Illusory free will a progression of left-wing ideas?
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26-06-2014, 06:31 AM
Illusory free will a progression of left-wing ideas?
It occurred to me some time ago that the reason I so strongly believe free will to be an illusion is not entirely unrelated from me being a liberal.

I'd like to know what others have to say on this so I'll begin with pointing out a typical left-wing position on crime and punishment:

If a person is mentally deranged; a confirmed psychotic and they lose access to their meds they might be more inclinced to act violently toward somebody. Let us say that in this case it leads to a violent crime and the man is arrested and put on trial.

If, in court, he presents himself as a nut barely capable of stringing a sentence together and an independent doctor is called upon to testify that the man is delusional and harbours violent tendencies due to his psychosis, the man is either confined to an institution or released into the hands of a doctor as an outpatient.

Of course it doesnt always go that way - juries are divisive etc etc...

But I'm sure most of us would agree this does happen and that a cold-blooded but sane killer would likely face a stiffer sentence and be sent to prison.

Typically, i find, liberals believe nurture trumps nature and that violent crimes are more often committed by the disenfranchised than the lifelong fortunates.

So then, when you present a case against free will to a person with left-wing views on social and criminal justice, I would argue it is more likely to be well-received than if presenting to someone of a more right-wing persuasion.

I recall my first brush with this subject being a while back when I considered what would happen if time itself was a clock and could be 'turned back' - I concluded that everything that just happened would happen again. I reasoned that if I tried to put my foot down on the floor, then lift it up and try to place it in exactly the same place (exact to the subatomic level) it would always be impossible - because one could always zoom in further to see the overlap isn't 100% perfect.
But, I thought, were one to rewind the clock on the last few moments not only would my footprint spark a 100% match to precisely where it was the first time, but that would in fact be the only possible way to achieve that.

So if somebody attacks somebody else and we rewound the clock on them, they would not be capable of doing anything other than what they just did. Their 'choice' couldd not be any different.
After reading a lot of Sam Harris and seeing him lecture so eloquently about this topic from his position as both a philosopher and a neuroscientist, I found each and every argument he made to be practically irrefutable and his views coincided with how I felt about this topic.

Much later I arrived at a specific conclusion: that it would have been much harder for me to believe in the illusion of free will were I a conservative, tough-on-crime type who believed in divine free will or sin or even the same concepts from a non-religious but purely subjective point of view.

There are those out there who believe that murder should beget murder and that there should be no exceptions. There are those who believe that the only species to have free will is the human species. These are both absurdities in my book, and I invite you all to comment on what you think about this perception of mine that left-wing ideology lends itself more naturally to a conclusion that free will is purely an illusion.

Smile

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26-06-2014, 10:27 PM
RE: Illusory free will a progression of left-wing ideas?
Maybe, being a fan of free will and self determination, I'm somewhat biased, and also the fact I haven't read anything by Sam Harris, who may have already answered my objections.

But I don't see how a change in readiness potential preempting a conscious decision to twitch one finger completely undermines the idea of free will... As I see it, its a hell of a leap to go from something requiring little or no real conscious thought, like moving one finger, to making major decisions.

Plus, in my opinion the idea of asking volunteers to note the moment they began to think about moving their finger is inevitably going to be unreliable.

We're not always aware that we're thinking... If you try to stop thinking for any amount of time, for a brief moment you will believe you've succeeded, until you realize you were thinking the entire time. And I think this is what's going on here...

But, as I said, I'm not very well informed about this... And I'm certainly open to being corrected.

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26-06-2014, 11:56 PM
RE: Illusory free will a progression of left-wing ideas?
Free Will means: making decisions that were not predetermined by another person... sentient being.

Eating because your body is hungry, or not being able to float away because gravity - doesn't mean you don't have free will.

If no one is directing your decisions, you have free will.
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27-06-2014, 01:36 AM
RE: Illusory free will a progression of left-wing ideas?
Dennett... Compatiblism.

That is all.

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27-06-2014, 02:37 AM
RE: Illusory free will a progression of left-wing ideas?
Of course free will is a delusion. Your "turn back the clock" is a great illustration of that fact. Personally, I believe that the universe if governed strictly by rigid, deterministic rules, and as such it is at least theoretically possible to predict the actions of anyone if you have enough information.

When you are talking about computing you talk about states and inputs. If you are at a certain state and receive a certain input, you will reliably and predictably transition to another state. If you return to that state and receive that same input, you will once against arrive at the same state you did previously. No matter how many times you repeat this exercise the result will be the same. I think we have ever reason to believe our brains function function the same way. We have a nearly infinite number of "states" because our memories, our environment, and our bodies chemistry all play a part in our decision making to varying degrees. If you could theoretically reproduce a certain scenario exactly, down to the last detail and with the person in the exact same physical "state" as before, a person should respond to that same scenario exactly as they did previously. If I chose to drank coffee yesterday I should choose to drink coffee again provided all the particulars where the same. We are complex biological computers, but computers nonetheless.

That being said, philosophical truthisms often, and necessarily, play little part in how we live our lives and formulate our laws. The principle purpose of our legal system is to minimize harm. Providing a legal recourse for crimes and grievances serves that purpose because it deters vigilantism. Lengthy prison sentences, in principle, discourage individuals from committing that same crime for fear of incurring the same punishment. We are operating under the illusion of free will because we lack all the necessary information and the casual understanding of any and all events to see it otherwise. It may be philosophically true that free will doesn't exist, but it is far more practical to behave as if it does.
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27-06-2014, 02:44 AM
RE: Illusory free will a progression of left-wing ideas?
Although that may be true...

Well, I was going to say...

But I changed my mind.

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27-06-2014, 03:30 AM
RE: Illusory free will a progression of left-wing ideas?
I'm likely to end up mentioning some of Sam Harris' great illustrations he discusses in this lecture so Ill post it here for you all to watch.

If you don't feel like watching it for its long length at least watch the first 30 minutes where the best stuff is covered.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JM3raA1EwrI

It is certainly the most fascinating lecture I've ever heard. He is a great public speaker and educator is you ask me.

Anyways to my reply...

________

@Sam One of the things he discusses is how you'd react to a crocodile biting off your hand and how you would compare the emotional trauma of that event to that of a psychopath cutting it off instead.
Would you blame the crocodile and spend the rest of your life hating him or more likely go visiit him with friends to point out "the beast that claimed [my] hand"?

Another important point he makes is that if you do not know what you are going to think next then you are not in control of your thoughts.

@Michael To a point I'd agree that there's little beneift in us changing the justice system too dramatically, but that is because justice is based around different things - there is deterrence, retribution and segregation and I believe as a society we need to decide which we can agree on.
I believe in segregation for public safety but I don't believe in retribution because it is essentially just vengeance and is therefore primitive and purely based on emotion. We should look to be able to move past that - there's a reason we have out courts make these decisions and not simply hand the offender over the the victim's families. And I agree that deterrence has some value also but far moreso for those who are not predisposed toward violent crime to begin with so that is the trickiest one and needs to be looked at a lot further.

But Mr Harris makes a great case pointing out that we already do allow people Not Guilty verdicts when there is, as in his example, a tumour on a part of his brain which causes the violent behaviour. So he asks why we not extend this understanding.
I'd say you are both right - we should look to move forward into an age where we accept causal factors as exculpatory factors but practically speaking I believe it is not too likely to happen until the causal factors are known to us more, as in the case of the brain tumour.


I just want to lastly point out that the thread is asking a more specific question about free will and the left-wing/right-wing dichotomy. I'd love to hear what you guys have to say about this point I made in OP - and not just the free will material.

Thanks Smile

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01-08-2014, 01:41 AM
Wink RE: Illusory free will a progression of left-wing ideas?
(26-06-2014 06:31 AM)barcelonic Wrote:  I recall my first brush with this subject being a while back when I considered what would happen if time itself was a clock and could be 'turned back' - I concluded that everything that just happened would happen again. I reasoned that if I tried to put my foot down on the floor, then lift it up and try to place it in exactly the same place (exact to the subatomic level) it would always be impossible - because one could always zoom in further to see the overlap isn't 100% perfect.
But, I thought, were one to rewind the clock on the last few moments not only would my footprint spark a 100% match to precisely where it was the first time, but that would in fact be the only possible way to achieve that.

Would this indeed be the case though? Seems you've brought some presumptions to the table with an analogous hint of a "rewound tape" scenario. Rather, it seems to me that this is begging the very question surrounding the freewill/determinism dichotomy.
How can you possibly know that your "rewound" step would match the initial one 100% (to such an exacting subatomic degree) without assuming determinism itself?

(P.S. also you'd find yourself within a infinite loop of - a determined - rewinding of the clock...if indeed your theory was correct.) Smile
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01-08-2014, 05:57 AM
RE: Illusory free will a progression of left-wing ideas?
(01-08-2014 01:41 AM)quip Wrote:  
(26-06-2014 06:31 AM)barcelonic Wrote:  I recall my first brush with this subject being a while back when I considered what would happen if time itself was a clock and could be 'turned back' - I concluded that everything that just happened would happen again. I reasoned that if I tried to put my foot down on the floor, then lift it up and try to place it in exactly the same place (exact to the subatomic level) it would always be impossible - because one could always zoom in further to see the overlap isn't 100% perfect.
But, I thought, were one to rewind the clock on the last few moments not only would my footprint spark a 100% match to precisely where it was the first time, but that would in fact be the only possible way to achieve that.

Would this indeed be the case though? Seems you've brought some presumptions to the table with an analogous hint of a "rewound tape" scenario. Rather, it seems to me that this is begging the very question surrounding the freewill/determinism dichotomy.
How can you possibly know that your "rewound" step would match the initial one 100% (to such an exacting subatomic degree) without assuming determinism itself?

(P.S. also you'd find yourself within a infinite loop of - a determined - rewinding of the clock...if indeed your theory was correct.) Smile


Well that could well be the case.

The only point I was trying to make with this is that this 'rewound clock' scenario was something which occurred to me long before I had any idea what determinism was, and that I cannot even now see any other way this could play out.

So to reduce it somewhat I could say that all this really demonstrates is that I didn't believe free will was legitimate even before I thought I had an opinion on the matter. Therefore this position came naturally to me and not from the pages of a book.

---------

But just to highlight something for all posters in this thread, it hasn't escaped me that the very subject of this thread has not yet been addressed; I have discussed free will on many forums and made many points, historically, but have made this thread in an effort to understand people's views on my perceived correlation between seeing free will as nothing more than an illusion and far-left thinking.

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01-08-2014, 07:28 AM
Re: Illusory free will a progression of left-wing ideas?
I think you're thoughts posted on what left wing or right wing people think aren't that valid.

To me, left wings may be more open to seeing free will as an illusion because they're more open to new scientific/philosophic concepts and don't harbor as much value in traditional religious authority. That which gives people a reason to think free will comes from a higher power.

But I don't agree that left wingers are more turned to nurture/nature... At least not in contrast to right wingers.

"Allow there to be a spectrum in all that you see" - Neil Degrasse Tyson
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