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genghiscant

Is free will an illusion?

An interesting lecture by Sam Harris. Please don't dismiss it just because of who's giving it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCofmZlC72g
Leonard James

I have just listened to the lecture, and do not agree with Sam. His argument that our thoughts arise due to past causes may be true, but our choice of acting on those thoughts remains.

No matter what time lag exists between our minds making a decision and us being aware of it, it is still our decision. It simply means that we make our decision to act a brief moment before we are consciously aware of having done so.
Lexilogio

I agree with Len.

People can break habits. The evidence suggests that this is more to do with the desire of the person to change than education alone.
genghiscant

Quote:
His argument that our thoughts arise due to past causes may be true, but our choice of acting on those thoughts remains.


There's also the society you live in & its norms. For instance, in certain Asian countries forced marriages are perfectly normal & are accepted by their society, whereas we find the practice abhorrent. The decisions we make are governed, to a certain extent, by our environment & upbringing. We see time & time again that a child who witnesses & experiences abuse, will often go on to be an abuser in later life. For that young adult abuse is the norm & he sees nothing wrong with it. His thoughts & decisions are affected by his past experiences.
Leonard James

Hi Genghi,

What point are you trying to make? I already agreed that past events can effect how we react, but we still have the ability to override that effect if we consider the action it calls for is wrong.
bnabernard

Quote:
but we still have the ability to override that effect if we consider the action it calls for is wrong.


How does one get to consider the action wrong when nuture tells you it is not neccessarily wrong,  considers it wrong only under certain circumstances then procedes to negotiate the right of the wrong?

bernard (hug)
genghiscant

I think the point Sam Harris was making was that very few people are born murderers. They become murderers because of any number of factors in their lives. Some people have appalling lives.e.g.


Quote:
"I would like you to give a message. Please do your best to tell the world what is happening to us, the children. So that other children don't have to pass through this violence."

The 15-year-old girl who ended an interview to Amnesty International with this plea was forcibly abducted at night from her home by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), an armed opposition movement fighting the Ugandan Government. She was made to kill a boy who tried to escape. She saw another boy being hacked to death for not raising the alarm when a friend ran away. She was beaten when she dropped a water container and ran for cover under gunfire. She received 35 days of military training and was sent to fight the government army.


http://www.child-soldiers.org/childsoldiers/child-soldiers

Soldiers suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. These people do not react with completely free will & neither do we. We are all conditioned by our lives to believe, think & act the way we do. Some people can change the way they think but what made them want to change?
You & I can look at a report of a violent act in a newspaper & ask ourselves why the person did what they did. But the person who committed the act may have come from a violent home & grown up in a violent area with violent friends. In a given situation he will react violently. He doesn't have free will, he's conditioned to react with violence.
Lexilogio

Ah. The murder issue.

There are two sides of this. It does look as if there is a genetic predisposition towards serial murder - based on a combination of genes.

However, equally, many people can be "pushed" to murder.

But. Can some people also resist that push?

I believe that there is an element of choice here. People can allow themselves to sink - or fight that urge.
Leonard James

bnabernard wrote:
Quote:
but we still have the ability to override that effect if we consider the action it calls for is wrong.


How does one get to consider the action wrong when nuture tells you it is not neccessarily wrong,  considers it wrong only under certain circumstances then procedes to negotiate the right of the wrong?

bernard (hug)

Hi Bernie,

It's the same old story, I'm afraid. We are social animals and consequently it is instinctive to us to live to a code. Most of that code is learned from our parents and culture, but it conflicts with the self-first instinct which is also part of our makeup. The balance we strike is personal, and we may well contravene the code even though we know it is wrong to do so.
Boss Cat

Well, the good news is that most abused children do not grow up to be abusers and the less good news is that many who have never been abused to become abusers.  As for becoming criminals, I thought there is a 'criminal gene' but that this is generally overriden by, of all corny things, love.
Shrub Dweller

Lexilogio wrote:
Ah. The murder issue.

There are two sides of this. It does look as if there is a genetic predisposition towards serial murder - based on a combination of genes.

However, equally, many people can be "pushed" to murder.

But. Can some people also resist that push?

I believe that there is an element of choice here. People can allow themselves to sink - or fight that urge.

If there is a genetic factor to being a serial killer there could also be a genetic factor to being more sociable and cooperative. So those who fight such bad up bringings, and feel that their childhood induced urges are wrong, may be doing so from a point of preprogramming rather from some freewill factor or issue.
Lexilogio

Shrub Dweller wrote:
Lexilogio wrote:
Ah. The murder issue.

There are two sides of this. It does look as if there is a genetic predisposition towards serial murder - based on a combination of genes.

However, equally, many people can be "pushed" to murder.

But. Can some people also resist that push?

I believe that there is an element of choice here. People can allow themselves to sink - or fight that urge.

If there is a genetic factor to being a serial killer there could also be a genetic factor to being more sociable and cooperative. So those who fight such bad up bringings, and feel that their childhood induced urges are wrong, may be doing so from a point of preprogramming rather from some freewill factor or issue.


There is a bloke in the US who has the genetic markers to be a serial killer - he is a psychologist, and one of those who has done the research. But he doesn't kill, he reckons because of nurture - he had a good childhood.
Shrub Dweller

Lexilogio wrote:
Shrub Dweller wrote:
Lexilogio wrote:
Ah. The murder issue.

There are two sides of this. It does look as if there is a genetic predisposition towards serial murder - based on a combination of genes.

However, equally, many people can be "pushed" to murder.

But. Can some people also resist that push?

I believe that there is an element of choice here. People can allow themselves to sink - or fight that urge.

If there is a genetic factor to being a serial killer there could also be a genetic factor to being more sociable and cooperative. So those who fight such bad up bringings, and feel that their childhood induced urges are wrong, may be doing so from a point of preprogramming rather from some freewill factor or issue.


There is a bloke in the US who has the genetic markers to be a serial killer - he is a psychologist, and one of those who has done the research. But he doesn't kill, he reckons because of nurture - he had a good childhood.

Yes, I've heard of him. He was on a Horizon programme. But he is still 'cold' and heartless, it just isn't expressed in violence as such. Which is a product of his nurture - a deterministic factor. Therefore, what is your point ? Your post doesn't address the fact that being good could also be genetic and derivative of nurture, and have nothing to do with this notion of freewill.
Lexilogio

Having empathy or not is genetic - with some nurture on top.

But being good? Here we are almost back into the Socratic argument on the nature of virtue - we would first have to establish what "good" was. As far as I'm aware they haven't identified a genetic marker for "good".
Shrub Dweller

Lexilogio wrote:
Having empathy or not is genetic - with some nurture on top.

But being good? Here we are almost back into the Socratic argument on the nature of virtue - we would first have to establish what "good" was. As far as I'm aware they haven't identified a genetic marker for "good".

OK, I may have mudded the waters a bit by introducing the term 'good'. But your point about having freewill or choice to push against such urges implies the idea of good or doing the right thing (by pushing back), and that those urges are bad or wrong. So I don't feel totally errant in using the word 'good'.

I maintain that any element of a person that has the capacity to push back at such urges is totally a function of deterministic factors. You seem to be saying that there is an aspect of freewill or choice in pushing back which is independent of causal events in a persons life or of their DNA package etc. (I may have assumed this as I know you are a christian - do correct me is I've got this wrong about your freewill position)

What 'good' is is a product of the culture and milieu in which you are brought up in and therefore is a function of a persons nurture within that culture, which has a history and roots going way back when we started to form behaviours to allow us to work together in larger groupings, and to protect that groups riches against outside interference.
Lexilogio

We are genetically programmed with some traits - but that isn't limiting. Our upbringing has a large effect as well.

But we can still choose. When we first leave home, we are more likely to act along the lines which are nature and nurture - but as we get older, and gain experience, our choices can change. We take control of our lives.
Shrub Dweller

Lexilogio wrote:
We are genetically programmed with some traits - but that isn't limiting. Our upbringing has a large effect as well.

But we can still choose. When we first leave home, we are more likely to act along the lines which are nature and nurture - but as we get older, and gain experience, our choices can change. We take control of our lives.

The way I see it is that we acquire more to our pallet in life; that is our nurture value goes up. Experiences are added to us and some will make what we learned before less applicable or they may even supercede them. There's a feed back loop in the system such that as we assess situations and issues by what we have been "given" (upbringing) this in turn adds to what we have at hand to use to assess future events. This is because these experiences will not always fit in nicely to what our "given" and/or present disposition is at any particular moment. If we are over protected in our life such that we are only allowed experiences that fit nicely into our upbringing then we don't mature and grow as a person - hence spoilt brats and the stupidity of some royalty. (The later days of the Otterman Empire and the Chinese Dynasties are good examples)

Add to this emergent property/feed-back the value of an experience, how much it impinges on our psyche, that is how well it sticks in our mind and its gravitas, plus 'our' ability to block experiences that are too traumatic to hold onto (though can still affect us unconsciously), and the picture becomes quite complex. This accumulated wealth of various propositions would tend to give the appearance to the person of having a choice independent of any influences, whereas in fact it is just a matter of a vastness of experience. I think this is called compatibilist freewill.

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