Problem about free will

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Problem about free will

Postby jewish_scientist » Sat Jul 30, 2016 12:25 am UTC

Adam has been told to take medicine by his doctor for a psychological illness. There are reasons he wants to take his medicine and reasons he does not; exactly what these reasons are is irrelevant. When he is not on his medicine he can weigh the advantages vs. the disadvantages of taking his medicine; when he is on his medicine however he forgets every reason to not take his medicine, which prevent him from weighing the advantages and disadvantages. Because he cannot analyze his actions, he does not have free will. Therefore, the lose of free will is a reason to not take his medicine. Adam would prefer to be an unhappy freeman than a happy slave. The conclusion he reaches is the regardless of how much benefit the medicine gives him, he should not take it. Is there a flaw in his logic?
Last edited by jewish_scientist on Sat Jul 30, 2016 7:04 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Problem about free will

Postby Sizik » Sat Jul 30, 2016 1:03 am UTC

Possible flaws:
A: The reasons to not take the medicine are irrational thoughts caused by the illness he's taking the medicine for, so taking the medicine would be the logical choice.
B: He has no free will in the first place.
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Re: Problem about free will

Postby jewish_scientist » Sat Jul 30, 2016 4:00 am UTC

A)
Spoiler:
Some persons see a five headed dragon named Hiram McDaniels while anothers does not. There observations are mutually exclusive, so one group must be mistaken. Plato in his Allegory of the Cave concludes that it is impossible to definitively prove whether any observation corresponds to reality. Therefor, neither group can prove to the other that what they precise is reality and the other group is hallucinating. If 7 billion persons see Mr. McDaniels and only one individual does not, then by virtue of their greater strength the 7 billion persons would force the individual to take medicine until his observations matched their own. If one individual sees Mr. McDaniels and 7 billion persons does not, then by virtue of their greater strength the 7 billion persons would force the individual to take medicine until his observations matched their own. Similarly, Adam is given medicine because he is weaker than the majority, not because he was proven wrong.


Short version: On an island where one man is sane and everyone else is insane, would not the sane man be forced to take medicine for a psychological illness?

This is one of the rational arguments that are suppressed when Adam takes the medicine.

B) [Citation Needed]

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Re: Problem about free will

Postby ucim » Sat Jul 30, 2016 4:56 am UTC

In both cases Adam is making decisions. He's just making different decisions. The reason for the difference in these decisions comes from:
1: the effect of the medicine
2: the effect of whatever he's taking the medicine for

I'm using the word "medicine" because it's the one you used. However it carries baggage. Substituting "drugs" would not alter the situation, but the word carries different baggage. "Illegal recreational drugs" could also be substituted; the (stated) fact that a doctor has prescribed the medicine, and that it's for a psychological illness, is just baggage which encourages the reader to beg the question (literally). The (later stated) "[while] not on the medicine he can weigh the advantages..." is also baggage, encouraging the reader to beg the question in the other direction.

This question is therefore not well-formed. It does not ask what it seems to be asking, and the answers will not answer the question you probably have in your mind.

Your response to Sizik's (A) shows this in action. You are talking about the baggage, not the situation. The "right" answer depends on how you frame the question, and how you frame the question depends on the answer you want to get.

The question you raise there is an interesting question in its own right, but is that the dilemma you are trying to frame here? If so, it's easier to discuss directly.

As to your [citation needed], The issue of free will has been discussed at length before, here, and here. My answer is that the question "does one have free will?" is also malformed, but the problem isn't with the idea of free will, but the idea of "one". That is, the idea that a person (or entitiy purporting to have free will or not) can be thought of as an atomic whole, while at the same time considered as something with parts that actually effect (cause) a decision. This duality does not lead to a consistent answer.

The idea of free will requires that we treat the entity as atomic; the entity "makes a decision". But once we examine how a decision gets made, we break the atomic model and see the "gears and cogs" in action. While the action of those gears and cogs causes a decision to happen, neither the gears or the cogs are doing any deciding. They are just following the laws of physics. Free will evaporates. I've expanded on this idea many times in the first thread I linked, and probably in the second too. It would be worth a peek.

See also Odysseus and the Sirens.

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Re: Problem about free will

Postby jewish_scientist » Sat Jul 30, 2016 6:57 am UTC

ucim wrote:In both cases Adam is making decisions. He's just making different decisions. The reason for the difference in these decisions comes from:
1: the effect of the medicine
2: the effect of whatever he's taking the medicine for

Can you please explain what you mean? I do not understand.

ucim wrote:I'm using the word "medicine" because it's the one you used. However it carries baggage. Substituting "drugs" would not alter the situation, but the word carries different baggage. "Illegal recreational drugs" could also be substituted; the (stated) fact that a doctor has prescribed the medicine, and that it's for a psychological illness, is just baggage which encourages the reader to beg the question (literally).

The fundamental question being asked is, "Is there a flaw with Adam's logic?" This requires all of Adam's logic being explained, which requires all the 'baggage' you described.

ucim wrote:The (later stated) "[while] not on the medicine he can weigh the advantages..." is also baggage, encouraging the reader to beg the question in the other direction.

This section shows what Adam's definition of free will is. One way to disprove Adam's logic would be to attack this conception of free will, so I included it.

ucim wrote:Your response to Sizik's (A) shows this in action. You are talking about the baggage, not the situation.

Sizik was attacking a part of Adam's logic by claiming that all reasons to not take the medicine were irrational. I proved him wrong by offering a reason that was rational.

ucim wrote:The question you raise there is an interesting question in its own right, but is that the dilemma you are trying to frame here? If so, it's easier to discuss directly.

What I am trying to frame is an attack on the philosophical foundations of psychology. One of these foundational concepts is that psychology exists to help patients. Adam's logic adepts to prove that some forms of psychology harm the patient by denying them their free will. The only way to resolve this contradiction is to conclude that some forms of psychology are unethical and should not be practiced or prove that Adam has made a mistake.

ucim wrote:As to your [citation needed], The issue of free will has been discussed at length before, here, and here. My answer is that the question "does one have free will?" is also malformed, but the problem isn't with the idea of free will, but the idea of "one". That is, the idea that a person (or entitiy purporting to have free will or not) can be thought of as an atomic whole, while at the same time considered as something with parts that actually effect (cause) a decision. This duality does not lead to a consistent answer.

The idea of free will requires that we treat the entity as atomic; the entity "makes a decision". But once we examine how a decision gets made, we break the atomic model and see the "gears and cogs" in action. While the action of those gears and cogs causes a decision to happen, neither the gears or the cogs are doing any deciding. They are just following the laws of physics. Free will evaporates. I've expanded on this idea many times in the first thread I linked, and probably in the second too. It would be worth a peek.

O.k. You are attacking Adam by saying that in a deterministic universe, free will does not exist; therefore, the medicine cannot take it away from someone. This is exactly why I needed to include Adam's definition of free will. (I am trying to do this really formally, so I am sorry if it comes out really confusing) Adam defines free will as the ability of an entity to apply arbitrary rules to incomparables. Incomparables is defined as anything that cannot be compared solely with math*. If the same rules are applied to the same items, the same result will always be reached. The inputs and the rules are the only things that influence the output. Therefore, this definition of free will is compatible with a deterministic universe (bet you did not see that one coming). Just to be clear, this definition also works in a non-deterministic universe.


*I got this definition from this YouTube show on video game design and I am confident in my ability to defend it.

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Re: Problem about free will

Postby morriswalters » Sat Jul 30, 2016 10:14 am UTC

Assuming he knew this before the first time he used it than his choice was made freely, since the way you set it up infers that after he starts taking it he can't make the decision to stop. This of course assumes that the underlying morbidity that had him seek help hasn't already influenced the outcome. This paraphrases ucim's response.

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Re: Problem about free will

Postby ucim » Sat Jul 30, 2016 12:24 pm UTC

jewish_scientist wrote:Can you please explain what you mean? I do not understand.
You state (in the problem) that {under these circumstances} Adam has free will, and {under those circumstances} he doesn't. This requires a good working definition of free will (and if you want a meaningful discussion, one that at least roughly agrees with the common conception of the idea).

The idea expressed in your youtube link is not the same as free will. It's a useful concept for designing games (and I agree with it in that context), but it has nothing fundamentally to do with Adam's decision. This is illustrated by imaginging Adam's decision as being about math (say, making a simple investment choice), and having the medicine make Adam bad (or good) at math. You can set this up to have a "correct" choice, and the medicine could make it more (or less) likely to have Adam arrive at that result. How would you answer the question of whether or not he should take the medicine?

Now add a statistical element; he's making choices at a craps table. Should he take the medicine?

Now add an intangible compoment. It's not about the calculus of numbers, but of relationships - deciding whether to go out with this person or that one, and the medicine makes him better (or worse) at reading people. The "correct" outcome gets fuzzier and further distant (will this lead towards a happy marriage?), and harder to evaluate, but there is no dividing line between math and relationships (famously illustrated by a TED talk I can't locate right now because it's quiet time).

Further, Adam's definition (...applying arbitrary rules to incomparables...) hardly fits the common sense of "free will". Applying rules is a mechanical process, and all mechanical processes are math. That's part of what Turing showed - see "Turing complete". Note that math is not about numbers. In fact, fundamentally numbers have nothing to do with math. But that's an aside.

jewish_scientist wrote:What I am trying to frame is an attack on the philosophical foundations of psychology. One of these foundational concepts is that psychology exists to help patients. Adam's logic adepts to prove that some forms of psychology harm the patient by denying them their free will.
1: Denying a patient their free will is not (in itself) a form of harm. Ch*rp, anesthesia denies surgical patients their free will too, doesn't it?

2: Psychology does not "exist to help patients". It exists because we are interested in how people function. It can be used to help patients, but can also be used to take advantage of other people, whether they are patients or not. Knowledge is double edged. Always.

3: The attack on the "philosophical fundations of psychology" looks more like an attack on the fundamentals of philosophy. It's a flavor of "how do I know logic works?" There's nothing new or helpful in the reframing.

I'd recommend taking a look at two things:

1: The idea of free will (especially the idea I expressed in the first linked thread that the problem with the idea is that it depends on how closely you look at the entity; it's a useful concept only so long as you don't change your frame in the middle of a thought), and

2: Asking your question outside of a framework. Trying to frame your question in this manner puts the focus on the wrong things.

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Re: Problem about free will

Postby elasto » Sat Jul 30, 2016 2:40 pm UTC

Denying a patient their free will is ok so long as it is done with fully informed prior consent and is done for their benefit.

Imagine someone has a brain tumour; Without surgery they will die, so they consent to the operation, but cutting out the cancerous tissue will alter their personality in a similar way to your scenario.

Does that mean that "some forms of [psychology][surgery] are unethical and should not be practiced or prove that Adam has made a mistake in consenting to the [medicine][operation]"?

No, it simply means that sometimes people consent to lose their ability/desire to revoke consent. And that's ok. So long as they are fully informed of the consequences - both positive and negative - people should be allowed to make such a choice. There are many such 'one-way doors' in life.

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Re: Problem about free will

Postby Zohar » Sat Jul 30, 2016 6:27 pm UTC

Free will is an illusion. Problem solved.
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Re: Problem about free will

Postby Copper Bezel » Sat Jul 30, 2016 7:37 pm UTC

Not even a very good illusion, because when asked why you made a decision, you're going to appeal to situational and emotional factors, elements of personality, etc. It's more like a philosophical or religious construct. There's another sense of free will that's used in assigning blame or fault, but that one doesn't really care about ultimate causes.

The other myth being involved here of a perfectly objective state of mind from which to judge is similar. There's no "pure" state, ever. Objectivity is the thing made up of the parts, not some kind of quintessence diluted by some foreign contaminant.
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Re: Problem about free will

Postby ucim » Sat Jul 30, 2016 7:44 pm UTC

Zohar wrote:Free will is an illusion.
More of a measurement artifact. Like "magic" is what we call it when we don't see the science, "free will" is what we call it when we don't see the mechanism.

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Re: Problem about free will

Postby jewish_scientist » Sat Jul 30, 2016 11:28 pm UTC

My long response to ucim's long post.
Spoiler:
ucim wrote:You state (in the problem) that {under these circumstances} Adam has free will, and {under those circumstances} he doesn't. This requires a good working definition of free will (and if you want a meaningful discussion, one that at least roughly agrees with the common conception of the idea).

I think that the definition of free will that I gave is well defined (I will try to explain it again better below) and does correlate to what laymen refer to free will as. Imagine a man comes across two paths diverging in a wood; one more traveled by. He chooses to walk down the path less traveled by. If you were to ask a layman why did the man walk down the path less traveled by, the answer would be something like, "The man decided that being near nature is nice and the wildlife near the path less traveled by has not been disturbed by travelers very much." From this response I would conclude that one of the rules this layman has accepted is, "Experiencing areas that have not been significantly changed by humans is beneficial." We are both expressing the same ideas, just with different lexicons.


ucim wrote:The idea expressed in your youtube link is not the same as free will. It's a useful concept for designing games (and I agree with it in that context), but it has nothing fundamentally to do with Adam's decision. This is illustrated by imaginging Adam's decision as being about math (say, making a simple investment choice), and having the medicine make Adam bad (or good) at math. You can set this up to have a "correct" choice, and the medicine could make it more (or less) likely to have Adam arrive at that result. How would you answer the question of whether or not he should take the medicine?

Now add a statistical element; he's making choices at a craps table. Should he take the medicine?

A very important distinction is that between calculations and decisions. All properties of a calculation can be described using only mathematical terms. Some, but not all, properties of a decision can be described using only mathematical terms. This may be better explained using an example.

Example of a calculation:
Beth is looking for a job. She finds 2 jobs that are identical except for 1 thing. The first job would pay Beth $100 once a week; the second job would pay Beth $200 once a week. Beth accepts the second job. All parts of Beth's experience can be described perfectly with math. Therefor, Beth has made a calculation.

Example of a decision:
Beth is looking for a job. She finds 2 jobs that are identical except for 1 thing. The first job would pay Beth $100 once a week; the second job would pay Beth $200 once every 2 weeks. From a mathematical point of view, both the methods of distriburing paychecks are equivalence.* If nothing exists which can break the symmetry, Beth will not be able to accept either job (read this article on Buridan's Ass for more information). Beth accepts the first job. We can therefor conclude that something not mathematical in nature broke the symmetry. By virtue of this thing Beth made a decision. Whatever this thing is, it is what I would call a rule or something derived from a rule.


ucim wrote:Now add an intangible compoment. It's not about the calculus of numbers, but of relationships - deciding whether to go out with this person or that one, and the medicine makes him better (or worse) at reading people. The "correct" outcome gets fuzzier and further distant (will this lead towards a happy marriage?), and harder to evaluate, but there is no dividing line between math and relationships (famously illustrated by a TED talk I can't locate right now because it's quiet time).

Further, Adam's definition (...applying arbitrary rules to incomparables...) hardly fits the common sense of "free will". Applying rules is a mechanical process, and all mechanical processes are math. That's part of what Turing showed - see "Turing complete". Note that math is not about numbers. In fact, fundamentally numbers have nothing to do with math. But that's an aside.

Let us look at 2 rules that someone, not necessarily me, may follow that cannot be derived mathematically. 1) The right to legal council is more important than the right to a trial by a jury of one's peers. 2) The right to a trial by a jury of one's peers is more important than the right to be protected from cruel or unusual punishment. Using the transitive property, we can derive 3) The right to legal council is more important than the right to be protected from cruel or unusual punishment. The transitive property is a staple of mathematical logic. This example proves that rules that are not derived from mathematics can still be used by mathematics to derive other rules. In other words, computational mathematics can be applied to rules regardless of the rules' origin.


ucim wrote:
jewish_scientist wrote:What I am trying to frame is an attack on the philosophical foundations of psychology. One of these foundational concepts is that psychology exists to help patients. Adam's logic adepts to prove that some forms of psychology harm the patient by denying them their free will.
1: Denying a patient their free will is not (in itself) a form of harm. Ch*rp, anesthesia denies surgical patients their free will too, doesn't it?

2: Psychology does not "exist to help patients". It exists because we are interested in how people function. It can be used to help patients, but can also be used to take advantage of other people, whether they are patients or not. Knowledge is double edged. Always.

3: The attack on the "philosophical fundations of psychology" looks more like an attack on the fundamentals of philosophy. It's a flavor of "how do I know logic works?" There's nothing new or helpful in the reframing.

I'd recommend taking a look at two things:

1: The idea of free will (especially the idea I expressed in the first linked thread that the problem with the idea is that it depends on how closely you look at the entity; it's a useful concept only so long as you don't change your frame in the middle of a thought), and

2: Asking your question outside of a framework. Trying to frame your question in this manner puts the focus on the wrong things.

1)I have 3 counterarguments. First, the patient can express free will via proxy. Second, the subconscious can use free will to make decisions. Third, anesthesia removes a person's liberty (the ability to act) by preventing the body from moving; however decisions are made solely in the mind, which then tells the body how to act as a result of this decision.

2)I had considered this way of resolving the contradiction and rejected it because that would mean that psychology was the only branch of medicine whose primary concern was not the patients' well being. I know that all other fields of medicine place the patients' well being above all else because a doctor's first duty is to do no harm.

3) There is a very big difference between the questions, "How do I know logic works?" and, "Does this logic work?" The former addresses the nature of rational thought and reasoning; the later addresses the logical strength of a specific line of reasoning.

1) I do not understand what you mean by "change your frame in the middle of a thought."

2) The question I am asking is, "Is logical argument sound?" The framing is not framing, its the question. Remember, a line of reasoning can be attacked at any point, which means multiple questions can be asked about my reasoning. For example, everyone has been focusing on the issue of whether free will exists and not yet discussing the value of happiness, sociability and productivity. Yet. In addition, I would bet $50 that the people here can find dozens of more angles to attack Adam's logic. Reducing my hypothetical to one or two questions means that the questions that people smarter than me think of would not get asked.


*I am sure that there is some crazy tax laws or obscure economic principle which break the symmetry and I am choosing to ignore them.



Zohar wrote:Free will is an illusion. Problem solved.

I absolutely hate when persons do this; declaring something as true without saying why. Just think about it. How on Earth an I suppose to form a counterargument to a non-existing argument? We can debate where or not free will is an illusion; I am perfectly fine with that. However, debates require logic and reasoning that can be analyzed be presented by all parties in the debate.


Copper Bezel wrote:Not even a very good illusion, because when asked why you made a decision, you're going to appeal to situational and emotional factors, elements of personality, etc. It's more like a philosophical or religious construct. There's another sense of free will that's used in assigning blame or fault, but that one doesn't really care about ultimate causes.

I am sorry because I do not see your logic. Why are emotional factors mutually exclusive with free will? What do you mean by a philosophical or religious construct? Why would a party that believes in free will assign blame to someone who is not the cause?


ucim wrote:
Zohar wrote:Free will is an illusion.
More of a measurement artifact. Like "magic" is what we call it when we don't see the science, "free will" is what we call it when we don't see the mechanism.

If by mechanism, you are referring to how the past determines the future in a deterministic universe, then it is worth mentioning that my definition of free will is compatible with a deterministic and non-deterministic universe.

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Re: Problem about free will

Postby Copper Bezel » Sun Jul 31, 2016 12:56 am UTC

jewish_scientist wrote:
Copper Bezel wrote:Not even a very good illusion, because when asked why you made a decision, you're going to appeal to situational and emotional factors, elements of personality, etc. It's more like a philosophical or religious construct. There's another sense of free will that's used in assigning blame or fault, but that one doesn't really care about ultimate causes.

I am sorry because I do not see your logic.


Well, no, I wouldn't expect that you would, if you're assuming this kind of definition for "free will":

If by mechanism, you are referring to how the past determines the future in a deterministic universe, then it is worth mentioning that my definition of free will is compatible with a deterministic and non-deterministic universe.


But that's not how it's really ever meant. If I define "free will" to mean chicken sandwiches, it definitely exists.

Why are emotional factors mutually exclusive with free will?


Emotional factors aren't special in any sense. As people have already said, judgements and decisions that people make are the causal consequence of all the factors contributing to them.

What do you mean by a philosophical or religious construct?


I mean that the question of whether or not there's "free will" presumes that, as folks have already said, "will" is a defined thing which is assumed to be "free" (or not) from some other additional thing. It's defined only in opposition to a kind of will, or a conception of will, that isn't free. For example, naive interpretations of determinism conclude that because everything has a cause, human decisions, actions, or life have no meaning, or less than they would otherwise, or something - a complete non sequitur, but there are people who have taken that position. More influential arguments, made from a theological context, start from the assumption that the universe was created by an all-knowing God, and thus set into motion in the exact way it's played out since; every detail of the universe, however things develop in it, was intended from the beginning. I think there are possibly also people who have believed that destiny is a real thing.

Dualism also helps a little, making people's decisions this stuff of another world influencing the path of this one. But it's not just human consciousness, quite a lot of things were magical black boxes for most of the history of civilization.

Actual human will is exactly as free as it is, and a known quality. People make their own assessments and their own decisions, and everything that makes up those people does itself have a prior cause. Whether you want to think of that as more or less free than any of the magical versions just isn't really relevant. It is what it is. It's not constrained by anything other than the factors that make it up, but there's no particular thing to expect it to be constrained by that it is instead "free" of.

Occasionally, people will also bring up the idea that neuroscience disproves free will, by showing that since much of our decision-making is unconscious and our conscious awareness of a decision comes last, "we're" really being controlled by the unseen forces of ... ourselves? ... and I think the fact that they manage to arrive at that conclusion illustrates at the very least what a magical and ill-defined thing is actually meant by the phrase "free will".

Why would a party that believes in free will assign blame to someone who is not the cause?


There is a softer sense of the term that simply means "without external coercion, willingly" and I was noting the exception.
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Re: Problem about free will

Postby ucim » Sun Jul 31, 2016 5:01 am UTC

jewish_scientist wrote:...If you were to ask a layman why did the man walk down the path less traveled by, the answer would be something like, "The man decided that being near nature is nice...
... and what does "The man decided..." mean? We either look at the process of deciding, or we don't. If we do, then we see the gears in action, and the outcome is inevitable. There is no free will because there's no single "entity" to have it - we've looked past that. But if we don't, then we just see the decision itself, "willed" by the entity, which we are considering as a whole, without regard to its mechanism (to wit: the "rules" or "math" involved, and how these rules are encoded and turned into output).

jewish_scientist wrote:A very important distinction is that between calculations and decisions.
All decisions are calculations. Don't be confused by the fact that some calculations do not explicitly involve numbers. Computers do nothing but calculations, and they routinely make non-arithmetical decisions. If you say they do so by turning them into arithmetic, that can only happen because these decisions, while non-arithmetic, are isomorphic to arithmetic, or to its predecessor, symbolic logic.

jewish_scientist wrote:Let us look at 2 rules that someone, not necessarily me, may follow that cannot be derived mathematically. 1) The right to legal council is more important...
The same can be said of math. Consider the "rule" that parallel lines never meet. This is a rule that is not derivable by mathematics, but is still used by mathematics to derive other rules. It doesn't make Euclidean gemoetry "not math".

Further, which social rights are more important than others is derivable by math, given the appropriate axioms. Axioms are (by definition) not derivable from anything (except that they must use the language of defined terms, which is based on undefined terms... but it's still math).

jewish_scientist wrote:1)I have 3 counterarguments. First, the patient can express free will via proxy. Second, the subconscious can use free will to make decisions. Third, anesthesia removes a person's liberty (the ability to act) by preventing the body from moving; however decisions are made solely in the mind, which then tells the body how to act as a result of this decision.
First, a proxy (somebody else making decisions) is not an act of free will by the patient. Setting up a proxy could be considered such an act, but then so could setting up a prior decision. If you accept this argument, then Adam, before treatment, could set up a prior decision to undergo treatment despite future desires, and in both cases the prior request should be treated equivalently.

Second and third, the subconscious will not be making any decisions about surgery during the surgery. It's the conscious mind that will be making these decisions. Absent anesthesia, the conscious mind is likely to make the decision to run screaming out of the operating table once the patient feels himself being cut open. Anesthesia denies the patient this option.

jewish_scientist wrote:I had considered this way of resolving the contradiction and rejected it because that would mean that psychology was the only branch of medicine whose primary concern was not the patients' well being.
Rejecting a conclusion because you don't like it is a good way to convince yourself of incorrect conclusions. (I have more to say about the primary concern of medical fields, but it's really irrelevant. The important bit is that you cannot (validly) reject logic because you don't like the conclusion. If sound logic leads to a conclusion you don't like, then you should consider rejecting the thing you like. That's the point of it.

jewish_scientist wrote:There is a very big difference between the questions, "How do I know logic works?" and, "Does this logic work?"
But the question you ask is (paraphrased as) "Does this logic about how logic works, work?"
jewish_scientist wrote:The question I am asking is, "Is logical argument sound?"
Exactly. And you are going to answer it using... logic?

jewish_scientist wrote:I do not understand what you mean by "change your frame in the middle of a thought."
A silly example: A ham sandwich is better than complete happiness.

Proof:
1: Nothing is better than complete happiness.
2: A ham sandwich is better than nothing.

jewish_scientist wrote:...and not yet discussing the value of happiness, sociability and productivity.
They are not what was being asked about; discussing them would be counterproductive. Different people legitimately value happiness, sociability, and productivity differently. It's one of the things that makes them different. There's no "right" answer to these kinds of questions.

jewish_scientist wrote:If by mechanism, you are referring to how the past determines the future in a deterministic universe, then it is worth mentioning that my definition of free will is compatible with a deterministic and non-deterministic universe.
By mechanism, I mean the process by which a decision gets made, examined at whatever level you wish. It could go down as far as the neuron level if you want, it could only go to the agent level, but the point is that it would involve separate components which together make up the entity that is making the decision. Once you have separate components, you no longer are looking at an (atomic - by which I mean whole and indivisible) entity.

If you start an argument thinking of the entity as atomic, and then analyze it thinking of the entity's components, you are changing your frame in the middle of the thought. This is invalid.

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Re: Problem about free will

Postby Chen » Mon Aug 01, 2016 12:09 pm UTC

jewish_scientist wrote:Adam has been told to take medicine by his doctor for a psychological illness. There are reasons he wants to take his medicine and reasons he does not; exactly what these reasons are is irrelevant. When he is not on his medicine he can weigh the advantages vs. the disadvantages of taking his medicine; when he is on his medicine however he forgets every reason to not take his medicine, which prevent him from weighing the advantages and disadvantages. Because he cannot analyze his actions, he does not have free will. Therefore, the lose of free will is a reason to not take his medicine. Adam would prefer to be an unhappy freeman than a happy slave. The conclusion he reaches is the regardless of how much benefit the medicine gives him, he should not take it. Is there a flaw in his logic?


I mean this logic could be sound if all the premises you're stating are correct. Even forgetting the free will part now, there's the "Adam would prefer to be an unhappy freeman than a happy slave". Sure by taking the medicine you lose the ability to choose to stop taking the medicine. That is certainly some reduction in how much freedom you have. But you mention nothing of the other consequences of not taking the medicine. Perhaps not taking it will make him die much earlier. That would be a much larger reduction in their freedom to do things (they'd be dead). Or perhaps it could lead to a psychosis and land them in prison or a mental health facility for the rest of their lives. Again, much more of their freedom would be removed in those cases than the loss of freedom that comes from not being able to stop taking a medicine.

The medicine here removes some aspect of decision making the person can do. Whether or not that is better than the other freedoms that could be lost in not taking the medicine, depends entirely on the other consequences of not taking the medicine. As such the flaw in the above logic is in the "The conclusion he reaches is the regardless of how much benefit the medicine gives him, he should not take it" statement. There are clearly some benefits that would make it worthwhile for him to take it. I mean consider the trivial case: not taking the medicine for some time will put him in a state of mind where he will never choose to take the medicine again. By his definition of free will, he'd have lost it again putting himself in the same situation as if he had taken the medicine but will all the other detriments that come from not taking the medicine.

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Re: Problem about free will

Postby Zohar » Mon Aug 01, 2016 12:47 pm UTC

jewish_scientist wrote:
Zohar wrote:Free will is an illusion. Problem solved.

I absolutely hate when persons do this; declaring something as true without saying why. Just think about it. How on Earth an I suppose to form a counterargument to a non-existing argument? We can debate where or not free will is an illusion; I am perfectly fine with that. However, debates require logic and reasoning that can be analyzed be presented by all parties in the debate.


That's a fair criticism. I didn't feel like describing my logic at the time. Basically, it boils down to a person's inability to do something they don't want at some level. When presented with a decision, you have a bunch of choices you're thinking of choosing from, and you have a bunch of motivators that push you in different directions (insuring your personal safety, feeling superior to others, feeling morally right, etc.). Consciously or subconsciously, your mind assigns a sort of "weight" to each decision, and you choose the one that most conforms with your motivators (even if your motivators, or the choices you think of, really really suck). You would always choose the one that seems the best option in your mind. There's literally no reason you would choose something different.

This doesn't mean you can't change your mind - your motivators can change, people can introduce different options and choices to you, you evolve with time, etc. But it doesn't change the fact that you don't actually have a choice - you're bound to choose what seems best.

However, this is a completely unhelpful position to take - it doesn't help you make better informed decisions or understand the world much better (well, I suppose the empathy of realizing people try to do the best they can in a given situation). And I fear if I emotionally understood this ("grokked", I suppose), I might go into a permanent state of inactivity. Therefor the illusion of having free will.
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Re: Problem about free will

Postby elasto » Mon Aug 01, 2016 12:51 pm UTC

It's not a forgone conclusion that "it's better to be an unhappy freeman than a happy slave" for sufficiently loose definitions of 'free man' and 'slave'.

We have democracy in the West but does it make us free? Only really if you have money. If you're poor, maybe in theory you could do anything, but in practice most options are off-limits because all your time is spent simply surviving.

Moreover, am I free to be an astronaut? Am I free to be an olympic sprinter? No. My age and physical abilities preclude it.

Whereas if I were a 'slave' in the real world but my mind was in a virtual reality (think The Matrix) that meant I could do anything and go anywhere without limitations - teraforming planets - witnessing black holes colliding - well, that seems like a good deal to me. It wouldn't to everyone, but it'd certainly be unethical to deny me the choice to enter.

Likewise it can't be unethical to offer people medicine that improves their mental health even if said medicine removes their desire to stop taking it. People might decide it'd be unethical to take such medicine, but it can't be unethical to offer people the choice.

---

Zohar: That's exactly how I see free will too: I don't have free will - instead, I am forced to choose to do that which seems best to me. Fortunately, that's exactly what I'd choose to do if I did have real free will. So tis all good...

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Re: Problem about free will

Postby Tyndmyr » Mon Aug 01, 2016 3:27 pm UTC

jewish_scientist wrote:Adam has been told to take medicine by his doctor for a psychological illness. There are reasons he wants to take his medicine and reasons he does not; exactly what these reasons are is irrelevant. When he is not on his medicine he can weigh the advantages vs. the disadvantages of taking his medicine; when he is on his medicine however he forgets every reason to not take his medicine, which prevent him from weighing the advantages and disadvantages. Because he cannot analyze his actions, he does not have free will. Therefore, the lose of free will is a reason to not take his medicine. Adam would prefer to be an unhappy freeman than a happy slave. The conclusion he reaches is the regardless of how much benefit the medicine gives him, he should not take it. Is there a flaw in his logic?


What the hell kind of medication is this?

If your decision making process works differently in two different states, and each state supports the maint of itself, then I would suggest turning to an outside source to assist you in decision making. Preferably a professional. Talk to a doctor. If this is not sufficiently reassuring, get a second opinion.

If you are of half a mind to take the medicine, and the doctors all say you should take the medicine, the smart bet is to take the medicine.

Note additionally that foreknowledge of a choice does not make that choice cease to be one. Many choices are easy ones, with very obvious reasons to choose one way. Opting NOT to run over annoying pedestrians does not make you a slave. It merely means you understand consequences. Knowing that you will choose to continue taking a medicine is not sufficient to make one a slave.

These things always come to down to definitions. Consider defining them clearly. If you are a slave, slave to WHO. If you are free, free from WHAT? Free from cause and effect? Obviously not a thing. Free from control by another? Well, the guy is obviously making a decision here. That seems free enough. But if different folks are talking about slightly different things, you can have rather a lot of disagreement without much actual progress.

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Re: Problem about free will

Postby Trebla » Mon Aug 01, 2016 3:36 pm UTC

elasto wrote:Zohar: That's exactly how I see free will too: I don't have free will - instead, I am forced to choose to do that which seems best to me. Fortunately, that's exactly what I'd choose to do if I did have real free will. So tis all good...


While I'm inclined to agree, it has been pointed out to me (by someone who disagreed) that the claim "You always do what seems best to you" is unfalsifiable and I was unable to properly defend. Would be interested in that discussion.

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Re: Problem about free will

Postby elasto » Mon Aug 01, 2016 4:07 pm UTC

I would call it a truism rather than unfalsifiable.

If I decide that A is the best course of action, then do B to be contrarian, then it's because I think the best course of action is to be contrarian.

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Re: Problem about free will

Postby Zohar » Mon Aug 01, 2016 4:22 pm UTC

Trebla wrote:While I'm inclined to agree, it has been pointed out to me (by someone who disagreed) that the claim "You always do what seems best to you" is unfalsifiable and I was unable to properly defend. Would be interested in that discussion.

Well yes, that's why I consider this a relatively boring subject, and a wholly unuseful exercise. The only way I can think of being proven wrong is being shown an example where someone acts completely against their interests. I cannot imagine something like that, and I've never been shown an example that didn't seem, at least to me, as utilitarian.
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Re: Problem about free will

Postby ahammel » Mon Aug 01, 2016 5:01 pm UTC

Zohar wrote:Basically, it boils down to a person's inability to do something they don't want at some level. When presented with a decision, you have a bunch of choices you're thinking of choosing from, and you have a bunch of motivators that push you in different directions (insuring your personal safety, feeling superior to others, feeling morally right, etc.). Consciously or subconsciously, your mind assigns a sort of "weight" to each decision, and you choose the one that most conforms with your motivators (even if your motivators, or the choices you think of, really really suck). You would always choose the one that seems the best option in your mind. There's literally no reason you would choose something different.

Let's say you're right about this. I think we can grant that and still save the OP's question if we have Adam say "I accept that my decisions are a result of the mechanistic weighing process that Zohar describes, but I still want the weighing to be done, to the largest possible extent, by the loose association of motivating factors that I think of as my personality."

In which case, I think Adam ought to take his meds. If his illness so compromises him that he's unable to weigh the pros and cons of taking the medication, then it seems very unlikely that the personality that Adam thinks of as "Adam" is still in charge.
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Re: Problem about free will

Postby Zohar » Mon Aug 01, 2016 5:41 pm UTC

Well, yes, I think if you phrase it "it impacts my judgement of what's best for me", that's a very valid concern.
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Re: Problem about free will

Postby AndyG314 » Mon Aug 01, 2016 6:51 pm UTC

jewish_scientist wrote:Some persons see a five headed dragon named Hiram McDaniels while anothers does not. There observations are mutually exclusive, so one group must be mistaken. Plato in his Allegory of the Cave concludes that it is impossible to definitively prove whether any observation corresponds to reality. Therefor, neither group can prove to the other that what they precise is reality and the other group is hallucinating. If 7 billion persons see Mr. McDaniels and only one individual does not, then by virtue of their greater strength the 7 billion persons would force the individual to take medicine until his observations matched their own. If one individual sees Mr. McDaniels and 7 billion persons does not, then by virtue of their greater strength the 7 billion persons would force the individual to take medicine until his observations matched their own. Similarly, Adam is given medicine because he is weaker than the majority, not because he was proven wrong.


I heard this spiel from my dad, complete with Plato references, every time he was off his meds. I would always respond that I did know that there was no proverbial Hiram McDaniels, because a five headed dragon would not fit in our living room.

I remember in college, watching some friends who had dome shrooms telling me that they had to hang out in my room because there was a hippo in theirs, and he didn't fit out the door, so he would have to stay there forever. I asked how the hippo go in and they just stared at me.

Delusions and hallucinations typically don't make any sense. The popular theory about this is that it is because they are not observations of some reality that eludes the rest of us, but are in fact erroneous inputs caused by mental illness or drugs. We even have theories as to the mechanism that causes them. Were not bullying you into accepting our reality, the reality is that Hiram McDaniels doesn't exist.
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Re: Problem about free will

Postby elasto » Mon Aug 01, 2016 7:35 pm UTC


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Re: Problem about free will

Postby jewish_scientist » Mon Aug 01, 2016 7:38 pm UTC

Zohar wrote:
jewish_scientist wrote:
Zohar wrote:Free will is an illusion. Problem solved.

I absolutely hate when persons do this; declaring something as true without saying why. Just think about it. How on Earth an I suppose to form a counterargument to a non-existing argument? We can debate where or not free will is an illusion; I am perfectly fine with that. However, debates require logic and reasoning that can be analyzed be presented by all parties in the debate.


Basically, it boils down to a person's inability to do something they don't want at some level. When presented with a decision, you have a bunch of choices you're thinking of choosing from, and you have a bunch of motivators that push you in different directions (insuring your personal safety, feeling superior to others, feeling morally right, etc.). Consciously or subconsciously, your mind assigns a sort of "weight" to each decision, and you choose the one that most conforms with your motivators (even if your motivators, or the choices you think of, really really suck). You would always choose the one that seems the best option in your mind. There's literally no reason you would choose something different.

This doesn't mean you can't change your mind - your motivators can change, people can introduce different options and choices to you, you evolve with time, etc. But it doesn't change the fact that you don't actually have a choice - you're bound to choose what seems best.

That is what I have defined 'free will' as and every time I tried to explain it I ended up sounding like a lunatic. Thank you for unintentionally doing what I have been failing to do (never though I would say that).


Tyndmyr wrote:These things always come to down to definitions. Consider defining them clearly. If you are a slave, slave to WHO. If you are free, free from WHAT? Free from cause and effect? Obviously not a thing. Free from control by another? Well, the guy is obviously making a decision here. That seems free enough. But if different folks are talking about slightly different things, you can have rather a lot of disagreement without much actual progress.

I realized this a while ago and I have never seen arguments between pundits, politicians, and random people on the internet the same way.


ahammel wrote:...[Adam says] "I accept that my decisions are a result of the mechanistic weighing process that Zohar describes, but I still want the weighing to be done, to the largest possible extent, by the loose association of motivating factors that I think of as my personality."

In which case, I think Adam ought to take his meds. If his illness so compromises him that he's unable to weigh the pros and cons of taking the medication, then it seems very unlikely that the personality that Adam thinks of as "Adam" is still in charge.

I think you have it backwards. When Adam takes the medicine he cannot weigh the pros and cons; it is when he does not take it he can.

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Re: Problem about free will

Postby elasto » Mon Aug 01, 2016 8:54 pm UTC

jewish_scientist wrote:I think you have it backwards. When Adam takes the medicine he cannot weigh the pros and cons; it is when he does not take it he can.

But he did weigh the pros and cons immediately prior to taking the medicine, right? In which case he simply needs to continue to trust himself and his prior unclouded, rational decision. It's not like the medicine wipes his memory of making the judgement call, right?

(That's not really how such medicines typically operate, anyhow; They tend to dull emotions much more so than intellect ('ability to weigh pros and cons'))

You hear of people with disorders like bipolar deciding to come off their meds all the time - because 'I feel fine now so clearly I don't need my meds any more'. Then the soaring highs come - which momentarily make their decision seem even better - followed by the crashing lows - and they realise the price to be paid in terms of finances/relationships/poor decisions is too high and the stability of life under the meds is far superior (if bland by comparison).
Last edited by elasto on Mon Aug 01, 2016 8:59 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Problem about free will

Postby ahammel » Mon Aug 01, 2016 8:58 pm UTC

jewish_scientist wrote:
ahammel wrote:...[Adam says] "I accept that my decisions are a result of the mechanistic weighing process that Zohar describes, but I still want the weighing to be done, to the largest possible extent, by the loose association of motivating factors that I think of as my personality."

In which case, I think Adam ought to take his meds. If his illness so compromises him that he's unable to weigh the pros and cons of taking the medication, then it seems very unlikely that the personality that Adam thinks of as "Adam" is still in charge.

I think you have it backwards. When Adam takes the medicine he cannot weigh the pros and cons; it is when he does not take it he can.
Yep, misread.

In that case, I suppose it depends on the symptoms of his illness and the other side effects of his medication. If the meds make him unable to make rational decisions about anything and his illness is relatively mild, then it's probably not worth it. On the other hand, if the condition is debilitating and the meds have only the weird side effect of making him unable to reason about the medication itself, then he should probably go ahead and take them.
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Re: Problem about free will

Postby svenman » Mon Aug 01, 2016 9:31 pm UTC

Sorry for going off on a nitpicky tangent that is probably only marginally relevant at best, but when duty calls...
jewish_scientist wrote:2)I had considered this way of resolving the contradiction and rejected it because that would mean that psychology was the only branch of medicine whose primary concern was not the patients' well being. I know that all other fields of medicine place the patients' well being above all else because a doctor's first duty is to do no harm.

Psychology is not a branch of medicine. You may be mixing it up with psychiatry.
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Re: Problem about free will

Postby jewish_scientist » Tue Aug 02, 2016 6:38 am UTC

elasto wrote:
jewish_scientist wrote:I think you have it backwards. When Adam takes the medicine he cannot weigh the pros and cons; it is when he does not take it he can.

But he did weigh the pros and cons immediately prior to taking the medicine, right? In which case he simply needs to continue to trust himself and his prior unclouded, rational decision.

The problem with that is a past decisions, even those that were correct at the time, may not be the best decisions now.


svenman wrote:Sorry for going off on a nitpicky tangent that is probably only marginally relevant at best, but when duty calls...
jewish_scientist wrote:2)I had considered this way of resolving the contradiction and rejected it because that would mean that psychology was the only branch of medicine whose primary concern was not the patients' well being. I know that all other fields of medicine place the patients' well being above all else because a doctor's first duty is to do no harm.

Psychology is not a branch of medicine. You may be mixing it up with psychiatry.

Thanks for the correction.

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Re: Problem about free will

Postby elasto » Tue Aug 02, 2016 7:07 am UTC

jewish_scientist wrote:The problem with that is a past decisions, even those that were correct at the time, may not be the best decisions now.

Ok... In which case why wouldn't the doctors simply take him off the medication? The doctors are still capable of weighing the pros and cons even if the patient cannot.

While a patient can refuse to take medication, doctors can also refuse to prescribe it - so medication is only taken if all concerned agree it's the right thing to do.

If you no longer trust the doctors' judgement (which is odd, since you trusted them as part of your initial decision), then do what is normally done when a patient has diminished mental capacity and appoint a trusted proxy like a spouse or parent to weigh up the pros and cons and make the final call.

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Re: Problem about free will

Postby Eternal Density » Tue Aug 02, 2016 8:45 am UTC

jewish_scientist wrote:Adam has been told to take medicine by his doctor for a psychological illness. There are reasons he wants to take his medicine and reasons he does not; exactly what these reasons are is irrelevant. When he is not on his medicine he can weigh the advantages vs. the disadvantages of taking his medicine; when he is on his medicine however he forgets every reason to not take his medicine, which prevent him from weighing the advantages and disadvantages. Because he cannot analyze his actions, he does not have free will. Therefore, the lose of free will is a reason to not take his medicine. Adam would prefer to be an unhappy freeman than a happy slave. The conclusion he reaches is the regardless of how much benefit the medicine gives him, he should not take it. Is there a flaw in his logic?
There's a possibility he may not have considered:
If Adam precommits to take the medicine for a certain finite period, then stop taking it so he can clearly evaluate his actions and determine whether to continue taking it for another finite period, will the medicine prevent him from following the plan? If the answer is a definite no, there is therefore a way for Adam to analyse his medicated behaviour when not medicated.
Otherwise (if yes or maybe), to take the medication would be to commit to a course of action which might be harmful, with no way (or no guaranteed way) to actually determine that the harm is taking place and abort the course of action. Even without describing it in terms of free will, it's a really bad idea to do it.



Zohar wrote:That's a fair criticism. I didn't feel like describing my logic at the time. Basically, it boils down to a person's inability to do something they don't want at some level. When presented with a decision, you have a bunch of choices you're thinking of choosing from, and you have a bunch of motivators that push you in different directions (insuring your personal safety, feeling superior to others, feeling morally right, etc.). Consciously or subconsciously, your mind assigns a sort of "weight" to each decision, and you choose the one that most conforms with your motivators (even if your motivators, or the choices you think of, really really suck). You would always choose the one that seems the best option in your mind. There's literally no reason you would choose something different.

This doesn't mean you can't change your mind - your motivators can change, people can introduce different options and choices to you, you evolve with time, etc. But it doesn't change the fact that you don't actually have a choice - you're bound to choose what seems best.

However, this is a completely unhelpful position to take - it doesn't help you make better informed decisions or understand the world much better (well, I suppose the empathy of realizing people try to do the best they can in a given situation). And I fear if I emotionally understood this ("grokked", I suppose), I might go into a permanent state of inactivity. Therefor the illusion of having free will.
I think of free will as the ability to choose based on my own preference. Obviously, as you say, I'll always choose whatever I prefer most (that is, what most conforms to my motivators). So in one sense, free will is slavery to my desires. But on the other hand, they're my desires. Free will means I'm not forced to follow the motivators or desires of some outside party. I can do things that other people and powers don't want. This is not necessarily a pleasant thing, as it means I can do things which are bad. Also, it doesn't mean other parties cannot attempt to manipulate me if they so choose. For example, I could make a decision based on a lie I was told. Then I would make a wrong choice based on faulty information. The liar 'subverted my will'. I figure that's why we don't like being lied to. And that's why some people like to lie and manipulate: it's kinda mind control.

In a way, free will is a kind of curse: we each have to make decisions based on the limited information and limited reasoning skills available to each of us. If se had perfect information and perfect reasoning ability, we could all make perfect decisions, which would be perfect. Except then we would not be ourselves. We would be a single united self controlling and deciding all, because all would have experienced all. Free will allows us to be selfish, and to do harm to others and ourselves. But on the other hand, free will gives us the ability to take chances, to extend and accept unearned trust and forgiveness, and even to give and receive undeserved love. If I had no free will, I would only do what was determined by some other being. I would be an observer of and in a puppet. There would be no 'I' deciding to take action. And... well it feels like there is. Is that an illusion? It feels real enough to me. And if it isn't and I'm just an observer who feels like a pilot... um, I'll get back to you on that, as I'm being called to dinner.
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Re: Problem about free will

Postby elasto » Tue Aug 02, 2016 11:13 am UTC

Eternal Density wrote:I think of free will as the ability to choose based on my own preference. Obviously, as you say, I'll always choose whatever I prefer most (that is, what most conforms to my motivators). So in one sense, free will is slavery to my desires. But on the other hand, they're my desires. Free will means I'm not forced to follow the motivators or desires of some outside party. I can do things that other people and powers don't want. This is not necessarily a pleasant thing, as it means I can do things which are bad. Also, it doesn't mean other parties cannot attempt to manipulate me if they so choose. For example, I could make a decision based on a lie I was told. Then I would make a wrong choice based on faulty information. The liar 'subverted my will'. I figure that's why we don't like being lied to. And that's why some people like to lie and manipulate: it's kinda mind control.

This is why the 'reductive' definition of free will isn't very useful in real life.

If someone points a gun to my head and tells me to cut off my own hand, I may do so - because my desire not to die is greater than my desire not to cut off my own hand. So I still have free will - I could choose to fight the attacker, or die rather than self-mutilate - but that's not what people usually mean by the term.

If I had no free will, I would only do what was determined by some other being. I would be an observer of and in a puppet. There would be no 'I' deciding to take action. And... well it feels like there is. Is that an illusion? It feels real enough to me. And if it isn't and I'm just an observer who feels like a pilot... um, I'll get back to you on that, as I'm being called to dinner.

Free will is an illusion because the self is an illusion. In fact we are a bunch of often disparate processes that somehow subjectively feel unified.

The clearest experiment I read of showing the illusion of free will was when people were asked to press a button at a moment of their choosing while their brain was wired up to scanners.

The experiment revealed that the part of the brain controlling the finger muscles activated prior to the conscious choice to press the button - meaning that actually the cause and effect works in the opposite direction to how we assume: We press the button and then retroactively, subjectively choose to have done so, rather than choosing to do so and then doing so.

Our brain is in fact continually rewriting its own history placing ourselves in the driving seat.

(Of course, it is still 'us' in the driving seat, since it's still the sum total of our brain in charge of our body, it's just not the 'us' we thought it was...)

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Re: Problem about free will

Postby morriswalters » Tue Aug 02, 2016 11:33 am UTC

I have reread this thread multiple times. What am I missing? The argument as stated by the OP has two statements that are mutually antagonistic.
jewish_scientist wrote:When he is not on his medicine he can weigh the advantages vs. the disadvantages of taking his medicine; when he is on his medicine however he forgets every reason to not take his medicine, which prevent him from weighing the advantages and disadvantages.
It's either or. He can't have taken it because he won't be able to think of a reason to quit once he starts.

Next we are told that we don't need to know the reasons he thinks he should or shouldn't take the drug.
jewish_scientist wrote:There are reasons he wants to take his medicine and reasons he does not; exactly what these reasons are is irrelevant.
Then we are told the point.
jewish_scientist wrote:What I am trying to frame is an attack on the philosophical foundations of psychology.
If this is the point than the reasons are important. If the medication is a magic drug that causes the protagonist to quit killing babies, the stories about what is real and what isn't, are a smokescreen. The 7 billion need to protect themselves from the one. Even if he thinks that angels are calling the babies to paradise.
elasto wrote:We press the button and then retroactively, subjectively choose to have done so, rather than choosing to do so and then doing so.
I took that experiment to mean that we press the button and then rationalize why we have done so after the fact.

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Re: Problem about free will

Postby elasto » Tue Aug 02, 2016 12:01 pm UTC

morriswalters wrote:I took that experiment to mean that we press the button and then rationalize why we have done so after the fact.

But the important part is that we begin pressing the button before being aware of it, so we can't have consciously chosen to do so - and then, as you say, we rationalize why we chose that particular moment after the fact.

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Re: Problem about free will

Postby Eternal Density » Tue Aug 02, 2016 12:11 pm UTC

elasto wrote:Free will is an illusion because the self is an illusion. In fact we are a bunch of often disparate processes that somehow subjectively feel unified.

The clearest experiment I read of showing the illusion of free will was when people were asked to press a button at a moment of their choosing while their brain was wired up to scanners.

The experiment revealed that the part of the brain controlling the finger muscles activated prior to the conscious choice to press the button - meaning that actually the cause and effect works in the opposite direction to how we assume: We press the button and then retroactively, subjectively choose to have done so, rather than choosing to do so and then doing so.

Our brain is in fact continually rewriting its own history placing ourselves in the driving seat.

(Of course, it is still 'us' in the driving seat, since it's still the sum total of our brain in charge of our body, it's just not the 'us' we thought it was...)
Do you mean the 1980s Benjamin Libet experiments (the interpretation was debatable and was undermined by Miller and Trevena's experiments 2010 2002), or the experiments by John-Dylan Haynes? (a paper and [url-http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110831/full/477023a.html]nature article[/url]) The Haynes results were 60% accurate, which is better than chance, and other researchers got up to 80%, but it's still not a certain determination.
A couple of critiquing articles I found: http://www.bethinking.org/human-life/th ... cious-will https://vibrantbliss.wordpress.com/2012 ... free-will/
For instance there's difficulty determining the moment at which you become aware of choosing to move, especially since that involves consciousness too.

I conclude that these experiments aren't knock-down arguments against the self / free will. (Which is not to say that I don't make a lot of involuntaty actions! I sure don't think consciously about most of my movements. But I can also choose to deliberately not move... is that called "free won't"? I wonder if anyone has tested people choosing a number of seconds to wait before moving. That would be interesting.)
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Re: Problem about free will

Postby ucim » Tue Aug 02, 2016 2:27 pm UTC

jewish_scientist wrote:The problem with that is a past decisions, even those that were correct at the time, may not be the best decisions now.
No system guarantees "best" results, or avoids either errors or "unfortunate results". We are not in control of our trajectory through life, we only get to aim sometimes. But as pointed out, Adam can "come up for air".

elasto wrote:Free will is an illusion because the self is an illusion. In fact we are a bunch of often disparate processes that somehow subjectively feel unified.
Bingo! This is what I mean by my prior ramblings. Well said.

elasto wrote:The clearest experiment I read of showing the illusion of free will was when people were asked to press a button at a moment of their choosing while their brain was wired up to scanners.

The experiment revealed that the part of the brain controlling the finger muscles activated prior to the conscious choice to press the button - meaning that actually the cause and effect works in the opposite direction to how we assume: We press the button and then retroactively, subjectively choose to have done so, rather than choosing to do so and then doing so.
I remember reading about this experiment almost thirty years ago, but when I went back to where I had read it, the article was gone and I've not been able to track it down. Can you point me to it? (I vaguely remember it having something to do with USAF research - more specifically about being able to discern when an error was about to take place before the actual erroneous decision was "made".). (I'll also take a look at ED's references above).

One of the tests to see if you've gone under hypnosis is to be asked to lift your finger. When you're under, your finger will rise "by itself".

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Re: Problem about free will

Postby morriswalters » Tue Aug 02, 2016 2:44 pm UTC

Eternal Density wrote:I conclude that these experiments aren't knock-down arguments against the self / free will.

They are suggestive of the idea that what you consider consciousness, including your internal dialog, are byproducts of related systems of which you are unaware. Dennett discusses the concepts in "Consciousness Explained" and Michael Gazzaniga in "Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain". Both are worth reading and Gazzaniga's is superb.

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Re: Problem about free will

Postby jewish_scientist » Tue Aug 02, 2016 4:03 pm UTC

elasto wrote:
jewish_scientist wrote:The problem with that is a past decisions, even those that were correct at the time, may not be the best decisions now.

Ok... In which case why wouldn't the doctors simply take him off the medication? The doctors are still capable of weighing the pros and cons even if the patient cannot.

If the doctor is weighing the pros and the cons then the doctor has free will.


elasto wrote:If you no longer trust the doctors' judgement (which is odd, since you trusted them as part of your initial decision), then do what is normally done when a patient has diminished mental capacity and appoint a trusted proxy like a spouse or parent to weigh up the pros and cons and make the final call.

Having doubts about what a doctor tells you is not the same as having diminished mental capacity.


Eternal Density wrote:There's a possibility he may not have considered:
If Adam precommits to take the medicine for a certain finite period, then stop taking it so he can clearly evaluate his actions and determine whether to continue taking it for another finite period, will the medicine prevent him from following the plan?

You are right, I have never thought about that plan. I am not sure if the medicine would allow the plan to work. Let's say Adam agrees to take the medicine for 2 months and then will stop for 1 month. When the end of the 2 months comes around, Adam would not be able to think of any reason to stop taking the medicine, so he would keep taking them. On the other hand, if the doctor gives Adam enough medicine for only 2 months, then he is forced to spend 1 month without the medicine.

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Re: Problem about free will

Postby elasto » Tue Aug 02, 2016 6:22 pm UTC

jewish_scientist wrote:
elasto wrote:
jewish_scientist wrote:The problem with that is a past decisions, even those that were correct at the time, may not be the best decisions now.

Ok... In which case why wouldn't the doctors simply take him off the medication? The doctors are still capable of weighing the pros and cons even if the patient cannot.

If the doctor is weighing the pros and the cons then the doctor has free will.


elasto wrote:If you no longer trust the doctors' judgement (which is odd, since you trusted them as part of your initial decision), then do what is normally done when a patient has diminished mental capacity and appoint a trusted proxy like a spouse or parent to weigh up the pros and cons and make the final call.

Having doubts about what a doctor tells you is not the same as having diminished mental capacity.

You seem to be shifting the goalposts here.

The goal is that the patient takes a certain medicine only if it is in their best interests to do so, right? That would be the 'ethical' approach.

Initially, both the doctor and the patient agree that taking the medicine is the best course of action.

The medicine happens to have the side effect that the patient loses their capacity to be objective about whether to continue taking it. Bit weird, because usually medications affect emotions rather than reason, and so far we've been framing this as a 'pros and cons' - ie reason-based decision, but whatever.

Fortunately, the doctor will stop prescribing the medicine if it stops being in the best interests of the patient. Also, we could appoint a proxy who could double-check if there's a weird reason the doctor should be stopping prescribing it but isn't, and give them the authority to refuse the medication on the patient's behalf.

I fail to see how any of this would be 'unethical'. Unfortunate, perhaps, but when was the real world ever easy or fair?


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