19 thoughts on “The neurophysiology of free will”

  1. There is nothing wrong with that equation.
    That it is unexceptable to some people is because they dont want to believe it.
    This reality requires miracles, its just that some people are willfully blind to this truth.
    Thus they are trapped in a cage of their own device… a tiger cage of the mind.
    Trapped in absurdities that life is just an assembly of dead things… that there is no *you* inside your body… you are simply your body… that in fact you are simply the mathematically predictable decomposition of a massive explosion which has not reached it’s ultimate meaningless state of thermal equilibrium.

  2. There is nothing wrong with that equation.

    Tim, I agree. 🙂

    Free will is miraculous!

    But do humans have free will? I don’t think we do. Please, bear with me for a couple of posts …

  3. Are you telling me you were compelled to write this blog post Richard?
    Are you telling me this blog eternal vigilance was a forgone concusion after the big bang?
    That beggars rational belief.
    Miracles make much more sence.

    majik

  4. Are you telling me you were compelled to write this blog post Richard?

    Compelled? By whom or by what?!

    I’m telling you I decided to write this blog post. End of story. 😉

  5. 1. *You* didn’t decide anything if your theory is correct.
    You are generating an Anti-concept… that Humans are mere automations like computers.
    If you are correct what you call a decision is that merely a mathematical calculation was performed by a Bio-calculator and it spat out an answer which it had no power to truly decide to resist.
    It may have calculated two options, one was ‘Good’, and one was ‘evil’, yet you were compelled by your programming to follow the ‘good’ option.
    That’s not what a Human decision is! We can choose the evil options if we want… by whim! We are free! Freewill explains Evil. Or You were compelled to choose the evil option because of your programming. and if your programming is some sort of automation… ie that you did not choose your own programming (which is what it appears we do when we embrace ideals and values) then you cant be morally responsible for your actions! End of story!
    Materialist determinism and denial of freewill is the end of Theistic morality and is absolutely incompatible with the Christian faith…. And it’s plain Nerdy rubbish like star trek!
    And you avoided all my discussion in respect to materialist naturalism and that your fingers are hitting the particular keys they do because of the big bang… not any real ‘decisions’ by you! Your a slave! And your destiny was sealed 13 billion year ago!
    Materialism is Soo rediculous I can believe so many people entertain it!

  6. I contend that free-will is a subjective phenomenon; objectively, it does not exist. I also think there is a physical explanation for everything — particularly the spiritual.

    All of that having been said, it is difficult to accept the possibility that there isn’t some sort of universal intelligence at work in the universe.

    The universe is beautiful and organized in a way that implies ID.

  7. You are all attacking a straw man. Free will is not about making decisions.

    Free will, in the Objectivist sense, concerns two choices and two choices only: 1) the choice to engage one’s conceptual faculty (i.e. the initiation and continuance of mental action), and 2) one’s choice to physically act. All “decisions” in between those two ‘choices’ are merely consequences of that primary choice to engage one’s mind, and are not themselves first causes, rather, they are intermediary causes or *effects* of that primary cause.

    To use an analogy, one’s conceptual mind is like a pair of goggles which gives one the ability to see further. As one travels through life, like in an open car, the faster one goes,the more important the goggles are to enjoying a safe and successful ride. Our volition is restricted to whether or not we put the goggles on (i.e. think rather than cruise along relying on the short-sightedness of sense-perception and our instinctual feelings). All subsequent mental actions are determined by that primary choice. We have no choice as to what we will see through the goggles.
    Some people’s goggles are better than others, and, with careful maintenance, we can improve the clarity and strength of our goggles. Use it or lose it is an apt expression for all faculties, including the mind.

    As for volitional control of physical actions, it is more akin to having “free won’t” than free will. So long as we are sane, the sole volitional power we have over our actions is that of vetoing (i.e. resisting acting on) the impulses that our brains send us, with some impulses being easier to resist than others (and some are impossible, like keeping one’s eye’s open during a sneeze).

    What impulses are and are not open to being vetoed and how easily one can veto them is determined by the Law of Identity.

  8. Richard said it best when he admitted that ‘Freewill is Magic’… ie he even admits it conflicts with Naturalistic materialism.
    And Richard is attempting to say we humans don’t have freewill, Ie that it is ‘an illusion’, but in reality function like sophisticated Robots/ computers.
    I have been attempting to show that rendering our self evident freewill merely an illusion is not necessary for the Bible believing Christian as it is not only in complete accord with theism, but essential to the Christian cosmology, Our conception of God, and Our Ethics.
    And all this goes to prove what Ronald Dahl said, that “ those who don’t believe in magic will never find it”…. This is because when anything magical happens, they always say “Its an Illusion”…. Why? Because of Facts? *No!* but because of their preconceptions forbid Magic! Ie Because it does not fit nicely into their cosmology, they prefer to say it’s an illusion *rather than change their cosmology!*
    And they will repair to such follies as ‘the God of the Gaps’… and Claim ‘science has slowly but surely ‘squeezed God out of existence’.

    Dawkins admits that “the biological wonders appear as if the were designed for a purpose”… yet because ‘design and purpose’ don’t fit his Amoral nihilistic Atheist world view he prefers the *impossible* ‘Myth of Evolution’… because this allows him to maintain his Nihilistic Amoral Atheism, in which there is no God and No judgment for sin, etc.
    Magic/ supernaturalism is more fundamental than Naturalism Richard!
    God is a magic Spirit whom commands Matter and energy, and gave us our Life and freewill. God is proven by the things which are made. Ie The atheist cosmology falls flat.

  9. Terry,
    Thanks for sharing.
    I dont see any morality in what you are saying. I only see an individual alone, blasting along to ‘who knows where?’

    I await Richards take on your senerio with interest

  10. “I dont see any morality in what you are saying”

    Tim,

    The morality is in the choice to think or not, i.e. in the choice of whether to raise one’s awareness of reality from the perceptual level to the conceptual level, i.e. to what degree one makes the effort of operating one’s mental apparatus at the abstract level and does so *rationally* (or not).

    Basically, for the Objectivist, the degree to which a man has a fidelity to reality is the measure of his righteousness.

  11. Is no the act of putting on glasses ‘rationality’?
    You seem to be saying that once you have your glasses on you still need to think rationally.(I take it you mean morally)
    Lets suppose it is in your self interest to defraud someone.
    how can you tell me that is being ‘irrational’ rather than ‘immoral’?
    It would be ‘rational to act in your own self interest…unless there are higher duties.

  12. “Is not the act of putting on glasses ‘rationality’?”

    Yes, but putting them on and not purposefully fogging them up. “Fogging up” is analogous to using one’s conceptual faculty *not* to see reality, i.e. the act of rationalizing.

    Morality is, as I wrote above, having a ‘fidelity to reality’, and that includes making the necessary effort of using one’s mind to know reality as best as one can, which mean to “engage” at both the perceptual and conceptual levels. Just as one can purposefully un-focus or close or divert one’s eyes at the perceptual level to avoid seeing something (the impulse to do so can be overridden with an act of free will, i.e. free won’t), one can do the same at the conceptual/the abstract level of awareness and override impulses to rationalize (i.e. fog one’s goggles) if they are felt, while keeping the goggles on (engaging in rational thought).

    “Lets suppose it is in your self interest to defraud someone. How can you tell me that is being ‘irrational’ rather than ‘immoral’?”

    Rationality (one’s goggles) is what gives one long-sightedness. No rational person could ever come to the conclusion that it is in their interests (i.e. moral) to defraud another person, because rational people act on principle. The only context where taking something from another using deception would be “in one’s interests” is where one is acting in an *amoral* and thus an *arational* situation, i.e. where one is being coerced to act by another person or people.

  13. Actually, to be precise, it is not even “in one’s interests” to act amorally/arationally, it is in nobody’s interests. The only reason one acts in such situations is because one has no choice but to act.

  14. Terry, that’s crazy stuff.

    Free will is not about making decisions.

    Free will is all about decisions and how they are made. Wikipedia is not being controversial when it says

    Decision making (decision from Latin decidere “to decide, determine,” literally “to cut off,” from de- “off” and caedere “to cut”) can be regarded as the mental processes (cognitive process) resulting in the selection of a course of action among several alternative scenarios. Every decision making process produces a final choice.

    ‘Choose’ and ‘decide’ are synonyms!

    Free will, in the Objectivist sense, concerns two choices and two choices only: 1) the choice to engage one’s conceptual faculty (i.e. the initiation and continuance of mental action) …

    You have no choice but to engage your conceptual faculty! It switches on automatically when you wake up in the morning.

    … and 2) one’s choice to physically act. … So long as we are sane, the sole volitional power we have over our actions is that of vetoing (i.e. resisting acting on) the impulses that our brains send us …

    Really? So my choice to do A is really my choice not to do B, C, D, E … X, Y and Z?

    Objectivism is the Perth Pink of philosophy. It’s not a philosophy for thinking. It’s a philosophy for laying down and avoiding.

  15. If you are correct what you call a decision is that merely a mathematical calculation was performed by a Bio-calculator and it spat out an answer which it had no power to truly decide to resist.
    It may have calculated two options, one was ‘Good’, and one was ‘evil’, yet you were compelled by your programming to follow the ‘good’ option.

    I am correct and that’s what I’m saying!

    That’s not what a Human decision is! We can choose the evil options if we want… by whim! We are free!

    Are you saying that free will is the power to act on a whim?! To act on a whim is to go whither the wind blows. The wind blows wherever it pleases … The power to go out of control. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!

    Put your rationality goggles on, Tim! Keep your eyes on the road, your hand upon the wheel.

  16. Richard said it best when he admitted that ‘Freewill is Magic’… ie he even admits it conflicts with Naturalistic materialism.
    And Richard is attempting to say we humans don’t have freewill, Ie that it is ‘an illusion’, but in reality function like sophisticated Robots/ computers.

    Yes, but I am NOT arguing for atheistic materialistic Naturalism. I am arguing against the existence of free will. (In humans. If there is such a thing as free will, God has it.)

    (Lots of real things, like morality and consciousness, conflict with Naturalism.)

  17. Richard,

    Not crazy at all.

    Like with most dictionary definitions, it is important to apply the correct sense to the correct context. The words ‘choice’ and ‘decision’ both have a number of different meanings depending on the applicable context. You have applied the incorrect context. In the context of the concept of volition, the following sense of should be used:

    Choice: an alternative action or possibility

    Decision: A conclusion or judgment reached or pronounced; a verdict

    (American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language)

    This is why one ‘exercises’ a choice and ‘arrives at’ a decision. One does not arrive at a choice or exercise a decision.

    A choice is thus an action, whereas a decision is the reaching of a conclusion. Choice implies freedom and is a capability, while decision implies commitment and is a result. A choice is a cause, whereas a decision is an effect.

    >>”‘Choose’ and ‘decide’ are synonyms!”

    Yes, in the proper context, the two are synonyms; a good decision involves a good choice, but not all good choices are good decisions. A lack of information is what leads to bad decisions. In order to obtain good information one must choose to acquire it, and that ‘choice’ is the act of thinking. One does not ‘decide’ to think, one *chooses* to think; a decision is the result of a thought process (so is indecision).

    A good choice that results in a bad decision would be any time one has used the full use of one’s mind, but due to a lack of information, the outcome of the decision turns out to be to one’s detriment.

    So, to summarize, one starts and maintains the thought process by choice, Objectivism calls this choice ‘free will’, the conclusion of the thought process is a ‘decision’ (or indecision). Where a decision is arrived at, one must then exercise the other side of the volitional coin, which is to make a choice whether or not to act upon one’s decision. Where the decision is a mentally and emotionally integrated one, the impulse to act is overwhelming (one still retains the ability to resist acting on that impulse, hence why I call it ‘free won’t’). Where there is indecision, i.e. a conflict between one’s mental conclusion (or lack thereof) and one’s emotional response to that conclusion (or lack thereof), one may choose to proceed with one or t’other course of action – emotional or mental. The choice to go with the emotional course of action in that case is acting on whim, whereas the choice to go with the mental course of action in that case is an exercise of ‘free won’t’. One has no choice about making a choice to act. Even choosing to do nothing is a choice.

    >> “Every decision making process produces a final choice.”

    The key word here is ‘produces’, as opposed to ‘involves’. The Wikipedia description thus confirms that decision making is a determined course of mental action, but not a pre–determined one, because one’s choice to engage in and maintain the process is volitional in nature (as is the choice of whether or not to act on one’s decision once a decision has been reached).

    >> “You have no choice but to engage your conceptual faculty! It switches on automatically when you wake up in the morning”

    No it doesn’t. You are confusing your conceptual faculty with your perceptual faculty. Information enters your perceptual faculty automatically, it may only enter your conceptual faculty by choice. To process it conceptually takes effort. It does NOT mean that the effort needs to be a conscious effort. Just like you may not notice the physical “effort” you make when you are typing on your computer keypad, by the same token menial conceptual tasks, i.e. those that have been automatized, can be performed sub-consciously. This fact does not mean effort is not involved. Which brings me to what I think is an apt analogy for what I have termed “free won’t”: that of breathing. Your brain automatically sends you the impulse to breath. It is only through an exercise of ‘free won’t’ that you can override the impulse and stop breathing (or breath deeper than is determined by your biological needs).

    >>”Really? So my choice to do A is really my choice not to do B, C, D, E … X, Y and Z?”

    No, your *decision* to do A instead of B, C, D etc, is the result of your *choice* to think. Your choice to act on the decision *is* your choice not to exercise your ability override the impulse(s) your brain sends you to act.

    Note: The concept of ‘Free won’t’ is not an Objectivist concept.

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