I am Jack's Smirking Revenge

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Free Will- comparative behavior

I think I may have solved the problem of free will, that is, it can be proven not to exist, but I feel like the proof may be more of a logical fallacy. Let's see.

It's all in how you define it.

In order to have a will, you have to have a mind.

There must be differentiation between behavior of a mind with and without free will.

For the definitions to mean much, we must give them a range to operate in. We are human, and bound to this planet, and we know of organisms on this planet, so, for our definitions to mean anything useful, the range cannot include the undefined or infinitely complicated possibilities, therefore, we limit ourselves to life on earth and what we know of it. This is how most of science works- so that's fair- science cannot include something it has not discovered yet, except in so much as to suppose that it exists because of assertions that it does... but I digress.

This range does not include any fanciful assertions of determinism. There is no all-powerful something pushing or pulling us. What has gone before and led up to the moment we find ourselves making a choice was not planned by some grand architect.

So, definitions:

behavior: the actions of a living being- one with a mind or without.

mind: a brain which operates correctly in comparison to others like it- there are many creatures which have 'something' like a brain, however, mind, for my purposes, shall have to be a function of higher life forms such as reptiles, mammals, etc.

choice: the selection of a particular path

decision: behavior exhibited by a mind which indicates it has recognized a situation in which it has the option to make a choice

learned behavior: the actions of a living being which that being did not acquire as part of its natural growth or built-in tendencies (splitting hairs over what is and is not learned behavior will not be part of this discussion)

So. Two examples, many results.

A donut is left on the living room coffee table. We will throw out all of the implied determinism of someone foolishly leaving the donut there, etc, and call it a blank state- something will happen to the donut regardless of the will of the donut leaver, so it is a moot point.

example one, the dog. The dog wants to eat the donut, and were the dog not a fairly well-behaved dog (having some learned behavior), the dog would undoubtedly simply eat the donut. However, the dog has been in trouble numerous times for such behavior, and has learned- when the man is around, don't eat stuff. However, the learned behavior does not prevent the dog from eating the donut, so, after minimal processing, the dog concludes that its base drive, "eat the donut" is ok, and the dog eats the donut.

example two, the man. The man also wants to eat the donut, and while the man has a lot more learned behavior than the dog, not a lot of that applies to the donut. One thing the man has learned and CAN apply to the donut is logic- the "if A then B" kind of symbolic logic that you might have learned in college.

At first glance this might seem no different than the learned behavior the dog displayed.

The big difference is that the realm of possibilities in logic is vast, and the number of outcomes cannot all possibly be forseen by the man- therefore, with the ability to come to a conclusion, even concerning the donut, which had never before existed as a concrete result in the man's mind by exercising the rules of logic (if the man is indeed a diligent thinker and not just sloppily trying to prove that he should eat the donut), the man has a learned behavior which constitutes something different than the decision making behavior of the dog.

I say, because the man can learn logic (for example), and because the man has the opportunity to exercise the option to stop, think, and come to a logical conclusion about the situation, pulling from a result set which could not possibly have previously existed in his mind, that the man has the OPTION to exercise the thing which is said not to exist- free will.

This removes the 'no free will' argument as it stands, as that arguent is based on the concept that you came to the point of choice with the answer already in your head- you simply trick yourself into believing that you arrived at it on your own. That's as wrong as saying I already know what 233,231,636,341 divided by 978,422 is, merely because I just had the numbers in my head and the methods at my disposal to discover the answer- but I definitely don't know, even now, several seconds later.

I have no doubt that there are plenty of occasions, examples, situations in which it can be proven quite conclusively that we don't, in fact, make up our own minds the way we think we do- all this proves for sure is that we don't really know how the gears in there turn.

(if you're astounded that free will does not exist, see the many long discussions on it at wikipedia, the dilbert blog, etc.)


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