Free Will

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karmarider
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Free Will

Post by karmarider » Tue Aug 10, 2010 9:55 pm

There has been discussion on free will on this board, so I thought I would post this. I posted an article on my site about some areas in consciousness research, and here is an excerpt on free will:

The illusion of free will

Benjamin Libet and others have done some experiments which show free will may be an illusion. You are asked to wriggle your finger when you want to while a PET scan is done. The scan shows that you decided to move the finger at the same time that the finger moved. However, a type of EEG potential (called Readiness Potential) consistently shows that the brain gears up, getting ready to move the finger, almost a second before you actually decide to move the finger. So the brain autonomously decides to move the finger and then a second later makes you think that you have decided to move the finger.

Free will is a delusion. The best perhaps that we can do in this particular case is to consciously veto the decision to move the finger (in which case, someone joked, we don’t have free will, we have free won’t). But the decision to veto may be similarly autonomous.

Ok, so we don’t have free will, at least in this particular experiment—that’s bizarre enough, but why has natural selection gone to the trouble of creating a delusion of decision-making? Why is it important to natural selection that we believe that our decisions are not only free-willed but also instantly effect movement?

In another experiment, psychologist Dan Wegner, describes a party game in which a person sits in front of a mirror and someone behind him moves the subject’s arms around. If at the same time the subject hears a tape telling the person how to move his arms, he begins to feel that he is actually in command.

The brain, particularly the left-brain, is pretty skilled at this sort of spin-doctoring.

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Re: Free Will

Post by Sighclone » Wed Aug 11, 2010 12:28 am

If natural selection is the driving force (yes for biological evolution, but perhaps some divine intelligence is deeper still), and competition among the species and within them is part of that process, then self-preservation (at the level of the body) is pretty important. The spider leaps quickly on the trapped fly...was that free will, or just some primitively-coded reflex?

Perhaps our limited, unconscious concept of egoic self (little me...) operates in a realm which follows closely the flow of nature emanating from the absolute Self, but follows, nonetheless.

Libet has some detractors also...most objections center around the motor function in his experiments.

Andy
A person is not a thing or a process, but an opening through which the universe manifests. - Martin Heidegger
There is not past, no future; everything flows in an eternal present. - James Joyce

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Re: Free Will

Post by James » Wed Aug 11, 2010 1:40 am

The website is looking good KR, nice to see your face.
"Awareness is already present, already here, already now; before you try to be more.... In that recognition there's no effort, there's just acknowledgment"..."Awareness is not something you can understand, it's something you are."

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Re: Free Will

Post by arel » Wed Aug 11, 2010 5:12 am

Interestingly I just stumbled onto this from "Talks with Ramana Maharashi"
Q: Has man any free will or is everything in his life predestined and preordained?

A: Free will is associated with individuality. As long as individuality lasts, so long is there free will. All the sastras are based on this fact, and they advise directing the free will in the right channel. Find out to whom free will or destiny matters. Abide in it. Then free will and destiny are transcended. That is the only purpose of discussing these questions. To whom do these questions arise? Find out and be at peace.
What I say is only my viewpoint.

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Re: Free Will

Post by Webwanderer » Wed Aug 11, 2010 5:20 am

The scan shows that you decided to move the finger at the same time that the finger moved. However, a type of EEG potential (called Readiness Potential) consistently shows that the brain gears up, getting ready to move the finger, almost a second before you actually decide to move the finger. So the brain autonomously decides to move the finger and then a second later makes you think that you have decided to move the finger.
The fly in this ointment is that it seems to presume that the brain is the seat of consciousness. Suppose that the conscious choice to move one's finger originates from beyond the brain, and that the brain simply responds to trigger the electrochemical mechanisms to carry out this choice. It's one thing to decide to move a finger, it's another to execute a mental command to do so. Could it be that choice/action follows a certain order: choice, (brain)preparation, command/movement.

For example, as I sit here I have chosen to move my finger. However, I have not yet executed the command for it to move. I can count down to the action of course, or do so immediately. My brain, due to the intimate relationship I have with it, will anticipate the command (it's very perceptive), and send out the appropriate signals to accomplish the task once it is certain the command is imminent. The conscious act to execute the move is not the same as the conscious choice to do so. Occasionally, when I'm not quite certain of the specific moment of the command but am just on the edge, my brain may jump the gun and cause a twitch. Haven't we all experienced something like this?

I don't know the science you cite, but experience has shown that scientists often presume that brain is the seat of consciousness. Anything else is not considered science.

WW

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Re: Free Will

Post by HandfullaMinerals » Wed Aug 11, 2010 2:32 pm

We can't choose to choose. We can't choose not to choose.
It is the ego which raises difficulties, creating obstacles and then suffers from the perplexity of apparent paradoxes. Find out who makes the enquiries and the Self will be found.

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Re: Free Will

Post by Webwanderer » Wed Aug 11, 2010 6:47 pm

iamego wrote:We can't choose to choose. We can't choose not to choose.
That's not my experience. I'm at a fork in the road and not sure which path to take - the busier thoroughfare or the road less traveled. I choose to make a decision, I weigh the possibilities, and choose one or the other. (Of course we all know how that turned out.)

Had I not chosen to make a choice of one or the other, I might have turned around and returned the way I came, but that too would have been a choice. Either way the choice came before the command to act upon the choice.

Where have I gone astray in my perspective?

WW

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Re: Free Will

Post by Sighclone » Wed Aug 11, 2010 7:05 pm

I went round and round with Gary Weber on Free Will and Predetermination. My copy of "Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi" has an index with about six entries for "Free Will" -- they are all worth reviewing. Samsara implies a delusion of sorts, and admits the presence of six billion "individuals" each of whom believe they act with free will. For certain, free will requires a "doer" to act on it. If Libet is right, and his simple experiment reveals the Absolute Self behind all action, then he will be the first man to have proved the existence of God. Meanwhile, please choose to stop at red lights.

Andy
A person is not a thing or a process, but an opening through which the universe manifests. - Martin Heidegger
There is not past, no future; everything flows in an eternal present. - James Joyce

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Re: Free Will

Post by karmarider » Wed Aug 11, 2010 9:33 pm

Webwanderer wrote:
...I don't know the science you cite, but experience has shown that scientists often presume that brain is the seat of consciousness. Anything else is not considered science.

WW
Yes, the conventional wisdom in science is that the brain "produces" consciousness. There are a few voices which say that the brain may be a sort of a radio receiver for consciousness, and a few which say that consciousness, not matter or energy or space or time, is primal.

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Re: Free Will

Post by karmarider » Wed Aug 11, 2010 9:42 pm

Webwanderer wrote:...Where have I gone astray in my perspective?
WW
Perhaps the hint is in your signature? :)

Perhaps choice is autonomous. It relies on stimulus and brain circuits and programming, and there are circuits which are designed to makes us believe that we are making a choice. Whether you go left or right or turn around or go catatonic with indecision...may not be up to an executive "I" running the show, but is simply the flow of ions and chemicals in the brain.

The question of free will is still undecidable, but it seems to be moving from the lofty heights of philosophy to hard science.

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Re: Free Will

Post by karmarider » Wed Aug 11, 2010 9:45 pm

Sighclone wrote:...
Libet has some detractors also...most objections center around the motor function in his experiments.

Andy
Yes, good point. Libet's experiments do not conclusively show the absence of free will. They are an indicator.

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Re: Free Will

Post by James » Wed Aug 11, 2010 11:52 pm

WW: That's not my experience. I'm at a fork in the road and not sure which path to take - the busier thoroughfare or the road less traveled. I choose to make a decision, I weigh the possibilities, and choose one or the other. (Of course we all know how that turned out.)

Andy: Meanwhile, please choose to stop at red lights.
"I was driving home early Sunday morning through Bakersfield
Listening to gospel music on the colored radio station
And the preacher said, "You know you always have the
Lord by your side"

And I was so pleased to be informed of this that I ran
Twenty red lights in his honor
Thank you Jesus, thank you lord"
-Rolling Stones-Far Away Eyes
____

"Jesus is just alright with me
Jesus is just alright, oh yeah."
-Arthur Reid Reynolds
"Awareness is already present, already here, already now; before you try to be more.... In that recognition there's no effort, there's just acknowledgment"..."Awareness is not something you can understand, it's something you are."

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Re: Free Will

Post by Webwanderer » Thu Aug 12, 2010 2:27 am

karmarider wrote:
Webwanderer wrote:...Where have I gone astray in my perspective?
WW
Perhaps the hint is in your signature? :)

Perhaps choice is autonomous. It relies on stimulus and brain circuits and programming, and there are circuits which are designed to makes us believe that we are making a choice. Whether you go left or right or turn around or go catatonic with indecision...may not be up to an executive "I" running the show, but is simply the flow of ions and chemicals in the brain.

The question of free will is still undecidable, but it seems to be moving from the lofty heights of philosophy to hard science.
Glad you like my signature. I'm not sure we can completely get around beliefs and still function in form. We are filled with subconscious beliefs that help us function everyday. Most are beliefs built on experience but they are still beliefs.

"Perhaps the choice is autonomous." Well perhaps it is, but perhaps there is yet more to it. Scientists can show all kinds of evidence that brain functions are involve with physical expression. But the radio analogy is a good one. A damaged or broken radio says nothing of the radio waves that give it expression. While a radio scientist may well show how manipulating the dials and buttons will affect the function of the radio, it is not proof that the radio itself is the origin of the sound.

One thing that concerns me is if there is no choice, can there be any point to being? This very discussion becomes irrelevant if there is no choice. We didn't choose to come here to this forum nor choose how we participate in this thread. We have no options in the things we say. I don't see how it's all that different from what materialists have to say.

But "perhaps" the Source that is fundamental to all being endows its expressions with a degree of unfettered latitude based upon isolation from its own memory of its greater nature. In that expression there is a limited freedom to choose within the designed structure of its expression's environment. What fun to find one's way home.

I realize that this is all pretty speculative, but I may have had no choice. :wink:

WW

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Re: Free Will

Post by Sighclone » Thu Aug 12, 2010 2:58 am

The moment we decide that there is some element of illusion in samsara, we are just fine. If samsara is artificial then free will can be artificial from the same perspective that declared samsara to be so.

Andy
A person is not a thing or a process, but an opening through which the universe manifests. - Martin Heidegger
There is not past, no future; everything flows in an eternal present. - James Joyce

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Re: Free Will

Post by alex » Thu Aug 12, 2010 6:50 am

Well all this convo is a little above me but I think the the more conscious the freer the will no? People still enslaved to mind are kind of just dragged along by it arent they? But from presence you can truly choose what you want to do, drive that little brain that makes it all happen.

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