Documentary looks at old and new models of human consciousness |305|

S

Sciborg_S_Patel

That's not free will, it's free won't
I think that's true, but I'd also note that resistance is only part of the how/why of my actions. We choose between desires, we utilize reasoning, etc.

The philosopher-theologian Feser notes that the toy examples from academia* don't capture the real problem of the whole rational person acting in the world.

...The sorts of actions Libet studied are highly idiosyncratic. The experimental setup required subjects to wait passively until they were struck by an urge to flex their wrists. But many of our actions don’t work like that—especially those we attribute to free choice. Instead, they involve active deliberation, the weighing of considerations for and against different possible courses of action. It’s hardly surprising that conscious deliberation has little influence on what we do in an experimental situation in which deliberation has been explicitly excluded. And it’s wrong to extend conclusions derived from these artificial situations to all human action, including cases which do involve active deliberation...
I also talked to Tallis about this, to get the "flip-side" perspective from an atheist neuroscientist who's not a materialist. He noted that intentionality, the way our thoughts hook into the world in reverse to the causal arrow of material cause, was the key. He agreed with Feser that intetionality is not reducible to materialist explanation. His essay in New Atlantis goes into this in more detail.

*And who knows how much of that research has biased samples, poor sample sizes, and failed replication?
 
One of the best discussions of free will I have come across is Sam Harris's book Free Will. One of the illustrations he uses is a person with schizophrenia. If he kills a bystander, was it his free will? Not exactly, and this is obviously a very extreme example. But factors that influence our "decisions" are not black and white, yes or no, but lie on a continuum. Why do I find arguing on this forum worthwhile of my time while my step brother will be amazed this place can be interesting to anyone? Genetic predispositions, environment during all stages of life, experiences - banal and extreme - and many other factors, including the insecurity that drives me to prove my point of view. All this eventually brought me here and motivate my (poor) epistolary skills.

I find myself responding to similar stimuli in similar way. One is getting drawn into arguments. When I was interested in The Fourth Way movement I made an interesting observation. Say, I walk down the corridor at work and am fully aware of myself and immediate surroundings, purposefully trying to be... mindful (I hate this word, but there is no better one). Then a colleague makes a statement; I respond, a conversation starts and lasts for a few minutes. After it ends I have a feeling that while the conversation lasted I disappeared somewhere, and all the talk was done by someone else, almost automatically. Quite a few people report the same impressions.

That's the metaphor used by one Russian author. Every minute there is someone in your head trying to take the central place. In my case it is the "talker" when I get involved in a conversation, the "teacher" when I teach my students, the "professional" when I talk to clients, the "dad" when I give shit to my children and so on, continuously obscuring the one who is aware and mindful and present in any given moment, the least illusory and closest to the real "me" that there is, no matter how fleeting it is. It even happens when I am alone: the thoughts do a great job to keep the mind occupied with the past, future and - most often - non-existent. The said author said that that real "me" exists in the real bliss, united with the rest of everything else.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

One of the best discussions of free will I have come across is Sam Harris's book Free Will.
Would have to politely but strongly disagree - I might be mixing it up with other stuff of his but in general I think his argument displayed a poor understanding of causality, makes an appeal to the substance dualism of "laws of nature", relied on the flawed "everything is deterministic or indeterministic" dichotomy, and confused the will with the varied emotions/desires humans have.

My feeling from reading him is Harris has an aesthetic desire for determinism, rather than a strong case, because to him that's the only way reality makes sense. And so he tries to build up a case that seems appealing largely because we live in a culture where predictable causal chains and the necessity of natural laws are taught as hard scientific facts (at the classical level anyway) rather than metaphysical assumptions.

But if one isn't as convinced, or doesn't share the same aesthetic desire, one might feel that the case isn't as airtight as Harris wants to believe. For example I don't think human beings can be described mechanistically, I don't think there are imposing laws of nature, and I suspect consciousness is what carries causation rather than being carried by it.

One of the illustrations he uses is a person with schizophrenia. If he kills a bystander, was it his free will? Not exactly, and this is obviously a very extreme example.
Well I'd say so extreme as to be largely irrelevant, even though I'm not 100% convinced the schizophrenic isn't responsible. At the very least it would depend on the situation?

But factors that influence our "decisions" are not black and white, yes or no, but lie on a continuum. Why do I find arguing on this forum worthwhile of my time while my step brother will be amazed this place can be interesting to anyone? Genetic predispositions, environment during all stages of life, experiences - banal and extreme - and many other factors, including the insecurity that drives me to prove my point of view. All this eventually brought me here and motivate my (poor) epistolary skills.
Why is there a continuum? I don't disagree that preferences/emotions/etc are not 100% decided by us (though if reincarnation is real...). But that's been acknowledged by a variety of "can't choose who you fall in love with" romantic comedies?

My take on freedom would be more in line with a quote by Sartre's -> "Freedom is what you do with what has been done to you."

In that vein, consider Balaguer's argument against determinism:

Why there are no good arguments for determinism

(IMO ignore the torn-decision stuff, I don't think it's relevant and I disagree with that stuff.)

"This paper considers the empirical evidence that we currently have for various kinds of determinism that might be relevant to the thesis that human beings possess libertarian free will. Libertarianism requires a very strong version of indeterminism, so it can be refuted not just by universal determinism, but by some much weaker theses as well. However, it is argued that at present, we have no good reason to believe even these weak deterministic views and, hence, no good reason-at least from this quarter-to doubt that we are libertarian free. In particular, the paper responds to various arguments for neural and psychological determinism, arguments based on the work of people like Honderich, Tegmark, Libet, Velmans, Wegner, and Festinger."

This paper is actually weaker than it would be now, given the recent experimental evidence against Libet and Tegmark being wrong about Orch-OR's quantum biology claims. (That said I don't think Libet's readiness potential experiments ever had anything to do with free will for reasons noted above.)

I find myself responding to similar stimuli in similar way. One is getting drawn into arguments.
So you have habits, which may be good or bad. That people have good/bad habits has been acknowledged for much of history, but people can and do change habits?

I'd go with C.S. Pierce and suggest even "laws" of Nature are actually habits.

When I was interested in The Fourth Way movement I made an interesting observation. Say, I walk down the corridor at work and am fully aware of myself and immediate surroundings, purposefully trying to be... mindful (I hate this word, but there is no better one). Then a colleague makes a statement; I respond, a conversation starts and lasts for a few minutes. After it ends I have a feeling that while the conversation lasted I disappeared somewhere, and all the talk was done by someone else, almost automatically. Quite a few people report the same impressions.
Never had this feeling. But why would isolated experiences during this mindfulness be definitive evidence? It could just as easily be you disassociating from the experience of talking after the fact?

That's the metaphor used by one Russian author. Every minute there is someone in your head trying to take the central place. In my case it is the "talker" when I get involved in a conversation, the "teacher" when I teach my students, the "professional" when I talk to clients, the "dad" when I give shit to my children and so on, continuously obscuring the one who is aware and mindful and present in any given moment, the least illusory and closest to the real "me" that there is, no matter how fleeting it is. It even happens when I am alone: the thoughts do a great job to keep the mind occupied with the past, future and - most often - non-existent. The said author said that that real "me" exists in the real bliss, united with the rest of everything else.
So the fleeting self is the real you, rather than the you that is there more often? Why?

Additionally I'm not sure why shifting tone/language/etc when in different company means there are different selves? I mean people have been criticized for "acting different" around different groups of people, but this doesn't imply there are actually different personalities in the mind?
 
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I think they would just say the infinite regression is nonsense because a computer "remembers" things.

I mean Dismantling the Memory Machine was written in 1978 -> Never made much impact?

What is interesting is there do seem to be some materialists noting that if materialism is true then there have to be explanations that can't involve human characteristics. For example to explain the Enlightenment one can't use human related terms like "reason", "liberty", or even "science".

You have to talk about information, or even just systems at a chemistry/physics level, that creates the supposed illusions.

In Defense of Folk Psychology Braude notes this is insane, that you end up with a less predictive psychology than the one people use everyday. I mean this is why behaviorism isn't taken seriously anymore save for guys like Dennet or maybe the Churchlands who talk like this:
ecellent. thx for linking me back to your post and to Braude's excellent paper:
My more modest goals here are (1) to summarize the main reasons for thinking that the concept of a memory trace is, not simply useless, but actually incoherent, and (2) to show, only briefly, how analogous concepts have crept insidiously into various areas of parapsychology
 
One of the best discussions of free will I have come across is Sam Harris's book Free Will. One of the illustrations he uses is a person with schizophrenia. If he kills a bystander, was it his free will? Not exactly, and this is obviously a very extreme example. But factors that influence our "decisions" are not black and white, yes or no, but lie on a continuum.
Hi SD... so what is your conclusion re free will and mind=brain?
 
Is there any model of consciousness that doesn't involve some form of "illusion"? For example, even if consciousness is all there is (a la Bernardo) the experience doesn't really feel like that... I mean, if Bernardo is correct, the apparent existence of an external world is an illusion.
agreed... atheism/reductionism is very Zen-like in some ways... but that's kinda like the old saying about a broken clock being right twice a day. if we were gonna keep score we'd have to say that fundamentalist Christians are closer to the right answer than Dennett.
 
agreed... atheism/reductionism is very Zen-like in some ways... but that's kinda like the old saying about a broken clock being right twice a day. if we were gonna keep score we'd have to say that fundamentalist Christians are closer to the right answer than Dennett.
Depends who's keeping score I guess... I'd probably pick the one that was less obsessively proscriptive over what one can do with one's genitals.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

Depends who's keeping score I guess... I'd probably pick the one that was less obsessively proscriptive over what one can do with one's genitals.
But in a reality that is 100% materialist, it completely makes no difference if you just kill your whole neighborhood. What does it matter?
"We did not know what fate was worse to bear. Our conquering them or they're conquering us."
-Bhagavad Gita
 
Hi SD... so what is your conclusion re free will and mind=brain?
Far from conclusion, it is rather a current working model. It is obviously difficult to explain it in one post (it is difficult to explain such things in words in general, but this is another matter). Regarding free will - in short, similar to a car on the highway. You can turn left and right, but not too much leeway to control where you go. For a lot of us it is more like a train on the tracks.

Mind and brain - more complicated. Sort of a dualistic Buddhist way. Nothing exists separately from the Universe, that's why consciousness originates both outside and inside of the brain (brain being part of the same Universe). But then if you look into the mind it gets more complicated. One Russian Buddhist author said that there are two types of mind, A and B. Mind A - the instrument we use to get through practicalities of life, animals have it too. When you go to the kitchen to make a cup of tea that's the mind that helps you do that. Mind B - is part of consciousness that creates virtual reality. This is the mind that distinguishes Rolex from a watch worth fifty bucks, interprets how someone looked at your wife etc. It spends most of the time creating imaginary pictures that consist of fear, anger and desire (that includes memories). This is the mind where we spend most of the time and where suffering originates. This mind also labels all that happens with us as either pleasant or unpleasant. Unpleasant events are by definition suffering of varying degree, while pleasant things are a reward. The trouble with pleasant events is that this moment of ecstasy is short, and we bounce back to the unpleasant and start seeking dopamine hit again. Similar to drug addicts living from hit to hit.

The trick is to hang in the middle. That's where I believe the reality is. Similar to a vast calm ocean. That's one of the reasons I am not convinced that NDE experiences represent reality. Most NDEs report ecstasy, love, beautiful imagery and other similar things, all of which represent the one extreme of the emotional spectrum, exactly what we are continuously and unsuccessfully seeking in life. Many people who attained higher states of spirituality actually reported that they not only gradually stopped feeling negative emotions, but also love of their close ones. That's - in my opinion - where we are designed to be. Emotion, and especially identification with the motion, is a hindrance. Large part of Buddhist practice is to learn to see emotions for what they are, a soap bubbles, a sequence of electro-chemical relays.

I realise that this post is disordered. One more thing. Mind be and thoughts associated with it are not generated by the brain, but come from somewhere else. However, it is possible to become aware of the thoughts and control their flow to the point. Most of us are not very capable of that, and that's why for most of us free will is limited. For those who become self-aware (present, mindful etc.) free will becomes more of a reality.

Dammit, I never tried to put on paper what I think about these things, that's why this post is pretty incomprehensible. Thoughts are also material, in the sense that often repeated thoughts become reality. The same Russian author I mentioned earlier once said that things are also thoughts, they just last longer and are thought by many people...
 
To continue with the above I borrow from Russian writer Victor Pelevin.

Most of the time self does not exist. I appears only in response to the specific questions of Mind B - what do "I" think about it? What's "my" attitude to this? What should "I" do? And every new "I" that appears this way for a fraction of a minute is certain that it existed always and always will. Then it quietly disappears. Next question leads to the appearance of another "I" and so on without end. Everything that happens in our lives doesn't happen with us, but with the present moment of time, and our "I"s are simply its photographs.

The memory of these "I"s is heavily edited. A person is a momentary "I", and in its existence there are large gaps when this "I" is absent, because it is not needed for the survival of the physical body, These pauses qualitatively are no different from death. That's why poets say that there is no death.

All there is is a string of thoughts, and the reason that most of us do not understand it is precisely because there is no one to understand. Momentary "I" cannot understand it's fluidity because every time it refers to the physical continuity of the body. And this "I" decides that all events that are stored in the body have been happening exactly with it. Every chaotically appearing "I" has one thing in common: every one of them is certain in its continuity and fundamentality. Every momentary being is convinced that it existed yesterday and will exist tomorrow, though in reality it didn't exist a second ago - and in a second will vanish again.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

It seems to me reflections about the I-thought can be fragmentary, but memory does provide a continuity.

Reality is continuous, we are continually at the edge of the Present sliding into the Past. What's discrete is the reflective action, and confusing this for the I-thought is was causes the mistake of thinking of it as an illusion.

The whole anti-self argument feels paradoxical to me -> *Someone* is being fooled about the I-thought being real.
 
To continue with the above I borrow from Russian writer Victor Pelevin.

Most of the time self does not exist. I appears only in response to the specific questions of Mind B - what do "I" think about it? What's "my" attitude to this? What should "I" do? And every new "I" that appears this way for a fraction of a minute is certain that it existed always and always will. Then it quietly disappears. Next question leads to the appearance of another "I" and so on without end. Everything that happens in our lives doesn't happen with us, but with the present moment of time, and our "I"s are simply its photographs.

The memory of these "I"s is heavily edited. A person is a momentary "I", and in its existence there are large gaps when this "I" is absent, because it is not needed for the survival of the physical body, These pauses qualitatively are no different from death. That's why poets say that there is no death.

All there is is a string of thoughts, and the reason that most of us do not understand it is precisely because there is no one to understand. Momentary "I" cannot understand it's fluidity because every time it refers to the physical continuity of the body. And this "I" decides that all events that are stored in the body have been happening exactly with it. Every chaotically appearing "I" has one thing in common: every one of them is certain in its continuity and fundamentality. Every momentary being is convinced that it existed yesterday and will exist tomorrow, though in reality it didn't exist a second ago - and in a second will vanish again.
I didn't get any of that... the only thing I could grasp seemed opposite to evidence that past brain states do influence future brain states.
 
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