Ahira's Hangar

David Zindell's Neverness, A Requiem for Homo Sapiens and all things Science Fiction and Fantasy
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 Post subject: free will - or not
PostPosted: Sat Apr 05, 2003 4:08 pm 
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I'm on page 87 of my copy of Neverness (not much time to read these days :( ), and I figured I'd finally say something about it, since free will came up.

I've been trying for some time now to find free will in my life. Not a simple task. Here are a few thoughts about how we do NOT have it.

IN THE ACTIONS OF THE MOMENT
From page 87:
Quote:"Then the Entity has absorbed the Tycho's memories and thoughtways - I can believe that. But the Tycho can't be alive, he can't have free will, can he?...can you? If you're part of the whole...Entity?"

The Tycho - or the imago of the Tycho, as I reminded myself - laughed so hard that spit bubbled from his lips. "Nay, my Pilot, I'm like you, like all men. Sometimes I have free will, and sometimes I don't."

"Then you're not like me," I said too quickly. "I've freedom of choice, everyone does."

"Nay, was it freedom of choice made you break your Lord Pilot's nose?"

It scared and angered me that the Entity could pull this memory from my mind, so I angrily said, "Soli goaded me. I lost my temper."

The Tycho wiped the spit from his lips and rubbed his hands together. I heard the swish of skin against skin. "Okay. Soli goaded you. Then Soli was in control, not you."

"You're twisting my words. He made me so mad I wanted to hit him."

"Okay. He made you."

"I could have controlled myself."

"Is that so?" he asked.

I was angry, and I huffed out, "Of course it is. I was just so mad I didn't care if I hit him."

"You must like being mad."

"No, I hate it. I always have. But then that's the way I am."

"You must like the way you are."

I closed my eyes and shook my head. "No, you don't understand. I've tried...I try, but when I get mad, it's...well, it's part of me, do you see? People aren't perfect."

"And people don't have free will either," he said.
FROM ONE STAGE OF LIFE TO ANOTHER
This is from Sophie's World, by Jostein Gaarder:Quote:"Think of a newborn baby that screams and yells. If it doesn't get milk it sucks its thumb. Does that baby have a free will?"

"I guess not."

"When does the child get its free will then? At the age of two, she runs around and points at everything in sight. At the age of three she nags her mother, and at the age of four she suddenly gets afraid of the dark. Where's the freedom, Sophie?"

"I don't know."

"When she is fifteen, she sits in front of a mirror experimenting with makeup. Is this the moment when she makes her own personal decisions and does what she likes?"
IN OUR PERSONALITIES
This is my thoughts, no quotes. :( What is a personality? When we are in a new relationship, we tell others about her/him. I might say, "She loves the Beatles. She loves Chinese food, but hates Mexican." But, for myself, these aspects of personality are beyond my control. As a child, I took piano lessons. My piano teachers all taught me Mozart. I thought it was sort of fun stuff, but nothing spectacular. Then I went to college, and I was exposed to Bach for the first time. My jaw hit the floor. I can’t imagine anything more perfect than Bach’s music. For me, Mozart doesn’t come close. I didn't decide to love Bach, and feel so-so about Mozart. Mozart just never excited me, while hearing Bach was like having a piano fall on my head. (Uh... but in a good way.)

My favorite color is blue. In fact, I tend to think of blue as some form of perfection - and then there's a bunch of other colors. It may seem a little silly to say such things about a favorite color, but there it is. It feels like an objective fact to me, and I can't understand how blue is not everybody's favorite color.

And I am a sugar fiend!!! When I was maybe 12 it occurred to me that I could mix confectioners sugar with milk, and have a crude icing. There were many days I came home from school and had some. Now, of course, I also add vanilla and butter. I also drink Hershey's syrup and pure maple syrup out of the bottle. (Not at the same time, I just drink each of them. But now that I think about it..... )

What other aspects of personality are there? Is someone very shy? Where's the line between extremely shy and Asperger's Syndrome or high-functioning autism? And if we accept that Asperger's Syndrome is caused by things outside of a person's control, like their brain's hardwiring and the chemicals in their system, should we not assume the same for shyness? Or for those with anger problems?


-----------------------------------


And just a couple of quick comments about the book, not related to free will. "Why is man born to self-deception and lies?" reminds me of Hesse's "How insufficient all our striving." I'm not sure how closely related the two quotes are, but it just reminded me.

And Mallory mentions a planet called Wakanda. The Black Panther is a character in Marvel Comics. He is the king of an African kingdom called Wakanda. ______________
Highdrake's mastery of spells and sorcery was not much greater than his pupil's, but he had clear in his mind the idea of something very much greater, the wholeness of knowledge. And that made him a mage.<i></i>


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 Post subject: Re: free will - or not
PostPosted: Sat Apr 05, 2003 4:58 pm 
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I haven't hqd much time to think this through yet, but to me free will is exercised when we are able to make a decision...will think on this some more... Our lives are the songs that sing the universe into existence.~David Zindell
****Tavern Wench of DOGMA, the Defenders of George Martin's Art****<i></i>


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 Post subject: Re: free will - or not
PostPosted: Sat Apr 05, 2003 7:20 pm 
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Wankanda comes up later in The Wild, as well, yes that Black Panther ref. gave me a kick 2...R there technical definitions of "free will"? That might b a good place 2 start from..I have been in tons of "free will" discussions and the looser the premises r the crazier it gets, The more structure the better! And now Danlo looked in that direction, too. He remembered that snowy owls mate in the darkest part of deep winter, and so along with this beautiful white bird perched in a tree a hundred feet away, he turned to face the sea as he watched and waited.

Ahira, Ahira, he called out silently to the sky. Ahira, Ahira<i>Edited by: danlo60 at: 3/2/04 10:03 am
</i>


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 Post subject: Re: free will - or not
PostPosted: Sat Apr 05, 2003 9:02 pm 
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Technical definition...
hmmmmmm
technical definition...
*taps fingers on table*

Let me try to give mine.

I believe that consciousness is unexplainable. One aspect of consciousness is memory. Our mind remembers. And memory has a corollary in the physical brain - its chemical storage system.

Another aspect of consciousness is the senses. Our minds see, hear, etc. And, again, there are corollaries in the physical brain and body. Photons hit the retina, starting electro-chemical processes that end with certain parts of the brain being stimulated.

The mind never works without part of the brain working too. If we think, calculate, observe, sing, or use our minds in any way whatsoever, some part(s) of the physical brain are being used. But, afaik, there is no explanation for how these various aspects of the brain are combined to give the mind self-awareness. How can chemically stored signals of electro-chemical processes be self-aware? I don't know, but I know they are. I know because ... I know. At least I think I know. I know that I think. At least I think that I think. (Is this too much fun?)

So the question is, is this mind capable of using the brain's physical processes to make decisions that are independent of those physical processes? Can I make a choice that is not determined by the interaction of various chemicals and processes if that choice is made by those chemicals and processes? Or is it all just a self-aware machine run by stimulus and response? Cause and effect? I've only listed things that show a lack of free will in various aspects of ourselves. Anybody got evidence of the other side? ______________
Highdrake's mastery of spells and sorcery was not much greater than his pupil's, but he had clear in his mind the idea of something very much greater, the wholeness of knowledge. And that made him a mage.<i></i>


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 Post subject: free will?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 09, 2003 12:02 am 
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Hmm. But would chemicals-only theory account for self-sacrifice? As shown by firefighters, police officers, and others who are willing to be hurt or even die in order to help others? <i></i>


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 Post subject: Re: free will?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 09, 2003 2:24 am 
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That's an interesting point. I'm not sure how to view it. Let me first argue from the "no free will" pov. I want the pressure to be on proving that there IS free will, not on proving that there is not. (That pressure, btw, is not directed at anyone more than me, so don't think I'm arguing with you. ) There are animals, particularly hive insects, that sacrifice themselves for their species at the drop of a hat. Like Star Trek's Borg, the individual is meaningless, and doesn't hesitate in the least when the sacrifice of its life is needed to try to stop something from getting to the queen. This behavior is definitely part of the creature's hardwiring.

This is certainly not the same as what you're talking about, but it raises the possibility. Maybe some of us are wired for self-sacrifice more than others, sort of the way some are wired for music/math/whatever more than others.

But the reason the pressure is directed at me is because I can't talk myself out of thinking that I DO have free will. I don't have much of that self-sacrifice thing, so I can't examine it and see if it stands up to close scrutiny, as with the things in the third group in my first post above. But, much as it annoys me, I have this unexplainable, unverifiable feeling that I have free will. The annoying part being that the feeling is unexplainable and unverifiable. The thought of not having free will is... unsettling. But if the things that feel like free will at face value prove to be otherwise when I take a good look at them, I'm unsettled.

(Don't worry, I'm not losing any sleep over this. I just have fun overthinking crap. ) ______________
Highdrake's mastery of spells and sorcery was not much greater than his pupil's, but he had clear in his mind the idea of something very much greater, the wholeness of knowledge. And that made him a mage.<i></i>


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 Post subject: Re: free will?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 09, 2003 5:59 am 
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Your thinking is often a bit too deep for me.
I think that perhaps there are some things which cannot be quantitatively proven. For instance ,I know that I have a soul, but can't scientifically prove it... Our lives are the songs that sing the universe into existence.~David Zindell
****Tavern Wench of DOGMA, the Defenders of George Martin's Art****<i></i>


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 Post subject: Re: free will?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 09, 2003 2:50 pm 
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Quote:Your thinking is often a bit too deep for me. I'm not making any claims. Maybe my thinking is a bit too nonsensical. Just because it makes sense to me, doesn't mean it makes sense.

Quote:I think that perhaps there are some things which cannot be quantitatively proven. For instance ,I know that I have a soul, but can't scientifically prove it...Oy! Nice can of worms you have there, Duchess! A soul, and I guess there could be several definitions of "soul" that would work, would be a great way to explain free will. But for me, that's jumping the gun. I'm still looking for proof of free will, then I'll examine explanations for it.

I know that you weren't actually trying to tie those two things together, but that's just where my thoughts went with what you said. As it turns out, I'm as convinced that I do NOT have a soul as you are that you do. If I became convinced that I have free will, I would have good reason to reconsider the matter of a soul.

______________
Highdrake's mastery of spells and sorcery was not much greater than his pupil's, but he had clear in his mind the idea of something very much greater, the wholeness of knowledge. And that made him a mage.<i>Edited by: Highdrake at: 4/9/03 8:06:40 am
</i>


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 Post subject: Re: free will?
PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2003 2:55 am 
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I have to agree with danlo that having a structured exploration is a way of ensuring a substantive result .. A technical definition as opposed to a more personal and subjective definition imho is a preferrable starting point.

And I dont currently possess one .. haha lol .. but when reading your thought processess pitch .. it made me wonder about the difference between 'free agency' and 'free will' .. These 2 terms are often used synonymously .. so perhaps they are if not exactly the same .. then similar notions.

'Free agency' stems from the ability to act as an autonomous agent .. a free agent ..

Is it true that we are the masters of our own destinies? Or are we slaves to our desires and biological imperatives as you posit?

I think humans are vastly different from fictional sci-fi characters like Borg or Amnion .. .. and even insects. Yet being a part of this biological world we clearly would share some similar functionings.

You proffer the possibility of being driven by our biological hardwiring .. and to some extent clearly we are .. when we're hungry we eat ..

and just let me say here .... 'ack' to your sugar fettish!!!! sugar, milk, vanilla and BUTTER!!????? omg!! get help and get help now!!!!! LOL

*shivers*

yet we dont have to respond to hunger - the biological impulse to eat - by eating .. We can ignore hunger pains .. we can refuse to eat .. or we can obey the biological imperative to eat ..

my point is that even though we may be wired a certain way .. unlike other animals it seems .. we can control our reaction to biological needs.

So in summary, I do not think we are the sum total of our biological/chemical composition .. there is something more that drives us .. and thats where 'will' enters the scene.

Our 'free will' may be excercised above and beyond our biological/chemical hardwiring .. At the end of the day .. we choose to eat or we choose not to eat ..

I know where you are going now .. you want to assert that this is not a choice issue .. as eating is intrinsic to survival ..

Sure .. but there have been countless examples of where there have been individuals who have chosen not to eat and thereby deny their own survivals ..

There are examples .. in the then eastern bloc countries .. who were denied food by the then Soviet communist regime as punishment .. and also due to a lack of resources to be assigned throughout the centralised system to the more remote states. These people were so hungry they ate wood chips and bark and dirt .. Some were found to have cannibalised where others did not .. hence the element of choice ..

If we as humans were just driven by our biological/chemical imperatives then .. all would have fed to survive. But those who cannibalised were in the extreme minority .. 0.001% of the population.

Free will .. supercedes all biological need and personality flaws .. at every point we retain a choice .. a choice of how to act .. how to react .. how to respond to various stimuli .. external or internal ..

It is this ability to choose .. even if limited in our power to change our circumstances .. as we do not have the power over others or our environments .. we retain our ability to choose how we will react in every situation that presents itself ..

I remember reading a book by holocaust survivor .. <and i forget his name - for shame!!> where he describes that in the midst of all his freedoms being denied him .. he survived because there was one thing that could not be deprived him .. and that was his 'free will' .. he was still free to decide how to think, feel and respond to his changed circumstance! He asserted that it was his 'free will' that assisted his survival .. where the only alternative was insanity .. or worse inhumanity.

I will try and chase up the book details for you if youre interested ..

I agree that in so many circumstances .. it would seem like there is no 'free will' .. The Iraqi example is a good one .. what 'free will' do the people there have now? Yes they are free only to die or be with chance - survive .. but notwithstanding the limitation of their environment/war/threat of violent death .. they are 'free to choose how to live each minute .. free to react as they 'will' to this circumstance .. 'free to think' what they will ..

Thats a difficult example to give .. but if you think of 'free will' in terms of 'will' .. a persons 'will' can never be taken from them ..

As far as mental illness or as you mentioned conditions that deprive humans of their will .. then they are an exception to the 'will' arguement .. through as you claim .. biological imperative they are indeed detrimented in their ability to excercise their 'free will' .. and thus if they are shown to be affected in that .. then they are also not held responsible for their actions .. and are given this acknowledgement within our legal systems ..

I believe we do possess 'free will' .. and that we are the masters of our own destinies .. we cannot control our environments or things external to us .. but we can control how we react to them ..

If we are diagnosed with cancer or any henious illness .. our 'free will' cannot change that circumstance .. but it can determine how we respond and react to that illness.

'Free will' is an illusive element of the mind .. that very notion - 'mind' - that we know so little about .. and that there is very little empiracal data about ..

really great discussion topic pitch!! kudos!!

now back to the.. 'Smoke me a kipper .. I'll be back for breakfast!

'health and healing<i></i>


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 Post subject: Re: free will?
PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2003 5:14 am 
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Okay, first things first!!Quote:and just let me say here .... 'ack' to your sugar fettish!!!! sugar, milk, vanilla and BUTTER!!????? omg!! get help and get help now!!!!! LOL *shivers*ROFL If there's one area where I excel, that's it. But that's the actual recipe for buttercream icing. It's on the box of Domino's confectioners sugar.

As for the less important parts of your letter...

FANTASTIC!!!
Just the kind of thing I'm looking for!! It would probably be extremely difficult to think of a way to explain how going against what is surely strong biological programming (eating to live) is not free will! I'll try anyway, just to play devil's advocate. Like I said, I want the burden of proof to be on proving that there IS free will, rather than just going along with what has always been assumed and accepted. But I think I'm going to have a hard time poking a hole in that bit of evidence.

And I hope people will keep looking for other examples of free will. Maybe if we come up with a list, it will reveal general areas where we do and don't have it.


Regarding the stuff about the holocause survivor, I remember you talking about that in Hile Troy's Think-Tank. You said it particularly well there (I think because of what you included about the woman you met who was in the camps), and I wish I had read that thread before that Mhoram thread where I was trying to defend pacifism.

Quote:really great discussion topic pitch!! kudos!!You are too kind! ______________
Highdrake's mastery of spells and sorcery was not much greater than his pupil's, but he had clear in his mind the idea of something very much greater, the wholeness of knowledge. And that made him a mage.<i></i>


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 Post subject: Re: free will?
PostPosted: Fri Apr 18, 2003 8:04 pm 
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mmm ... looks around .. *grumbles* .. still waiting for highdrake's promise to return with a couter aguement *rolls eyes* 'Smoke me a kipper .. I'll be back for breakfast!

'health and healing<i>Edited by: danlo60 at: 3/2/04 10:04 am
</i>


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 Post subject: Re: free will?
PostPosted: Sat Apr 19, 2003 3:51 am 
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I'm sorry! I didn't mean it that way. I meant I'd try to come up with an argument worth supporting. But I can't. Going against our biological programming seems like proof of free will to me.

So now I'm convinced that we have some free will, although not as much as it seems is usually believed. Now I'm hoping to come up with more examples, in the hope that patterns will be revealed, so I can figure out exactly what free will is. ______________
Highdrake's mastery of spells and sorcery was not much greater than his pupil's, but he had clear in his mind the idea of something very much greater, the wholeness of knowledge. And that made him a mage.<i></i>


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 Post subject: Re: free will?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 23, 2003 3:25 am 
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As referenced elsewhere, I call myself a Zen Solipsist. Basically it springs from a... revelation I had once. Faced with the paradoxical truth of absolute free will and absolute fatalism, I took the first because it made it easier to live a sane life. I think I'd be a lot closer to enlightenment if I lived as if the 2nd was true, also.

It's all about cause and effect. If you take the view that "I" doesn't end at the skin, where do events start, and where do they end? ________________
I wanna feel the metamorphosis and cleansing I've endured within my shadow. Change is coming. Now is my time. Listen to my muscle memory. Contemplate what I've been clinging to. -Tool, "Forty-Six & Two"<i></i>


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 Post subject: Re: free will?
PostPosted: Sat May 03, 2003 5:32 am 
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Good point about absolute fatalism maybe being a better path to enlightenment.


OK, I'm thinking that vows of celibacy are another instance of free will. Denying such a strong biological drive probably can't be explained by another biological drive. Eh? ______________
Highdrake's mastery of spells and sorcery was not much greater than his pupil's, but he had clear in his mind the idea of something very much greater, the wholeness of knowledge. And that made him a mage.<i></i>


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 Post subject: Re: free will?
PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2003 9:51 pm 
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This is a qoute from Neverness that HD just put up in the Zindell 4rum, this basically sums up my position on the whole thing,


Quote:"We're ultimately free, not totally free. We're free within certain bounds. In the end, our individual wills are a part of the will of the universe."
And now Danlo looked in that direction, too. He remembered that snowy owls mate in the darkest part of deep winter, and so along with this beautiful white bird perched in a tree a hundred feet away, he turned to face the sea as he watched and waited.

Ahira, Ahira, he called out silently to the sky. Ahira, Ahira<i></i>


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