My PERSONAL Opinion About Free Will

First of all, I'm going to be arrogant and solipsistic in my approach to understanding Free Will. This is a personal feature every human has, whether it's "real" or a delusion or illusion. At this point, I don't see enough consensus out there, except for the Godidit talking point that "God gave us Free WIll". (Bullcrap! I mean, even if God did didit, we're still stuck with the "science" of understanding how it works. Even if God left us billion year old fossils six thousand years ago, He still left it up to us to understand what He gave us as best we can, and solve our own human problems. Fine, so worship The Maker. But we still have to cure diseases and build shelter from natural disasters, and... oh-oh, I felt an uncontrollable rant ramping up inside me, but decided I should stop it.) So...


Free Will is one of those things that hasn't been scientifically defined yet, just as we are still defining and trying to understand consciousness. We'll be able to define it better and better over time, but I'll bet it will always be mostly a philosophical discussion rather than scientific. Why? Because the question will always come down to whether I as a human being can be separate from the Me as a meat body. The brain is where it is (i.e. where I is), at least in this lifetime, and while I'm writing this, so any other entertainment of this question has to consider whether or not I can exist without my body. That question will always lead to a religious, spiritual, or indeed even an arrogant and solipsistic soliloquy or conversation.

So what really matters to each of us regarding this question about Free Will? 1) What each of us experiences inside, ala qualia. 2) How can or does our persoanl definition of Free Will jive with everyone else's.

This is so much like any discussion about religion, isn't it? In fact, I'll go so far as to admit that what I believe about Free Will is not much more valid than any faith. I believe that the qualia I cannot exist separate from meat Me, and therefore my behavior in the strictest definition of the term is predetermined. However, here I am, feeling unquestionably that my behavior is pure choice. It feels like I'm making my free choices, albeit only in the context of what's possible in reality. I.e., I can't decide to fly like a bird, but I can decide whether or not to put a period at the end of this sentence

Furthermore, we are social beings, as are most animals, but even more than most animals. I cannot even define myself without the context of other humans, or you readers. My selfish, arrogant definition of Free Will is also in that context. What you do can affect me, and what I do can affect you. Our Free Wills, or whatever we should call this interactive, group aspect of it feels just as real, and just as valid as my personal, isolated Free Will, no matter how stubborn I am about what I believe, and no matter how each of us defines these things. I can exist solitary on an island somewhere, but I'll never be able to exist without knowledge of the larger context of humanity.

I want to write more, but maybe this is a good place to stop and simmer for a while? I won't even proofread until later. Any and all contributions from the rest of my reality (i.e. you people) will be appreciated. I think I wanted to talk about new research wrt scientific measurments wrt neurological timing of personal decision making, or similar, but I haven't read enough about it yet. I suspect it won't ultimately add much insight into the real question, which is about mind/matter duality, other to confirm that there is no duality... and in that sense, I'm not sure I care how much science confirms what I already believe. Yes, that's arrogance! And perhaps faith in its own way, I think, but I'm still ultimately open to new observations even if they argue against my current view.


Views: 48

Comment by Tasha Cain on May 23, 2011 at 8:03pm
i could not agree more.
Comment by Unseen on May 6, 2012 at 10:21pm

The belief in free will is tied in with our belief in a moral order, which is one of the reverberations left in our minds by religion. Of course, if you believe in free will, it's only because you're DOOMED to believe in it. As long as you do believe, anyway. You may change your mind...when you have to. It's not like you have any real choice in the matter, is it?

Science is showing us that all decisions take place in the preconscious brain, not in the conscious mind at all.

So you see, free choice is a feeling vaguely related to deja vu. Seeming real, but not. As for free will, I'm far from knowing what the hell "will" is.

Comment by Pope Beanie on May 7, 2012 at 1:55am

Science is showing us that all decisions take place in the preconscious brain, not in the conscious mind at all.

I've seen this research before but I'm not yet ready to conclude much from it. I am basically a determinist, but I'm ok with feeling I have Free Will.

Here's somewhat related research, but more about how neurocircuits can be measured when someone is doubting his own judgment in the light of people who disagree with him. It's also interesting that the institution conducting the research on "social conformity" is Chinese:

These findings suggest that incongruence with group choices or opinions can elicit brain responses that are similar to those elicited by violation of non-social expectancy in outcome evaluation and performance monitoring, and these brain signals are utilized in the following behavioral adjustment. The present research complements recent brain imaging studies by showing the temporal characteristics of neural processing involved in social conformity and by suggesting common mechanisms for reinforcement learning in social and non-social situations.

Comment by Unseen on May 7, 2012 at 9:28am

The feeling of making free choices, which I have just like you, flies in the face of how the rest of the world works, where everything is governed by laws of nature. Feelings can fool us. For example, deja vu. I read the second quote through several times and don't "get" how it contradicts the determinism of human behavior in any way, Social considerations are assessed by the brain just like any other perception and are processed like any other information. There's nothing particularly exceptional about it.


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