Re: ODP: Free will/consciousness/ineffabili

From: Brent Meeker <>
Date: Tue, 23 Oct 2001 20:51:23 -0700

Hello Charles

On 23-Oct-01, Charles Goodwin wrote:
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Brent Meeker []
>> Sent: Wednesday, 24 October 2001 12:06 p.m.
>> To: Charles Goodwin
>> Cc:
>> Subject: RE: ODP: Free will/consciousness/ineffabili
>> My intuition doesn't tell me whether or not I would have a 'feeling'
>> of
>> free will if I were aware of my subconscious decision processes; but
>> it's
>> pretty clear that I could be completely un-conscious and still
>> behave with
>> 'free will'; whatever it is.
> My suggestion is that it's lack of knowledge of these subconscious
> processes which gives you a feeling of free will. If you don't know
> what a feeling of free will means (hence the quotes?) I'd suggest it's
> the feeling that you reached a decision uninfluenced by anything
> external to yourself.

You're right, I don't think I know what 'free will' feels like. Do you?
 Have you ever had a feeling of no-free will? The only think like that
I can think of is having a cramp, or a tremor or a tick. I suppose Dr.
Strangelove must have had a feeling like that as his right hand tried
to strangle him. I can't agree that it's a feeling that I reached a
decision uninfluenced by anything external to me. Would that mean
putting on a sweater when I'm cold, or because I like the way it looks
wouldn't be free will.

Suppose your consciousness were delayed even more than in the Grey
Walter carousel experiment (more than you now compensate for). Suppose
there were a 3sec delay instead of 0.30sec. I think you'd feel
out-of-control; even though nothing had changed about your decision

However if you could follow all the subconscious
> processes (you couldn't of course, by definition your consciousness
> isn't aware of them) then you'd see that what felt like an
> 'uninfluenced' decision was actually the result of past numerous
> influences, which had caused your brain to have a particular
> configuration.
> Yes, presumably you *could* be unconscious and have free will, in the
> sense that your actions couldn't be predicted accurately by some other
> agent. (Try to swat a fly and you will see what I mean!)
>> What if your subconscious decision processes became known to you
>> *after* you had made your decision and 'felt' that free will. Would
>> you feel something different then?
> I don't see what you mean. You'd probably feel different from how you
> felt when you made your decision whether you became aware of the
> subconscious processes or not.

It's just a thought experiment. I imagine that I'm in some amazing
brain scanner that is connected to a computer that has analyzed all my
past decisions, so that when I make a decision (like putting on my
sweater) the computer immediately displays a list of the reasons and
how they contributed to my decision. Just the sort of thing that is
done with some AI decisions programs. Would I "feel" any different? I
don't think so.

If you DID become "aware" of the s.p.s
> it could only be as the result of years of laboriously tracing through
> neural connections inside some map that someone made of your brain
> while you were making the decision. (And presumably more years of
> tracing through previous maps of your brain which showed how various
> events in the past caused it to be configured the way it was at the
> time, if you want a FULL understanding.) I'm not sure that you could
> ever become "aware" of all this in any realistic sense of the word.
> Perhaps a super-intelligent alien could apprehend the processes in
> your brain "at a glance" and see what was going on, and THEY would
> feel that your decision was an inevitable consequence of how your
> brain was configured, but YOU couldn't.

It seems to me there are two cases: In one case the circumstances and
who you are lead to a unique decision. So the decision is
'deterministic'. It may be to complex to comprehend, but at least in
principle it is explicable. In some other cases it may be that the
decision is a close one and it goes one way and not the other because
of some quantum event that is *in principle* uncaused.

Brent Meeker
  Before we can know whether a thing exists, we must know its
      --- Jurgen Ehlers
Received on Wed Oct 24 2001 - 20:21:13 PDT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Feb 16 2018 - 13:20:07 PST