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Poll: Do you have free will?
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YES, I DO have free will, in the sense that it is ultimately up to me, or ultimately my choice, which actions I take and when.
59.38%
19 59.38%
NO, I do NOT have free will, in the sense that it is NOT ultimately up to me, and NOT ultimately my choice, which actions I take and when.
40.63%
13 40.63%
Total 32 vote(s) 100%
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Does free will exist?

Does free will exist?
(03-15-2023, 05:18 PM)Rhythmcs Wrote: I like to practice with the mechanics of arguments, sure.  I just haven't noticed that being all that effective in my life.  Of practicing with the mechanics of arguments changing core beliefs or motivations or behaviors.  More that I'm looking for a way to accurately and intelligently describe what I already feel compelled by.  The possibility of this being an epiphenomenal ability..even on it's own grounds.  As you know, I'd like to say that my ability, our ability, to reason has some causal effect in the world - but my own experience often stands there condemning the notion as narcissistic fantasy.  Why can't I actively change my own mind, why do I recall so few moments of such a change, or reasons for them?  Why can I be compelled by something I know is factually wrong.  As we all do when we say that we understand that x is not how things are, but that we feel that x is how things should be?  Are we even in the drivers seat with respect to those basic parameters of shoul;ld (real or in error)...?  Or do they come standard and fundamentally unalterable with the package to one extent or another - no matter how practiced we are or become at considering rational arguments?

I suspect you do this more than you realize. In responding to an alternative viewpoint, you don't examine it with the assumption that every aspect is wrong, and that such a view is alien to anyone with a brain. No, you attempt to understand how the other person is reasoning. You, at least hypothetically, adopt their assumptions as your own, temporarily. You walk a mile in the other person's shoes, if only to see where they have taken a misstep. Compartmentalization is an essential skill that we all engage in. If you want to decide whether to plant a certain crop, you don't evaluate it based on the situation today, instead, you imagine in your mind's eye what things will be like in the future, over the course of the growing season, into harvest, and beyond into a time when your efforts in that vein are over and done and can assess the results as they impact other things in your life. Buddhists suggest that attachment is the root of all our woes. Regardless of the abuses of religious practitioner's of Buddhism, there is some wisdom in suggesting that we might be better off if we don't cling to tightly to things that are ultimately provisional. The mindfulness craze suggests similarly that when we stop focusing inward on our own internal dialogue, and just observe that around us, benefits will accrue. Zen practitioners have discovered that we need not practice on tangible concepts and ideas, the mind can train itself through a regular exercise of the ability to detach. And I'm sure we know the dangers of holding too tightly to our own view. When we do that, we blind ourselves to the possibility of an outsider's perspective on what we think. When we do that, we easily miss common mistakes in our work and thinking due to overfamiliarity. At worst, we become examples of William James' apt observation that, "Many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices." But I think you underestimate yourself. You practice compartmentalization more often than you think, such as when you debate what to say to your wife, or how she will react to something you've done. If you weren't adept at putting yourself in her shoes, your relationship would not be what it is.

So I don't buy that you're somehow lacking in this area. I will say, in a nod to emjay, that this skill is a lot like free speech. It's easy to support free speech for those who are giving voice to ideas that are agreeable to us; we aren't truly embracing free speech if we aren't supporting the voicing of ideas we find disagreeable or even loathsome. Likewise, it's easy to compartmentalize when we have no skin in the game. If that's the only time we compartmentalize, then we are avoiding exercising the skill where it is most useful.
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Does free will exist?
(03-15-2023, 05:18 PM)Rhythmcs Wrote: I like to practice with the mechanics of arguments, sure.  I just haven't noticed that being all that effective in my life.  Of practicing with the mechanics of arguments changing core beliefs or motivations or behaviors.  More that I'm looking for a way to accurately and intelligently describe what I already feel compelled by.  The possibility of this being an epiphenomenal ability..even on it's own grounds.  As you know, I'd like to say that my ability, our ability, to reason has some causal effect in the world - but my own experience often stands there condemning the notion as narcissistic fantasy.  Why can't I actively change my own mind, why do I recall so few moments of such a change, or reasons for them?  Why can I be compelled by something I know is factually wrong.  As we all do when we say that we understand that x is not how things are, but that we feel that x is how things should be?  Are we even in the drivers seat with respect to those basic parameters of shoul;ld (real or in error)...?  Or do they come standard and fundamentally unalterable with the package to one extent or another - no matter how practiced we are or become at considering rational arguments?

I understand what you're saying, though I must admit I find it hard to imagine you being insecure about anything in real life Wink, but such I guess is the nature of forums to bring out the confidence in us (or conversely, just show us a more limited view of each other).

I'd say what you're saying is similar to how I've always wanted to understand how we come to like what we like, for instance, how acquired tastes are... acquired. So, I used to theorise a lot about that, and figured it to be a general process of something like classical conditioning... because you can generally track, if not explain, how your likes/dislikes and interests evolve over time. So as an experiment I thought I'd try and acquire a taste for something I've never liked, which is beer. So with a gradual process of exposure to one specific type and brand, combined with 'mindful' noting of anything positive I could notice about it, I gradually got myself to a point where I didn't hate it and even sometimes looked forward to it, and eventually could even almost convince myself that I liked it (though I think that was more rationalisation, than real, like what you were describing... a kind of case of 'fake it till you make it' or just make believe). Anyway one day I decided it was time to branch out, so I went to a pub and tried a different beer... and then it all came crashing down; it tasted horrible and so did the original stuff after that Wink So yeah, whatever representations I was forming there, if I even was, were very fragile... and an example of theory being one thing, but actually getting it to work in practice, quite another.
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Does free will exist?
I try that with wine. I get as far as "well, the alcohol part is nice". With respect to doing things more often than we realize, and thus failing to accurately credit ourselves, maybe - this too is a broad problem for ideas about minds and their independence or freedom. Maybe we think we're free because we're not aware of the actual constraints, of the actual deterministic levers...or maybe we really are free in some place or way that we don't even notice - while we're staring at how awesome our meat calculator is. Assuning, just in the one example of changing our minds, that mind is not epiphenomenal, does it really track with free will that it's something we do without knowing that we're doing it, let alone how?
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Does free will exist?
(03-15-2023, 09:10 PM)Rhythmcs Wrote: I try that with wine.  I get as far as "well, the alcohol part is nice".  With respect to doing things more often than we realize, and thus failing to accurately credit ourselves, maybe - this too is a broad problem for ideas about minds and their independence or freedom.  Maybe we think we're free because we're not aware of the actual constraints, of the actual deterministic levers...or maybe we really are free in some place or way that we don't even notice - while we're staring at how awesome our meat calculator is.  Assuning, just in the one example of changing our minds, that mind is not epiphenomenal, does it really track with free will that it's something we do without knowing that we're doing it, let alone how?

Wine flavor is a lot more differentiated than beer. Anything from super sweet to sour, to tart, to more like fruit juice, to dry. There is a wine for every palate, it just takes trying over and over again.
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Does free will exist?
All tastes like the first step to making vinegar to me.

Still, lets use that. There's a wine for every palate, we just need to explore. It seems like the "for every palate" part isn't free or independent. It's some determined state and we're looking to match it since we can't just decide that the next wine is the one that's perfect for us. So, is the freedom in the exploring? The freedom to explore possibilities and build wide ranges of possible outcomes for later selection? Don't we like..or not like..exploring..like..or not like, large decision fields....?

I've got my palate determining the wine, and now I've got my general curiosity, my confidence in decision making, and just a little bit of whatever feelings I have towards adventurism -also- determining the outcome of "best wine for palate"? Seems less free, not more.
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Does free will exist?
(03-15-2023, 10:10 PM)Rhythmcs Wrote: All tastes like the first step to making vinegar to me.  

Still, lets use that.  There's a wine for every palate, we just need to explore.  It seems like the "for every palate" part isn't free or independent.  It's some determined state and we're looking to match it since we can't just decide that the next wine is the one that's perfect for us.  So, is the freedom in the exploring?  The freedom to explore possibilities and build wide ranges of possible outcomes for later selection?  Don't we like..or not like..exploring..like..or not like, large decision fields....?

I've got my palate determining the wine, and now I've got my general curiosity, my confidence in decision making, and just a little bit of whatever feelings I have towards adventurism -also- determining the outcome of "best wine for palate"?  Seems less free, not more.

I love exploring - on every level. Places, food and drink, concepts, games, books, schools of thought, I love to look and see new things. And old things again, too.

There are lots of people who hate exploring, that like the tried and true and won't venture off the known path. 

There is no set rule.
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Does free will exist?
I'm not too focused on whether there's a set rule or level of aptitude. You like to explore wine more than I do. Maybe I like to explore creeks more than you do (some of us never really grow up). We both explore (or don't explore) whatever sets of things strike our fancy. Is this disparity between us freedom in action or the product of yet another round of deterministic constraints? That a mind like yours will taste the wine, and a mind like mine will taste the water.

If you put a wine tasting table beside a creek I would (and have..I shit you not) walk right past the wine to see what's going on in the streambed. This is (part of) the reason I don't go to the wifes wine tasting stuff anymore. I'm out of place and insecure in those settings - and figuratively diving into the creek is probably a way to regain a sense of control and assert my value/ability/competence in a context I'm more interested in and familiar with. At my very best, I want to know about the grapes. This stuff, too, sounds like the reactionary behavior of a meaningfully un-free entity.

I don't want to get too one sided, though. I've been trying to think of moments where I did something that really did stick out to me as not being automatic or overwhelmingly influenced by set states and preferences. Where I actively and abruptly changed something about myself and noticed it while I was doing it. Rappelling and fastroping. I'm terrified of heights, I get dizzy everytime I look down. It doesn't have to be much. I stuffed all that and went over the side.

I'm still terrified, and just as terrified, of heights. I'm just not a person who lets that stop me anymore. Terrified me can go sob in some corner somewhere (preferably where no one sees him) and leave this to high speed me.
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Does free will exist?
(03-15-2023, 10:10 PM)Rhythmcs Wrote: All tastes like the first step to making vinegar to me.  

Still, lets use that.  There's a wine for every palate, we just need to explore.  It seems like the "for every palate" part isn't free or independent.  It's some determined state and we're looking to match it since we can't just decide that the next wine is the one that's perfect for us.  So, is the freedom in the exploring?  The freedom to explore possibilities and build wide ranges of possible outcomes for later selection?  Don't we like..or not like..exploring..like..or not like, large decision fields....?

I've got my palate determining the wine, and now I've got my general curiosity, my confidence in decision making, and just a little bit of whatever feelings I have towards adventurism -also- determining the outcome of "best wine for palate"?  Seems less free, not more.

There's a complication to that top part though, likes change, for the same thing, and often in an idealisation vs devaluation sense. Like how I flip between thinking Cookies and Cream ice cream is the best vs Strawberry cheesecake ice cream, but never both 'best' at the same time, one idealised, the other devalued. I just mean this complicates the statement that the palate determines the wine. Doesn't make it any more free if we don't understand how the idealisation vs devaluation process works as well as how it flips, but just thought it might be relevant.
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There is, yeah, because we can add yet another deterministic qualifier just as you say. Our states or preferences and those things...at a particular moment...when some opportunity to employ this freedom or independence happens to materialize.
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Wine: This thread has suddenly found a topic.
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Does free will exist?
(03-15-2023, 10:26 PM)Rhythmcs Wrote: I'm not too focused on whether there's a set rule or level of aptitude.  You like to explore wine more than I do.  Maybe I like to explore creeks more than you do (some of us never really grow up).  We both explore (or don't explore) whatever sets of things strike our fancy.  Is this disparity between us freedom in action or the product of yet another round of deterministic constraints?  That a mind like yours will taste the wine, and a mind like mine will taste the water.

If you put a wine tasting table beside a creek I would (and have..I shit you not) walk right past the wine to see what's going on in the streambed.  This is (part of) the reason I don't go to the wifes wine tasting stuff anymore.  I'm out of place and insecure in those settings - and figuratively diving into the creek is probably a way to regain a sense of control and assert my value/ability/competence in a context I'm more interested in and familiar with.  At my very best, I want to know about the grapes.  This stuff, too, sounds like the reactionary behavior of a meaningfully un-free entity.

I don't want to get too one sided, though.  I've been trying to think of moments where I did something that really did stick out to me as not being automatic or overwhelmingly influenced by set states and preferences.  Where I actively and abruptly changed something about myself and noticed it while I was doing it.  Rappelling and fastroping.  I'm terrified of heights, I get dizzy everytime I look down.  It doesn't have to be much.  I stuffed all that and went over the side.

I'm still terrified, and just as terrified, of heights.  I'm just not a person who lets that stop me anymore.  Terrified me can go sob in some corner somewhere (preferably where no one sees him) and leave this to high speed me.

Believe it or not, I would go for the creek also. Wine was just an example you brought into the conversation.

I think these likes and dislikes depend on our DNA, our body chemistry, our imprinting and early learning.
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Does free will exist?
I'm likely not adding anything interesting, but I've been listening to lectures by Dr. Robert Sapolsky. I read his book, A Primate's Memoir, and now I'm fascinated by him and his research.



This makes a lot of sense to me, and I'm inclined to agree with him, but I haven't heard a counter to this logic yet. Apparently Sapolsky is working on a book about determinism right now, so that should be interesting when it's published.
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Does free will exist?
(03-14-2023, 10:42 PM)Rhythmcs Wrote: Maybe, maybe not.  The freedom or independence being asserted isn't in it's creation, though - but in what happens after that.  

So, making an ant, for example, won't get you colony behavior.  They don't individually know where to put the midden heap or even where the midden heap is or even what a midden heap is.  With just a few ants colony construction and maintenance is haphazard and ineffective, and with a proper™ colony... placement is generalizable to a set of descriptive rules that imply effective parameters.  

The colony is aware of things, or behaves as though it's aware of things, that none of them individually are or even could be.  That's emergence - regardless of whether or not ants are, themselves, caused or the processes involved in that deterministic.  Maybe neurons, for example, are like an ant colony.  The question isn't so much whether they fit in the causal chain, but whether where or how they fit is as a cause unlike any of their constituent parts.  Para causal, not contra causal, but out outside of scientific determinism (it's alleged) - such that an individual ant might do the same thing given the same circumstances 100 times out of 100 - but a colony of ants will fuck with you.  Outsmart you.   Out know you.  On the basis of this, outwork you.  That they can and perhaps even will do the Other Thing.  I'm not at all embarrassed to say it's happened to me many many times.  They're a menace - one of the few soil pests that you can't deal with just by lifting your crop out of the soil.  Think about that.

Heya, just an update... I finished the book you recommended (still a long way to go on the other one - that was on hold while I read your, much shorter, one)... and yes it was fascinating, so thanks for the recommendation Smile Personally I'm going to be dreaming now of that self-organising, re-racking pool table... that would be awesome Wink I know our computer games can kind of cheat on that score, but nothing would be quite as satisfying as seeing motorised pool balls physically re-rack after every game Wink

Anyway, so I now have a much better idea what we're talking about when we're talking about emergence, but I just wanted to clarify some things about what I mean by determinism, as relating to my worldview, which may differ from what you mean by it. I'm not entirely sure.

First thing's first, when I'm talking about determinism I'm not talking about 'scientific determinism' (I had to look that up)... so it's not determinism as constrained by what can, or could in the future, practically or theoretically be predicted by science, but rather based on an abstract omniscient 'god's eye view' kind of snapshot of the state of the universe, ie though the Uncertainty Principle may mean we cannot know the speed and position of a particle at the same time, an abstract snapshot would nonetheless contain the full information - both speed and positions of particles - regardless of whether we could ever achieve it... because it seems to me that though unknowable scientifically, it would still be hypothetically/globally true, and thus perfectly valid for answering philosophical questions such as 'could it have been any other way?'.

Another thing is, I'm not sure to what extent unpredicability in a sort of local sense matters to you here. Ie one thing this book makes clear is the importance of trial and error to emergence (and makes me really want to get into that whole field of simulating evolution for instance to evolve software... sounds like a lot of fun Wink)... ie you could never predict what was going to emerge, not least because of the sheer number of variables involved, but prediction per se is not what I'm concerned with when I'm talking about determinism from a philosophical standpoint, but just answering the question 'could it have been any other way?', and it seems to me that all that's necessary to answer that question is to answer the same question from before, 'would exactly the same thing emerge given exactly the same initial conditions?', so in the case of say the slime-mold simulation in the book, given the same initial parameters - and for the sake of argument assuming that the program contained no RNG (not that would make any difference, ultimately to the point I'm making, I think... unless it was truly random) - would exactly the same topography of clusters emerge on-screen each time? I think so, yes, and that's what I mean by determined. And that that's a highly contained/controlled example, as any software simulation would be, doesn't IMO make much difference in principle, because at whatever scale, to the extent physical laws apply, they apply, and the only thing that complicates things is the truly random... ie the quantum random. So basically, in the case of your ant colony, do you truly believe that given exactly the same, God's eye view, global initial conditions, the emergent colony behaviour could be different, except inasmuch as that difference is caused by truly random, ie indeterminate... effects?

As I said, I haven't finished the other book yet... and am still on its description of scientifc reductionism (though still thoroughly identifying with it, broadly at least, despite it being much more formalised and technical than anything I'd conceived so far)... so haven't even got to its case for scientific emergentism yet, so this post is not a commentary on that at all, but just some thoughts I wanted to get off my chest following reading your book on general emergence.
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Does free will exist?
I don't think that ant colony behavior would be different given exactly the same circumstances. OFC, we actually find that it's not different given different circumstances, even. They'll attempt to construct those chamber layouts even when the soil and water table won't support it, and when it collapses, they'll dig it again. Over and over and over, so long as whatever loss in the collapse doesn't put them under building behavior threshold at which point they all just stop and focus on foraging with tunnels of convenience. They're not responding to external conditions, they're not even aware of what those conditions might be. It's unclear that they even possess a memory to hold such information day to day if they acquired it, and if they did, their chemical signaling system is likely not up to the task of communicating it, if there were boss ants to do so..which there aren't.

What I find fascinating about ants in the context of emergence and free will, is that however good they are as an example of emergent behavior, they're just as good a demonstration of how a behavior being emergent doesn't make that behavior free. Emergence doesn't even move the chains. If we are free, then it's on account of something other than emergence, which is not a free-maker itself.
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(03-22-2023, 02:13 PM)Rhythmcs Wrote: I don't think that ant colony behavior would be different given exactly the same circumstances.  OFC, we actually find that it's not different given different circumstances, even.  They'll attempt to construct those chamber layouts even when the soil and water table won't support it, and when it collapses, they'll dig it again.  Over and over and over, so long as whatever loss in the collapse doesn't put them under building behavior threshold at which point they all just stop and focus on foraging with tunnels of convenience.  They're not responding to external conditions, they're not even aware of what those conditions might be.  It's unclear that they even possess a memory to hold such information day to day if they acquired it, and if they did, their chemical signaling system is likely not up to the task of communicating it, if there were boss ants to do so..which there aren't.[...]

Cool. As an aside I think in neural network terms there may be a potentially relevant term and that is 'Basins of Attraction' (which I just had to look up, but I remember it from the past when I was more interested in NNs), which basically means that given multiple different initial states, the network is essentially attracted to a particular end state... so to the extent that the ant colony behaves like a neural network, it could be a similar phenomenon at work. Also, from reading Alan's book, another thing looks like it could also possibly be relevant and that is 'multiple composition' ie that different sets of components can compose - or comprise - the same higher level entities or properties etc... though that's a lot more technical and perhaps too narrowly focused to be of use here, but just thought it might be worth considering.
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