Austin Philosophy Discussion Group (APDG) Message Board Philosophy for Real Life Monday night group › What is your inside view of free will?

What is your inside view of free will?

gary
catalunya
Austin, TX
Post #: 1
Here's a slightly re-edited copy of something I posted on the 2/25 session board.
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For me, "free will" is the name I give to the experience of consciously acting or failing to act. There are two parts, "free" and "will".

"Will" describes my *feeling* that I am the agent that caused an event to happen in the world, through conscious action or inaction. If I accidentally contribute to event A happening, I never say, "my actions led to A, so I willed it". Responsibility has no direct bearing on "free will". "Will" is what I call it when I feel like I've been a conscious causal agent.

"Free" has to do with my conscious ability to entertain counterfactuals. I experience a past occurrence of will as a decision to choose among alternatives, but I can imagine having chosen otherwise. I strongly feel that I could have chosen any physically possible alternative. I can reason similarly about the future, and imagine choosing any physically possible alternative.

The proposition "I think, therefore I am" is a lot more compelling (to me, at least) than the proposition "I willed therefore I caused". The fact that it may strongly feel that way does not convince me, because the link between experiencing thought and existing seems very close to definitional (to me), but the link between wanting to cause A by my actions or inactions, and *actually* being the cause of A, seems tenuous.

I know that my knowledge of the entire causal web leading to A is incomplete. In fact, I can prove to myself that my knowledge of my own part in it is incomplete. Nevertheless, when I become aware that I desire some outcome, and wish to act so as to favor that outcome, I say I have formulated an intent. This notion of intent captures my sense that I am trying to act as a causal agent - in a way, it's a placeholder for the concept of me as cause. Subjectively, I feel like my intent is a root cause, objectively I am unable to convince myself that intent (or what it represents) is any more than a proximate cause. It seems that I cannot escape this experience, and I feel I have no choice but to act as if I have free will.
Bill M.
bmeacham
Austin, TX
Post #: 109
I have actually experimented with this a bit. Once I was hiking in the park and came to a fork in the trail. I stopped and pondered what to do. What I usually do in this case is imagine going down one fork and then imagine going down the other fork (I have been down both many times before, so I know what is there in both cases) and see which one feels better. In this case I was just suspended without judgment for a while. I felt a bit like Buridan's Ass. Then my mind wandered to something else and I found myself walking down one of the forks. I am not sure this counts a free choice or not. Certainly it was not a deliberate free choice.
Gene R.
fatal-error667
Austin, TX
Post #: 190
I was experimenting once in a similar manner, trying catch myself in the act of making a decision regarding trivial things. I never observed the choosing, I only became aware at some point that the choice had been made. 

With momentous decisions it's similar. You can observe yourself deliberating your choices and the consequences thereof. It can go on and on... Then one morning you wake up and you know that the decision has been made. 
Gene R.
fatal-error667
Austin, TX
Post #: 191
It seems that I cannot escape this experience, and I feel I have no choice but to act as if I have free will.

It looks like intuitively we are "free-willers", behaving as if we had free will. But at the same time we are also "intuitive determinists". All our actions betray our belief in a world of predictable causal regularities. It is no different in regards to agents, both ourselves and others. We expect people to act "in character" and are surprised if they do not. In response to the actions out of character, we attempt to understand the deviation in terms  of a causal explanation. This and than must have happened for them to this weird thing... Along with that we can also review and modify our character theory - we thought X was a certain way, now we think X is different. From now on we'll have different expectations. 
Kim
user 7355689
Austin, TX
Post #: 582
It seems to me that Blaise Pascal also came to a fork in the road and asked himself whether it is reasonable to believe in God (who created Man in God's image with free will) or not. He weighed the consequences of the two options and decided that in the eventuality of non-existence of God, which Pascal judged as impossible to prove or disprove, his choice one way or the other would not matter much, whereas he would have much to regret if he chose not to believe in God and it was revealed to him that God exists. Since Pascal wished to live as a rational man rather than an irrational one, he chose to believe in God (Jansenist concept of God in this case) and act as if God really existed. The manner in which he arrived (that is, freely) to his conclusion seems to be an example of exercise of free will to the full capacity of that which a human being is capable. Similarly, belief in free will may be something people can choose to believe in if it is more rational to do so. The perceived consequences of a selected choice contributing towards a vision of anticipated social reality are bound to influence the decision process.





Gene R.
fatal-error667
Austin, TX
Post #: 192
Decisions that look from the inside like exercises of free will, from the outside look like actions determined by the person’s character (the totality of beliefs, desires, habits and abilities). I think the external account has a greater explanatory power. It explains why Pascal “rationally” chose to believe in Catholicism and not in Daoism, Hare Krishna-ism or Islam. The likely cause is Pascal’s environment.
If he were born in the Ottoman Empire, things would have been different. Any imam worth his robes would have explant to Pascal that Christianity (father, son and holy ghost) is a paganism masquerading as monotheism. And choosing it is a one-way ticket to hell. No so “rational” after all.
Kim
user 7355689
Austin, TX
Post #: 583
Decisions that look from the inside like exercises of free will, from the outside look like actions determined by the person’s character (the totality of beliefs, desires, habits and abilities). I think the external account has a greater explanatory power. It explains why Pascal “rationally” chose to believe in Catholicism and not in Daoism, Hare Krishna-ism or Islam. The likely cause is Pascal’s environment.
If he were born in the Ottoman Empire, things would have been different. Any imam worth his robes would have explant to Pascal that Christianity (father, son and holy ghost) is a paganism masquerading as monotheism. And choosing it is a one-way ticket to hell. No so “rational” after all.

Pascal's rational choice had to do with either to believe in God or choose atheism/secularism. It was not that of choosing Jansenism (which he was influenced by) over other forms of Christianity or other religions.
Gene R.
fatal-error667
Austin, TX
Post #: 193
Yes, precisely. Pascal was choosing the capital “G” God, a very specific deity, not any vague composite deity of the Universalists. It’s predictable - that was the deity of his environment.

Now, if he were born in a Hindu family, his choice would have been the entire Hindu pantheon.
Kim
user 7355689
Austin, TX
Post #: 584
Yes, precisely. Pascal was choosing the capital “G” God, a very specific deity, not any vague composite deity of the Universalists. It’s predictable - that was the deity of his environment.

I guess it would be more predictable than converting to other religions like a few Christians had done at different times in history. http://en.wikipedia.o...­

Now, if he were born in a Hindu family, his choice would have been the entire Hindu pantheon.
or Buddhism, like Buddha (who was a Hindu? prince) or the Dalits (the Untouchables)

Either way, the choices Pascal had were obviously not the product of his free will, merely the result of a process of diversification sustained by his intellectual predecessors.
gary
catalunya
Austin, TX
Post #: 2
I follow Yogi Berra's advice. He said: "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."
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