ne7as

I had a debate with someone else in another forum on the subject (partly because someone there ridiculed Raduga's statement that people never used to have consciousness before) and I felt compelled to explain certain things:

"Homo Sapiens, even as babies, acquire a fairly advanced form of consciousness (compared to animals). A baby will cry and try to get out of his highchair and if successful, will often pause and examine what happened - as though the question in the baby mind popped up: "hmmm... how did I do this? How did I get out?

Even though the baby may not have been fully aware of his method for getting out, he/she then experiences a reflective consciousness that you certainly don't see in a dog, for example.

Now... in evolution, our ancestors (the primordial human form) did not have consciousness. How can this be, you might ask. Well, we were only beginning to evolve the lizard brain which was pure instinct and highly stimulated by the environment and our movements were probably very much like that of squirrel monkeys. ;D

Today, we can still experience a portion of this "lizard brain" and how, in some instances, it commands our bodies without us being aware of it. An example is when you touch a boiling hot pan and your hand instantly moves away. The reflex action is unconscious. There was no time for the conscious part of you (the more complicated cerebral part that represents the upper layers of the thinking brain) to think and tell your hand to move...no consciousness involved...and yet, your lizard brain did it for you to protect you as it is highly sensitive to the environment. Afterwards, you often find that the conscious part of you is baffled by how "the hand moved by itself".

Now imagine a primordial being who only possesses such basic version of the brain. No consciousness is needed. But yes, the being is evolving a more complex brain as time passes and the more interaction with the environment over generations occurs.

Then, we began to develop more complex cerebral layers until...voila... today, our amazing thinking brain. So complex is the most complex organ in the universe that it can literally reflect on itself.

Certain simple evolutionary facts plus certain altered states of consciousness that I experienced helped me to shape my current view on consciousness. To me, the self is nothing but a sense. The sense of self. I once reached a meditative state where I saw that I had no "core" and understood what the Buddha was talking about.

There is no "Cartesian Theatre" (as philosopher Daniel Dennett termed it) in our heads because that does not even begin to explain consciousness. Through my experience, I saw that we are like a factory that is active...every bit of machinery is working... but there are no workers, no supervisors, no managers... no-one. Intrinsically, we are empty. No spirit, no soul. Just mechanics.

I postulate that, death means the cessation of being (i.e. a state equivalent to the pre-birth state). For someone to come back to life after death, or for the universe to bring back your awareness, it would have to eventuate the right coordinates in space.

Maybe in a million years, hypothetically, it stumbles upon the same coordinates and you come into being... in which case, time would not have passed for you because you were not conscious to it. It would be like dying one minute and being born the next. Please note that this does not entail a spirit roaming in the afterlife until it finds a new body. No. In this view, the universe intrinsically holds you. No need for spirits. The right vibrations of matter will determine your return and I doubt that you would have same self. There would be no memory of this life.

Since I can't fully talk about certain personal psychedelic experiences [not permitted by the Admin of Spiritual Forums], I'll take a scientific route in explaining, in part, why I hold such views on consciousness. In fact, recent breakthroughs only seem to serve as confirmation. Scientists are starting to get a very clear picture of how certain conscious experiences relate to the physical brain and I have no doubt that it emerges from the nervous system. There is not much difference between a human being and a rock on a subatomic level. They are both the same energy. The difference is in how their particles vibrate and associate with one another.

The Allen Institute of Brain Science in Seattle have begun to work on a theory of precise measure (they are also planning to build a device) whereby phi (like computer bits) quantifies the integration of associated parts of the brain in a particular state and the level of consciousness (how strong it is).

Not only can they get a good idea in determining the conscious experience of such system, the fact that some neurons fire and some don't creates a shape in a high-dimensional space. They liken the "shape" it creates to a crystal that incorporates many forms of conscious experience. The crystalline shape can change as well and widens the scope (not surprisingly as the mammalian brain is also known for its neuroplasticity). This crystal incorporates all that you experience...both dreams and reality. It all comes about in the electrical oceans of the brain."


It's pretty simple.  Inside a computer, you examine the circuitry and you won't find any evidence of pictures, films and the many other forms of data that it has saved.  Yet, when you turn it on, the screen will show a clear picture (translation/interpretation) of what is being stimulated inside (and electricity is making all the difference).  The brain is just a more advanced computer - a supercomputer - of a biological nature.

Your problem of why the neurons can't represent themselves is a moot point.  It could be that they don't represent themselves in a similar way that a computer won't represent its binary code unless you tell it to.  The codes, instead, are assigned to represent many meaningful associations and the relevant concepts arise.

Quantum mechanics are not necessarily required even though many seem to think so.  We don't yet understand enough of quantum mechanics so that is also moot.  the fact of the matter is that we still have theories, like the string one, that hypothetically fill in the missing gap between the quantum realm and the macro-world. 

Brains are macro-objects that adhere to the rules that a human being will fathom in terms of its definite and observable location in space.  They don't have to behave like quantum particles as that would be absurd.  Anyway, quantum theory relates to our many interpretations of what is going on at such reality scales, based on what seems to happen, and could be happening... but the truth is that the minute we try to see what's going on we affect such said systems. 

It's not really that something magical/mystical is going on.  It simply means that the measurement inevitably affects it - and if it didn't it definitely wouldn't make sense.  Like shining a light on a tennis ball in a dark atmosphere to see what it looks like.  It won't look like what it did before (a ball of dark appearance - it would look this way if you could remove its dark shape and collage it against a white background).  Once it is shined upon, it will look bright green.  It's an analogy which could illustrate what is going on quantum wise.

To move on, you said:
http://Then there's the comparison to a computer.He says the brain "expects".... makes "judgements".......  "interprets" makes "assumptions" ...."cheats"...etc. These are all things we associate with mind but he claims them here for the material of the brain -which is supposed to be a meat computer.Is this justified? I don't believe so.

Computers do what we program them to do.Computers manipulate symbols for us and it is our minds that assign meaning to these symbols.Mind interprets,expects,makes judgements and assumptions.When we ascribe these mental actions to computers we are anthropomorphizing and when we ascribe these actions to the brain I believe it may be a similar situation.Neurons and electrochemical reactions carry out predictable behavior described by the rules of chemistry and physics that we've discovered,so there is no way I can see to attribute the purposeful and meaningful aspects of our mentality as intrinsic to neurons.(In fact I kind of think of neurons and brains as 'symbols' too.)So here DD is trying to have it both ways I believe.


Who's to say that we will never create a computer that can literally think for itself the more we learn about the brain?  Take a look at this site:

http://singularitysummit.com/

We are stimulated by the environment and act accordingly.  We have evolved more complex mechanisms and our behaviour changed accordingly.  All we did was get more complicated.  The brain does tell porkies and creates very convincing illusions.  It gets even harder to swallow the concept that mind arises from matter when you are the computer itself and you have programs that take credit for what is not yours.  "Free will" is an example.  It is also hard for many to swallow this because in their minds they must always exist, somehow.  I't comfortable to dwell on this thought and protect it.

I'll tell you what doesn't make sense and shows no scientific evidence in its support:  the view that a soul controls the physical body.  This, even if it were the case, is not a start to even explaining the conscious phenomena.  Surely you can see that.  As Dennett pointed out, with the Cartesian theatre illustrated in Men In Black, in order for us to study consciousness we'd have to examine the little green alien and not the mechanisms of the puppet.

Only there is no little green man... ::)

It's a strange thing that we seem to experience apparent 'material' objects existing within 'external' space ; and when we dream or phase we seem to experience 'external' space' within a material object -the brain.


It's an illusion stemming from a conglomerate of conscious experiences that give rise to the self sense.  We are like onions.  Start stripping away its layers (the conscious experiences that arise from Christoff's "crystalline" codes) via brain damage (a way to accomplish this) and eventually there is no onion.  No core when you think there is one.

To finalise, here's a relevant quote:

"The brain bases its best guess of what is going on in the world on the information it is currently receiving from the senses. When asleep, the brain acquires little information from the senses. Therefore, the information most readily available is what is already inside our heads - memories, expectations, fears, desires, and so on. I believe that dreams are a result of our brains using this internal information to create a simulation of the world."

Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming - Stephen LaBerge, Ph.D. & Howard Rheingold. - Chapter 5: The Building of Dreams - Dreams are Models of the World; page 117.
Last edited by Summerlander on Sun May 20, 2012 10:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Free Will

Postby Jeff » Mon May 21, 2012 12:34 am

Looks like we'll go around and around about this,so I'll reiterate the points that I feel have been glossed over so far before we go on:

1.DD's eliminative materialism denies that qualia exist.This is self contradictory because he tries to explain them.If they don't exist there is nothing to explain.


2.The term "illusion" is meant to be something false and unreal.

But:

If only material brainstates are real and an illusion is really a brainstate then illusions are real.

Unless:

There can be false or unreal brainstates  ???

An extra comment:
Of course there is such a thing we call an illusion but they are still real conscious experiences no matter what the philosophy.A brain has it's place in the causality of an event that we call an 'illusion' ..but so does the world in what ever it's true form may be.Just as there is no finishline in the brain (something I agree about) there is also no starting line in the world that we can pinpoint either without being arbitrary.If you're open to explanations for illusions in a context other than a prop to support  materialism, I recommend reading here:

Illusions are experiences that exploit nature's rules for construction of the world:
http://www.cogsci.uci.edu/~ddhoff/

3. I wrote earlier:


Why should some event determined at the big bang match the 'illusory' sense of will at any particular moment? If it is an illusion then nature should not care.And like I said an illusion (internal) should have no ability to affect brain matter if we're consistent....So there's no reason for nature to evolve or naturally select such a glucose wasting brain function.An organism needs only to respond to it's environment in the rightway,reflexes will do just fine for this,no need for consciousness or illusions of agency and will....

To be clear,above I use the word illusion in the sense that you and DD use it as something false.

OK there's alot to respond to,I'll start with what jumped out at me:

SL:
"Brain damage in different areas can often result in the loss of different conscious experiences... loss of types of recognition etc. etc. "

Jeff:
This is true.This is another subject but I'll say for now that consciousness can be the knower of a damaged brain.Consciousness and it's content could be distinuished.

SL:
" An example is when you touch a boiling hot pan and your hand instantly moves away. The reflex action is unconscious. "

Jeff:
Dude,this is a spinal cord reflex so that's a total strawman! Nobody believes the conscious mind is responsible for that behavior.However,there is a sense of ownership,which is a separate issue.


SL:
"It's pretty simple.  Inside a computer, you examine the circuitry and you won't find any evidence of pictures, films and the many other forms of data that it has saved.  Yet, when you turn it on, the screen will show a clear picture (translation/interpretation) of what is being stimulated inside (and electricity is making all the difference).  The brain is just a more advanced computer - a supercomputer - of a biological nature."

Jeff:
And is a computer aware of it's content and meaning? How does consciousness, a sense of self and freewill emerge from an arrangement of hardware or electricity? Why should this be an article of faith? If a brain is a computer then all of nature is too.This still leaves qualia and consciousness to be explained.

SL:
"It could be that they don't represent themselves in a similar way that a computer won't represent its binary code unless you tell it to.  The codes, instead, are assigned to represent many meaningful associations and the relevant concepts arise."

Jeff:
Yes,minds create the code and assign meaning.We tell computers what to do.You almost make my point.... and concepts arise in mind.Neurons and electrochemicals do as the laws of nature compel.We exploit these laws to outsource information processing.

SL:
"Quantum mechanics are not necessarily required even though many seem to think so.  We don't yet understand enough of quantum mechanics so that is also moot."

Jeff:
Fair enough.But any complete picture of reality must ultimately include QM.To say that it doesn't apply to macro objects is just not true.There is a "correspondence principle" and QM is the most successful theory of matter and energy.It is certainly relevant if certain interpretations have ontological status.

SL:
"Only there is no little green man... "

There is no 'green' except in the mind.Green is real.  ::)

SL:
"The brain bases its best guess of what is going on in the world on the information it is currently receiving from the senses. When asleep, the brain acquires little information from the senses. Therefore, the information most readily available is what is already inside our heads - memories, expectations, fears, desires, and so on. I believe that dreams are a result of our brains using this internal information to create a simulation of the world."

Jeff:
I believe this is a complete mischaracterization of reality.I'd like to make a post all it's own on this one..LOL! In a nutshell this would require neurons to be intrinsically creative,not to mention the representation and self reference problems.And as I said,they act as the laws of nature compell them to.Futhermore this is false.I have experienced veridical content in the phase that was never entered through my conventional senses.Of course you and DD are both free to ignore this.

Ok I'll check your links but you check mine too:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6SbPPL8tOI

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2008/11/th ... 13961.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17349730
"The closer you get to the meaning;the sooner you'll know that you're dreaming" -Dio
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Re: Free Will

Postby Jeff » Mon May 21, 2012 12:13 pm

I've watched half of the Koch video,I'll see the rest latter.So far I like how he's been up front about his preference for reductionism. Atleast he acknowledges other approaches to the mind-brain problem and he doesn't seem to run from the qualia issue. His tone is certainly better than the smugness of DD too IMO.

It is interesting that he favors Tononi's information integration theory.I've read Tononi's papers and watched his videos on it and have found it interesting and promising.I like the fact that they are not disingenuous about qualia and even assign it it's own type of space,this is a good step in the right direction.I do think this is good work they're doing and it will be useful.Personally, I am still doubtful that their A.I. predictions will ever amount to anything in regard to understanding the subjectivity of consciousness experience.I also think that the model is open to the criticism of functionalism.I don't have time to explain now.

BTW,as for split brains,even the pioneer of split brain research himself,Roger Sperry,conceded to a type of mind-brain interaction.



http://www.newdualism.org/papers/R.Sperry/214-1980.htm

EDIT
ok here's criticism that I imagine Tononi's theory is vulnerable to:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Functional ... hy_of_mind)#Criticism

This seems to be a blow against it:

"As predicted, profound changes in consciousness were observed after psilocybin, but surprisingly, only decreases in cerebral blood flow and BOLD signal were seen, and these were maximal in hub regions, such as the thalamus and anterior and posterior cingulate cortex (ACC and PCC). Decreased activity in the ACC/medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) was a consistent finding and the magnitude of this decrease predicted the intensity of the subjective effects"

http://www.pnas.org/content/109/6/2138
Last edited by Jeff on Mon May 21, 2012 5:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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