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How can we possibly have free will?

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tempogain
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Re: How can we possibly have free will?

#21 Postby tempogain » April 2nd, 2018, 7:18 pm

Latest post of the previous page:

Compassionist wrote:Obviously, I am disappointed that I can't prevent all suffering, etc.


I never thought about it, but it would be pretty cool.

If all human choices are inevitable according to deterministic interactions of variables we don't choose e.g. genes, environments, nutrients and experiences, are we truly culpable for our perceptions, thoughts, emotions, words, actions, omissions, beliefs, values, etc.?


That's another question. Here's one way of looking at it. A, all human choices are not really inevitable. Within whatever deterministic framework we live in, there are countless opportunities for various probabilities to come into play. In a single human mind a massive amount of unpredictable chemical reactions occurs every instant and somehow leads to physical actions, like me deciding to get up to grab a cold beer, or heading outside to kill a passerby. Certainly it SEEMS things are that way. If I decide not to kill the passerby and to stay here and drink my beer, I can do that. Or the reverse. In this case I can be said to have moral agency. B, all human choices are inevitable. Well, in that case, there's not really much point to worrying about that or anything else is there? Whatever will happen will happen and that's it. Simple game theory would suggest that proceeding under the assumption that A is true is the best move.

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Re: How can we possibly have free will?

#22 Postby Compassionist » April 2nd, 2018, 8:06 pm

tempogain wrote:
Compassionist wrote:Obviously, I am disappointed that I can't prevent all suffering, etc.


I never thought about it, but it would be pretty cool.

If all human choices are inevitable according to deterministic interactions of variables we don't choose e.g. genes, environments, nutrients and experiences, are we truly culpable for our perceptions, thoughts, emotions, words, actions, omissions, beliefs, values, etc.?


That's another question. Here's one way of looking at it. A, all human choices are not really inevitable. Within whatever deterministic framework we live in, there are countless opportunities for various probabilities to come into play. In a single human mind a massive amount of unpredictable chemical reactions occurs every instant and somehow leads to physical actions, like me deciding to get up to grab a cold beer, or heading outside to kill a passerby. Certainly it SEEMS things are that way. If I decide not to kill the passerby and to stay here and drink my beer, I can do that. Or the reverse. In this case I can be said to have moral agency. B, all human choices are inevitable. Well, in that case, there's not really much point to worrying about that or anything else is there? Whatever will happen will happen and that's it. Simple game theory would suggest that proceeding under the assumption that A is true is the best move.

I agree that assuming A is the best move but it is still an assumption. I have often wondered why didn't I think or feel or speak or act differently at various points of my life. Also, why others didn't think or feel or speak or act differently than they actually did at various points of their lives e.g. why did you think of writing about drinking beer and killing someone as alternative options instead of thinking of writing about doing your homework and washing the dishes as alternative options? I don't think that everyone can think of everything. Einstein spent many years trying to think of a unified Theory of Everything but failed. Everyone else also failed to think of a unified Theory of Everything despite physicists trying for many decades. I think that everything is proceeding inevitably and we really are prisoners of causality who are doomed to be conceived without consent, doomed to be doing all we do and don't do, doomed to suffer and doomed to die. I know it's not a cheerful thought but I think it's true.

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animist
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Re: How can we possibly have free will?

#23 Postby animist » April 3rd, 2018, 1:22 pm

Compassionist wrote:
tempogain wrote:
Compassionist wrote:Obviously, I am disappointed that I can't prevent all suffering, etc.


I never thought about it, but it would be pretty cool.

If all human choices are inevitable according to deterministic interactions of variables we don't choose e.g. genes, environments, nutrients and experiences, are we truly culpable for our perceptions, thoughts, emotions, words, actions, omissions, beliefs, values, etc.?


That's another question. Here's one way of looking at it. A, all human choices are not really inevitable. Within whatever deterministic framework we live in, there are countless opportunities for various probabilities to come into play. In a single human mind a massive amount of unpredictable chemical reactions occurs every instant and somehow leads to physical actions, like me deciding to get up to grab a cold beer, or heading outside to kill a passerby. Certainly it SEEMS things are that way. If I decide not to kill the passerby and to stay here and drink my beer, I can do that. Or the reverse. In this case I can be said to have moral agency. B, all human choices are inevitable. Well, in that case, there's not really much point to worrying about that or anything else is there? Whatever will happen will happen and that's it. Simple game theory would suggest that proceeding under the assumption that A is true is the best move.

I agree that assuming A is the best move but it is still an assumption. I have often wondered why didn't I think or feel or speak or act differently at various points of my life. Also, why others didn't think or feel or speak or act differently than they actually did at various points of their lives e.g. why did you think of writing about drinking beer and killing someone as alternative options instead of thinking of writing about doing your homework and washing the dishes as alternative options? I don't think that everyone can think of everything. Einstein spent many years trying to think of a unified Theory of Everything but failed. Everyone else also failed to think of a unified Theory of Everything despite physicists trying for many decades. I think that everything is proceeding inevitably and we really are prisoners of causality who are doomed to be conceived without consent, doomed to be doing all we do and don't do, doomed to suffer and doomed to die. I know it's not a cheerful thought but I think it's true.
ugh, that loaded word which Compassionist uses so much, "prisoners" (maybe it was "slaves", Compo, sorry if I am misremembering you). Causation, if it is anything (and brilliant thinkers like David Hume and Bertrand Russell have rejected the whole concept of causation) is not some kind of oppression or restraint, it simply is a gloss on the regularities which we see in our lives. Look, there are things which I cannot do because they are beyond my powers. But power is not freedom, and freedom is a very peculiar concept. It can mean randomness and it can mean freedom from others' control. Free will is neither of these. It is, I guess, a lot to do with consciousness and rationality. Although I might jib at the suggestion that animals have free will, I do think that intelligent animals make choices, and maybe therefore they do have a bit of free will. Humans are capable of much greater degrees of reflection on what they want to do, and therefore their free will is more obvious. People fortunate enough to live a decent life, ie one with shelter and sustenance, have the greatest degree of free will, since they are not dominated by the immediate requirements of survival and can reflect on their own options and decisions - this is where genuine morality comes in, because one can reject one's own self-interest (if one is not starving) in favour of the rights and interests of others

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Re: How can we possibly have free will?

#24 Postby Compassionist » April 3rd, 2018, 2:39 pm

ugh, that loaded word which Compassionist uses so much, "prisoners" (maybe it was "slaves", Compo, sorry if I am misremembering you). Causation, if it is anything (and brilliant thinkers like David Hume and Bertrand Russell have rejected the whole concept of causation) is not some kind of oppression or restraint, it simply is a gloss on the regularities which we see in our lives. Look, there are things which I cannot do because they are beyond my powers. But power is not freedom, and freedom is a very peculiar concept. It can mean randomness and it can mean freedom from others' control. Free will is neither of these. It is, I guess, a lot to do with consciousness and rationality. Although I might jib at the suggestion that animals have free will, I do think that intelligent animals make choices, and maybe therefore they do have a bit of free will. Humans are capable of much greater degrees of reflection on what they want to do, and therefore their free will is more obvious. People fortunate enough to live a decent life, ie one with shelter and sustenance, have the greatest degree of free will, since they are not dominated by the immediate requirements of survival and can reflect on their own options and decisions - this is where genuine morality comes in, because one can reject one's own self-interest (if one is not starving) in favour of the rights and interests of others

Animist, I totally agree that humans can reflect on the possible consequences of their choices. Even other organisms can do this to a varying degree. I have never said that we don't have any choice. All I am saying is that these choices are made in accordance with our limited awareness, values and abilities. Which are themselves pre-determined by our genes, environments, nutrients and experiences. The greater the awareness, values and abilities, the more freedom someone has, therefore, when someone is omniscient (the ultimate awareness level), omnibenevolent (the ultimate level of values) and omnipotent (the ultimate level of abilities) one is totally free. Although I am already omnibenevolent, I am not omniscient and omnipotent, that's why I can't prevent all suffering even though really, really want to.

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Re: How can we possibly have free will?

#25 Postby tempogain » April 4th, 2018, 2:08 pm

Compassionist wrote: I think that everything is proceeding inevitably and we really are prisoners of causality who are doomed to be conceived without consent, doomed to be doing all we do and don't do, doomed to suffer and doomed to die. I know it's not a cheerful thought but I think it's true.


It could be. It doesn't bother me in the slightest though. Things are as they are, and it seems like I can make choices while I'm on the ride. Indeed I didn't get a choice in the matter (though I'm not complaining--a bit lucky there to be true, but not even a fraction of a fraction as lucky as getting a roll on the wheel of existence), have to do some things and can't do others, will suffer at points and will see the ride end. Things are still pretty good though. None of it can be helped, but I'm enjoying the ride anyway.

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Re: How can we possibly have free will?

#26 Postby Compassionist » April 5th, 2018, 8:30 am

tempogain wrote:
Compassionist wrote: I think that everything is proceeding inevitably and we really are prisoners of causality who are doomed to be conceived without consent, doomed to be doing all we do and don't do, doomed to suffer and doomed to die. I know it's not a cheerful thought but I think it's true.


It could be. It doesn't bother me in the slightest though. Things are as they are, and it seems like I can make choices while I'm on the ride. Indeed I didn't get a choice in the matter (though I'm not complaining--a bit lucky there to be true, but not even a fraction of a fraction as lucky as getting a roll on the wheel of existence), have to do some things and can't do others, will suffer at points and will see the ride end. Things are still pretty good though. None of it can be helped, but I'm enjoying the ride anyway.

I am glad that you are enjoying the ride. Perhaps I am much more distressed by the presence of suffering and injustice than you are.

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Re: How can we possibly have free will?

#27 Postby animist » April 5th, 2018, 1:21 pm

Compassionist wrote:
ugh, that loaded word which Compassionist uses so much, "prisoners" (maybe it was "slaves", Compo, sorry if I am misremembering you). Causation, if it is anything (and brilliant thinkers like David Hume and Bertrand Russell have rejected the whole concept of causation) is not some kind of oppression or restraint, it simply is a gloss on the regularities which we see in our lives. Look, there are things which I cannot do because they are beyond my powers. But power is not freedom, and freedom is a very peculiar concept. It can mean randomness and it can mean freedom from others' control. Free will is neither of these. It is, I guess, a lot to do with consciousness and rationality. Although I might jib at the suggestion that animals have free will, I do think that intelligent animals make choices, and maybe therefore they do have a bit of free will. Humans are capable of much greater degrees of reflection on what they want to do, and therefore their free will is more obvious. People fortunate enough to live a decent life, ie one with shelter and sustenance, have the greatest degree of free will, since they are not dominated by the immediate requirements of survival and can reflect on their own options and decisions - this is where genuine morality comes in, because one can reject one's own self-interest (if one is not starving) in favour of the rights and interests of others

Animist, I totally agree that humans can reflect on the possible consequences of their choices. Even other organisms can do this to a varying degree. I have never said that we don't have any choice. All I am saying is that these choices are made in accordance with our limited awareness, values and abilities. Which are themselves pre-determined by our genes, environments, nutrients and experiences. The greater the awareness, values and abilities, the more freedom someone has, therefore, when someone is omniscient (the ultimate awareness level), omnibenevolent (the ultimate level of values) and omnipotent (the ultimate level of abilities) one is totally free. Although I am already omnibenevolent, I am not omniscient and omnipotent, that's why I can't prevent all suffering even though really, really want to.
I doubt that non-humans do reflect much on the effects of their actions, TBH. I guess that what I meant that in some way they make choices, whereas a rock does not! Of course our choices are limited by all sorts of things, most fundamentally by the sort of person we have become for both genetic and environmental reasons. This does not IMO make us "slaves" in any sense. As for your various "omni" qualities, I do not believe in "omni" anything, so I guess you are I are temperamentally at odds. IMO, humanism, if it means anything much, involves a sort of modesty about what the human condition is capable of, and this leads us humanists to avoid any sort of extreme creed - not just religion but Marxism and in fact most isms, since they tend to demand that we see things in a sort of black and white way. I do of course exclude the isms of scepticism and humanitarianism, since they do not IMO have this risk inherent in them

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Re: How can we possibly have free will?

#28 Postby tempogain » April 5th, 2018, 3:54 pm

Compassionist wrote:I am glad that you are enjoying the ride. Perhaps I am much more distressed by the presence of suffering and injustice than you are.


Is there something I can do about it? Then I can do it. If there isn't anything I can do about, then why should I be distressed? Surely there are things that can be done, enough things to fill a lifetime if one desires, truth be told.

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Re: How can we possibly have free will?

#29 Postby Compassionist » April 5th, 2018, 10:44 pm

tempogain wrote:
Compassionist wrote:I am glad that you are enjoying the ride. Perhaps I am much more distressed by the presence of suffering and injustice than you are.


Is there something I can do about it? Then I can do it. If there isn't anything I can do about, then why should I be distressed? Surely there are things that can be done, enough things to fill a lifetime if one desires, truth be told.

I have done and everyday do lots of things to prevent and relieve suffering. I am distressed because my abilities are so limited. I have donated blood many times in order to save many lives, I have donated a large proportion of my income to charity, I have volunteered for many charities, I am a pacifist and a vegan, I strive to keep my ecological footprint low. I encourage everyone to live and help live, to live and love. Despite all my efforts, the worlds is still full of suffering and injustice. I have made a positive difference but I have not yet managed to make all beings immortal and omnibenevolent, omniscient and omnipotent. There is an infinite gulf between what I am able to do and what I want to do. I want to PREVENT all suffering and injustice by going back in time but I can't do it.

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Re: How can we possibly have free will?

#30 Postby tempogain » April 6th, 2018, 5:05 am

OK, I understand. I would argue that it was you who chose to do such things, based on your personality, and it wasn't in any way predestined. It's true you can't do everything that you might want to, and if that distresses you I sympathize with you.

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Re: How can we possibly have free will?

#31 Postby Compassionist » April 6th, 2018, 10:03 am

tempogain wrote:OK, I understand. I would argue that it was you who chose to do such things, based on your personality, and it wasn't in any way predestined. It's true you can't do everything that you might want to, and if that distresses you I sympathize with you.

Thank you ever so much for your sympathy. The fundamental question is why do biological organisms choose what they choose. If I had your genes, environments, nutrients and experiences wouldn't I be you and make your choices? Conversely, if you had my genes, environments, nutrients and experiences would you not be I and make my choices?

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Re: How can we possibly have free will?

#32 Postby animist » April 6th, 2018, 1:11 pm

Compassionist wrote:
tempogain wrote:OK, I understand. I would argue that it was you who chose to do such things, based on your personality, and it wasn't in any way predestined. It's true you can't do everything that you might want to, and if that distresses you I sympathize with you.

Thank you ever so much for your sympathy. The fundamental question is why do biological organisms choose what they choose. If I had your genes, environments, nutrients and experiences wouldn't I be you and make your choices? Conversely, if you had my genes, environments, nutrients and experiences would you not be I and make my choices?
probably true, Compo. Anyway, you obviously do your best, and you have the best of intentions, so well done and please try not to worry about doing the impossible :smile:

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Re: How can we possibly have free will?

#33 Postby Compassionist » April 6th, 2018, 2:02 pm

animist wrote:
Compassionist wrote:
tempogain wrote:OK, I understand. I would argue that it was you who chose to do such things, based on your personality, and it wasn't in any way predestined. It's true you can't do everything that you might want to, and if that distresses you I sympathize with you.

Thank you ever so much for your sympathy. The fundamental question is why do biological organisms choose what they choose. If I had your genes, environments, nutrients and experiences wouldn't I be you and make your choices? Conversely, if you had my genes, environments, nutrients and experiences would you not be I and make my choices?
probably true, Compo. Anyway, you obviously do your best, and you have the best of intentions, so well done and please try not to worry about doing the impossible :smile:

Thank you animist. If all our choices are determined by our genes, environments, nutrients and experiences, do we really deserve any praise or blame? Are we not mere experiencers of our perceptions, recollections, thoughts, emotions, words and actions?

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Re: How can we possibly have free will?

#34 Postby animist » April 6th, 2018, 5:19 pm

Compassionist wrote:
animist wrote:
Compassionist wrote:Thank you ever so much for your sympathy. The fundamental question is why do biological organisms choose what they choose. If I had your genes, environments, nutrients and experiences wouldn't I be you and make your choices? Conversely, if you had my genes, environments, nutrients and experiences would you not be I and make my choices?
probably true, Compo. Anyway, you obviously do your best, and you have the best of intentions, so well done and please try not to worry about doing the impossible :smile:

Thank you animist. If all our choices are determined by our genes, environments, nutrients and experiences, do we really deserve any praise or blame? Are we not mere experiencers of our perceptions, recollections, thoughts, emotions, words and actions?
no, that is a misleading use of "mere experiencers" when applied to words and actions; even over the rest we can have some degree of control

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Re: How can we possibly have free will?

#35 Postby Compassionist » April 6th, 2018, 9:54 pm

animist wrote:
Compassionist wrote:
animist wrote:probably true, Compo. Anyway, you obviously do your best, and you have the best of intentions, so well done and please try not to worry about doing the impossible :smile:

Thank you animist. If all our choices are determined by our genes, environments, nutrients and experiences, do we really deserve any praise or blame? Are we not mere experiencers of our perceptions, recollections, thoughts, emotions, words and actions?
no, that is a misleading use of "mere experiencers" when applied to words and actions; even over the rest we can have some degree of control

Yes, but the degree of control we have is limited. For example, I have been struggling with my mood disorder since 1997. If I could cure myself, I would have done so a long time ago. I am so tired of the constant struggle with my mood. Even with medication, my mood is mostly low. I remember a time before the mood disorder when it was not such a constant struggle and long to return to that but can't. If you haven't experienced mood disorder you won't understand. There is no substitute for first hand experience.

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Re: How can we possibly have free will?

#36 Postby animist » April 7th, 2018, 12:22 pm

Compassionist wrote:
animist wrote:
Compassionist wrote:Thank you animist. If all our choices are determined by our genes, environments, nutrients and experiences, do we really deserve any praise or blame? Are we not mere experiencers of our perceptions, recollections, thoughts, emotions, words and actions?
no, that is a misleading use of "mere experiencers" when applied to words and actions; even over the rest we can have some degree of control

Yes, but the degree of control we have is limited. For example, I have been struggling with my mood disorder since 1997. If I could cure myself, I would have done so a long time ago. I am so tired of the constant struggle with my mood. Even with medication, my mood is mostly low. I remember a time before the mood disorder when it was not such a constant struggle and long to return to that but can't. If you haven't experienced mood disorder you won't understand. There is no substitute for first hand experience.

you're dead right there. I would really love to meet in person the kind, sensitive and intelligent person that you clearly are, but I am not omnipotent either! I hope that talking to me in this way is OTW beneficial to you, and I value your company onlilne

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Re: How can we possibly have free will?

#37 Postby tempogain » April 7th, 2018, 4:09 pm

Compassionist wrote:Thank you ever so much for your sympathy.


No worries!

The fundamental question is why do biological organisms choose what they choose. If I had your genes, environments, nutrients and experiences wouldn't I be you and make your choices? Conversely, if you had my genes, environments, nutrients and experiences would you not be I and make my choices?


I would say yes. There you go--the answer is it's a combination of genes, environments, nutrients and experiences :)

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Re: How can we possibly have free will?

#38 Postby Compassionist » April 7th, 2018, 6:56 pm

animist wrote:
Compassionist wrote:
animist wrote:no, that is a misleading use of "mere experiencers" when applied to words and actions; even over the rest we can have some degree of control

Yes, but the degree of control we have is limited. For example, I have been struggling with my mood disorder since 1997. If I could cure myself, I would have done so a long time ago. I am so tired of the constant struggle with my mood. Even with medication, my mood is mostly low. I remember a time before the mood disorder when it was not such a constant struggle and long to return to that but can't. If you haven't experienced mood disorder you won't understand. There is no substitute for first hand experience.

you're dead right there. I would really love to meet in person the kind, sensitive and intelligent person that you clearly are, but I am not omnipotent either! I hope that talking to me in this way is OTW beneficial to you, and I value your company onlilne

Thank you ever so much for your compliments. I am sure the words apply to you just as much. I am glad that we can at least be online friends even if we don't meet up in person. I met up with some of the members of this forum in Duthie Park, Aberdeen, which was really nice.

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Re: How can we possibly have free will?

#39 Postby animist » April 13th, 2018, 10:41 am

free will, whatever it is, is a pretty strange and elusive thing. The following speculation is not about determinism in relation to free will, but I think it sort of relates to our decision making and how "free" decisions are conventionally viewed - in the context of a currently popular TV game show! I hope it makes some sense and that you in particular, Compo, might find it interesting.

I wonder if anyone else has seen the ITV game show "The Tipping Point"? Contestants try to dislodge counters stacked towards the outer edges of two trays in a machine; the upper tray moves continuously backwards and forwards. The punter presses a button which releases a new counter onto the top, moving tray; when this tray moves back towards the new counter, some counters already on the tray are pushed off and tip onto the lower tray; then the bottom of the upper tray, as it moves out again from the back of the machine, may push some of these dislodged counters towards the existing counters on the edge of the lower tray. Any of these counters which tip off the lower tray wins money for the contestant.

Anyway, the winning contestant is, in the final part of the show, given a "jackpot" counter to release, and if he or she can eventually get this counter off the lower tray they will win the jackpot of £10K. Usually they fail to do this, and they are then given the choice of releasing three further counters or leaving with their money; they win the jackpot if these three new counters do the job of sending the jackpot counter over the tipping point, but if they still fail to do this then they lose all the money they have already won. Usually they decline the chance to win the £10K, but if they do opt to take the money already won they have to release the three counters anyway, and if these counters DO push the jackpot counter off the tipping point the contestant is invariably somewhat mortified at winning only a smaller amount of money!

But should they be mortified if this happens? What occurred to me was that this bit of psychological torture depends on the assumption that, if a person makes one or other of two stark choices which are significant to them (in this case because a lot of money is involved) then their states of mind in the two alternative scenarios will be the same; so that, whether they are releasing the three extra counters in the hope of winning £10K or just to see if they would have won this if they had opted to risk the money already won, their behaviour will be the same. But surely this is in fact unlikely. If they have been brave enough to go for the jackpot they will be in an excited and yet anxious state of mind and so they will attempt to be extra efficient in their timing of the button pressing. In contrast, if their fate is already determined, they will unmotivated to release the button in the most efficacious way and in fact may hope to mess up the last three drops! At any rate, their decision has led to two different futures, and I do not think that they can be compared. Once a decision has been made, and assuming that it cannot be reversed, the whole of life alters, so that, at least in the context I have described, it makes no sense to regret "losing" what appears to be better outcome if one had acted differently.

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Re: How can we possibly have free will?

#40 Postby tempogain » April 16th, 2018, 7:08 pm

animist wrote: In contrast, if their fate is already determined, they will unmotivated to release the button in the most efficacious way and in fact may hope to mess up the last three drops! At any rate, their decision has led to two different futures, and I do not think that they can be compared. Once a decision has been made, and assuming that it cannot be reversed, the whole of life alters, so that, at least in the context I have described, it makes no sense to regret "losing" what appears to be better outcome if one had acted differently.


If I'm picturing the game correctly, absolutely. I guess almost nothing surprises me on TV, but I'm almost surprised they even bother doing it. I guess with some decisions, the potential for regret is greater. I read an article the other day about a guy who described how what was essentially laziness led to him not going through with a decision to buy Bitcoin, which wound up "costing" him in the neighborhood of $200,000. He was still rather troubles by it. Any horseplayer :wave: will have a couple of such stories for you. But I agree in many cases various forms of variance may well have intruded. Usually people are pretty good at noting such things when they occur and using them as fuel for some solid rationalization :)

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Re: How can we possibly have free will?

#41 Postby Compassionist » April 16th, 2018, 10:16 pm

animist wrote:free will, whatever it is, is a pretty strange and elusive thing. The following speculation is not about determinism in relation to free will, but I think it sort of relates to our decision making and how "free" decisions are conventionally viewed - in the context of a currently popular TV game show! I hope it makes some sense and that you in particular, Compo, might find it interesting.

I wonder if anyone else has seen the ITV game show "The Tipping Point"? Contestants try to dislodge counters stacked towards the outer edges of two trays in a machine; the upper tray moves continuously backwards and forwards. The punter presses a button which releases a new counter onto the top, moving tray; when this tray moves back towards the new counter, some counters already on the tray are pushed off and tip onto the lower tray; then the bottom of the upper tray, as it moves out again from the back of the machine, may push some of these dislodged counters towards the existing counters on the edge of the lower tray. Any of these counters which tip off the lower tray wins money for the contestant.

Anyway, the winning contestant is, in the final part of the show, given a "jackpot" counter to release, and if he or she can eventually get this counter off the lower tray they will win the jackpot of £10K. Usually they fail to do this, and they are then given the choice of releasing three further counters or leaving with their money; they win the jackpot if these three new counters do the job of sending the jackpot counter over the tipping point, but if they still fail to do this then they lose all the money they have already won. Usually they decline the chance to win the £10K, but if they do opt to take the money already won they have to release the three counters anyway, and if these counters DO push the jackpot counter off the tipping point the contestant is invariably somewhat mortified at winning only a smaller amount of money!

But should they be mortified if this happens? What occurred to me was that this bit of psychological torture depends on the assumption that, if a person makes one or other of two stark choices which are significant to them (in this case because a lot of money is involved) then their states of mind in the two alternative scenarios will be the same; so that, whether they are releasing the three extra counters in the hope of winning £10K or just to see if they would have won this if they had opted to risk the money already won, their behaviour will be the same. But surely this is in fact unlikely. If they have been brave enough to go for the jackpot they will be in an excited and yet anxious state of mind and so they will attempt to be extra efficient in their timing of the button pressing. In contrast, if their fate is already determined, they will unmotivated to release the button in the most efficacious way and in fact may hope to mess up the last three drops! At any rate, their decision has led to two different futures, and I do not think that they can be compared. Once a decision has been made, and assuming that it cannot be reversed, the whole of life alters, so that, at least in the context I have described, it makes no sense to regret "losing" what appears to be better outcome if one had acted differently.

Thank you for this interesting post animist. Sorry about the delayed reply - I have been busy with other things and didn't visit this site until now. I agree that it makes no sense to regret losing. Given how much suffering life is full of, I would love to go back in time and prevent all suffering but the sad fact is that I don't know how to do that. No point wasting time dwelling on it. Much better to work on what I can do to prevent suffering and to relieve suffering.


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