I am confused about free will. I tried to read about it (notably from the sequences) but am still not convinced.

I make choices, all the time, sure, but why do I chose one solution in particular?

My answer would be the sum of my knoledge and past experiences (nurture) and my genome (nature), with quantum randomness playing a role as well, but I can't see where does free will intervene.

It feels like there is something basic I don't understand, but I can't grasp it.

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You've stated compatibilism, and from that perspective free will tends to look trivial ("you can choose things") or like magical thinking.

Many people have wanted there to be something special about the act of choosing or making decisions. This is necessary for several moral theories, as they demand a particular sense in which you are responsible for your actions that does not obtain if all your actions have prior causes. This is often related to theories that call for a soul, some sort of you apart from your body, brain, genetics, environment, an... (read more)

2Dagon5yThat sum you speak of is encoded in a massive biological calculator called a brain. Free will is the introspective module of that computer as it examines it's own calculations, and that data affects the state of the network to be part of future calculations.
4mwengler5yYour insight is pretty consistent with a lot of philosophers, including my own personal favorite Daniel Dennett. Even if there is a pseudorandom number generator (or a quantum random number generator which might not be pseudo), that our "choices" would be random in this way does not really feel like what people want free will to mean. My reading of Dennett is that our "choices" arise from the law-like operation of our minds, which may be perfectly predictable (if there is no randomness only pseudorandmness of classical thermal noise) or might be as predicatable as any other physical phenomenon within the limits of quantum unpredictability (if you accept that explanation for what is seen in experiments such as two slit and so on). The thing that amazes me about "free will" is that the "inputs" to what our brain does include the previous "outputs" of what our brain does. So I have decided that obviously if I believe that will power exists, the choices my brain makes in the future will be more likely consistent with what I consciously want my brain to do. So in some sense, free will does exist, well almost, if I get myself believing I have choices my brain will fall more often in the direction of choosing what I consciously want. There is no substitute for reading Dennett in my opinion, and it is not an easy thing to do.

Open thread, Dec. 21 - Dec. 27, 2015

by MrMind 1 min read21st Dec 2015233 comments


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