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-   -   A Free Will Challenge (http://www.behavior.net/bolforums/showthread.php?t=733)

Margaret McGhee February 15th, 2006 01:22 PM

A Free Will Challenge
 
I have been quiet lately but following your interesting posts and trying to digest them. The concepts being discussed require some reflection.

But just to check in with some current observations triggered by your recent comments and copies of some archived posts kindly sent to me by Tom. Thanks ;) . .

. . it seems to me that there is an enigma at work in these discussions that is causing the difficulty. That is that these discussions are all taking place in our wonderous conscious minds. And they are amazing to be able to hold mental images of such abstractions as free will and determinism and compatibilism - and turn them over in our minds and examine them from various angles.

It seems to us that our intellect is in charge of our lives because we live in our conscious minds - and because our ego, which is part of our conscious mind likes to believe that its department runs things. Unhindered by emotion our conscious mind is truly free to wander to the most fanciful places. So it seems to us from what we can observe that we can do whatever we imagine - that we have free will.

But choosing behavior (including choosing what beliefs about the world we accept) is a subconscious function that uses only emotional, not intellectual inputs. (During decision transactions our intellectual conclusions participate by providing an emotional marker proportional to how confident we are that they will succeed.) But emotions from our instincts, dispositions and beliefs are also considered when we make a behavior decision - and they could be stronger.

Understanding this difficulty informs the underlying question as well. Our intellectual mind may imagine that we are free to jump from a tall building if we wish and having a strong belief in God, that He will save us. Our ego will gladly confirm that as an expression of both our faith and our free will. But later we fail to recognize that we did not jump because our emotional decision computer, not our intellect, actually determined our choice.

If confronted with the weakness of our intellect to control our lives our ego sniffs and says, "Yeah, but I could have done it if I really wanted to."

In otherwords, we conjure a belief in free will because our ego loves the idea that our conscious mind is in charge. That feels very good.

But we will choose the behavior that feels best from the alternatives. We have no other choice.

I posed this challenge before and it was unmet so I'll do it again. If anyone doubts this last paragraph, please submit an example of human behavior that violates this principle. If you can I'll agree that we have free will.

Margaret

TomJrzk February 15th, 2006 02:27 PM

Re: A Free Will Challenge
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Margaret McGhee
But choosing behavior (including choosing what beliefs about the world we accept) is a subconscious function that uses only emotional, not intellectual inputs. (During decision transactions our intellectual conclusions participate by providing an emotional marker proportional to how confident we are that they will succeed.) But emotions from our instincts, dispositions and beliefs are also considered when we make a behavior decision - and they could be stronger.

I can agree that all final decisions are emotional; I can think as hard as I want but it's hard to envision acting on a decision that I don't 'like' or 'feel is appropriate' or 'think will keep Alexandra from driving over here and shooting me' ;). But, I think you're contradicting yourself by saying 'not intellectual inputs' and 'intellectual conclusions participate'; sounds like an input to me.

I think my disagreement with Todd is mostly emotional in that something is keeping us from accepting each other's point (and, yes, I expect Fred to jump all over this one; unless he's ignoring me altogether). And this seems to happen so very often with just about everyone...
Quote:

Originally Posted by Margaret McGhee
I posed this challenge before and it was unmet so I'll do it again. If anyone doubts this last paragraph, please submit an example of human behavior that violates this principle. If you can I'll agree that we have free will.

You no doubt already know that I can't provide examples against what I believe; otherwise, I'd be forced to disagree with you. ;)

And, yeow, yet another thread to subscribe to???

Margaret McGhee February 15th, 2006 03:09 PM

Re: A Free Will Challenge
 
Hi Tom, You said,

Quote:

But, I think you're contradicting yourself by saying 'not intellectual inputs' and 'intellectual conclusions participate'; sounds like an input to me.
The key to this is that the emotional marker is what gets weighed, not the intellectual conclusion itself, which is the behavior choice under consideration and not an emotion.

I realize this notion is upside down from the conventional wisdom and so people can read it several times but since it doesn't fit with their current, long-held view, they just don't see what I am proposing.

Our ego and what we observe makes us think that our intellect is in charge. We have believed that all our lives. Our whole educational experience is based on that (incorrect) belief. Any other notion that violates that belief becomes incomprehensible without a lot of effort. It's that cognitive dissonance thing.


Quote:

You no doubt already know that I can't provide examples against what I believe; otherwise, I'd be forced to disagree with you.
Of everyone here I was most sure that was the case with you. ;) And doesn't that prove my proposition, above?

Margaret

PS - What is "subscribing" and what does it do? Does it make it easier to navigate around here? Can you send me a link to a page that explains this?

TomJrzk February 15th, 2006 04:01 PM

Re: A Free Will Challenge
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Margaret McGhee
The key to this is that the emotional marker is what gets weighed, not the intellectual conclusion itself, which is the behavior choice under consideration and not an emotion.

That's much more clear, thanks. It's as good a model as any for me, though, as always, I prefer to have a big flying exclamation point as an emotional marker, something I can lay my hands on. ;)

Subscription only sends email if a new post arrives; it doesn't help navigation, though, which is why I always try to include a quote so people know what I'm responding to. If you click on 'thread tools', you'll see 'subscribe' if you still want to.

The thing that helps me most is the 'view first unread' at the top of the thread page. I think you have to be logged on to use either.

Fred H. February 15th, 2006 07:05 PM

Free Will Challenge--Modify the markers
 
Quote:

MM: But we will choose the behavior that feels best from the alternatives. We have no other choice.

I posed this challenge before and it was unmet so I'll do it again. If anyone doubts this last paragraph, please submit an example of human behavior that violates this principle.
Sure Margaret, I suppose that “we” do “choose” what “feels best.” But then why should it ever be otherwise?

E.g., if a woman makes a pass at Tom, he then may “choose” to have sex with her b/c, among other reasons, his “morality” (as he summarized in an old post to Carey) would result in that action being what “feels best” to Tom.

However, if a women makes a pass at me, and since I’m convinced (cognitively and emotionally) that I do have free will and moral responsibility, and also that adultery is wrong, then I will “choose” to not have sex with her b/c my morality (a downwardly caused morality that has modified my “emotional markers”) result in my exercising restraint, and that is, to me, what “feels best.”

OTH, if a female alley cat is in heat, then all the male ally cats— whether it’s Tomcat, Fredcat, Toddcat, Jimcat, whoever—will all “choose” to mate with her. And why is that? B/c all the alley cats have essentially the same DNA “morality markers”—to all of them, screwing whatever and whenever is what “feels best.”

Conclusion: The behavior and morality of all alley cats are similar, suggesting that the cats lack free will. OTH, the behavior and morality of humans, e.g. Tom and Fred, are not similar, suggesting that humans may have at least some free will . . . certainly more than alley cats.

Margaret McGhee February 16th, 2006 12:25 AM

Re: A Free Will Challenge
 
Fred, you said,


Quote:

Conclusion: The behavior and morality of all alley cats are similar, suggesting that the cats lack free will. OTH, the behavior and morality of humans, e.g. Tom and Fred, are not similar, suggesting that humans may have at least some free will . . . certainly more than alley cats.
You seem to be suggesting that animals who exhibit the same behavior under similar conditions don't have free will.

Does this mean that if you could convince every male to be as moral as you then none of you would have free will?

Alternatively, if the fact that Tom and Fred's behavior is different means that humans have some free will as you say, how does someone know which one of you has it?

Margaret

TomJrzk February 16th, 2006 09:39 AM

Re: Free Will Challenge--Modify the markers
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Fred H.
his “morality” (as he summarized in an old post to Carey) would result in that action being what “feels best” to Tom.

You're right, that would feel best to Tom. But simplifying my choice to what you'd probably term 'animal instincts' or something is wrong, though I can see how you (and most people) would do that. It's obvious to me that you choose monogamy because that makes you feel the best; you're proud of yourself and the fact that you're an honorable man (at least in that respect) and that overrides the pleasure that you'd feel in enjoying some extra human touch. I was strictly monogamist when my wife preferred it and I couldn't see trading my honor for anything, that would feel so bad that I couldn't live with myself.

But, that would feel best to Tom only because my wife accepts it. She knows the source of the jealousy: fear of my having another child by another woman and fear of losing me to the other woman; this is pure evolutionary psychology. She knows that I'm honorable to the point where I would ensure that I don't have another child. She also knows that there's no way she could lose me to another woman; if the other woman didn't also want to share I'd be much more inclined to stay with my current wife and find some other woman who does.

I have no 'morals' except not to hurt anyone/anything that doesn't deserve it. Spending time with another woman does not hurt my wife, me, or the other women (since they know I'm married, and I know the women who are have a spouse who doesn't mind). You have your own set and I respect that except that it doesn't seem to exclude what you and I both know you do.

But still I know your pain is not easy to bear, and for that I really am truly sorry. You might, again, list this as an attack on you but I'm absolutely serious and honest about this. You're obviously intelligent and I value you as a person, I also like the information in your posts and some of the passion your posts inspire in others.

Just callin' 'em as I see 'em.

Fred H. February 16th, 2006 09:55 AM

Re: Free will v. downward causation
 
Quote:

MM: Does this mean that if you could convince every male to be as moral as you then none of you would have free will?
You may have missed the point. As LeDoux indicates, we humans seem capable of “downward causation,” Here again in Ledoux’s words—
Quote:

Our brain has not evolved to the point where the new systems that make complex thinking possible can easily control the old systems that give rise to our base needs and motives, and emotional reactions. This doesn’t mean that we’re simply victims of our brains and should just give in to our urges. It means that downward causation is sometimes hard work. ‘Doing’ the right thing doesn’t always flow naturally form ‘knowing’ what the right thing to do is. [From LeDoux’s Synaptic Self, (2001), pgs. 322-323]
However Margaret, as I’ve suggested elsewhere, if someone’s truly convinced that we humans lack free will, as you seem to be, then they’re probably effectively locked into that POV, regardless of whatever evidence or argument LeDoux or anyone else provides. After all Margaret, using your words, you’re just choosing the behavior (and thinking) that feels best to you from the alternatives; you have no other choice.

TomJrzk February 16th, 2006 10:29 AM

Re: Free will v. downward causation
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Fred H.
After all Margaret, using your words, you’re just choosing the behavior (and thinking) that feels best to you from the alternatives; you have no other choice.

Margaret, he's just baiting you. Though I've warned you against 'tilting against the windmill' that is Fred, you've been doing a great job. However, before he frustrates you out of this forum as he did so many others, I'd like for you to consider the advice I'm following: read his posts and correct his misrepresentations/misunderstandings and merely agree/disagree with his points. Anything more that you try to write to 'teach' him something will just fall on pretty deaf ears. You're encouraged to review all of his 120 or so postings to see just how right I am, below are examples of responses to some of his postings.

If he does frustrate you out of the forum, please leave a post that I can add to the others, below ;). Or hey, if you just want to make a comment now, I'll add it.

Here's Lizzie's last response to Fred:

Quote:

Originally Posted by Lizzie Pickard
This is going nowhere, and you're getting condescending. Farewell.

To which Todd replied:
Quote:

Originally Posted by ToddStark
Congratulations, Fred, your brilliant master strategy of unwavering recalcitrance has netted you yet another grand victory in this forum. And you didn't even need me as a stooge this time! :rolleyes:

And here's Carey's last response to Fred:

Quote:
Quote:

Originally Posted by Carey N
Here's my last post on this thread. You don't really try to process what other people say, but rather selectively read their posts and then throw back ad hominem comments. It's frustrating.

Fred implied that I'm dishonest when I've not seen as amazing an example of 'taking out of context' as when he turned:

Quote:

Originally Posted by TomJrzk
Fred, could you please provide a source so I can verify, "there were rumblings, somewhere, from Dennett suggesting that he may be somewhat less than enthusiastic about his own atheism", that would be truly interesting. Though if they really are only "rumblings" of "suggestions" that he "may" be "somewhat"... I don't think that would impress me very much.

into:
Quote:

Originally Posted by Fred H.
TomJ: . . . could you please provide a source . . . I don't think that would impress me very much.

And here's another 'discussion' Fred had with Todd:

Quote:

Originally Posted by Fred H.
Back in the 1950s, when I was an atheist in grade school, we all prayed (sort of), said things like “one nation under God,” and sang Christmas songs. Far as I know, no one was psychologically damaged. That’s before you GD “secularists” and religious fanatics started having your hissy fits. Y’all really mucked things up … hope Santa craps in your stockings.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Fred H.
hope Santa craps in your stockings.

Quote:

Originally Posted by ToddStark
Nice. I used to love the spirit of Christmas. The "believers" like you are threatening to kill it for me with their very un-Christ-like partisan rhetoric. I'm trying not to lose faith. You present a serious challenge for me sometimes, my friend. I wish you nothing but joy. I hope that chip falls from your shoulder some day while we are both breathing and able to appreciate the event.

And, Todd more recently posted:
Quote:

Originally Posted by ToddStark
I know Fred hears this sort of argument and can honestly perceive nothing but sophistry on my part. Which is why I haven't been contributing here for a while, there is seemingly no middle ground and it just gets too frustrating for me just to express my viewpoint and not even remotely be heard.
Well, here is one more attempt, just in case the world of the forum has changed in the past few months.


Fred H. February 16th, 2006 11:44 AM

Re: Free Will Challenge
 
Quote:

TomJ: You're encouraged to review all of his [Fred’s] 120 or so postings….
To be recognized by one’s peers . . . it just doesn’t get any better. I’m honored Tom. Thank you, thank you, thank you very much.


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