Free Will?

  • Thread starter Charlie G
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  • #36
At least it is easy prove you can never prove we have free will and choices. Because you can never prove that what you experience is not a kind of "prerecorded video". Today there exist some developed theories about that. You may object, that you get ideas, impulses, feelings and allt that, which you well know influence your choices. You may get a sudden idea for a new invention, fall in love and so on. But even that should be "pre-recorded" in your personal life video tape . Even your feelings should be pre-recorded, according to those theories. :cool:

I agree. All I am saying is that if you believe in a deterministic universe then free will can be no more than an illusion. To believe in determinism or indeterminism is a choice. That choice may be predetermined or free depending on the fundamental laws of nature (whatever they may be).

skippy
 
  • #37
apeiron
Gold Member
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Another freewill discussion going around in circles forever.

You can break out of the loop by seeing extreme limits such as determined and random (classically, chance and necessity) as alternatives which are approached, which develop, which a system can manufacture.

So we start with an ontology of vagueness - of symmetrical potential. A realm (much like QM) where things are neither crisply existent, or non-existent. Then the symmetry is broken. We have a development which produces the complementary alternatives of random and determined.

For example, the familiar activity of coin-tossing. A ball is a symmetrical potential so if we toss it, then it is vague as to which way "up" it fell.

But if we constrain that ball, flatten it, we determine that it only has two sides and so only two binary outcomes (the edge being made so thin that it is now not a possible outcome state).

Then we ask that a person tosses the coin in a random, or uncontrolled fashion. A fast flip through the air rather than a careful plonking down.

You can then have an endless argument about whether a coin toss is really either a deterministic story or one of pure randomness. The story is that it is about the manufacture of these two complementary extremes from a prior vaguer potential.

So the moral is you can't have "pure" determinism without also manufacturing randomness, and vice versa. They are always mutual aspects of the one developed system.

Newtonian physics tossed away one half of the story to create a simpler model of the world. QM has then been taken to say no, reality is fundamentally random.

But you got to step back to the metaphysics to see the bigger picture.
 
  • #38
So the moral is you can't have "pure" determinism without also manufacturing randomness, and vice versa. They are always mutual aspects of the one developed system.

Newtonian physics tossed away one half of the story to create a simpler model of the world. QM has then been taken to say no, reality is fundamentally random.

I agree with the first statement if you replace the word "randomness" by "pseudo-randomness".

The second statement is true for standard QM. For those who like deBroglie-Bohm or other "hidden variable" variations they are back at Newton and Laplace with complete determinism and an inescapable lack of free will. Please not that I am not saying standard QM proves free will.

Aperion, are we on the same page or did I miss the point.

Skippy
 
  • #39
apeiron
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Well random would always be pseudo in a sense. So we can imagine the pure stuff, but in reality, the ideal could only be approached.

This is no problem in itself. Just the usual distinction between our models and reality.

Likewise for our notion of pure determinism.

Then with QM, the story is a bit more complicated as the actual model now does have both its random and determined aspects (which is what makes it more complete and satisfying as a model). So there is the determined bit - the exact shape of the wavefunction. And then the random bit - the nature of the contents. We have to "collapse the wavefunction" to find which way the coin toss falls.

But then many people like to emphasise only the random aspect of QM and to employ that as a basis for freewill or as a way out of laplacean determinism generally.

Another response is to be so horrified that QM demands equal time for randomness is to say no, there must be a deeper hidden level of determinism.

So two ways to screw up the metaphysics. QM happily models determinism and randomness together - all events are divided into these mutually complementary parts.

Events are thus endowed with a fundamental "material creativity". They are neither purely one or the other extreme. Instead they develop from a prior vagueness to become crisply dichotomised into an aspect that looks determined, an aspect that looks random (or local and non-local if we are focusing on spatial aspects of causality).

The brain can also be modelled in these system science terms (being "like QM" in logic, but not actually QM-based!).

So we start each moment in a vague state of anticipation/preparedness. Then we develop a crisply divided state of what we saw/did - and all the things we with equal decisiveness didn't see/didn't do.

Is such a development random or determined? Or more like creatively balanced?

Getting back to a QM level of modelling, I would recommend Prigogine's End of Certainty as a good pop science introduction to how vagueness gets us out of the old quandries of determined/random. I don't thing Prigogine came up with the final word, but it shows that there are good people thinking about the issue in the general way I have sketched.

Oh, also Stan Salthe's Evolving Hierarchical Systems - more opaque, but very important landmark work IMHO.
 
  • #40
Then with QM, the story is a bit more complicated as the actual model now does have both its random and determined aspects (which is what makes it more complete and satisfying as a model). So there is the determined bit - the exact shape of the wavefunction. And then the random bit - the nature of the contents. We have to "collapse the wavefunction" to find which way the coin toss falls.

work IMHO.

Except for deBroglie-Bohm and other "hidden variable" theories of QM. They have NO random elements. The statistics of a series of experiments (collapses of the wave function if you will) may appear random but are completely determined by the UNOBSERVABLE "hidden variables". So we cannot postulate a supercalculation of the future like Laplace unless we magically knew the "hidden initial value conditions" and "hidden variables" which are by definition unobservable.

My point is that a "hidden variable" theory of QM determines the future completely although it does not predict the future as a computational possibility.

Skippy
 
  • #41
apeiron
Gold Member
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The problem with hidden variables theories are 1) conflict with Bell's inequality, etc. They don't work. 2) Unobservables is about seeking metaphysical comfort rather than modelling, which must be rooted in the act of the measureable.

Of course, there are versions of hidden variables going around that I have quite liked. And these are one where the hidden variables are really another way of talking about vagueness. So there is something more fundamental "behind the scenes", a pre-geometry out of which the crisply developed world of events arises. But still, hidden variables is at best a clunky way to allude to vagueness. More direct models are possible (though as an approach, it is more underground still than anything else around it seems).

Another way to think about what you are trying to argue is that, honey, we shrunk our scale of observation all the way down to the QM level and it has gone all vague on us. So let's now see if we can keep shrinking and emerge out of the fog the other side to see the even smaller crisp atoms that made that horrid QM murk.

The systems science approach says instead, limits really are limits. And if you strike one, then start looking in the other direction to see what you have left behind. So when you get down so small it all goes vague, then look upwards and see the global scale - which is now your crisp "other".

You have got so far by reducing and your instinct is to keep reducing and someday, you feel sure, the turtles will run out. But system science offers a bootstrapping approach which says reality develops in self-organising fashion as a hierarchy with scale.

And when it comes to QM, the hidden information you seek in a further level of micro-variables would be found instead embedded in the global structure of the universe.

This is a decoherence style argument (and in line with what Prigogine was exploring). The hidden variables that shape the local events are in fact the information within the form of the universe. The context that "determines" what events would fit its developing story.

This is why I favour also the Cramer transactional approach to QM. Time locally is symmetric but globally asymmetric - a developing and expanding history.

Anyway, the key point here is that there is another direction in which you can go to find the information that must "determine" QM outcomes. The logical story for reductionists is too look to ever-smaller scales - and get frustrated as they run smack into limits, on the other side of which is only a deepening vagueness. Or you can take the systems science route and look upwards in scale to see the information that constrains QM to produce local events.

Prigogine and Salthe are both key dissipative structure theorists and it is the accumulating extropy, or information in such structures, which make them able also to keep making entropy.

And here we have it exactly. Extropy is the determined, entropy is the random. A dissipative structure is a system that makes both equally. Structure at the global scale creates chaos (waste heat, etc) at the smallest scale.

But who in physics pays much attention to thermodynamics - beyond the simplicities of Boltzmann and Carnot?
 
  • #42
Moridin
688
3
The entire quantum mechanical appeal is ultimately irrelevant to the question of free will for two reasons - the quantum mechanical effects that occur in human brains undoubtedly will appear in the brain of rats, but this does not mean that rats have freedom? Furthermore, if your actions where fundamentally unpredictable, how would that be freedom?
 
  • #43
M Grandin
90
5
Whatever they say about "uncertainity principles", "quantum effects" and so on implying
whatever can happen at any instant, the fact remains: Just exact one thing happens at every instant. I.e if you go back in time to a certain instant, the same thing will happen
there "again" - otherwise you had not gone back in time to that instant. So there is no possibility for anything other happening than what actually happened.

So there is no "choice" anywhere at any level. If we have not a kind of "branching" reality
where different branches of reality eminate from every instant. :yuck:
 
  • #44
Anticitizen
148
0
Honestly, what does randomness/determinism have to do with free will? If there's a truly random element at work in our brains, it just means that our behavior is based partly on random input. Sure, it would mean that predicting behavior would be impossible even with a perfect model of the subject, but it doesn't make the behavior any more 'free', imho.

To say someone has 'free will' is to say 'they made a choice because they *wanted* to make a choice and for no other reason', which would seem (to me) to require some sort of physically detatched mind or 'soul' that controls the body and doesn't require physical input from our universe in order to function. But if that were the case, then what are these beautiful brains with all their complex circuitry for?

So put me down for 'no free will' with the addition that free will as a very concept is functionally meaningless. Free will requires us to be more than the sum of our parts, and adding randomness doesn't provide that.
 
  • #45
apeiron
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Clearly free will as we conceive it is about having choices. We can imagine acting other ways and then - usually because we weigh a balance of factors - follow some particular course.

The question then is how does this intelligent choosing arise in nature when according to physics, it does not seem to exist in some fundamental way.

Your free choice(!) then is whether to answer the question in terms of the opposing options that appear open to physics (chance and determinism). Or whether to instead take a systems science approach to the matter.

In systems science, the idea of choice - weighing internal goals against external circumstances - is a very functional one.
 
  • #46
Anticitizen
148
0
Let's introduce the idea of quantum randomness into our model of the brain for a minute. For simplicity's sake, let's say that the random factor will either express itself as either a value of 1 or 0 as an influence on a neuron - if the quantum random factor is 1, the neuron fires, if 0, the neuron does not fire. Let's say this element of non-determinism (it's impossible to predict whether the neuron will fire or not due to the quantum randomness) affects the choices that we make.

What are the implications of this? That would still just make us deterministic machines with the occassional random input. Once that neuron fires, it sparks its neighbors up, and the dominoes start falling.

To suggest otherwise would require the metaphysical idea of a mind being a 'free agent' and somehow exist beyond the biology and physics of the situation.

In my opinion.
 
  • #47
junglebeast
508
2
Now then, for my question, if you could know the exact position and velocities of every single particle in our brains, could you predict the owners thoughts, and, ultimately there actions. I don't see any reason why our brains should work any differently than everything else, in which by knowing the information of each and every particle you gain access to its past and future. If the brain does behave like that then it would mean that every single person's thoughts and actions, from Hitler's slaughter of the Jews, to Mother Teresa's benign actions, all depended on the initial state of every particle in the universe. My thoughts on my ride and ultimately my posting of this question, all depended on the initial state of the universe.

This is no longer a philosophical question really, as it has been proven through the mathematics of quantum mechanics that free will does not exist (or else fundamental particles like electrons also have free will, which is too ridiculous a notion to entertain).

Reference: the http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&ct=r...eorem&usg=AFQjCNFS8G0OueDFx72ZmbgHp0QUOiZZ7Q"
 
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  • #48
This is no longer a philosophical question really, as it has been proven through the mathematics of quantum mechanics that free will does not exist (or else fundamental particles like electrons also have free will, which is too ridiculous a notion to entertain).

Reference: the http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&ct=r...eorem&usg=AFQjCNFS8G0OueDFx72ZmbgHp0QUOiZZ7Q"

When they (Conway & Kochen) say that a particle has free will they only mean that its response to the measuring apparatus is not a function of the totality of the conditions of the universe in its past. While we are free (or predestined?) to accept or reject this notion since it is a hypothesis of the FWT; I hardly find it ridiculous for someone to accept it.

Skippy
 
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