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Source: (consider it) Thread: Free Will
Boogie

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I think that is an excellent analogy Freddy. It works because the elephant is a good and useful thing - not all our unconscious desires, thoughts and actions are evil!

There is so much that the 'elephant' has to do (like breathing) which would be confusing and wasteful if it required conscious thought.

[ 13. February 2013, 09:59: Message edited by: Boogie ]

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Garden. Room. Walk

Posts: 13030 | From: Boogie Wonderland | Registered: Mar 2008  |  IP: Logged
quetzalcoatl
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# 16740

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quote:
Originally posted by Freddy:
quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl:
we arrive at an interesting view of human beings, who are driven by desires, over which they have no control.

I love the comparison to a mahout riding an elephant. The elephant is our desires, and the little mahout is our rational mind.

The elephant can do whatever it wants. Often it does, and often the rider fails to effectively direct it. But more often the mahout works cooperatively with the elephant to accomplish what only an elephant can accomplish.

One thing that I like about the comparison is that although we might like to think that our true self is the driver, in reality our true self is the elephant. It is the elephant that does the work. Without direction, though, the elephant is useless.

Unless, of course, it is a wild elephant running free on the plains - but that is a different analogy!

Yes, Freud has the analogy of a horse and rider, but he states that a lot of the time, the rider is well advised to just let the horse go where it wants. Of course, Freud's - and Schopenhauer's - point is that we didn't create the elephant or the horse. In some ways, they create us.

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I can't talk to you today; I talked to two people yesterday.

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The Midge
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# 2398

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quote:
Originally posted by HughWillRidmee:
quote:
Originally posted by The Midge:
However the act of crafting a post, honing and argument, selecting words and thinking through a position would seem to be an example of making a conscious decision and choice; or the exercising of free will. The appearance of conscious thought is demonstrated, at least sometimes, to be simply the way the unconscious informs the conscious of a decision already made B Libet & others 1983, B Libet 1985, J D Haynes 2011. Decoding and predicting intentions. Ann. NY Acaad. Scui. 1224(1):9-21 and I. Fried, R. Mukamel & G. Kreiman, 2011. Internally generated preactivation of single neurons in human medial frontal cortex predicts volition. Neuron, 69: 548-562; plus P. Haggard, 2011 Decision time for free will. Neuron, 69: 404-406 What experimental evidence exists either to counter these studies or demonstrate that the opposite is sometimes true?

I think that the truth lies between the polls of determinism and complete free agency. We are given a dealt a hand of cards and can make a choice about which card to play. Sometimes we are dealt a bad hand and have limited or difficult choices. Other times we have much more or more powerful/ significant choices. Some choice is limited through our nature others by nurture. I agree with all but your first sentence – it is not a consequence of what follows it. I suspect that all choices are limited by both nature and nurture, both lay down routines within the unconscious and our decision is formed by the balance/conflict resolution of the existing routines.

Some choices require training before an event to enable us to make a good decision at a crucial time. Training in CPR allowed me to *****ister** life saving first aid when I came across a casualty. If I hadn’t made a choice to learn and practice the skills, the choice would not be available when the crunch came. However I knew the routines almost subconsciously. I could have just walked past on the other side of the road. Spiritual disciplines work in the same way; practice them and we are able to live godly* lives, neglect them and we are much weaker.

*I would like to say better but let’s be real! The oath of religion that some choose to follow is far from better.
No problem with training, I learnt my multiplication tables by rote, I obviously don’t accept the suggestion that spiritual discipline inevitability = a godly (or better) life. What you would presumably call spiritual discipline could perhaps lead to a better life - though only for a given value of better.

By consciously practising skills etc. we create unconscious routines which we can then use without reference to the (comparatively slow) conscious mind; riding a bike for instance. If you conciously think about correcting each wobble you'll soon fall off - leave it to the unconcious to make all those minor, instant, multi-muscle involving adjustments for you and you may arrive intact.

In “Incognito” by David Eagleman he claims that a baseball batter has less than 0.4 seconds to react and hit a fastball, though the conscious brain takes about half a second to react to the ball leaving the pitcher. Similar observations have been made about cricket (Wikipedia – the fastest delivery officially recorded was clocked at 161.39 km/h (100.3 mph) and was bowled by Shoaib Akhtar of Pakistan during a match against England in the 2003 World Cup. The batsman facing the delivery was Nick Knight, who guided it into the leg side. = 20.5 yards in 0.42 seconds) and tennis – (8 servers recorded at over 150mph = 30 yards in 0.41 seconds). Eagleman also develops the idea that the brain acts* by arbitrating between multiple networks within itself.

*actually o p e r a t e s but it previews as ***rates

It may be said that at times when we feel we do not have a choice are times when we made decisions further back in the past. at some levels we don’t have choice – try committing suicide by holding your breath and, so I’m told, you will start breathing again as soon as you fall unconscious (I’ve not tried it and I don’t suggest anyone else does – just in case the trying induces a heart attack etc.). We can always change our mind if the networks (increased by learning?) produce a different arbitration to that resulting from the previously fewer networks. Some people may have greater hardwired tendencies to conservatism whilst others naturally feel good about embracing change. (I tend to go along with “Don’t worry about what other people think – most of them don’t do it very often”) Sometimes we feel that we change our mind “I’ll have a Mocha rather than a black coffee today” – but that may simply be the way we interpret the unconscious decision to deviate from habit – for whatever unconscious reason.

Consciousness, unprovable by scientific standards, is forever, then, the impossible phantom in the predictable biologic machine, and your every thought a genuine supernatural event. Your every thought is a g****, dancing. - Alan Moore

<small>[ 12. February 2013, 06:56: Message buggered about with by: Doublethink ]</small>

Like I was saying, some times we have a choice and other times we get buggered around by Host and Admins. (As a consequnce of not chosing to add an epigram or something)

quote:

[Marcus Valerius Martialis, c. AD 40–c. 104]

Philaenis the bulldyke buggers boys
and hornier than a married man
she screws eleven girls a day.





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Some days you are the fly.
On other days you are the windscreen.

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Raptor Eye
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quote:
Originally posted by Socratic-enigma:
Really? You didn't want to know whether God exists? You weren't at all curious? There was no event, or series of events (such as having a relationship with a Christian) which sparked your interest?

Curiosity, a desire to find out, call it what you will. I wanted to know the truth, and made the free will decision to try to do so. There was no prompting from anyone, I didn't tell or ask anyone else, or go to a church. The recent event of a death in the family gave me to wonder whether there was a God and/or an afterlife. My thoughts led to a greater desire to find out than to continue to do something else with my time. ( I couldn't get anywhere ref the afterlife, btw. I hold out hopes for that but won't find out until I die.)

quote:
How do you know? Which is your primary desire - to believe in God, or to believe in 'the truth' (even if that entails that God does not exist). I'm sure that you will say the latter, and that through your investigations you have conclusively determined that God does indeed exist and that Jesus was/is his son. But what if unconsciously you are being steered by the former... and only believe that you are following the latter? How would you know? How can we know? As Hume said (see my sig), 'Reason is the slave of the passions', particularly with something as esoteric as the question of God's existence - which is why the interminable arguments of the respective parties are to some degree irrelevant and the more pertinent question is:
"What is their motivation for holding that particular view?"


I can't say that I have a particular desire to believe in God. It would be like saying that I have a desire to believe in the existence of the keyboard I'm using. God is, that's the truth. Its a truth which continues to be verified as I live each day in relationship with God. It affects my passions, my reasoning, and my motivations. I'm fully conscious of that, and I welcome it as it increases my resolve for self-knowledge and self-control, for the good of all people. I'm convinced of God's existence by my experiences of God. I am certain that they don't originate from my mind, whether conscious or sub-conscious. Rather, I think that they're fed into the spirit by God, and from there they feed into the mind - perhaps the sub-conscious mind initially.

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Be still, and know that I am God! Psalm 46.10

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HughWillRidmee
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quote:
Originally posted by The Midge:
Like I was saying, some times we have a choice and other times we get buggered around by Host and Admins. (As a consequnce of not chosing to add an epigram or something)


Like "Little things please little minds" you mean?

Epigram n. A short, sharp saying in prose or verse, frequently characterized by acidity or acerbity and sometimes by wisdom.


In popular usage, a man who in consideration of your weekly payments permits you to call yourself his guest

and

A man of straw, proof against bad egging and dead-catting

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The danger to society is not merely that it should believe wrong things.. but that it should become credulous, and lose the habit of testing things and inquiring into them...
W. K. Clifford, "The Ethics of Belief" (1877)

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Squibs
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quote:
Originally posted by Socratic-enigma:
As for my challenge; it was only partially tongue-in-cheek, because if (as yourself and Raptor-eye contend) we are able to control our desires with such alacrity, then surely such a task is not unreasonable in order to demonstrate your free and independent will - or are you saying that 'foundational' beliefs are determined solely by desire?[/QB]

I never stated that one can control their desires with ease. That is a misunderstanding on your part.

Just because it's not possible to turn an oil tanker on a 6-pence doesn't mean that you don't have some manner of control over it. It seems to me that you have offered a ludicrous challenge by defining free will as being the exactly the type of thing that allows us flip our foundational beliefs at the drop of a hat. But you've not offered any reason why anyone should this this is so or why your experiment is valid. Why is time the vital factor in determining if an action is determined or a choice?

I believe that you have set the bar unrealistically high which allows you to ignore the countless smaller decisions we make in our day to day lives.

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Squibs
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# 14408

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quote:
Originally posted by Squibs:
[QUOTE]one can control their desires...

If only I could go back and edit that sentence. There are a couple of mistakes in my last post but I hope it still makes sense.
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Martin60
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# 368

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You knicked that from me Freddy, it's mine, mine, all mine I tell you.

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Love wins

Posts: 17586 | From: Never Dobunni after all. Corieltauvi after all. Just moved to the capital. | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
Russ
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quote:
Originally posted by Squibs:
[QUOTE]Just because it's not possible to turn an oil tanker on a 6-pence doesn't mean that you don't have some manner of control

Classical philosophy tends to be a bit all-or-nothing - a will that is totally free or totally unfree.

But it seems to me that theories of unfree will come in two varieties:

The "strong" form says that even our freest decisions are totally determined / controlled, whether by the laws of physics, or the will of God (or in some cases both as they amount to the same thing). If such theories are true then there are no consequences - we can do nothing about
it; being in possession of the information helps us not at all.

The "weak form says that most of the time what looks like a freely willed choice is in reality strongly influenced, whether by social conditioning or by our lower nature or by the forces of sin. But maintains that by some combination of practice, introspection, and effort of will, we can first become aware of such influence, and being aware resist such influence, so as to be truly free. Such theories do lead to an imperative, recommend a particular course of action, and thus can have consequences. Thus possibly more useful to focus on ?

Best wishes,

Russ

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Wish everyone well; the enemy is not people, the enemy is wrong ideas

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QLib

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Actually, there are a whole range of choices here, and - since chaos theory took a hold - classic determinism isn't among the front runners. I'm not sure that riding the elephant is a workable metaphor any more - seems it might be more like herding cats than riding elephants.

It may be true that some of the cats have 'lower nature' habits, but somehow we've managed to teach a few of them to drive a car along familiar routes, do single-digit multiplications, or hum a tune, while we're focusing on getting the other cats to do stuff. It's a miracle we've got any time or energy for sinning.

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Tradition is the handing down of the flame, not the worship of the ashes Gustav Mahler.

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Socratic-enigma
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Raptor Eye,

I appreciate your candour and am sorry for your loss.

quote:
Originally posted by Raptor Eye:
Curiosity, a desire to find out, call it what you will. I wanted to know the truth, and made the free will decision to try to do so

So, you equally could have decided not to find out, by virtue of your 'free will'?

I'm reminded of a discussion Dafyd and I had eons ago, where I introduced a philosophical model for action (excluding involuntary/reflex)

Desire + Belief = Action

A desire ( I want to know whether God exists ) leads to a belief ( By reading, discussion and prayer I should be able to ascertain whether such is the case) which results in the aforementioned reading, discussion and prayer that does indeed demonstrate God's existence. I think it's pretty much accepted that desire always comes first; the only question is - within a realm of competing desires: Do we determine which one we follow, or does the stronger always predominate.

quote:
I'm convinced of God's existence by my experiences of God. I am certain that they don't originate from my mind, whether conscious or sub-conscious.
* You were curious as to whether God existed

* God exists - no free will there either

The only possibility for free will would be in your 'decision' to search:

* By my free will, I decided to discover the truth about God, despite the fact that my desire to maintain the status quo was stronger than my curiosity.

This is logically impossible. Clearly, by virtue of the fact that you did search at that time, your desire to ascertain the truth about God's existence was stronger than any other to the contrary.

quote:
Originally posted by Squibs:
(my edit)In some parts it seems fashionable to challenge the notion of free will....on what I generously describe as a curious belief to hold

quote:
I believe that you have set the bar unrealistically high which allows you to ignore the countless smaller decisions we make in our day to day lives.
I'm a bit confused Squibs. In the OP you denigrate those who hold the notion that we do not have free will, but now you are proposing that we only have a limited free will? Perhaps you could ease my confusion by providing just one example (it can be anything you like) of when you have exercised 'free will'

Many thanks

S-E

P.S. QLib - It's a dead cat

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"Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them."
David Hume

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Raptor Eye
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quote:
Originally posted by Socratic-enigma:

So, you equally could have decided not to find out, by virtue of your 'free will'?

Yes, I could have decided not to bother, or I could have put it off.

quote:


I'm reminded of a discussion Dafyd and I had eons ago, where I introduced a philosophical model for action (excluding involuntary/reflex)

Desire + Belief = Action

A desire ( I want to know whether God exists ) leads to a belief ( By reading, discussion and prayer I should be able to ascertain whether such is the case) which results in the aforementioned reading, discussion and prayer that does indeed demonstrate God's existence. I think it's pretty much accepted that desire always comes first; the only question is - within a realm of competing desires: Do we determine which one we follow, or does the stronger always predominate.

If this implies that whatever we decide to look for we'll find if we believe it exists, then it's nonsense. If it's saying that our greatest desires may inspire our free will decision and energise our determination to act if we believe that we might achieve a goal by doing so, then it has some merit.

But I know many people whose greatest expressed desire is unfulfilled, and has not led to determined action even though they believe that the goal is achievable, don't you? Free will comes into the equation at every stage, and although closely linked with desire and belief, it overrides them. A mystic can override physical desires by will, so they say.

Although I wanted to find out, I didn't know whether or not I would find the answer by reading the Bible. It was simply the first and easiest step. I may well have abandoned the search in time, had I not made any progress.

I did not discuss it with anybody, and was not influenced by anyone else at the time. I don't think I was biased, in that I had no desire for God to exist. I wasn't looking for anything from God. I only wanted to find out the truth for myself. That was the desire which led to the free will decision which led to action.

quote:
* You were curious as to whether God existed

* God exists - no free will there either

The only possibility for free will would be in your 'decision' to search:

* By my free will, I decided to discover the truth about God, despite the fact that my desire to maintain the status quo was stronger than my curiosity.

This is logically impossible. Clearly, by virtue of the fact that you did search at that time, your desire to ascertain the truth about God's existence was stronger than any other to the contrary.


By our free will we search for God, draw near to God, invite God into our lives, accept God's invitation into relationship, and remain in relationship with God.

When I began the search, I had no idea that I would find God, or that if I did it would have such a huge impact on my life. Now, although life would be easier if I walked away, my greatest desire is to remain, and by my free will decision I aim to continue to do so.

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Be still, and know that I am God! Psalm 46.10

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Squibs
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quote:
Originally posted by Socratic-enigma:
I'm a bit confused Squibs. In the OP you denigrate those who hold the notion that we do not have free will, but now you are proposing that we only have a limited free will? Perhaps you could ease my confusion by providing just one example (it can be anything you like) of when you have exercised 'free will'

A couple of points here. Firstly, I did not denigrate people. You just quoted my opening post (which consisted of 4 relatively short sentences) so you should know this. I'll be generous and assume that this was simply a misunderstanding. Please re-read it for reproof, for correction, and for instruction.

Secondly, apart from the opening post where I euphemistically described the notion that we are without free will as curious I've not actually laid out my opinion in any detail. I'm quite happy with the notion that we can cede choices. I'm not wedded to the idea but I think it seems very plausible. To be clear - what I've never said is that for free will (and there really is no need for 'square quotes' around these words) to be true we must active, concious decisions at each and every moment in our lives. Nor do I think that free will is the type of thing immune to external inputs.

Now that this is out of the way, are you really asking for examples of what people would consider choices made out of free will? Really?

OK, how about my decision to reply to you right now. I've also been aware of a growing thirst since I began typing. My mouth is dry as are my lips and yet I've decided to override my desire to get a refreshing glass of water until the end of this post. Trivial examples perhaps but you have never explained why anyone should accept your "become an atheist for a month" criteria as being the yardstick we measure free will against. Why do you think this?

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