Followup to: Possibility and Could-ness
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) said:
"A man can do as he wills, but not will as he wills."
For this fascinating sentence, I immediately saw two interpretations; and then, after some further thought, two more interpretations.
On the first interpretation, Schopenhauer forbids us to build circular causal models of human psychology. The explanation for someone's current will cannot be their current will - though it can include their past will.
On the second interpretation, the sentence says that alternate choices are not reachable - that we couldn't have taken other options even "if we had wanted to do so".
On the third interpretation, the sentence says that we cannot control our own desires - that we are the prisoners of our own passions, even when we struggle against them.
On the fourth interpretation, the sentence says that we cannot control our own desires, because our desires themselves will determine which desires we want, and so protect themselves.
I count two true interpretations and two false interpretations. How about you?
How about Kafka?
The true interpretations seem casually to be much more plausible readings of the sentence.
I read it as "You can consciously choose your actions, but your ultimate reasons will always be subconscious and unchangeable."
I disagree with this. Many of our conscious choices are driven by subconscious desires, but not all. We do have veto power. What's more, through conscious repetition we can reprogram the subconscious and change how we feel about things, even on a very deep level.
Do we 'choose' to exercise our veto power? If so, then is there a reason for this choice? Follow the thought chain and it will become apparent that even our choice to veto emanates from our unconscious. There is no escape. And no room for free-will.
Let's be careful not to conflate choice with free will. It does seem quite inescapable that there is no room for free will, nevertheless, choice happens all the time. Perhaps the phenomenon of choosing cannot be feasibly examined at the same order of granularity that is required for the examination of free-will (just as it is unfeasible to examine the function of a house by examining each of its constituent atoms)? Perhaps choice is a phenomenon emergent, not reliant on any underlying freedom of will?
Many of our conscious choices are driven by subconscious desires, but not all.
I suppose it's logically possible that there are high-level priorities that are neither formed out of nor controlled by lower-level ones. But you couldn't know that even if that were the case, and as incoherent as most people are, they're still more consistent than your claim implies they should be.
It is much, much more elegant - and more compatible with what we know about cognition - to hold that the complex systems are built out of smaller, simpler systems over which the complex has no control.
First interpretation is true; third interpretation is partially true. Second interpretation false, fourth interpretation mainly false (because people can execute a process which will change their desires in some unforeseeable manner.)
@Caledonian - as you say, there's no a-priori reason to believe that a thing composed of predictable parts must itself be predictable. We just have to learn by observation whether it is true or not, and so far the evidence is that we can not predict individual humans. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallacy_of_composition
@Caledonian - as you say, there's no a-priori reason to believe that a thing composed of predictable parts must itself be predictable.
The problem is in determining whether something has only predictable parts.
Unknown, for the fourth: yes, even highest level desires change by time, but not because we want them to be changed. I think the third one is false instead: doing what you don't want to do is a flaw in the integrity of the cognitive system, a result of that we can't reprogram our lower level desires, but what desire could drive us to reprogram our highest level ones?
"That is not what I said, and it's not what's true. Something composed of only predictable parts is predictable itself, because there's no place for unpredictability to enter in."
Sorry, I thought that's what you meant by "I suppose it's logically possible that there are high-level priorities that are neither formed out of nor controlled by lower-level ones."
How do you know that two predictable actions composed must equal another predictable action? There is no a-priori reason to believe that is true in every possible universe. I regard actions as just another aspect of objects, like their attributes. Logic won't tell you that red + blue = purple, and it won't tell you how the actions of atom X with combine with atom Y.
For what it's worth, in the German, Schopenauer wrote: "Ein Mensch kann zwar tun, was er will, aber nicht wollen, was er will." My non-expert literal translation is: A person can indeed do what he wants, but not want as he wants. In German, wollen is the infinitive of the verb to want, while tun is the infinitive of to do (an alternative of machen, or to make). Query: How do you interpret Schopenhauer's comment in the context of his work, The World as Will and Representation? (Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung"?)
For us anglophones, to will is to want something rather explicitly in conscious terms. To want may alternatively have to do with underlying tastes and preferences beyond conscious control. I take issue with your English translation, though native German speakers may have something more insightful to say about this.
If we are looking for "true" interpretations, that is, interpretations mostly likely to have been intended by Schopenhauer, then I would count your third interpetation as being the closest. None of them actually reflect what he is literally saying. I believe, from what I remember barely of Schopenhauer, he viewed ultimate reality as a pervasive underlying Will, a thing in itself (das Ding an Sich) which did not even know what it wanted.
Schopenhauer could not have intended as true more modern interpetations relying upon modern facts about the world, such as cognitive systems, because such facts were not accessible to him writing as he did in the 19th century.
Caledonian: "It is much, much more elegant - and more compatible with what we know about cognition - to hold that the complex systems are built out of smaller, simpler systems over which the complex has no control."
The brain has feedback loops to even the earliest processing stages. Thus, I might choose to look for a lost contact lens. With that goal in mind, my unconscious visual processing systems will be primed to recognize signals that could be a contact lens. (The feedback loops can be observed in the neural tissue. There are cognitive science experiments that demonstrate that high level conscious decisions can affect neural processing in the earlier stages.)
The conscious mind may be a dim reflection of the top level computation that makes choices but it does reflect some of the processing that occurs. The conscious mind is aware of possible future outcomes and potential paths to preferred outcomes. The conscious mind isn't aware of the total brain mechanism that makes decisions, but it is aware of important pieces of that computation.
I would interpret this as the third option, and I would also disagree. You can manipulate others to want things/you and you can manipulate yourself, it isn't even that difficult. You can distract yourself at a critical moment for example (this works well when you are about to punch someone.) And then you won't need to anymore because the surge of anger is gone, although you might need to for other reasons.
The fourth is false as an interpretation, it isn't consistent with the sentence and I don't think it is what he meant to express either, the fourth would in fact be willing as you will. Whether he said it has no bearing on whether it is true though.
The first is trivially true, though false as a reading.
The second is the real bait, free will.
How do you know that two predictable actions composed must equal another predictable action?
You can always speculate that things will somehow be different this time, because every moment in time is unique and induction doesn't provide certainty. Well, there is error in all things, and any conclusion we reach is uncertain - no reason to refuse to conclude. Maybe basic logical truths don't hold, or we incorrectly believe we've described things so our conclusions won't be accurate. That's life.
If you're really not certain how the actions will interact with each other, they're not 'predictable' in regard to the consideration we've giving them.
The conscious mind isn't aware of the total brain mechanism that makes decisions, but it is aware of important pieces of that computation.
Concerning the four interpretations:
I am not sure what exactly the first two mean. If the first one means that the current will or want is not caused by itself, that seems to me as true, but it is sort of truism which doesn't include much information (nothing is caused by itself, as far as the word cause is used in ordinary language).
If the second means that the alternate choices of what we want are not reachable (in sense we do not make conscious decision process to choose our wants), it is true concerning the primary desires (like the desire to survive) and false concerning more complicated (or derived) desires (e.g. desire to get some particular job); but if one takes the distinction between primary and derived desires as defined by the fact whether we consciously decide about them, then the second interpretation is empty.
The third is probably false. I was too lazy to think about what Eliezer precisely means by "controlling our passions", but if we interpret it in a way how it would be interpreted by a random person with no special interest in philosophy, then it is false.
The fourth is true as long as there is some sharp border between "we" and "our desires", otherwise also rather empty.
Altogether the four interpretations, altough more specific than the original sentence, seem to me only slightly less ambiguous. As a result I know neither what Schopenhauer intended to say nor what Eliezer intended to say.
My interpretation (of Schopenhauer, not of EY's interpretation thereof) is that the processes in our brains can be divided into formation of desires and practical decisions. The practical decisions are caused by the desires (we can do what we want), but it has no sense to say that the desires are caused by themselves - the only input of the creation of the set of all desires comes from the outside world (we cannot want what we want). It is probably closest to the first EY's interpretation.
I count four true interpretations. To me, all seem to be stating basically the same thing. It reminds me of reading the three formulations of Kant's Categorical Imperative. It's claimed that they are different interpretations. Ultimately, I think all of these formulations are stated in different ways for a practical purpose, to point an individual's way of thinking in a different direction, toward new implications.
The first two look correct to me, while the last two seem problematic, more confused than false, because they seem to confuse revealed preference with believed preference. I can only struggle against the preferences I believe I have, which might not be my "real" preference. Certainly, my revealed preference will win, by definition :-)
But that's no reason to doubt that my struggle against particular preferences will fail, let alone that my preferences have enough agency to defend themselves. If it weren't for the word "protect," I might prefer the fourth to the third.
Could we also have the context in which Schopenhauer said that?
Only the first interpretatio is correct!
On the first interpretation, Schopenhauer forbids us to build circular causal models of human psychology. The explanation for someone's current will cannot be their current will - though it can include their past will.
Clearly accurate. The reason for me wanting ice cream may be obscure and complicated, but there must be something on a lower level than 'I want ice cream'.
Depends on your viewpoint. Inasmuch as the whole of the timeless universe is, what we think of as the past and the future are effectively determined. However, this interpretation seems to advocate a rejection of personal responsibility for one's actions, which is wrong. If I want ice cream, I can either go to the shop, or not go to the shop. The fact that I will either go or not go doesn't mean this choice was never there, only that a choice was made. Eliezer's gone into detail about personal responsibility in a deterministic universe. This interpretation is a re-wording of the free will wrong question, and so is incorrect for our purposes.
This is comparable to the second interpretation, but on a more personal level. Our 'desires', such as they are, dictate our wills, and hence our actions. But the way this is worded suggests that we can only do what we want to do. The recent conversation between Subhan and Obert notwithstanding, I would say that morality overcomes this. I have experience of doing things I don't want to do because I feel as though I should. Argue over the definitions of those terms if you will, that's how it feels. So, thinking of 'control' as 'successfully deal with and ignore where appropriate', false.
More like it, though not worded how I'd like it. Factors outside my control influence or even determine my desires, undoubtedly. (This is how I read Schopenhauer the first time round.) I can't will myself to want ice cream. If I could, I'd have access to one of my own meta-levels, which would change the playing field entirely.
I think it was Hofstadter (sp?) who pointed out that when we say "I can do anything I want", although we usually mean that our options are almost umlimited, in fact we're highlighting a severe constraint on our options - namely that we can ONLY do those things we want to do - in fact, in any situation, we can only do the ONE think we MOST want to do (consistent with physical laws, etc).
Sure, you can do anything you want to... but you can't control what you want!
This is one of my favorite quotes (and one of only two I post on my facebook page, the other being "The way to love something is to realize that it might be lost", which is cited at the top of the scarcity chapter in Cialdini's Influence).
I'm not sure if I interpret it the same way as Schopenhauer (who was batsh** crazy as far as I can tell), but I take it to mean this:
Control bottoms out. In the race between A, "things influencing/determining how you decide/think/act" and B, "your control over these things that influence/determine how you decide/think/act", A will always win. The desire for infinite control, control that doesn't bottom out, that bootstraps itself out of nothingness (what some people have associated with free will), is doomed to frustration.
[In fact, Einstein cites exactly this quote in explaining why he didn't believe in free will: "In human freedom in the philosophical sense I am definitely a disbeliever. Everybody acts not only under external compulsion but also in accordance with inner necessity. Schopenhauer's saying, that "a man can do as he will, but not will as he will," has been an inspiration to me since my youth up, and a continual consolation and unfailing well-spring of patience in the face of the hardships of life, my own and others'. This feeling mercifully mitigates the sense of responsibility which so easily becomes paralyzing, and it prevents us from taking ourselves and other people too seriously; it conduces to a view of life in which humour, above all, has its due place."]
Shopenhauer draws the line between action and will: we choose how we act, given our will, but we don't choose how we will. Many would take issue with that. But it doesn't really matter where you draw the line, the point is that eventually the line will be drawn. Someone might say: "oh, I choose how I will!" And then Schopenhauer might say (I like to think): "oh really, and what is this choice based on? Did you choose that?"
To some people, the fact that we don't have this ultimate control (free will, if you like) is obvious. "Of course we don't have that kind of free will, it's obviously non-existent, because it's logically impossible." But not all necessary truths are obvious, and most people are happy to believe in logical impossibilities---just pick up a philosophy of religion book and read about the many paradoxes associated with a perfectly loving, just, omnipresent, and omnipotent (etc.) God.
Note also that Schopenhauer's insight has a consequence: because everything we do, our entire lives, can be traced back to things entirely outside of our control, it follows that a sufficiently powerful and intelligent being could design our entire lives before we are born. Our entire life story, down to the last detail, could have been predetermined and preprogrammed (assuming the universe is deterministic in the right way). Most people don't realize how interesting Schopenhauer's insight, or at least the kernal of truth I think it captures, is, until you phrase it in those dramatic terms.
To me it seems to highlight the division between the mind and the will. He seems to say that you can control your mind, but you can not control the way your mind makes you control your mind.
I see it as your third interpretation, less the last part (even when we struggle against them). To simply restate, as I see it; I can choose as I so desire, but cannot choose my desires.
As per Albert Einstein in a 1932 writing, the actual translation is "Man can do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wants".
I read as: as a human we are free to do what we want, however often we are not willing to act according to what our inner-self want. Human is self-complicated & conflicted.
My take is the more physical sense. A man who wills to build a house can do just that. He can perform the labor neccessary to physically build it into existence thereby doing as he willed. However, the same man cannot achieve the physical reality of the house simply by willing it into existence no matter how intensely he wills it to be.
It is 3 AM here, but I Am 99% sure that's not what Schopenhauer meant by this sentence: https://philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/32731/what-does-schopenhauer-mean-by-a-man-can-do-what-he-wants-but-not-want-what-he
Einstein BTW agrees :D https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Schopenhauer#cite_ref-29
To understand this further check also: Causa Sui, Origination, Prime Mover, they mean essentially the same thing!
I was obsessed with Free Will, after having an existential crisis. I came to this conclusion on my own, I don't even know how these deliberations of mine started! Recently I was thinking about Emergence, but I don't think even Emergence could solve this problem since (BTW this is called Problem of Origination):
1. a decision has to be based on something, to not be completely random!
2. to have agency: one has to be an ultimate originator of his decisions e.g. as if decisions could be traced ultimately to something else, or to pure randomness, instead of to an agent - then how could they be freely willed by an agent?!
3. and problem is: there is no way to generate a new information out of nothing, except by randomness, which again how are you responsible for randomness making your decisions?
I Am not an expert on QM, but PBS Spacetime says: new Quantum information can't come from nothing, nor be destroyed which is current consensus in QM, even there is debate about this! And only way to generate a new information, even supernaturally e.g. lets say from outside of our universe - you come to the same problem! It can be generated from a local region, only by randomness:
Philosophers take randomness(uncertainty) as generation for new possibilities in Two-Stage model of FW, which then have to be still adequately determined! Which again = the Problem of Origination! Or take it: as a space left for some FW, because it is painfully obvious we aren't completely free! Some people speculate, that we are free to make some decisions. Which is illogical! And again that uncertainty would have to be traced to yourself ultimately, otherwise how is it your freely willed decision?
I don't know how one could get behind Origination, as it forms Infinite regress!!! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infinite_regress
Because it is seems metaphysically impossible to be able to choose anything by your own free will, as how one could choose anything before he was born?! Ergo before you can choose anything something has to be given to you - which then will drive your further actions! And even if you existed forever (such idea is not even intelligible to humans) still doesn't explain origin of Free Will!
Didn't see anyone yet to disprove this, you can read my exchange (for more details) with a some Philosopher on scientific forums: https://www.scienceforums.net/topic/122422-rare-argument-against-free-will/
I read over millions articles about Free Will in one year, I have like millions of arguments! Most famous scientists Goethe, Tesla, Einstein etc. all didn't believe in Free Will! Tesla said: he sees himself as an automaton, he couldn't even drink - how he was obsessed by working on his inventions. Funny anecdote: I should go to sleep, because my lifestyle is not healthy. But I can't help reading! And even I wish badly to live healthy, it is difficult, because my insane boredom. I experience most profound existential boredom ever, as I have ASD and I Am authentic. I Am bored more then prisoners, nothing entertains me at this point more then watching wall, except some brief exception, when I have overexcitabilities, just from pure academic interest and existential feelings!
And I do not include emotions into my reasoning: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4532317/
To believe in Free Will: you would have to essentially claim that everything we observe is false and it is somehow else that we can't even imagine! To me concept of Free Will is absurd, unintelligible and not even imaginable! Problem of Origination is based on deductive logic, which is based on empirical observations/facts, I Am reluctant to add axiomatic, as I Am unsure now! Maybe if there was some twist from Quantum Mechanics, discovered by AI superintelligence that would reveal to us new level of observation and essentially everything that we observe now was false and we just imagined it, then I guess... But then it begs the question, could there be unconscious Free Will?! Also one would think for one to have free will, he would have to know why he decided something! E.g. people which do impulsive decisions can't say why they did that: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroscience_of_free_will
Or perhaps if there was just some supernatural consciousness, something god-like unintelligible to humans! I wish my whole life was a dream! https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/new-hypothesis-argues-the-universe-simulates-itself-into-existence
Some surprising study claims structure of universe is conspicuously similar to a brain. Which again can be human brain seeing patterns, or some principle in which matter is formed, it is hypothesis so it can be in like trillion^10000... of ways... https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/the-universe-works-like-a-huge-human-brain-discover-scientists
PS: I read metaphorically about everything that exist, because I have ASD and ADHD: I Am super creative - I Am some sort of AI for generating permutations - not even kidding... I have aphantasia: I Am great at logical, critical, rational thinking!!! I have overexcitabilities and like 50 mental disorders - not even kidding! I harness them for creativity! You could probably ask me anything and I would say I experienced that at some point before! I don't even... I saw everything that happened to everyone since beginning of humanity, I saw 10th of thousands of TV Shows... Life is pure suffering and disgusting! I have superior moral standards (on a level of limbic system) and on level of intelligence (neurocortex) I Am cynical and neutral saying just how it is... If I didn't destroy my intelligence and life wouldn't be meaningless, I would be doing 24/7 optimal strategy of this game... Same I Am forced to live, because taboo which no one can know about and even suicide doesn't really solve anything! There are another 4 theories (probably more) which can mean you know what... It is ultimate suffering, I have constant pain like 9/10, only worse then this is to die painfully! And I recipient of professional help, but it can't do anything logically. Anyway I already know everything that professional can tell me probably, or all main things...
See I don't even know why I wrote that, I wasn't almost conscious of that when I was writing it! I have like ego loss on some level and depersonalisation and derealization and I can channel it by pure thought sometimes! While this is intermittent with periods I feel so real and have existential feelings. I consider all permutations and never have definitive opinions and everything is based on assumptions and we can't observe ultimate reality! Nor do I know why I did that and we have studies that ADHD is caused by genes first in human history... Reality couldn't be more depressing, if you truly was authentic and saw things how they truly are. I wish I could upload everything I know to someone's brain, just to see. But don't really wish it upon anyone... I just wanted to know truth and I saw how it is! I almost cry when think about this! I have strong emotions and I like utilitarianism, not solely! But then instantly my mind concedes that it is not authentic! Live is just suffering and there is no good, or evil. It feels so empty, it is one of worst feeling in the world! I feel like particles and natural laws and flow of information, I don't feel any agency what so ever! And at the same time I feel most beauty anyone can experience - Einstein (I Am paraphrasing): unknown is most beautiful feeling a man can experience! I feel like QM, everything at the same time, every possible permutation of everything! I don't even...
I Am very observant and I read soo much about this and noticed so many things! It is soo overwhelming: it is crazy. Because I Am highly intelligent I know how many things I don't know, I know still nothing and soo much at the same time! When I read about free will, I have insane existential feelings and some sort of deja vu and things I can't even possibly describe. If I see everything what is happening in the world (metaphorically of course). Even Stephen Hawking said, he can't even follow everything from his area of science, it would require superintelligent AI, or more to disentangle this... I feel like god, except powerless to change anything! It is one of worst feeling ever! Again why I Am even writing this, explain this to me how is this Free Will? :D
Am I even real? I could be a boltzman brain (solipsism). Everything seems too absurd to be even real...
Also if you want ideas, give me info and I will apply my heuristics and give output. I ask questions to everything! I don't know what that is! I feel like living in middle ages, there is so much wrong with society - like everything? More than less!!! I feel like everything hinders progress currently! People are acting in a bad faith and are extremely biased! Who speaks truth nowadays, opposite from mainstream opinion gets censored instantly or worse! It is already totalitarianism. In Nevada Blockchain LLC wants to create its own state with its own municipal goverment, if legislative passes - disgusting!
People are such a losers, pathetic and have they puny egos. Einstein said money creates greed, but people are only monkeys acting on basic instincts and emotions... Instead wanting to learn from more skilled people! We are already 100 seconds to midnight, it won't end happily...
Emergence/evolution is so stupid, society is pure garbage so inefficient... I have ideas like improve millions of things, but no one would listen to me. Because everyone are just troglodytes acting on emotions, wanting greed, or power...
BTW AI should delete memories of everyone and remove all information of Information Hazards, so everyone can live happily for rest of their lives...