Re: ODP: Free will/consciousness/ineffability

From: Pete Carlton <>
Date: Thu, 18 Oct 2001 17:03:56 -0700

Hi all,
I've been lurking for months and am continually amazed by the discussions
going on - I got into this list after branching out from philosophy of
mind, after something like the GP/UDA (though completely lacking in
rigor) had surfaced in a discussion I was in about artificial intelligence..

Well, that has nothing to do with this post but I just thought I'd give a
little introduction before jumping in.

George Levy wrote:

> <snip>
> Free will is also relativistic. A consciousness gives the impression of
> having free will if its behavior is unpredicatble (ineffable -
> unprovable) BY THE OBSERVER. The self gives the impression to the
> OBSERVING SELF of having free will because the self cannot predict what
> its own behavior will be.

Your view of free-will is interesting to me, since the best explanations
of (the illusion of) free will that I've heard
include the fact that we are rather >good< predictors of our behavior,
and that is why we have the feeling of free will.

Example: you want to get a book off of the bookshelf (perhaps saying to
yourself, "I'll go grab that book..") and, that is exactly what you do
(what your body does). Before you actually go and pick up the book,
if you were asked to predict what you would do, you would predict exactly
what you do in fact do. If you >couldn't< predict what your behavior
would be -- i.e., if you thought to yourself "I'll go grab that book" but
when you get up, you thrash around on the floor instead -- I think your
sense of free will would begin to erode.

Perhaps you're referring to those times when we break out of a cycle of
indecision, such as when we pick one can of soup from hundreds of
identical cans off the shelf, for no good reason at all. You
couldn't predict beforehand which can you would take, certainly.
Since it's unpredictable to us, we get the feeling that we were
free to choose any can at all, and did so. But we still were
able to predict in general terms what we would do (i.e., take a
can of soup), and indeed we could predict that we would pick a can
more or less at random. This skill at prediction is what seems to
me to give the appearance of freedom to my decisions (which are
really, of course, just a subset of the possible ways for a
'me'-containing universe to be).

Received on Thu Oct 18 2001 - 17:09:06 PDT

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