Cape Cod Institute
 
Behavior OnLine Forums  
The gathering place for Mental Health and
Applied Behavior Science Professionals.
 
Become a charter member of Behavior OnLine.

Go Back   Behavior OnLine Forums > BOL Forums > Evolutionary Psychology

Notices

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Unread February 15th, 2006, 01:22 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 271
Default 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

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; February 15th, 2006 at 01:48 PM. Reason: Clarification
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Unread February 15th, 2006, 02:27 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Dallas
Posts: 257
Default 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???
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Unread February 15th, 2006, 03:09 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 271
Default 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?

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; February 15th, 2006 at 03:13 PM. Reason: Addition
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Unread February 15th, 2006, 04:01 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Dallas
Posts: 257
Default 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.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Unread February 15th, 2006, 07:05 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 483
Default 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.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Unread February 16th, 2006, 12:25 AM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 271
Default 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

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; February 16th, 2006 at 01:56 AM. Reason: Clairfy
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Unread February 16th, 2006, 09:39 AM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Dallas
Posts: 257
Default 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.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Unread February 18th, 2006, 12:13 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 271
Thumbs up Re: A Free Will Challenge

As Tom mentioned yesterday, these forum exchanges are a lot of fun. And this one about Free Will, after a lot of verbal combat seems to be reaching exhaustion - or maybe we are just gathering our strength for the next battle.

But before we go on to something else I'd like to add a few ideas here. First, people often get a bit bent in these discussions. I did that when I first jumped in to the EP zone. Not just because I was guilty of that but generally I'd like to say that that is understandable. What we are doing here is far more compelling than the best designed on-line game (I think that's true but I've never played any of those).

We are bringing our most important personal beliefs out in front of others and inviting them to knock them down. We are giving a bunch of strangers who we'll probably never meet the opportunitiy to tell us that the beliefs that make up the most important elements of our identity are full of crap.

That takes some courage I believe. Also it's easy enough at this level of discourse to see when someone is not being sincere - so we all get to be our own referees and it's pretty hard to cheat. No matter what position we take on things like Free Will, I would say that everyone here is at least in the 95+ percentile when it comes to abstract intelligence. People below that level just don't think about these things very much.

I'd love to think that I made my case against the existence of Free Will and that I successfully defended my high level belief that supernatural forces don't exist in the universe, but I'm sure Fred believes he made his case that they do just as strongly. I think we have only refined the question a bit.

Does our intellect participate in our behavior decisions as just another emotional input into our ancient evolved decision computer as I have proposed - or does our intellect sit above our ancient self and through its enlightened will, wrest control from our animal emotions and thereby allow us to become a better being, a moral animal as Robert Wright would put it.

I actually accept the idea of downward causation but not in the way Fred would like because I also see upward causation. I think it depends on the strength of the emotions being weighed and whether the stronger ones come from below or above in any particular instance. And I reject the idea that a logical conclusion, without an attached emotion to make it relevant to our happiness, and thereby visible to our decision computer, can have any effect on our decisions.

Which is pretty much where we started. As much as I'd like to believe otherwise I don't believe I have made my case. I think to go further on this we'd have to come up with a test that would show that one of these views is correct and the other incorrect. Please let me (us) know if you come up with something.

Thanks for helping me think about this terribly interesting stuff,

Margaret

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; February 18th, 2006 at 11:29 PM. Reason: Typo
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Unread February 18th, 2006, 04:26 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Dallas
Posts: 257
Default Re: A Free Will Challenge

Quote:
Originally Posted by Margaret McGhee
As Tom mentioned yesterday, these forum exchanges are a lot of fun. And this one about Free Will, after a lot of verbal combat seems to be reaching exhaustion
In spite of the verbal combat, this discussion has been of huge benefit to me. The four of us: Margaret, Alexandra, Todd and I, have nearly exact ideas about free will. I'm not sure about Margaret but Alexandra, Todd and I agree that our choices are deterministic; the two of them would add an element of 'free will' but one that is outside my concept of free will so I can accept that difference as something that we don't know, yet, and I can't argue against. Much as I can accept the fact that I don't know what ultimately created the universe, or what created that which created the universe...

So thank you all, this was a huge success.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Unread February 19th, 2006, 12:18 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 483
Default Re: A Free Will Challenge

Quote:
TJ: The four of us: Margaret, Alexandra, Todd and I, have nearly exact ideas about free will. I'm not sure about Margaret but Alexandra, Todd and I agree that our choices are deterministic; the two of them would add an element of 'free will' but one that is outside my concept of free will so I can accept that difference as something that we don't know, yet, and I can't argue against.
IOW, all four of you all have “nearly exact ideas,” that “choices are deterministic,” except that you’re not sure about Margaret, and except that Alex & Todd add “an element of free will,” and except that that is outside “your” concept of free will, and except that that difference is “something that we don't know yet?” And you conclude that this was a “huge success?”

Well Tom, you’ve convinced me—your free will and/or discernment is obviously an illusion. Might as well add me to your consensus with maybe this caveat: Fred also has nearly exact ideas about free will, that choices are deterministic, except when they’re not.

Ah yes, that nice warm fuzzy feeling of consensus . . . kind of like urinating in the swimming pool and believing that nobody will notice.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump


All times are GMT -4. The time now is 07:01 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.7.3
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Copyright © 1995-2004 Behavior OnLine, Inc. All rights reserved.