40
   

Is free-will an illusion?

 
 
Briancrc
 
  1  
Reply Sat 16 Jan, 2016 10:33 am
@Olivier5,
Quote:
In other words, everything "controls" (influences) everything. So why would you think you can't have any influence?


These are not positions I have taken here. I wouldn't go so far as to say that everything exerts control. I think that there are many stimuli that either start neutral or remain neutral. I also think that we can influence our own behavior and the behavior of others. But I think that why and what we do is the result of our pasts; not due to some metaphorical humonculus.
Olivier5
 
  0  
Reply Sun 17 Jan, 2016 02:51 am
@Briancrc,
Quote:
I also think that we can influence our own behavior and the behavior of others. But I think that why and what we do is the result of our pasts; not due to some metaphorical humonculus

If you are right, it follows that something in your past made you become a behaviorist. Do you know what it was?
Briancrc
 
  1  
Reply Mon 18 Jan, 2016 03:51 am
@Olivier5,
I couldn't point to a single event as the cause that led to what I do professionally. As an undergrad I began as a manage!ent major. I took a psychology course that touched upon determinism and human behavior and thought the whole notion was ridiculous. "I'm in control of what I think and do; nothing else." And then I paid very little attention to the topic for a long time, even as I turned to studying psychology, and later, behavior analysis. However, after becoming a teacher and working with some children with autism in the early 90's, I did feel the need to understand better how the treatment methods were being selected. Some of the children improved to the point of losing their autism diagnosis. This was before the time that autism diagnoses became an "epidemic" as some in the US called it in the 2000's. So, I was excited by the work, but didn't understand the magnitude of importance as the rates of diagnoses exploded in the late 90's.

At that time I was also learning about other applications of the discipline (helping pilots learn how to fly, smokers quit smoking, businesses manage employees with better results, reducing pedestrian accidents, etc...).

I read the studies and used contingency management on an increasing frequency. Performances improved despite the recipients of the treatments not being able to identify the contingencies. It was clear that the effects on the way people behaved was independent of consciousness (I.e., being able to say "I am doing X because of Y").
Olivier5
 
  1  
Reply Mon 18 Jan, 2016 04:56 am
@Briancrc,
Quote:
I couldn't point to a single event as the cause that led to what I do professionally.

So your own case disproves your theory... Note that when speaking of why you became a behaviorist, you speak of your own internal thoughts ("I paid very little attention to the topic"; "I did feel the need to understand better..."; "I was also learning about...") -- all manners of introspection that are considered totally irrelevant by behaviorists and which you youself tried to ridicule when referring to the "metaphorical homunculus".
Briancrc
 
  1  
Reply Mon 18 Jan, 2016 05:24 am
@Olivier5,
I wouldn't say that it disproves the theory. We all talk the way we do because our cultures have taught us to speak as we do. We are taught at a very early age to begin talking about private events; despite the severe limitations due to the verbal community lacking access to the internal states of others as well as the limits of what our nervous systems are capable of doing. You have more information than anyone else regarding what is going on within your skin, but there are no new principles at work for what is happening.

You would need to point to something other than belief to mount anything in the way of meaningful argument. Neither you nor anyone else here has presented a cogent account for the role of free will in the data I shared earlier, or for presenting an hypothesis for why millions of people are addicted to scratch tickets.
Olivier5
 
  1  
Reply Mon 18 Jan, 2016 05:45 am
@Briancrc,
Quote:
I wouldn't say that it disproves the theory. We all talk the way we do because our cultures have taught us to speak as we do. We are taught at a very early age to begin talking about private events; despite the severe limitations due to the verbal community lacking access to the internal states of others as well as the limits of what our nervous systems are capable of doing. You have more information than anyone else regarding what is going on within your skin, but there are no new principles at work for what is happening.

That's ex post rationalization, Brian. I asked you to describe the reasons why you became a behaviorist, as a test of the behaviorist theory(ies), and in your response you used the same apparatus of subjective feelings and ideas as we all use when trying to describe our life. You didn't say "stimuli X and Y were applied to the subject and he responded by becoming a behaviorist." You resorted to the very same "homunculus" which your theory says is not necessary to account for human life.
Briancrc
 
  1  
Reply Mon 18 Jan, 2016 09:10 am
@Olivier5,
Quote:
You didn't say "stimuli X and Y were applied to the subject and he responded by becoming a behaviorist


Correct. I would not be able to account for all of the things that led to given decisions. But stating some memories and potential influence of pivotal periods is neither introspection nor homunculus theory.
Olivier5
 
  1  
Reply Mon 18 Jan, 2016 10:08 am
@Briancrc,
Quote:
But stating some memories and potential influence of pivotal periods is neither introspection nor homunculus theory.

You cannot access your memory without some form of introspection. You cannot say "I was influenced by x or y" or "I did feel the need to understand better this or that " and not base your statements on some form of introspection. Otherwise how would you know? And you cannot speak of yourself, your motives and your decisions without implying the existence of "selves", i.e. "homunculi". You cannot say "It was clear that ...." without impltying that this was clear in SOMEONE's conscious thinking.

If you cannot explain what series of stimuli forced you to become a behaviorist, you failed to account for an important part of your own experience. And if you CAN explain what series of stimuli forced you to become a behaviorist, then it follows that the reasons why you became a behaviorist are not rooted in a pursuit of the truth at all, but in a mechanical response to some stimuli: just like a dog trained to learn new tricks will learn them not because the tricks are "true" but because of the treats he gets, you are a behaviorist because of the treats you received (e.g. the tenure, the salary that goes with it)...

(I have been making this argument in slightly different form again and again on this forum, and nobody ever managed to understand it. So I don't expect you to understand it. And yet, it's the simplest of all philosophical arguments: any theory about the human mind must be able to explain its own emergence as a (hopefully true) theory. And reductionist theories systematically fail that test.)
Briancrc
 
  1  
Reply Mon 18 Jan, 2016 11:27 am
@Olivier5,
Quote:
You cannot access your memory without some form of introspection


Introspection has classically meant to examine one's mental state and feelings; it is not a synonym for memory recall

Quote:
You cannot say "I was influenced by x or y" or "I did feel the need to understand better this or that " and not base your statements on some form of introspection. Otherwise how would you know?


As I said in my reply, "I couldn't point to a single event as the cause that led to what I do professionally." Regardless of the level of recall one can engage in, I neither regard it as the activity known as introspection, nor would I say that this necessarily explains things adequately.

Quote:
then it follows that the reasons why you became a behaviorist are not rooted in a pursuit of the truth at all, but in a mechanical response to some stimuli: just like a dog trained to learn new tricks will learn them not because the tricks are "true" but because of the treats he gets, you are a behaviorist because of the treats you received (e.g. the tenure, the salary that goes with it)...


Your conclusions are premised on faulty logic. I haven't argued for goal-directed behavior. That does not mean that one cannot have goals. But the goals are derived from the experiences of one's past. You say "treats" are the reason for doing things. We all do things because of past successful behavior. You press on the brake pedal of your car to avoid colliding with something that has darted out in front of you. You don't engage in an inner dialogue regarding whether or not you should press the brake pedal. Pressing the pedal just happens. Because, in the past, pressing the pedal (and related stopping behavior) has prevented you from slamming into things. We are all susceptible to favorable outcomes; and thankfully so.

Quote:
And yet, it's the simplest of all philosophical arguments: any theory about the human mind must be able to explain its own emergence as a (hopefully true) theory. And reductionist theories systematically fail that test.


mind is an invention used to mediate processes from the brain to the world. It's a metaphor. Some have called behaviorism reductionistic, but many of those people also misidentified operant conditioning with S-R conditioning. Arguing about how to classify the theory is red herring and unimportant. If you want to do anything useful in behavior change, then your best bet is to see how the environment is supporting or failing the behavior in question.

When you can do that, then you will be able to address how to help a person that is addicted to scratch tickets, for example. Clinging to the old models of human behavior and blaming the person for weakness of will is defeatist, ignorant thinking. But if you're satisfied with that, that's your prerogative. I find it much more useful to change the environment and solve problems.
Olivier5
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Jan, 2016 02:43 am
@Briancrc,
Quote:
Introspection has classically meant to examine one's mental state and feelings; it is not a synonym for memory recall

But memory recall of past feelings and mental states can only be based on introspection. That much is obvious. So when asked why you became a behaviorist, you resorted to introspection rather than to operant conditioning blah blah. Thus behaviorism cannot explain its own emergence...

Quote:
I haven't argued for goal-directed behavior. That does not mean that one cannot have goals. But the goals are derived from the experiences of one's past.

If people can have goals, why would you shy away from speaking of "goal-directed behavior"?

Quote:
You press on the brake pedal of your car to avoid colliding with something that has darted out in front of you. You don't engage in an inner dialogue regarding whether or not you should press the brake pedal.

I do, inasmuch as braking is only one of the possibilities to avoid impact: there is also steering away from the incoming object. Also and depending on the road conditions, braking too hard could lead to losing control of the vehicule. Finally, some objects are okay to hit -- the damage may be worse if you end up hitting a tree to avoid them.

Quote:
mind is an invention used to mediate processes from the brain to the world. It's a metaphor.

Now that's amusing. An invention by whom? A metaphor cooked up by whom? Only minds can invent stuff.

And how come there can be anything like "invention" if we always base our behavior on past behavior? Such a view of the world implies that there is no creativity, no novelty ever.

Cogito ergo sum. One cannot logically state: cogito ergo non sum. Do you get it now? Any attempt by science or philosophy (which belong to the realm of human thoughts) to deny the existence or importance of human thoughts is doomed to fail, because it would be self-contradictory. That's why you keep contradicting yourself.
Briancrc
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Jan, 2016 04:15 am
@Olivier5,
Olivier, you can dance around the issues to your heart's content. If people's behavior is not determined, then why can some of them (it could be just one person and the point would still stand. However, there are millions) fail to stop buying and scratching scratch tickets, despite saying that they know that they need to quit and want to quit; despite going to gamblers addiction groups to help them quit? How could that be? Do you really believe that the schedule of smaller and larger payouts that the gamblers hit upon when gambling was not responsible??? And how come the effects are replicated with non-human animals??
Olivier5
 
  0  
Reply Tue 19 Jan, 2016 04:37 am
@Briancrc,
I am not saying we are free from ANY AND ALL determination. Just that these determinants are not absolute. Eg some people manage to stop an addictive behavior. This cannot be explained in your theory. Beside, if an addictive behavior is based on past retribution patterns, on past experience, why would a behaviorist such as yourself ever want to change it? It's been validated by experience, right?

You keep contradicting yourself...


Briancrc
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Jan, 2016 05:33 am
@Olivier5,
Quote:
I am not saying we are free from ANY AND ALL determination. Just that these determinants are not absolute


This is so elastic a statement as to be rendered meaningless.

Quote:
Beside, if an addictive behavior is based on past retribution patterns, on past experience, why would a behaviorist such as yourself ever want to change it?


Sometimes people ask for help in life. It's not a shameful thing to need some help. Unfortunately, all that some segments of society have to offer is shame and blame. "You've made your bed, now lie in it". For you, the gamblers who can't quit apparently simply don't want to and nothing can be done about it. Sorry...I see no value in being a defeatist.
Olivier5
 
  0  
Reply Tue 19 Jan, 2016 06:19 am
@Briancrc,
Briancrc wrote:

Quote:
I am not saying we are free from ANY AND ALL determination. Just that these determinants are not absolute

This is so elastic a statement as to be rendered meaningless.

Balanced, not elastic. Think ying yang. Life is full of compromises. Only death is absolute.

Quote:
Sometimes people ask for help in life. It's not a shameful thing to need some help. Unfortunately, all that some segments of society have to offer is shame and blame. "You've made your bed, now lie in it". For you, the gamblers who can't quit apparently simply don't want to and nothing can be done about it. Sorry...I see no value in being a defeatist.

Alright, so if someone wants to change, and if he or she gets a little help, he or she might well succeed...

What does that say about us? That we are fully determined by the past, or that we have a degree of freedom to depart from past trajectories?
Olivier5
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Jan, 2016 06:39 am
@Olivier5,
Quote:
Alright, so if someone wants to change, and if he or she gets a little help, he or she might well succeed...

What does that say about us? That we are fully determined by the past, or that we have a degree of freedom to depart from past trajectories?

I want to stress that once again, we're speaking of the emergence of behaviorism here, this time not as a life choice nor as a scientific theory, but as a day to day practice. The issue is: What gives rise to the professional involvement of the behaviorist. And note that when asked to explain it, you didn't say: "I just do it for the money", or for some other objective motive. Instead, you spoke of people wanting to change, and of this being possible. you fell back on a classic, non-behaviorist motivation: the desire to help....

Once again behaviorism cannot account for its own emergence.
0 Replies
 
Briancrc
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Jan, 2016 08:39 am
@Olivier5,
Quote:
Balanced, not elastic. Think ying yang. Life is full of compromises. Only death is absolute.


Platitude

Quote:
Alright, so if someone wants to change, and if he or she gets a little help, he or she might well succeed...
What does that say about us?


It says that our behavior is determined by its interaction with the environment
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Jan, 2016 09:35 am
@Briancrc,
Some ppl don't believe in maths, some do... /Thread closed.
Olivier5
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Jan, 2016 01:59 pm
@Fil Albuquerque,
Remember your probabilities, Fil? Maths can deal with inderterminism.
0 Replies
 
Olivier5
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Jan, 2016 02:02 pm
@Briancrc,
Quote:
Platitude

Of course. I'm just stating the obvious... Determinism is not a scientific theory. It's a religion.

Quote:
It says that our behavior is determined by its interaction with the environment

And that we can decide to change our environment in order to change our behaviors...
Briancrc
 
  1  
Reply Tue 19 Jan, 2016 02:34 pm
@Olivier5,
Quote:
Of course. I'm just stating the obvious... Determinism is not a scientific theory. It's a religion.


I'm surprised you would stoop to crank-level argument. Wasn't it you who defended so vigorously some of the findings of climate science? If you are going to be a defender of science, then stay the course. Being wishy washy when the subject matter challenges a belief you've held is not being consistent.
 

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