Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

On the definition of free will!


  • Please log in to reply
41 replies to this topic

#35 Rade

Rade

    Understanding

  • Members
  • 1235 posts

Posted 16 February 2016 - 04:00 PM

To CraigD...

 

In post #30 you wrote:

 

"If no one can know what you’ll do next, your choice of what you do next can’t reasonably be attributed to anyone but you."

 

In post #28 I wrote:

 

"Free will is an action were one can do x, one knows that it can do x, and one decides to do x, rather than not-x."

 

Let us combine the two, thus:

 

Free will is an action were you can do x, you know you can do x, and you decide to do x, rather than not-x, and no other person can know which decision you will make. 

 

Have we an operational definition of the free will concept ? 

 



#36 Farming guy

Farming guy

    Explaining

  • Members
  • 687 posts

Posted 17 February 2016 - 05:39 PM

 

 

To FarmingGuy...

 

You made a free will decision to risk your life to repair your roof with x amount of damage quickly, rather than repair your roof with increased damage latter.   We assume you value your life more than you value the roof.   Read again my definition of free will, you chose to risk your life to do x, rather than not-x, and you knew it.  

I wouldn't say I chose to risk my life.  My fear of heights is irrational, and there are many things I do not fear that actually provide a higher risk of death (such as working on the ground with cows).  From my perspective, I could not have left the roof unfixed, and I felt an irresistible compulsion to get it done.  The compulsion was greater than the fear of heights.  



#37 CraigD

CraigD

    Creating

  • Administrators
  • 8034 posts

Posted 19 February 2016 - 08:50 PM

Free will is an action were you can do x, you know you can do x, and you decide to do x, rather than not-x, and no other person can know which decision you will make.

Have we an operational definition of the free will concept ?

I think this definition has an undefined concept – choice – embedded in it. I’m not surprised, because each of the two words in the phrase “free will” refers to a distinct concept – freedom, and will.

The concept of choice is closely tied to the concept of choice, but doesn’t imply freedom. A computer program of a person using a rule book can strongly exhibit the phenomena of making a choice, yet have it be a completely un-free one.

So the question “does X have free will?” might be stripped down to a simpler “is X free?”

One of the things that troubles me about my informal definition of free will, and the more formal one you incorporated it into, Rade, is that these definitions require that it be a quality of other than the entity (“you” in our examples) we traditionally consider to have or not have it. If having free will depends on “no one knowing that what you will do next”, it’s not the a quality possessed by you, but the lack of a quality possessed by somebody who can know something about you.

I’m also bothered that free will as we’re defining it is a situational quality. Consider that we don’t now have the ability to read one another’s minds. However, it may be someday be possible to make instruments that can, by precisely, non-destructively measuring the processes in our brains. It would then be possible for a person with such an instrument to know precisely what you will do next. According to my pragmatic definition of free will, this mind-reading instrument and the use of it make you no longer have free will. Free will, then can be defined as a phenomena that occurs in the absence of the use of a mind-reading instrument, or the absence of the quality of an instrument being capable of mind-reading.

This weird misplacement of the object to which the quality of free will applies makes leads me to question whether free will is really an important quality of minds.

In his I Am a Strange Loop, Douglas Hofstadter suggested that the most important quality of mind is it category systems being arbitrarily extensible. This quality is only vaguely related to the concepts of will, choice, and freedom. It’s most strongly related to the concept of learning.

#38 Rade

Rade

    Understanding

  • Members
  • 1235 posts

Posted 22 February 2016 - 04:31 PM

I think this definition has an undefined concept – choice – embedded in it. I’m not surprised, because each of the two words in the phrase “free will” refers to a distinct concept – freedom, and will.     .......

This weird misplacement of the object to which the quality of free will applies makes leads me to question whether free will is really an important quality of minds.    .......

In his I Am a Strange Loop, Douglas Hofstadter suggested that the most important quality of mind is it category systems being arbitrarily extensible. This quality is only vaguely related to the concepts of will, choice, and freedom. It’s most strongly related to the concept of learning.

 

Thanks for the reply.   I would like to comment on the statements above. 

 

I agree that the definition of free will suggested by me does have the concept of choice embedded in it...imo, any proper definition of the concept must.   But free will is a very specific action, a knowledge based choice response.  A machine can be programmed to make a choice and not know it, thus by definition it does not act via free will.   In my definition of free will, the embedded choice represents a self- mastery decision by the "I" of the individual human mind to know, or not to know, e.g., to think or not to think (read again my definition above).   The concepts of "I' and thinking and existence are fundamentally linked in humans (thus.... I think therefore I am). 

 

If in the future it becomes possible to know what any human mind is thinking, then yes, by my definition, that individual would lack free will and become a human slave.   This is one reason I think it important to maintain your contribution to the definition. 

 

Concerning Hofstadter, the quote below from the book you mention does suggest that free will may represent a 'larger packet' concept that is unique to humans minds as compared to other primate species.  Free will as a packet concept can be viewed to be part of the spectacular evolutionary gulf discussed by Hofstadter involving the unique ability of humans to make knowledge based choices that involve necessity of action (what cannot otherwise be) and contingency (all the possibilities that can be).  Free will then becomes an evolutionary adaptive behavior unique to human brains that became arbitrarily extensible over time as..... thought as a category system.   A wonderful book on the topic was written by the late physicist David Bohm, "Thought as a System", 1994, Routledge, London & NY.

 

Hofstadter quote:

 

  “A spectacular evolutionary gulf opened up at some point as human beings were gradually separating from other primates: their category systems became arbitrarily extensible…Concepts in the brains of humans acquired the property that they could get rolled together with other concepts into larger packets, and any such larger packet could then become a new concept in its own right.”



#39 Farming guy

Farming guy

    Explaining

  • Members
  • 687 posts

Posted 26 February 2016 - 06:11 PM

 

 

I agree that the definition of free will suggested by me does have the concept of choice embedded in it...imo, any proper definition of the concept must.   But free will is a very specific action, a knowledge based choice response. 

 

But isn't the purpose of acquiring knowledge to eliminate choices?



#40 Rade

Rade

    Understanding

  • Members
  • 1235 posts

Posted 09 March 2016 - 07:37 PM

But isn't the purpose of acquiring knowledge to eliminate choices?

No.  It is the role of reason to eliminate choices.    The purpose of acquiring knowledge is to have a conscious grasp based on the facts of reality that any given choice is contingent to all possible choices that can be.  



#41 CraigD

CraigD

    Creating

  • Administrators
  • 8034 posts

Posted 09 March 2016 - 09:18 PM

But isn't the purpose of acquiring knowledge to eliminate choices?

No. It is the role of reason to eliminate choices. The purpose of acquiring knowledge is to have a conscious grasp based on the facts of reality that any given choice is contingent to all possible choices that can be.

I agree, but would rephrase it “the role of knowledge and imagination is to add choices, the role or reason to eliminate them.”

Imagination without a foundation in knowledge is inchoate. Knowledge without imagination is sterile. Knowledge and imagination without reason is credulous and indiscriminant.

The question of free will, I think, dims to insignificance beside the importance of knowledge, imagination, and reason. If you have these three, I think, free will, by any common or sensible definition, emerges.

#42 Doctordick

Doctordick

    Explaining

  • Members
  • 1080 posts

Posted 01 June 2016 - 02:11 PM

I have a strong suspicion that "free will" is a presumed explanation of ones behavior and not a "real" aspect of that behavior. There is simply too much evidence that the behavior is set up to occur prior to the actual decision.

 

Thanks -- Dick