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Thought experiment on free will watch

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    (Original post by Zargabaath)
    I was going by the everyday use of free will. Let me put it like this, if I punch my sister in the face, I'm to be held accountable because I "chose" to do it. Now logic dictates that I'm not truly resoponsible for that. It's the cause of everything before me. However for the sake of practicality we can say I'm responsible because I thought and acted on it. If we didn't say people were responsible for their actions, society would fall apart.
    No I disagree. If you punch your sister in the face then you are every bit to blame because you chose it independently of your past. Not only did you act on your thoughts, you made a choice to do it.

    It's the same reason why all criminal behaviour is bad in a moral sense. Someone may not agree that there is any logical reason why you can't have sexual activity with a 15 year old but the law prohibits it. Therefore, if you choose to break the law you should be punished for the wrong choice not because of your thoughts (and not necessarily the action either as both parties may have been unharmed by it).

    (Original post by Zargabaath)
    Schrödinger's cat basically states that when a variable cannot be observed, it's in all of its possible states simultaneously. I.e - the cat is dead and alive
    Similarly, if we can't observe whether the button is pushed or not we assume it's both pushed and not pushed. That we both do and don't have free will.
    I see what you're getting at (making a few large assumed inferences) but the conclusions of the two thought experiments are completely different. It is not whether the button is pressed which is the variable, but whether there is free will. Similarly it is not the radioactive atom which is the variable (both decayed and not-decayed?) but whether the cat is alive.
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    1) yes
    2) yes
    3) yes
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    (Original post by xylas)
    Of course I dispute that. All of my choices are made by me alone. Even though I can be influenced to some degree, at the end of the day it is I who has the executive control over my choices.

    The universe is not random. Neither is free will. I do not for a second believe in metaphysics or some kind of spiritual force that can violate the conservation of energy. But logically I believe free will to follow from the nature of choices.

    A simplified version of my argument is: if we didn't have free will, we wouldn't have choices. There can not be illusion of choice since we know we are making them. If that were not the case, we would not perceive it as a choice. QED
    Choices are finalised in your brain, yes, but you evoke a problem with the relationship between your brain and "you". The brain operates on deterministic (possibly partially random) physical laws. No free will there. But you're not suggesting the choices are made by your brain, but "you". So to have free will, "you" have to operate independently of your brain. But we know this isn't the case- changes in the brain's structure and function correlate to changes in the mind and hence the perceived "you". Therefore "you" are purely a reflection of your brain and thus a deterministic system and have no free will.
    (I hope that makes sense)

    Like I said, if it's not random it's determined. You've pushed yourself back there.

    But we almost certainly don't have choices; they're an illusion. Thinking we have a choice doesn't mean we have one. There are many things we perceive or believe that aren't true.

    That argument is weak because it's based entirely on unfounded assumptions
    How do we know we are making true (non-illusionary") choices? How do we know what we perceive to be making is true choices? Back these up.
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    (Original post by Zargabaath)
    I was going by the everyday use of free will. Let me put it like this, if I punch my sister in the face, I'm to be held accountable because I "chose" to do it. Now logic dictates that I'm not truly resoponsible for that. It's the cause of everything before me. However for the sake of practicality we can say I'm responsible because I thought and acted on it. If we didn't say people were responsible for their actions, society would fall apart.
    Responsiblity is a human construct and entirely subjective. Society just agrees on a particular loose definition of it, and therefore I think bringing the concept of responsiblity into arguments about the existence of free will is pointless.
    For example, if free will is proven to be false, then we'd just move the goalposts regarding what responsibility is.
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    (Original post by xylas)
    No I disagree. If you punch your sister in the face then you are every bit to blame because you chose it independently of your past. Not only did you act on your thoughts, you made a choice to do it.

    It's the same reason why all criminal behaviour is bad in a moral sense. Someone may not agree that there is any logical reason why you can't have sexual activity with a 15 year old but the law prohibits it. Therefore, if you choose to break the law you should be punished for the wrong choice not because of your thoughts (and not necessarily the action either as both parties may have been unharmed by it).



    I see what you're getting at (making a few large assumed inferences) but the conclusions of the two thought experiments are completely different. It is not whether the button is pressed which is the variable, but whether there is free will. Similarly it is not the radioactive atom which is the variable (both decayed and not-decayed?) but whether the cat is alive.
    I'm going to reply to you properly tomorrow if I remember, my brain is too tired atm and this is an interesting thread
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    (Original post by Thomb)
    1) yes
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    3) yes
    Very interesting, so even though the scientists don't let us choose otherwise we still have the free will to make that choice?

    What is your definition of 'free'?
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    (Original post by Zargabaath)
    I'm going to reply to you properly tomorrow if I remember, my brain is too tired atm and this is an interesting thread
    reply to me tho my post is only tiny
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    (Original post by xylas)
    Very interesting, so even though the scientists don't let us choose otherwise we still have the free will to make that choice?

    What is your definition of 'free'?
    Free id defined by how your brain reacts to stimulus, what difference is there between a brain and a microchip? Both have limitations. And because the individual has no idea about the microchip being there as far as he's concerned he has freewill. I define freedom by how much the brain can organise itself into a positive outcome.
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    (Original post by RobML)
    Choices are finalised in your brain, yes, but you evoke a problem with the relationship between your brain and "you". The brain operates on deterministic (possibly partially random) physical laws. No free will there. But you're not suggesting the choices are made by your brain, but "you". So to have free will, "you" have to operate independently of your brain. But we know this isn't the case- changes in the brain' structure and function correlate to changes in the mind (a universalised idea of "you"). Therefore "you" are purely a reflection of your brain and thus a deterministic system and have no free will.
    (I hope that makes sense)

    Like I said, if it's not random it's determined. You've pushed yourself back there.

    But we almost certainly don't have choices; they're an illusion. Thinking we have a choice doesn't mean we have one. There are many things we perceive or believe that aren't true.

    That argument is weak because it's based entirely on unfounded assumptions
    How do we know we are making true (non-illusionary") choices? How do we know what we perceive to be making is true choices? Back these up.
    I completely agree that 'you are your brain' exactly as you describe in the first paragraph.

    No, you said that we live in a world that is not purely determined. I agree with that. It is not a binary 'fully random' or 'fully determined' distinction.

    We don't just think we have a choice. We know we do. Do you disagree with this?

    In my argument I don't mention anything about 'true' choices. I suppose all choices are true in that we have the ability to choose either option. There is nothing to back up. You may disagree with my inference but my argument is otherwise completely sound.
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    (Original post by Zargabaath)
    I'm going to reply to you properly tomorrow if I remember, my brain is too tired atm and this is an interesting thread
    Sure thing and thanks!
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    (Original post by Thomb)
    Free id defined by how your brain reacts to stimulus, what difference is there between a brain and a microchip? Both have limitations. And because the individual has no idea about the microchip being there as far as he's concerned he has freewill. I define freedom by how much the brain can organise itself into a positive outcome.
    Alright I think I see your point of view but isn't there a difference between the person thinking he has free will and we (as the outside observer) seeing that he is unable to positively choose between the outcomes?

    His brain lost the ability to organise itself whenever the button is pressed surely?
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    (Original post by xylas)
    Alright I think I see your point of view but isn't there a difference between the person thinking he has free will and we (as the outside observer) seeing that he is unable to positively choose between the outcomes?

    His brain lost the ability to organise itself whenever the button is pressed surely?

    Yes its wrong to carry out an experiment like the one you proposed but on the question of free will it would make no difference to the person with the microchip in his brain because he does not know its there. So as an observer it is akin to the experiments carried out in soviet russia on children who were wired up to experience pleasure whenever they got something right etc. The difference being the child did know he was being experimented on. In your proposition the individual does not know so the microchip becomes an integral part of his thought process. As far as he is concerned he has not lost any free will. It's like this... I want a shower I can't be bothered to have a shower I don't shower, have I lost any freewill? No.
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    (Original post by Thomb)
    Yes its wrong to carry out an experiment like the one you proposed but on the question of free will it would make no difference to the person with the microchip in his brain because he does not know its there. So as an observer it is akin to the experiments carried out in soviet russia on children who were wired up to experience pleasure whenever they got something right etc. The difference being the child did know he was being experimented on. In your proposition the individual does not know so the microchip becomes an integral part of his thought process. As far as he is concerned he has not lost any free will. It's like this... I want a shower I can't be bothered to have a shower I don't shower, have I lost any freewill? No.
    Well I would say absolutely yes you've lost free will since it is not you who is making the decision but the scientists. If you never are able to choose one of the options, then you don't have free will in that choice.

    If a microchip is interrupting your choice then I can't see any way that you are 'free' to choose. Also, of course it would be wrong to carry out this experiment!
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    (Original post by xylas)
    I completely agree that 'you are your brain' exactly as you describe in the first paragraph.

    No, you said that we live in a world that is not purely determined. I agree with that. It is not a binary 'fully random' or 'fully determined' distinction.

    We don't just think we have a choice. We know we do. Do you disagree with this?

    In my argument I don't mention anything about 'true' choices. I suppose all choices are true in that we have the ability to choose either option. There is nothing to back up. You may disagree with my inference but my argument is otherwise completely sound.
    Well, "The brain operates on deterministic (possibly partially random) physical laws. No free will there"

    I mean randomness and determinacy are the only things involved in outcomes, not that systems are either entirely determined or entirely random. Sorry for the confusion there.

    But again, how do you know you do? How do you know what you believe to be the case is actually the case? I for one don't know if I have a true choice in anything.

    How do we have the ability to choose either option? I was at a cafe yesterday and wondered for a moment whether I should get tea or coffee- after a short deliberation I chose the coffee. You suggest it could've been that I chose tea instead. So imagine there is a parallel universe that is an exact copy of the universe as it was yesterday an instant before I made the decision to choose coffee. If you can't explain how parallel universe-me might choose tea, then you must admit I didn't actually have the ability to choose either option.
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    (Original post by xylas)
    Well I would say absolutely yes you've lost free will since it is not you who is making the decision but the scientists. If you never are able to choose one of the options, then you don't have free will in that choice.

    If a microchip is interrupting your choice then I can't see any way that you are 'free' to choose. Also, of course it would be wrong to carry out this experiment!
    Then you never have freewill.
    Ahh but one day we will be able to construct ourselves out of microchips and even if its against the law people will be giving themselves pleasure shocks if and when they feel like it.
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    (Original post by RobML)
    Well, "The brain operates on deterministic (possibly partially random) physical laws. No free will there"

    I mean randomness and determinacy are the only things involved in outcomes, not that systems are either entirely determined or entirely random. Sorry for the confusion there.

    But again, how do you know you do? How do you know what you believe to be the case is actually the case? I for one don't know if I have a true choice in anything.

    How do we have the ability to choose either option? I was at a cafe yesterday and wondered for a moment whether I should get tea or coffee- after a short deliberation I chose the coffee. You suggest it could've been that I chose tea instead. So imagine there is a parallel universe that is an exact copy of the universe as it was yesterday an instant before I made the decision to choose coffee. If you can't explain how parallel universe-me might choose tea, then you must admit I didn't actually have the ability to choose either option.

    Aha so you're moving this from philosophy of mind to epistemology! It's been a long while since I thought about the subject but I'd say I'm pretty neutral/compatibilist on the issue of how we know what we know and the realism-idealism debate .

    I think what you mean by 'true choice' is different from what I mean by 'choice'. For me, it is enough that you are able to choose between a tea or coffee.

    Of course in a parallel universe your deliberation would have either stopped shorter or continued until you eventually chose tea instead of coffee (it wouldn't be the exact same amount of time). The explanation is based on probability: during your period of deliberation, your neurones in your brain are firing in multiple ways but they are unable to reach the threshold required for you to consciously act on your choice. It remains a possibility at any time during this period that one of the neurones may fire so the threshold is reached for choosing coffee but the expectation (a probability function) is only reached when enough of the neurones have fired. This is because the probability of reaching the threshold is unknown before the choice is made (i.e. there is no causal influence on the choice). It may be that tea had the greater probability beforehand (or a lower threshold) but the expectation may differ once the process of the neurones firing begins.

    This process is the equivalent of exercising free will and it is a mixture of a random generator coupled with pre-determined unknown probabilities (or priors if using Bayesian theory). Eventually when the expectation is calculated, you will have made up your mind to choose the tea.

    So if I were to sum it up in one word I would choose (pun intended ) pseudo-randomness. But this is at the level of the brain (the 'inside'). At the level of the person ('outside') I would just call it free will.
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    (Original post by Thomb)
    Then you never have freewill.
    Ahh but one day we will be able to construct ourselves out of microchips and even if its against the law people will be giving themselves pleasure shocks if and when they feel like it.
    You never have freewill if you have this kind of chip in your brain, yes I totally agree (I answered no to all of the questions in the OP).


    Haha that would be an interesting world. But I like how you say "people will be giving themselves pleasure shocks" because even in that kind of world where the concept of what makes a human being is blurred, even then we are still presumed to have free will
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    In the basic sense probably no to you having free will if its adjusted because your choices are being manipulated long term so your brain associated negative things with having a shower, it comes down to individual circumstances how much of the negative emotion you listen to though due to upbringing lifestyle etc.

    In some ways for me I wish I had that at least short term as suffer from depression and so I want to do different things but end up doing none so if something clicked in the brain that told me to do things I would get to enjoy them again as long as its not abused by the person in control in fact before I had depression I felt something "click" in my brain when I was happy or excited or wanted to do something which made me do it now that feeling has been beaten down so I feel no spark.

    Another thing to notice is nature vs nurture, as a kid we are given our morals by what we experience so we need to believe some things are wrong be it burning our hand on a hot cooker to know we are not invicible to balance us ou.
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    (Original post by RobML)
    Responsiblity is a human construct and entirely subjective. Society just agrees on a particular loose definition of it, and therefore I think bringing the concept of responsiblity into arguments about the existence of free will is pointless.
    For example, if free will is proven to be false, then we'd just move the goalposts regarding what responsibility is.
    But responsibility is a consequence of our assumption of free will. We assume responsibility because we assume we have free will.
    I'm not using it to prove or disprove free will, I was just using it to explain the colloquial definition of free will.


    (Original post by xylas)
    No I disagree. If you punch your sister in the face then you are every bit to blame because you chose it independently of your past. Not only did you act on your thoughts, you made a choice to do it.

    It's the same reason why all criminal behaviour is bad in a moral sense. Someone may not agree that there is any logical reason why you can't have sexual activity with a 15 year old but the law prohibits it. Therefore, if you choose to break the law you should be punished for the wrong choice not because of your thoughts (and not necessarily the action either as both parties may have been unharmed by it).

    I disagree with this. When I say things are almost entirely caused by the events preceding them, I mean that on the most literal levels. Including the molecular level. All of our brain activity exists at a molecular level, it's all physical interactions taking place, so in essence we're slaves to that. Me punching my sister in the face was as much my choice as it was the Sun's choice to be formed or your choice to be born.
    You could argue there are some things that are truly random, such as radioactive decay, but we still have no control over that.

    However that doesn't mean we don't eliminate elements harmful to society, that's going by the colloquial definition of free will. There is the illusion of having a choice in every matter and that's what people commonly refer to as free will. It's incredibly difficult to imagine because our brains have never evolved to be able to easily comprehend that sort of thought process. We've never needed it to survive.

    (Original post by xylas)
    I see what you're getting at (making a few large assumed inferences) but the conclusions of the two thought experiments are completely different. It is not whether the button is pressed which is the variable, but whether there is free will. Similarly it is not the radioactive atom which is the variable (both decayed and not-decayed?) but whether the cat is alive.
    The question asked whether we had free will or not. Schrödinger's cat meant that we do and don't have free will.
    However the radioactive atom is also an independent variable. It either is or isn't decayed, when we don't know which, it's both simultaneously.
    The logic that applies to the cat, by (an inverse) extension also applies to the state of the atom.
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    (Original post by Zargabaath)
    I disagree with this. When I say things are almost entirely caused by the events preceding them, I mean that on the most literal levels. Including the molecular level. All of our brain activity exists at a molecular level, it's all physical interactions taking place, so in essence we're slaves to that. Me punching my sister in the face was as much my choice as it was the Sun's choice to be formed or your choice to be born.
    You could argue there are some things that are truly random, such as radioactive decay, but we still have no control over that.

    However that doesn't mean we don't eliminate elements harmful to society, that's going by the colloquial definition of free will. There is the illusion of having a choice in every matter and that's what people commonly refer to as free will. It's incredibly difficult to imagine because our brains have never evolved to be able to easily comprehend that sort of thought process. We've never needed it to survive.
    Ah the long-awaited reply :P

    On the molecular level I believe statistics is the best explanation we have and that predictability is 100% impossible. So even if we could know the entire state of the universe we would still not know what the effect will be, only what it is likely to be. We will never ever know when an atom will radioactively decay.

    Your analogy with the sun is flawed since we don't think the sun experiences any choices (we know it doesn't). However we know that we definitely do experience choices.

    At this point I have to ask if you disagree with that statement? Do you know that you experience choices? I know I do.

    RobML disagreed but his reason was due to impossibility knowing anything i.e. solipsism. If you have a better argument than that I would be interested to hear it.

    (Original post by Zargabaath)
    The question asked whether we had free will or not. Schrödinger's cat meant that we do and don't have free will.
    However the radioactive atom is also an independent variable. It either is or isn't decayed, when we don't know which, it's both simultaneously.
    The logic that applies to the cat, by (an inverse) extension also applies to the state of the atom.
    Logically you can't make inverse extensions. But if this is your belief then I respect it.
 
 
 

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