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What happens when brains lose faith in free will?

 
 
Reply Sun 8 Mar, 2020 12:22 pm
As a spin-off from the other thread about free will, consider what happens to brains when they lose faith in free will.

In other words, the brain is a deterministic system where decisions are made sub-consciously prior to the emergence of our conscious awareness and experience of them as decisions; but because we experience conscious awareness and perceive ourselves as having free will regarding the choices we are conscious of, that becomes part of our brain function.

So the moment the brain gives up on free will, so to speak; i.e. the moment we lose faith in free will as having any effect on brain function; that could cause our brain function to change.

Put another way, maintaining strong active brain function might require the experience of free will and subsequent effort that we put into decision-making and intentional action. If we put less effort into studying choices and resisting bad choices in order to put effort into good choices, that would cause our brain function to change in a way that would err more in the direction of mindless acceptance of things we think that we have no control over anyway.

Why should there be a difference between how the brain functions when believing in free will and intentional action vs. when it only believes that it is a deterministic system with no hope of influencing its own choices and actions?
Answer: because conscious awareness is part of brain function and the shifting of various brain functions and thinking away from the conscious mind to the subconscious makes us more animalistic in our behavior, i.e. we become more reflex-driven and experience our actions with a sense of alienation from them, almost as observers of a foreign body we are living in.

If this kind of alienation from our own bodies and minds influences the behavior of our brains/minds and bodies, don't we have an ethical obligation to maintain faith in free will and intentional action, i.e. because to lose faith in it would cause our brain-functions and thus bodily actions to become more animal-like, reflex-driven, etc.?

I would say it is ethical to continue maintaining faith in free will, active agency, and intentional action despite having the knowledge that free will is ultimately an illusion, but maybe some others think otherwise.
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Sturgis
 
  1  
Reply Sun 8 Mar, 2020 02:27 pm
@livinglava,
What happens?

Death.

Even with the most intensive mind-warping having been administered, a smidgen of faith and free will remain.


...unless a lobotomy knocked out that sector of the brain.
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maxdancona
 
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Reply Sun 8 Mar, 2020 04:13 pm
This seems like a silly question.

If you don't have free will, doesn't that mean you don't have any choice in the matter of what you believe or how you react to it?
Briancrc
 
  1  
Reply Sun 8 Mar, 2020 04:48 pm
@livinglava,
Can a person be free at the same moment they feel compelled to do something where no external enforcing agent exists (e.g., addict)?
livinglava
 
  1  
Reply Mon 9 Mar, 2020 06:01 am
@maxdancona,
maxdancona wrote:

This seems like a silly question.

If you don't have free will, doesn't that mean you don't have any choice in the matter of what you believe or how you react to it?

Your brain/mind chooses subconsciously, but if you foresake the belief that you are making choices, then your subconscious will accept things without taking into consideration all the assumptions that come with faith in free will, and that will in effect cause you to believe in things that you wouldn't in the absence of free will.

E.g. let's say you believe that you have the capacity to resist fascism, but you think it's a very strong ideology that you have to resist to avoid, e.g. you think Nazis were/are brainwashed by Hitler against their better judgment. If you subconscious mind assumes you can be brainwashed more easily in the absence of free will, losing faith in free will would make your brain resist being brainwashed less, and that would cause you to assent more to fascism than if you maintained faith in the illusion of free will.
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livinglava
 
  1  
Reply Mon 9 Mar, 2020 06:03 am
@Briancrc,
Briancrc wrote:

Can a person be free at the same moment they feel compelled to do something where no external enforcing agent exists (e.g., addict)?

The brain/mind can gain awareness of addiction and resist it. Fear of being controlled by the addiction doesn't help to the extent it induces paralysis against resistance. At first, you just need faith in your ability to resist and avoid using. Then, once you gain some self-control, the fear/avoidance of sinking back into addictive compulsion serves as motivation to not fall off the wagon.
Briancrc
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Mar, 2020 03:45 pm
@livinglava,
Quote:
Then, once you gain some self-control, the fear/avoidance of sinking back into addictive compulsion serves as motivation to not fall off the wagon.


The fear/avoidance and motivation variables are present for all the addicts in pursuit of recovery. The challenge is in explaining how to gain some self-control without appealing to the thing you're trying to explain (i.e., will). Having the will to resist cannot explain how one has will. Thanks
livinglava
 
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Reply Tue 10 Mar, 2020 05:01 pm
@Briancrc,
Briancrc wrote:

Quote:
Then, once you gain some self-control, the fear/avoidance of sinking back into addictive compulsion serves as motivation to not fall off the wagon.


The fear/avoidance and motivation variables are present for all the addicts in pursuit of recovery. The challenge is in explaining how to gain some self-control without appealing to the thing you're trying to explain (i.e., will). Having the will to resist cannot explain how one has will. Thanks

Explaining free will and overcoming addiction are two separate matters.

Addicts can rationalize away the hope of resisting by telling themselves they can quit anytime or by telling themselves that free will doesn't exist and so it's not in their control anyway.

All I was trying to tell you is that if a user is paralyzed by fear, they may not muster the strength to resist at first; however once they have developed a habit of resistance to using, fear of returning to a lack of control can motivate them not to fall off the wagon.

At the deepest level, all these decision-making processes happen prior to the moment you become conscious of them, so you have to think of yourself as having agency, because that is how we experience determinism; but in reality what you're experiencing as your own agency is happening slightly before you actually become aware of it at a conscious level.
Briancrc
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Mar, 2020 05:58 pm
@livinglava,
Quote:
All I was trying to tell you is that if a user is paralyzed by fear they may not muster the strength to resist at first


I originally brought up the addicted gambler; not a drug addict. However, my argument wouldn't change substantially.

Quote:
At the deepest level, all these decision-making processes happen prior to the moment you become conscious of them, so you have to think of yourself as having agency, because that is how we experience determinism; but in reality what you're experiencing as your own agency is happening slightly before you actually become aware of it at a conscious level.


How does generating an experience prior to awareness of it give one free will?
livinglava
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Mar, 2020 03:30 pm
@Briancrc,
Briancrc wrote:

Quote:
At the deepest level, all these decision-making processes happen prior to the moment you become conscious of them, so you have to think of yourself as having agency, because that is how we experience determinism; but in reality what you're experiencing as your own agency is happening slightly before you actually become aware of it at a conscious level.

How does generating an experience prior to awareness of it give one free will?

It doesn't. It means that what we experience as our decision-making process actually occurs subconsciously before we experience it at a conscious level.

The subconscious mind may have free will, in the sense that it may have complex interconnected processes that it overweighs before choosing one or another to commit to, but if we are not aware of what it decides until after it decides it, is it really 'us' thinking and choosing, or something inside of us that we are fundamentally alienated from until we become conscious of its work?
Briancrc
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Mar, 2020 06:28 am
@livinglava,
Quote:
The subconscious mind may have free will, in the sense that it may have complex interconnected processes that it overweighs before choosing one or another to commit to, but if we are not aware of what it decides until after it decides it, is it really 'us' thinking and choosing, or something inside of us that we are fundamentally alienated from until we become conscious of its work?


If the will is in subconscious activity, then we do not direct it, and therefore are mere objects observing the behavior of ourselves as subject.

But we also exist in the universe. There's more to us than what we can identify within the skin. The universe acting upon us doesn't give us free will, however. Each of us becomes a locus where the interactive effects of various processes in the universe result in us as unique individuals. So far, on this planet, we seem to be the only species that can do something useful with this awareness; not in the sense that we turn away from the contributions of the universe in order to originate thought ("let it be"), but that the contributions and the desires they produce grant options we otherwise would not have had.
livinglava
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Mar, 2020 09:16 am
@Briancrc,
Briancrc wrote:

Quote:
The subconscious mind may have free will, in the sense that it may have complex interconnected processes that it overweighs before choosing one or another to commit to, but if we are not aware of what it decides until after it decides it, is it really 'us' thinking and choosing, or something inside of us that we are fundamentally alienated from until we become conscious of its work?


If the will is in subconscious activity, then we do not direct it, and therefore are mere objects observing the behavior of ourselves as subject.

What if it is conscious prior to us becoming conscious of it as our subconscious?

Quote:
But we also exist in the universe. There's more to us than what we can identify within the skin. The universe acting upon us doesn't give us free will, however. Each of us becomes a locus where the interactive effects of various processes in the universe result in us as unique individuals. So far, on this planet, we seem to be the only species that can do something useful with this awareness; not in the sense that we turn away from the contributions of the universe in order to originate thought ("let it be"), but that the contributions and the desires they produce grant options we otherwise would not have had.

Aren't we just part of the universe? Isn't everything that manifests part of the universe?

Why do you think in terms of entities, including humans, being separate from the universe as something external they interact with?

I see all parts of the universe as being products of interactions between smaller parts, which interact with each other as well as with external aspects of the universe.

The universe doesn't segregate interactions at each level so that internal interactions of entities occur separately from external interactions between them. The inter/intra distinction is logically/analytically convenient for organizing thought, but in reality there are interactions at both levels simultaneously; e.g. light interacts with your eyes while sound interacts with your ears, and your mind interacts with your feet while your feet also interact with the ground, etc. etc.
Briancrc
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Mar, 2020 02:45 pm
@livinglava,
Quote:
Aren't we just part of the universe?


As far as my limited understanding indicates.

Quote:
Why do you think in terms of entities, including humans, being separate from the universe as something external they interact with?


I don't.

Quote:
I see all parts of the universe as being products of interactions between smaller parts, which interact with each other as well as with external aspects of the universe.


If external aspects to the universe means something beyond this universe, then I don't know what that could be.

Quote:
The universe doesn't segregate interactions...


I fully agree that we are the ones that create classifications and taxonomies, and that when we do, it's only with respect to our limited understanding of what we can "see".
livinglava
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Mar, 2020 03:00 pm
@Briancrc,
Briancrc wrote:

Quote:
I see all parts of the universe as being products of interactions between smaller parts, which interact with each other as well as with external aspects of the universe.


If external aspects to the universe means something beyond this universe, then I don't know what that could be.

I didn't mean it like that. What I mean is that a human or a planet, for example, consists of smaller constituents parts, such as organs and tissues in the case of the human; or oceans, forests, deserts, lakes, mountains, the mantle, magnetic field, atmosphere, etc. for the Earth.

Then what I'm saying is that the constituent parts of any entity don't just interact with each other, e.g. your liver with your blood stream and your blood with your heart, etc. but there is also interaction between various parts and various aspects of the external universe, e.g. a forest interacts with the sun by absorbing/reflecting light, but also with humans, who use it in various ways.

So (parts of) the sun are interacting with (parts of) a forest, which are interacting with, say, your liver by producing compounds that you ingest in one way or other, which end up interacting with your liver cells.

I'm glad you agreed with me about taxonomies, etc; so hopefully you can easily see what I mean about parts of wholes interacting with parts of other wholes without the wholes necessarily behaving as gatekeepers, although there are of course borders/gatekeeping that happens at various levels, such as the skin, cell-membranes, orifices that let substances enter and exit the body, etc.

So it's not like the Earth interacts with the sun while the constituent parts of Earth only interact with each other. Parts of each interact with each other's parts, but also as wholes, and also as wholes interacting with parts of other wholes, etc.

So there is a lot of interaction involved in causation, and so things can't just be determined by internal causal factors. What's more, just because many causal factors interact to determine individual agency, that doesn't mean that there isn't autonomous decision-making going on at various levels of interacting networks of causal factors.
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