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

David McFadzean (
Sun, 09 Mar 1997 17:47:22 -0700

At 11:47 PM 09/03/97 GMT, Dave Pape wrote:

>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.

Non-sequitur. Compare a normal human's behaviour with the behaviour of
a human without a nervous system.

> 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.

I don't disagree with your description at all. I just don't think determinism
has anything to do with free will. The opposite of deterministic is random.
The opposite of free will is no will. Both free will and no will can be

>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.

That's true if you don't differentiate a system from the environment it
is in. But that's not very useful.

>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?

Some of it. (Meaning we don't have any quantitative metrics yet.)

>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.

If you are right then there is such a thing as "I", it's just different
than you thought before.

>>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.

No, good definitions have to correspond to our intuitions. It is a necessary
(but insufficient) criterion for a definition's quality.

David McFadzean       
Memetic Engineer      
Church of Virus