How can free will exist?

Transcended Multiverse

Bizarre, Transcended, and Omnipotent
Member
#1
It is said by scientific materialists that we have no free will and that we are biological machines. Our brains are machines that make us move and perform actions. But if we do have a soul, then does the soul itself have free will? Or is it also a machine? If you think about it, how can free will even exist? Wouldn't everything have to be machines? Wouldn't free will just be another way of saying we are machines? If we do have souls that have free will, then what scientific explanation would there be for how that works?
 
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Brian_the_bard

Lost Pilgrim
Member
#3
It is said by scientific materialists that we have no free will and that we are biological machines. Our brains are machines that make us move and perform actions. But if we do have a soul, then does the soul itself have free will? Or is it also a machine? If you think about it, how can free will even exist? Wouldn't everything have to be machines? Wouldn't free will just be another way of saying we are machines? If we do have souls that have free will, then what scientific explanation would there be for how that works?
Without free will, our actions are all meaningless, pointless, futile, so there is no point in materialists posting their opinions on the internet. ;)
 
#4
It is said by scientific materialists that we have no free will and that we are biological machines. Our brains are machines that make us move and perform actions. But if we do have a soul, then does the soul itself have free will? Or is it also a machine? If you think about it, how can free will even exist? Wouldn't everything have to be machines? Wouldn't free will just be another way of saying we are machines? If we do have souls that have free will, then what scientific explanation would there be for how that works?
My favorite commentator and thinker on the subject is Bob Doyle. Here is the page I go to; because he references many of the best arguments (including his own). http://www.informationphilosopher.com/freedom/two-stage_models.html

His book: https://www.amazon.com/Free-Will-Philosophy-Bob-Doyle/dp/0983580200
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#5
Mechanistic accounts of causality are fatally flawed IMO. (There was also a past discussion about this more specifically geared toward the OP)

Once those are abandoned free will isn't a problem - or, at the least, it's certainly not impossible. Some options:

Rosenberg, Consciousness & Causality (Part 1)

It has been somewhat a revelation to me this year to realize the degree to which causality had still posed such a philosophical challenge. We are led to believe that the type of physical theories we have are also good objective causal explanations, but they are not. In showing how the challenges of understanding consciousness and causality are linked and making a proposal for a unified solution, Rosenberg’s book should make it extremely difficult for the reader to consider either topic in isolation from the other going forward.

Below I give a chapter by chapter summary derived from my notes on the book; please note that I can’t claim to be doing justice to the actual arguments here. I will follow this post up with another one containing some concluding thoughts and outstanding questions.
The Solution to the Problem of the Freedom of the Will

The solution to the problem of human autonomy that I propose, then, is a complete reversal of traditional non-compatibilist approaches. Such solutions have assumed that the non-human world consists of a network of causal connections, the links in which instantiate lawlike, exceptionless generalizations, but tries to show that humans, somehow, lie outside, or partially outside this web4. By contrast, I am suggesting that causal order is everywhere partial and incomplete. But humans, by virtue of their enormously complex but highly ordered internal structure, provide oases of order and predictability. Thus the significance of recognizing indeterminism is not at all to show that human actions are unreliable or random. It is rather to show that the causal structure that impinges on a human being, whether externally from macroscopic causal interaction, or internally, from constitutive microstructural processes, is not such as to threaten the natural intuition that humans are, sometimes, causally efficacious in the world around them.

The Peer-to-Peer Hypothesis and a new theory of free will


In “A New Theory of Free Will” [4] and “A Unified Explanation of Quantum Phenomena?” [5] I argue that a new version of the simulation hypothesis — the Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Simulation Hypothesis — isnot only implied by several serious hypotheses in philosophy and physics, but promises to provide a unified explanation of a bunch of baffling physical and metaphysical features of our world.
The whole man

I’ve commented on some of the erroneous claims about free will, perception, “mindreading,” etc. commonly made in the name of neuroscience here, here, and here. Biological reductionism is addressed in a couple of further earlier posts, here and here. And I discussed bionics here.
Process philosophy

nherent in each actual entity is its respective dimension of time. Potentially, each Whiteheadean occasion of experience is causally consequential on every other occasion of experience that precedes it in time, and has as its causal consequences every other occasion of experience that follows it in time; thus it has been said that Whitehead's occasions of experience are 'all window', in contrast to Leibniz's 'windowless' monads. In time defined relative to it, each occasion of experience is causally influenced by prior occasions of experiences, and causally influences future occasions of experience. An occasion of experience consists of a process of prehending other occasions of experience, reacting to them. This is the process in process philosophy.

Such process is never deterministic. Consequently, free will is essential and inherent to the universe.

The causal outcomes obey the usual well-respected rule that the causes precede the effects in time. Some pairs of processes cannot be connected by cause-and-effect relations, and they are said to be spatially separated. This is in perfect agreement with the viewpoint of the Einstein theory of special relativity and with the Minkowski geometry of spacetime.[21] It is clear that Whitehead respected these ideas, as may be seen for example in his 1919 book An Enquiry concerning the Principles of Natural Knowledge[22] as well as in Process and Reality. Time in this view is relative to an inertial reference frame, different reference frames defining different versions of time.
 
#6
You might want to search my name and free will (or, possibly TSQM, which stands for Time Symmetric Quantum Mechanics). I've posted quite a bit on this topic in the past.

Teaser:

Accommodating Retrocausality with Free Will
https://arxiv.org/abs/1512.06689

I'm not saying this solves the free will problem in its entirety. But, the authors present some work that at least is making successful strides at including free will as a fundamental tenet of their theory.

Also, I think asking how free will "works" is the wrong question to ask. It's like asking how determinism works, or how causality works, or other fundamental tenets of nature already accepted to exist. You can't really get a mechanistic explanation for these kinds of things. Does it make sense to ask what determinism is made of? Or, to ask what parts make up determinism and what is the inner workings of those parts? Doesn't really make sense, does it? The question is really kind of a circular logic anyhow, because a mechanistic explanation of how something works is only (mostly?) possible by the fact that nature appears deterministic (at a particular energy scale)! Yes, QM adds (still mostly misunderstood) subtlety here, of course, but doesn't change the argument. If nature was fully random, it probably wouldn't be possible to ask how anything works. If nature did not follow the tenets of causality we could not ask how anything works, because cause and effect would go out the window. The answers of how a framework like determinism works cannot be addressed by the framework (determinism!) which makes providing a mechanistic answer possible in the first place. One cannot explain determinism using determinism. One explain causality using causality. Further, one framework can never be used to gain a full understanding of another framework (e.g. determinism cannot be used to fully explain randomness), as they each contain different principles that are exclusive to that particular framework. (That's not too say there is zero overlap in certain areas, though) Likewise, with free will!

I think the best we can do is show how these tenets can exist harmoniously in a mathematically consistent way within our theories. This is what the authors above have tried to do within their work on TSQM.

I'd also add that it might not make any sense to ask how free will works if we don't have free will! For example ...

Take a criminal investigation. Investigation implies the free flow of thought and free will to make choices, or free choice. Suppose there are 5 different areas to investigate, one of which contains the vital clue leading to the suspect. A factory, a cemetery, an office tower, a church and the butler. But, if nature is fully deterministic, there is no real choice. Nature will guide you down one of the five paths, but there is no guarantee it will be the right path. There is no guarantee that subsequent attempts will ever take any one down the right path of investigation, as some paths could be prohibited by a lack of deterministic paths existing in nature due to initial condition constraints. If nature was fully random, you only get a 1/5 chance of going down the right path. Subsequent attempts only guarantee that things may take up to 5 times longer than if you had a perfect intuition which took you down the right path in the first place.

Point being, you're not really doing criminal investigation without free will. Likewise, with science. Science is only meaningful if free will, or free choice as an experimenter, exists.

As a side note, I always thought it would be interesting to see if it would be possible to obtain the current scientific knowledge set we have in the time we obtained it solely via random choices (adding in determinism could constrain the set, but there is no guarantee the constrained set contains the right answers or scientific truths, so that endeavor seems fruitless). Now, instead of 5 choices of investigation like my example above, the set of choices would likely be astronomical in some scientific investigations. I suspect astronomically vast stretches of time (more than we had available) would be required to arrive at the full set of scientific truths we know today. I also suspect that if some combination of randomness/determinism pulled off our current knowledge as a species, it is quite magical and as of yet, fully unexplained. I would say free will as a facet of nature is much more likely to be the parsimonious "explanation" here. Although I doubt the problem could be clearly formulated in an unambiguous, clear fashion to show how much time things really would take. Still, it's an interesting thought.

Anyways, off to read Leslie Kean's new book - Surviving Death!
 
#7
I just saw this. I'm posting without comment because some may be interested. I'm not endorsing it.

http://blog.dilbert.com/post/158211182101/could-cognitive-scientists-eliminate-isis

Regular readers of this blog have seen me discuss lots of examples of persuasion at work. But you haven’t seen anything yet. Your opinion of free will will evaporate in the next few years. I had that experience when I trained to be a hypnotist. Once you see a subject’s brain get reprogrammed in real time, you never believe in free will again. That’ll happen to you within five years – you will see examples of brains being reprogrammed right in front of you. The science on how to do it is super strong now. It will be everywhere. And it is totally legal. We used to call it “marketing” when it didn’t work that well. This new stuff is something else. It works so well it makes your ethical alarms go off.​
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#8
I just saw this. I'm posting without comment because some may be interested. I'm not endorsing it.

http://blog.dilbert.com/post/158211182101/could-cognitive-scientists-eliminate-isis

Regular readers of this blog have seen me discuss lots of examples of persuasion at work. But you haven’t seen anything yet. Your opinion of free will will evaporate in the next few years. I had that experience when I trained to be a hypnotist. Once you see a subject’s brain get reprogrammed in real time, you never believe in free will again. That’ll happen to you within five years – you will see examples of brains being reprogrammed right in front of you. The science on how to do it is super strong now. It will be everywhere. And it is totally legal. We used to call it “marketing” when it didn’t work that well. This new stuff is something else. It works so well it makes your ethical alarms go off.​
How does he think hypnotism works?
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#9
Physics of Free Will

Free will has traditionally been a problem in philosophy. Recently, the battleground of free will has shifted to neuroscience. Now some claim that to solve the problem of free will, we must go far deeper, to the fundamentals of physics, down to subatomic forces and particles. But don't free will and physics operate at vastly different levels or size scales?
 
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