Unconscious determinants of free decisions

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Compassionist
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Unconscious determinants of free decisions

Post #1

Post by Compassionist »

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18408715
Abstract

There has been a long controversy as to whether subjectively 'free' decisions are determined by brain activity ahead of time. We found that the outcome of a decision can be encoded in brain activity of prefrontal and parietal cortex up to 10 s before it enters awareness. This delay presumably reflects the operation of a network of high-level control areas that begin to prepare an upcoming decision long before it enters awareness.
We are not free. We are prisoners of causality living inevitable lives and dying inevitable deaths. We are doomed to be conceived, doomed to suffer and doomed to die. We have no say in the matter.

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The Tanager
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Post #31

Post by The Tanager »

bluegreenearth wrote:When you think about all the reasons and choose one of those reasons to support your decision to have the vanilla or chocolate ice cream, then that choice was also determined by a reason or randomly determined.
Define/explain "determined by a reason" more fully.

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Post #32

Post by bluegreenearth »

The Tanager wrote:
bluegreenearth wrote:When you think about all the reasons and choose one of those reasons to support your decision to have the vanilla or chocolate ice cream, then that choice was also determined by a reason or randomly determined.
Define/explain "determined by a reason" more fully.
The best way I can think of to explain this is as follows:

Think of a decision or choice you could make. Next, make the decision or choice. Now, ask yourself what was your reason for making that decision or choice. Whatever reason you had for making that decision or choice is what determined your decision or choice. As long as you can answer that question for a specified decision or choice you made, that answer will describe what determined your decision or choice. Otherwise, if you had no reason for your decision or choice, your decision or choice will have been randomly determined.

We cannot decide or choose what will ultimately convince us to make a decision or choice. We are either convinced by some reason to decide or choose a specific way or our decision/choice is determined at random. If we could decide or choose what will be convincing to us, then we could decide or choose to be convinced by anything. This is not what we observe about ourselves. Try as hard as you want, you could never decide or choose to be convinced to make a decision or choice based on what you would otherwise describe as an unconvincing reason. Every decision or choice you make is determined by a reason that you were compelled against your will to accept as convincing. Similarly, you are compelled against your will to reject reasons that do not convince you. There doesn't appear to be a third option.

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Post #33

Post by The Tanager »

bluegreenearth wrote:If we could decide or choose what will be convincing to us, then we could decide or choose to be convinced by anything. This is not what we observe about ourselves. Try as hard as you want, you could never decide or choose to be convinced to make a decision or choice based on what you would otherwise describe as an unconvincing reason.
That is trivially true and not what the free will/determinism debate is about.
bluegreenearth wrote:Every decision or choice you make is determined by a reason that you were compelled against your will to accept as convincing. Similarly, you are compelled against your will to reject reasons that do not convince you. There doesn't appear to be a third option.
Here you jump from the trivially true statement that we can use language to explain the reason behind your choice to the claim that this one reason was the only thing that could have been behind your choice in that moment. You are yet to rationally support that jump.

I could choose to eat chocolate ice cream because I like the taste of it better than vanilla. I could choose to eat vanilla because I haven't had it in awhile but still remember liking it. I could choose to eat chocolate so that my wife will get to have her favorite flavor. I could choose to let a coin flip make my decision. I could choose to let my wife make the decision for me. I could choose to not eat it for health reasons. It is logically possible that all of those options are open to me. None of those reasons compel me to choose one action over the other.

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Post #34

Post by bluegreenearth »

The Tanager wrote: It is logically possible that all of those options are open to me. None of those reasons compel me to choose one action over the other.
That doesn't matter. Whatever reason you had in the moment you chose one action over the other is what determined your decision. Even if that reason was not particularly more compelling than the other reasons, it became the compelling reason the moment it determined your choice.

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Post #35

Post by PeterPan »

In the Libet experiment, the decision about when to act is pretty arbitrary, so it is unsurprising that the mental process which first initiate the desire to act would turn out to be expensive. That said, there are certainly circumstances where the decision about whether to act requires more conscious pre-planning, and the results of Libet's experiments don't apply to these cases. More to the point, if all decisions were made by the subconscious, why would we have evolved slow and energetically expensive conscious mental processes?

P.S. This is probably the best article on free will in the world.
https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/3buXtNi ... could-ness
<spoiler alert> The article concludes that free will does not exist</spoiler alert>

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Re: Unconscious determinants of free decisions

Post #36

Post by Dimmesdale »

There's an analogy I came up a while ago which might shed light here.

Free will is like a combination of nature and "super-nature." It cannot be reduced to one or the other. The former is everything in the material world that can be quantified or assessed in an "objective", "scientific" manner: genes, habits, biological desires, etc. "Super-nature" is that added indeterminacy, that element of mysterious, unquantifiable Being that eludes our ken and is present in every true "willing" of the human heart.

The first element is like eggs. The second, salt.

Taken separately, they cannot taste good. They have no meaning when the meaning is a "good meal" of eggs. If you can only analyze the gross, quantifiable elements, you cannot actually TASTE the finished product. Free will can't be instantiated in other words. The second element, the mysterious element of Being, is like salt alone. It also has no meaning because it yearns to be expressed VIA the gross elements. Only when you combine the two in the human being (notice, "human" + "being"!) do you have a finished product that both tastes good and HAS Meaning......

Interestingly, scrambled egg meals are themselves constituted of at least the two things: eggs and salt, and yet you cannot reduce them to either one. You have created something original, yet if you try and analyze, you can never get the third, only the two constituents.... The same for me is this conundrum of free will.....

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