Re: Free Will (was Re: virus: Re: Rationality)

Dave Pape (
Sun, 9 Mar 1997 23:47:13 GMT

At 15:06 09/03/97 -0700, David McFadzean wrote:

>So, back to free will. What if an agent (a system with behaviour) is said
>to have free will if and only if the behaviour is endogenously generated
>(influenced from within). Of course any physical system is influenced to
>some extent by the environment (everything outside the system in question),
>gravity being an obvious example. But that merely puts the attribute of
>free will on a continuum: the more the control comes from within the system,
>the more free will it has. Nothing has complete free will except the universe,
>assuming that nothing outside the universe has any influence on the universe
>whatsoever. A rock has very little (if any) free will because its behaviour
>is influenced entirely (practically) by its environment. Humans have a great
>deal of free will considering that their behaviour is generated (mostly) by
>their nervous system which is considered to be within the human system. But
>they don't have complete free will because their behaviour is also influenced
>a great deal by their environment, especially other humans.

Human beings' behaviour "is generated (mostly) by their nervous system"? I
think that claim's a bit hollow, I'm afraid, because I think that a nervous
system not influenced by the outside world would exhibit little if any
patterned behaviour at all. My whole anti-freewill argument is based on
behaviour being (massively and beautifully complex, but) deterministic
responses by our nervous system to sensory input (transduced from energy
patterns from our environment), taking into account that, as learning
entities, the microscopic structure of our nervous systems has been
modulated (again, in an astonishingly complicated way) by its past
interactions with the environment.

In a world where all learning arises from the interaction of nervous systems
with their environment, and in which all behaviour involves a deterministic
response by a nervous system to sensory input from the environment, to say
that most human behaviour /isn't/ generated by the environment doesn't work.
If I'm an emergent of memetic interaction (memes coming in from outside my
head) and limbic/sensory processing, sensory processing running on a
transduced input from my environment, how much of my behaviour IS
"endogenously" generated?

I'm starting to think there's no sucvh thing as "I" and that what I thought
was my self is actually just the environment of what I THOUGHT was me
becoming conscoius of ITself.

>The reason I like this angle on free will is because it corresponds closely
>with our intuitive notions about what does and doesn't have free will,
>and defines it in such a way that is possible to analyse it further using
>concepts such as information, computation and control (cybernetics).

It may correspond to our intuitions, but I reckon our intuitions are way wrong.

Hey! A whole post and no jokes! Woo!

Dave Pape
Limit the Fun. Prescribe the Fun. DESTROY THE FUN!
-(Southport & Formby Round Table Association slogan, 1994-1995)

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