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January 31, 2018

Comments

What about a medical professional who pushes patients to dangerous & un-necessary treatments which risk patient's lives & make him earn unreasonable profits , When clearly non-invasive treatments are documented in medical texts for same ailments. Is he an overt Saint or disguised educated criminal ???
Maybe determinism is deciding his mischievous conduct.
If determinism prevails , then any intervention at the causal end of chain is absurd & futile , determinism excludes it. If determinism is not excluding intervention , then Sant-mat / Yoga becomes equally relevant because it is intervening at the formation of greedy , lusty ,violent & brutish thoughts in the minds of people.

The benefit of determinism is that rehabilitation becomes the obvious necessity, and we reduce the task to behavior management without any added stigma.

The danger is that we attempt to predict and control not based on actual behavior but to prevent crime, in the basis of statistical prediction.

In the hands of racists this could turn from compassion to enslavement.

The perception that we can treat behavior the same way we treat disease has promise and evidence of results.

But the model of determinism in a world where we don't really understand what it takes to make a great person, can quickly turn to eugenics and even genocide.

There is a history there as well.

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." - Mahatma Gandhi

Thanks for those links and that except, Brian. They were interesting.

They do hint about how a penal/justice system that recognizes that we have no free will might differ from what we have today. But I was looking for specifics.

You’re right, the Net is indeed full of very interesting articles and write-ups. I googled around a bit myself, and had a fun browse through some links I came across. Which included this : http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1850&context=lawfaculty . An interesting read. Although nothing really new there, I think you’ll enjoy going through it. It discusses some interesting fallouts of such a system. While going through this article, specifically how they compare criminality to disease (and therefore advocate a penal/justice system that is akin to treatment and/or quarantine), I was, coincidentally, reminded of this Tom Cruise movie based on a Philip K Dick SF. Coincidentally, I say, because towards the end of the piece they actually have a chapter entitled “Viewing Punishment as a Vehicle for Defusing Dangerousness Would Lead to Punishing People Before They Act”, and I was amused to find that they explicitly actually talk about Minority Report there.

So anyway : the article does actually suggest some specifics. Which are obvious enough, and include home detention, “treatment”, fines, supervised release and community work, as alternatives to incarceration. And also hints (although it does not explicitly state this) that when incarceration is opted for, then that incarceration would be very different from prisons today.

Now the reason I’d asked you that question is this : It appears to me that No-Free-Will follows automatically and trivially from a materialist paradigm, and I saw no real point in repeatedly emphasizing this single particular aspect. Except, it seemed to me, for one particular aspect : our criminal/justice/penal system. In that one area, it seemed to me that a No-Free-Will paradigm could actually make a huge difference, and in that sense (and that sense alone), an emphasis on No-Free-Will did seem justified.

On the other hand, one obvious objection to what I’ve just said, above, occurred to me : If we dilute our prison system, humanize them if you will, then there could be one obvious fallout. The deterrence value of a prison sentence derives a great deal from the unpleasantness (to put it mildly) of prisons generally, and also the stigma that goes with it. (And there are articles out there, including the one I’ve linked, which hint that society ought to evolve away from stigmatizing prison systems, in the same way that we do not -- or at least, ought not -- stigmatize illnesses.) That is all well and good: but if we dilute this deterrence, then wouldn’t we see an increase in criminality? If I can carry through a plan to rob enough money to set me up for life in opulence, and the only thing I risk if my plan goes wrong is counseling and community service, or a short spell of incarceration in healthful pleasant environs, with no stigma attached to me when I emerge, then will that not make me that much more susceptible to take that risk (always provided my intrinsic moral code led me to consider that possibility at all in the first place)? <>b * In other words, wouldn’t that sort of thing, on average, actually encourage criminality?

That is why I had asked for specifics, to see how this (obvious) objection is dealt with. And it seems it isn’t dealt with at all, at least not satisfactorily, so far as I could make out.

Which means that even if we remove the “punishment” motive, the “deterrence” motive itself will probably ensure that we don’t make overriding changes to our justice system. So that our recognition of No-Free-Will will, even in this one single respect where it may actually have mattered, may perhaps remain mostly a “distinction without a difference”, a nuance that may possibly affect some small details here and there about how we do things, but will probably not result in any radical changes.


* To be fair, I’ve come across mention of evidence that goes against this. The first one refers to how capital punishments do not really deter crimes. And the second points at how some Scandinavian countries, where prisons are apparently far more humane, do not seem to suffer higher crime rates as a result. But I take this “evidence” with a pinch of salt because, in the first instance, fairly painless death may not necessarily be seen as worse than a long and unpleasant prison sentence (since we no longer draw-and-quarter and torture prisoners to death -- not, of course, that I am advocating for anything like that, just thinking this through -- and because prisons are such unpleasant places to spend long spells in) ; and in the second instance, the lesser criminality in Scandinavian countries may have far more to do with the far more equitable society they have than anything else, that is, their equitable society may (perhaps) compensate for and hide any increase in criminality that their more humane prison system fosters. (As far as I could see this aspect has not been explicitly addressed in the articles I skimmed through.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01mTKDaKa6Q


Prison system in Norway

77


The other parts of Michael Moore s movie are also amazing
like
Drugs in Portugal
Education in Slovania


I see free will vs determinism
as analogue vs ,digitale
but I can't very well explain that

Justice can only come from unbiased thinking, and that by thought which reflects a transcendent experience, the Word.

The Word is above limited points of view, limited exposure to random experiences, limited judgments and prejudices that are formed from the very small perspective of our particular family, region, culture, time, race, personal experiences, orientation and political and religious beliefs, including Atheism.

Limited human experience results in limited beliefs. And when that tiny mentality tries to understand the cause of things it us inevitable at some point that people are wrongfully blamed as the cause of our woes. When such individuals become lawmakers and judges their bigotry inevitably becomes the laws, verdicts and sentences imposed too frequently upon innocent men and women.

Until we experience something beyond the limited human condition, a transcendent experience, into the very spirit that is the source of all life and humanity, our conditioning and thoughts are hopelessly biased. And so bigoted words and actions follow.

Hence exposure to the Word, ascension into the Holy Word is that experience from which a higher wisdom, inclusive, just and compassionate, naturally follows.

That exposure is the product of practice, and that practice is faith.

Many years ago society would commit or lock-up people with mental illnesses simply because they thought such people were possessed and evil. Today we know different; doctors recognise and treat such conditions sympathetically. Hopefully as knowledge from the brain sciences continues to show how freewill is not part of being human then a more sympathetic and positive acknowledgement of crime and anti-social behaviour will emerge along with more insightful treatments.

It seems that the assertion that we have freewill stems from the assumption that we have a self, a soul - some non-physical entity - that makes decisions separately from our brain and body and that we have another mysterious entity called consciousness where these decisions emerge from. Studies show that the majority (around 96% ) of our thoughts and actions are unconscious - and I suspect that the remaining 4% also arise before we are aware of them. We can obviously be conscious of our thoughts and actions, but always after the event. As the conscious experience arises from the brain the proceeding attention gives the impression of a thought or action freely willed - though the reality is more likely that it was predetermined from a programmed brain.

I feel that the question of freewill must go hand in hand with the revealing of our other assumptions of a separate 'mind' or a 'self' that makes decisions and a 'consciousness' wherein they all reside.

Our mind is activity of our brain.

If the mind controls the brain, then there is free will, dignity and responsibility. You are the king in your skull-sized kingdom. You are the architect of your destiny.

If, on the other hand, the brain controls the mind, a conclusion follows: There can be no free will , no praise, no punishment, no purgatory.

Koch (2012) studied consciousness(Awareness) through its proxies, the neuronal pathways that are responsible for it. Neuroscientists suspect factors that enable consciousness to be pathways that broadcast to the cortex, such as the serotonin, noradrenalin, acetylcholine and dopamine neuronal group.

The mind cannot be an agent that will interfere with the activity of the brain. The mind is the activity of the brain. Indeed, recent research suggests , that it is not the mind that decides and informs the brain, but the brain that decides and informs the mind. The readiness potential (electrical activity) reflects the preparatory phase of a response and occurs about .35 sec before we become aware of wanting to make the response (Libet et al, 1983). The brain decides in neural darkness and then informs the mind that thinks it made the decision. In fact, the decision was made pre-cognitively.

When we feel we connect with something larger then ourselves , we are willing to sacrifice our small selves to that something that we feel , that we know , is greater. This impulse can drive us to do something noble , inspiring and even heroic.

There is very high possibility that any of us raised in a country where men stone women or die in the name of their religion, will be equally likely to stone a woman as men born there now or act "heroically" in the name of their religion.
Before we judge anyone we need to consider that our behavior is mainly outcome of genetic determinism and our environment--Nature and Nurture.

As our medical and scientific knowledge expands, regarding our human nature and brain functions , more and more psychiatric patients are receiving the right medical treatment and counseling.

The brain isn't the other bodily organs, nor the beauty of them outwardly in combination and art. To say that people have no conscience and commit crimes due to their brain, without them knowing that they are committing crime, is to make a grievous error in judgment. Not only does the conscience in a child and adult warn people of wrong behaviour, but the law of the land mandates the rules of wrong behaviour by giving punishment for crimes inflicted. To say it is the brain is like saying that an ice cream cone is just as guilty of committing murder. A totally non-sensical conclusion, an absolute fucked up error in the rational thinking.

What is even worse is the suggestion that criminals are mentally ill and do not know what they are doing when they commit crimes. What this suggestion seems to try to accomplish is the idea that really mentally ill people are criminals and not that sober and sane people deliberately decide to do wrong things. A totally inconceivably ridiculous conception to hold.

D.r,, I think you're missing the point about a determinist point of view. Conscience is part of determinism, because it is part of a chain of causes and effects. Knowing that you are committing a crime also is determined. A desire to punish also is determined. Laws of the land are determined. Mental illness is determined. Your writing a comment on this blog about free will is determined. My deciding to respond to your comment is determined.

There's no getting outside of the bounds of determinism, because everything in everyday life is determined by causes and effects. (I'm excluding some aspects of quantum reality in the atomic and subatomic sphere, which may be acausal, though probabilities still operate there, which are signs of determinism.)

Question Brian - a person who is beyond determinism is he or she then a super person? Can such an abnormality exist?

Hi Brian
You wrote
"There's no getting outside of the bounds of determinism, because everything in everyday life is determined by causes and effects."

Unfortunately this does not in any way detract from our everyday experience of decision making. Determinism does not negate our capacity to learn to be responsible or even more responsible. It simply explains why we are as we are today.

The issue is punishment. In a deterministic model punishment has a place, to change prior conditioning. And you can use determinism just as easily as free will to justify punishment and torture. Public displays of torture can be excused as public behavioral deterrents. This has been done before.

Therefore belief in determinism alone will not prevent cruel and hateful sentencing and treatment. It can be used to justify them.

The fact that Behavior modification is the first science to demonstrate that punishment is not necessary to make permanent changes in behavior helps only those who have already made their choice to rehabilitate rather than punish.

But where that veers from Atheism is the hard findings that a belief in a higher power helps rehabilitation.

There may not be a god, nor even free will, but these have proven to be important beliefs in actual long term rehabilitation (ex, belief in a higher power in the 12 steel programs).

A Harvard psychologist has argued that addiction recovery is correlated to self reports of personal choice, and not attributions to brain disease.

http://www.macleans.ca/society/health/addiction-new-research-suggests-its-a-choice/


Spencer, belief in a higher power also is determined -- by one's upbringing, genetics, experiences, and such. So is a belief in personal choice. Again, everything is determined, including a belief in free will. This is a very simple concept, but one that most people don't recognize. I've given more thought to this subject than most people, so it's easier for me to see the flaws in thinking that tries to find an "out" from determinism. Can't be done.

-

Yes It can somewhat but also totally

Think Analoogue
Not digital

777

I've given more thought to this subject than most people, so it's easier for me to see the flaws in thinking that tries to find an "out" from determinism. Can't be done.

But, it's thinking that gets us into this mess in the first place :)
The mystical approach steps outside and operates in
an intuitive, timeless state that's not handcuffed by
determinism.

After all, what's the "Big Bang" but intellect's attempt to
step outside the shackles of determinism, of causality.
Postulate some ab initio force in time and space because
there's no other option. Bang on the prison wall and wonder
what's on the other side.

Damn, musta been some big honkin' force to build these walls.
Don't go all transcendental on me though. Make your little
theories fit into the 8x10 cell of intellect. Otherwise, take the
nutjob, fairy dust stuff and... "Guard, show 'em out!".

You may hear laughter through the bars.

P.S. I disavow any real knowledge or experience of things
transcendental. Purely a deterministic spouting of
opinion. But then you already knew that.

Hi Brian

You wrote

"Spencer, belief in a higher power also is determined -- by one's upbringing, genetics, experiences, and such. So is a belief in personal choice."

Brian you missed my point entirely, and even veered from the topic of your own thread, which is penal justice and free will.

There is no doubt that from a purely mechanistic perspective determinism is real, which I agree.

But to reiterate my points, that you skipped,

1. From our limited perception we must make choices every day, and therefore how we make them, how we choose is a dilemma that determinism offers no solution to. We still are stuck with "free will" from that perspective.

But 2.We can learn to make better choices, given better conditioning. That's behavior therapy. It is based on determinism, but acknowledges our choice is a behavioral repertoire that can be amended through various forms of rehabilitation.

However, 3.research indicates that a belief in personal choice or "free will" and belief in a higher power are two behavioral repertoires correlated with successful rehabilitation and recovery.

Points two and three directly conflict with the conclusion of the authors you cited, and this research from Harvard supports the alternative conclusion of point 3 above.

http://www.macleans.ca/society/health/addiction-new-research-suggests-its-a-choice/

Mischievous medical professionals indulging in malpractice , mischievous lawyers defending corrupt people, mischievous physicists suppressing research on free energy , mischievous dynastic politicians especially in third world countries plotting methods to be-fool innocent , gullible people. If this is determinism of mischievousness.Then there is opposite brand of determinism, which exposes this scum of society.
In Matthew 12:34 when Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees it is written, (NIV)
You brood of vipers,how can you who are evil say anything good?
For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.
In today's world , there are people whose morality is not greater than scribes & pharisees who opposed Jesus at every turn & conspired to have him killed.

Spencer, naturally people get pleasure and satisfaction from delusions and illusions. The value question is whether it is better to see reality as it is, or as how we would like it to be, but isn't. Religions choose the latter path of delusion and illusion. So do scam artists, who often make people feel good that they're making money, unless reality intervenes.

I've chosen to pursue a path of choosing truth over illusion. As you noted, many people feel happier by embracing religious myths, which seems to include you. Our choices are determined, of course, and not under our free will. Nonetheless, i'm grateful that Cause and Effect have led me to pursue truth rather than illusion. This is a tougher path than the religious path of embracing illusion, but in the end I believe truth is better than fiction.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQ5upMz0_ig

Delusions, illusions, existence...

Death - this is tremendously important to think about. When you're dead you're dead. You can't have stop without start. We all think we are alive - existing. What gives us any ghost of a notion that we are here - except by contrast with the fact that we once weren't...

Alan Watts - Think of Nothing
(5:16)


Hi Brian:

You wrote:
"This is a tougher path than the religious path of embracing illusion, but in the end I believe truth is better than fiction."

Then why are you ignoring the scientific facts about what helps people function well?

I don't disagree with you from a physics perspective.

But that isn't inclusive of the human biochemical construction.

If there were proof that you are right, that would be evidence that no choice and no god function better here than other beliefs.

But the scientific evidence and opinion supports the opposite, as cited above.

People who believe they have free will and must make their own choices recover and rehabilitate very well, correlated to successful rehabilitation.

Similar findings also exist, though not as conclusive, about belief in a higher power. It helps people function better under the most difficult of circumstances.

Beliefs are powerful. Beliefs in a higher power, or not; beliefs in personal free will and personal choice, or not.

If you want to function better in this world, adopt the beliefs that are most functional. That is most likely closer to reality.

Now, let me qualify this. Closer to what the human construction has evolved to function best.

It may have nothing to do with philosophical or physical reality. It may just be human construction reality.

But to ignore that is to ignore what is inside you, what you have actually evolved to do, and the things built into you that are there to help you function with reality.

So, have you really chosen reality if you don't know about these mechanisms?

Or have you chosen to ignore, suppress, dismiss or deny parts of yourself that can help you function better? That are actually built into you to do so?

The hard sciences support the latter conclusion.


Hi Jen:

Death. What a concept.
"I don't like death. It's been done."
- George Burns

But maybe if he had experienced it he might long for it?

We practice dying in meditation. But is that death? Or just learning to live in that inner paradise as a beautiful release momentarily from our mundane imprisonment here?

The only preparation is to accept it. And then go on living each day, right?

Hi Spence,

The practice that works for me is letting go, nothingness, emptiness, which lightens me up in my daily grind and stops me from over thinking (can't stop that entirely) but it helps me feel peaceful in my quietude.

Besides I also love Alan Watts and thinking of No-Thing

Cheers

Hi Jen

You wrote
"The practice that works for me is letting go, nothingness, emptiness, which lightens me up in my daily grind and stops me from over thinking (can't stop that entirely) but it helps me feel peaceful in my quietude."

To just be in the darkness... To let go entirely of everything.

There is a sublime perfection in that.

Anita, your comment was well-informed, well-written, and well-thought out. Very refreshing to see someone use their mind rather than spout religious nonsense, as many commenters do on this blog -- which is rather strange, since I called it Church of the Churchless to make clear that this wasn't a place to spout religious dogma. I'm OK with that, though, since I believe in free speech and open discussions.

Thank you Brian for your comment. I was reading yesterday the comments on this blog, and I really agree with you ----I've chosen to pursue a path of choosing truth over illusion---

Personally, I am really grateful to your blog site .You have helped a lot of us , initiated by gurus or non initiated , looking for some light and truth in our journey of knowing Thyself. I started as greek orthodox, then I was initiated by a very well known Indian guru , and within 2 years I had a lot of questions regarding the Path.

Your blog has been an Eye opener not only for me , but for anyone searching for answers in their journey of life.

Best regards,
Anita Dai

Regarding the question of conscience in relationship to criminality; conscience is not only a product of the time and culture the brain was conditioned by but is also hard-wired in us genetically in the form of empathy and altruism as a biological safe-guard for the species. Any act of conscience is therefore predetermined by nature and our cultural environment.

Based on either 'faulty' brain wiring or an abusive or poor quality upbringing determines a large number of criminal cases. Mental health is a serious problem in many prisons. One report suggest 90% of prisoners have a mental disorder and that the daily regimes and rules inside prison can be seriously detrimental to mental health. It would seem that not only intelligent rehabilitation is needed but the environment one is brought up in is also paramount.

Help and rehabilitation through religion can be somewhat of a double-edged sword depending on the individual. Some may benefit through belief while others can develop neurotic symptoms. And of course for many, a simple unquestioned child-like belief (although delusional) can provide comfort and perhaps healing in times of trouble.

I am predetermined by nature and nurture (the time, culture and environment I was brought up in) to seriously question many aspects of life. My brain sorts a lot of possible delusion information through a delusion detector I call common sense and experience. Supernatural beliefs do not exist for me – why should they when I only have to watch the amazing way my brain works and how it shows me a multitude of wonders everyday.

Anita, this blog has been an eye opener for me in terms wholly opposite to what reality is. I do not believe in determinism but that free will does exist. I think Brian's insistence on the lack of free will simply serves him very well where it comes to accountability because if his actions have no implications, he is free to do whatever he wants, even if it is against the law of the land. Such excusable behaviours should instead be subject to an objective standard that is against that kind of "freedom" because those freedoms are anti social and anti individual.

We ought to recognise that just because Brain believes wholeheartedly in determinism, that determinism isn't actually true. People should be challenging him and his cronies about that dogma and insisting that he does not absolutely know it to be true compared to the opposite view point. It should be recognised for what it is - his belief system, and nothing more.

Hi Turan
You wrote
"Supernatural beliefs do not exist for me – why should they when I only have to watch the amazing way my brain works and how it shows me a multitude of wonders everyday."

If you are watching your thoughts, seeing how your brain operates, learning from that investigation, it seems that is much the attitude of the mystic.

They contemplate their inner functioning as a means to sharpen their crap detector, their discrimination. And they see their own biases doing so. And they rarely if ever conjecture beyond that.

How could anyone achieve an unbiased perspective ignoring that internal observation and learning?

What is delusional is not facing that very machine which creates it.

Hi Brian!

You wrote

.".. since I called it Church of the Churchless to make clear that this wasn't a place to spout religious dogma. I'm OK with that, though, since I believe in free speech and open discussions."

Wow I've been mistaken. I thought churchless meant spiritual folks who don't like organized religion.

I think that was actually a happy error, Brian, since you get all kinds of folks here.

And that diversity is at least entertaining.

As for your view that only Atheists are thinking reasonably and scientifically....
I love that. You're just another schmuck like the rest of us! Telling yourself a myth to get through the day... Yah, I do it all the time.

This subject of 'determinism' coupled with the 'moral responsibility of criminals' is a tough one.

For days I've circled this topic while thinking, "Only a True Guru the likes of Maharaj Charan Singh Ji could competently and completely answer a theory of such."

Yet a lowly learner like myself could attempt a novice approach. Let me first define this word 'determinism'. I like merriam-webster's first entry:

a : a theory or doctrine that acts of the will (see will 4a), occurrences in nature, or social or psychological phenomena are causally determined by preceding events or natural laws

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/determinism

Google also provides a relevant definition:

"the doctrine that all events, including human action, are ultimately determined by causes external to the will. Some philosophers have taken determinism to imply that individual human beings have no free will and cannot be held morally responsible for their actions."

https://www.google.com/search?source=hp&ei=ARJ5WobEG5KCjwOsvIPQBw&q=determinism+definition&oq=determini&gs_l=psy-ab.3.2.0j0i131k1j0l8.1925.3402.0.7403.9.7.0.2.2.0.331.1488.0j4j1j2.7.0....0...1c.1.64.psy-ab..0.9.1633...46j0i46k1.0.Q2Uy-RtyT7I

Now that we have relevant definitions I will give my honest opinion. I think that determinism is false, in the sense that occurrences in nature are causally determined by natural laws.

For example: As pigeons naturally have the ability fly, that doesn't necessarily mean that all hatchlings with be predetermined to fly. Some may fall out of the nest resulting in death, before learning to fly. Even others that survive a fall of such while young are still not predetermined to learn to fly with predators such as cats and bigger birds of prey -say hawks looming.

Thus, in my honest opinion determinism is not always true in undetermined circumstances. With that, one might add that the internal experiences of the mystics misconceived as just 'mental activity' could be more undetermined circumstances that just go beyond the realms of the mind:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayhTVShJCt0

Hi Karim

Let me propose a solution to the dilemma.

The body is a machine. The brain is a machine. This physical creation is a machine. It runs as built.

The soul is the spark of life. When that spark withdraws, life ends. When that spark of life resides in the body it is subject to all the limitations of time and space, genetics and conditioning. Every thought is conditioned.

When you meet someone who offers to train you so they you can do more things than you thought, that gives you more options, more choices. That Teacher is your good fortune.

But that is all part of the same system.

But when that Teacher gives you a method to withdraw that spark from the body and mind, outside the entire system, all while your mind is resting, you will experience things beyond the body and brain. That is true free will. Then your will is free.

Unfortunately, those impressions, because they are not made through the senses, through the brain, do not reside in memory. You may not recall most of your experiences beyond body and mind.

But somehow, under some circumstances, when you are exceptionally focused, the power of your attention is so great that returning, those experiences are impressed in memory.

The great breakthroughs, the brilliant insights do not happen, paradoxically, when the brain is most active. They happen mostly, during wakeful rest: same process.

But until we can go and come as we like, we are in this mental prison, and freedom is only an illusion.

Mahraj Charan Singh in the book " The Master Answers "
As in game of chess , the subsequent moves are governed by opening moves of free choice.
Later moves are conditioned by opening moves. Unquote.
Similarly , Karma / Deeds start a train of events which can make a person animal or saint.
Any person who is capable of thinking whether free will exists or not , has definitely a free will.
Animals work primarily on instincts , humans have the capability to override carnal instincts.
Determinism is being used as lame excuse to avoid the hard work required to rein in carnal instincts / Nafs/ Carnal mind.

Spencer. I read the link on addiction and choice – interesting – though the distinction being made is between addiction as being a disease and choice or voluntary behaviour. More to do with early conditioning resulting in poor life choices than freewill and higher powers.
He talks of neurons being influenced by consequences as well as biological conditions. And with rehabilitation, how genetics plays a large role in voluntary behaviour and how brains are wired to be influenced by reward and punishments.


And 'Mystic, a definition - “A person who seeks by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain unity with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute, or who believes in the spiritual apprehension of truths that are beyond the intellect.”

'Mystic' goes no where near to describing what I indicated on my previous post which is simply the brain's ability to be aware, to notice, to wonder. We all have that ability but in our busy daily lives it gets lost in thought and activity. No need to 'dress it up' in spiritual terminology. I read that the mindfulness movement is addressing this issue – through a programme of stress reduction.

Again, such a perspective of awareness has its origins in how, where and when you are raised. A country based upbringing seems to be an advantage as does the encouragement of curiosity. It may be very nice to believe in things mystical outside of the brain but nothing is experienced where there is no brain to receive impressions. We do not recall much of what comes in through the senses as 96% is unconscious to us. It is perhaps later that a dormant, unnoticed memory (an impression) arises.

Hi Turan

You wrote a beautiful reply.

The link you read was a statement about the perception of choice as an important corollary to successful recovery. That this is entirely determined by genetics, neurons and new conditioning is important. The conditioning to see greater choices and the confidence in one's own ability to act (even if in one's culture that takes the form of belief in a higher power) are important beliefs to successful behavior change, as supported by science.

As I pointed out earlier this does not take away from the fact of determinism, but does point to the successful mechanism for behavior change : belief in choice, belief in the ability to act under one's own free will, voluntarily.

As for what is a Mystic, it is all about witnessing internal experience.

To merge with the Divine is nothing less than to incorporate the hidden elements within one 's own self, generally by quietly reducing reactive thoughts and opening one' s perception to inner experience. This is what I saw as similar to your earlier comment.

Students of many forms of meditation, including continuous prayer, have been quietly observing inner experience for thousands of years, adjusting all the time to see more, replacing emotion and denial with efforts to calm the mind, and engage in open minded internal observation. This naturally also becomes an observant state of mind through which the mystic then quietly observes the physical world around them. Doing so, they see more than they did before, and also have greater choice and freedom.

And along the way of their internal practice witnessing much of that subconscious you acknowledge most people are entirely unaware of. And as above with recovery, being more aware of what is within you, they have the capacity to make new choices, greater free will.

Meditation actually changes our DNA, so here a practice, engaged in voluntarily, changes the brain.

The culture bound labels should not be confused for the actual practice and its effects and rewards.

Choice, voluntary free will are supported by science as beliefs important to rehabilitation, including belief in a higher power. These proclivities are hard wired into the human frame, our genetics, our neuronal pathways, and influenced by environment and conditioning, including rehabilitation.

They are natural tools and we expand our understanding, choices and relative freedom by using them.

Hi Spencer. Having to deviate a little form the original topic of freewill and justice I have to pick up on two of the assertions in your last (very polite) post – where you keep slipping in 'freewill'.

1. "As I pointed out earlier this does not take away from the fact of determinism, but does point to the successful mechanism for behaviour change : belief in choice, belief in the ability to act under one's own free will, voluntarily."

2. "And as above with recovery, being more aware of what is within you, they have the capacity to make new choices, greater free will."

The awareness we spoke of may allow an element of choice but that has nothing to do with a free will. Awareness simply allows a little more space allowing one to (perhaps) respond to a situation rather than react - as we usually do – a little like counting to ten before acting.

The mistake made is our lack of understanding of what the mind and self actually are. They would have to be entities in their own right, separate from the brain/body organism for freewill to exist.

We need to see that the 'mind' is merely information accrued in the brain from birth and stored as memory. When a situation presents itself the brain arrives at a 'chosen' thought or action.

The 'self' is another mental construct that is assumed from the information 'stored' in the brain – such as a particular culture, nationality, sexual orientation, name, position in society and so on.

As such both the mind and self (although necessary for our survival) are both mental constructs dependent on the brain – a damaged or diseased brain can mean a loss of knowing who I am.

Unless the mind and self are seen as entities in their own right such as a through a spiritual interpretation (soul or universal consciousness etc.) then freewill is impossible as it cannot emerge from an accumulation and changing mass of information (mind or self).

Choices are made via the brain and as such are determined by past experiences. As Dick Swaab says in his book 'We Are Our Brains' “Freewill, a Pleasant Illusion”.

Hi Turan!

Very thoughtful comments:

Your wrote:
"As such both the mind and self (although necessary for our survival) are both mental constructs dependent on the brain – a damaged or diseased brain can mean a loss of knowing who I am.

Unless the mind and self are seen as entities in their own right such as a through a spiritual interpretation (soul or universal consciousness etc.) then freewill is impossible as it cannot emerge from an accumulation and changing mass of information (mind or self).

Choices are made via the brain and as such are determined by past experiences. As Dick Swaab says in his book 'We Are Our Brains' “Freewill, a Pleasant Illusion”."

Turan, every element of this creation is connected by causality. Therefore the brain is a machine inside another machine, the world around us. And that machine is generated by the machine of the creation. Therefore there cannot be any "free will" at all, from that perspective. A gear doesn't have any free choice, anymore than a computer program that simply has a dozen different responses programmed in to respond.

However, unlike a gear, and more like a computer program, that mind can be re-conditioned, and that re-conditioning can change that mind, even the physiology of the brain, to be more receptive and aware of other additional conditions that it was not previously programmed to recognize.

Hence, a broader range of responses possible, an expanded ability to function.

And as you also know from the three-body dilemma in physics, when you introduce just a few realtively independent elements, that don't function directly as a result of the others, but only in part, there is almost an infinite and nearly unpredictable chain reaction of resulting from their interaction.

How to handle all that in real time? Mental constructs: "You", "me", "Choices", "Your will or my will".

Free will doesn't exist except in concept. But the concept is highly functional.

As pointed out above, it is a very real construct, and holding to that construct is corrollated to higher functioning in terms of rehabilitation success. In a similar way, so is belief in God.

Personal responsibility makes it possible for these different computer programs to function on their own, following important rules, independently. A very necessary part of the process, survival and actual functioning in "reality".


The 'self' is another mental construct that is assumed from the information 'stored' in the brain – such as a particular culture, nationality, sexual orientation, name, position in society and so on.

I think there's arguable evidence that there's more to the 'self' than simply
info stored in the brain. One particularly interesting study by a past life researcher, Dr. Banerjee, who cites the case of a young girl in Russia who suddenly begins to recite precise details, in Japanese no less, of places and events occurring in Japan although she had never been outside Russia. She was accompanied by Russian researchers to the actual site and details of her story were confirmed.

Even dismissing supernatural explanations, it's typical of the many cases suggestive of a 'self' which transcends the brain. There are literally hundreds of similar cases. Were they all fake news? Machinations of publicity seekers? Children coached by parents? Pure coincidence?

Or looking scientifically, was a damaged/diseased brain to blame?
Did some unknown force permute the molecular reside to create a new
memory? Or did some Japanese person's brain particles traveling via upper
atmosphere winds make their way to Russia and waft down? The Russian
Academy of Science actually did examine this case and theorized
something remarkably similar.

Of course, the little girl had to be alive and well to tell the tale. Had to have
a moderately functioning brain to convey it too. Or maybe the supernaturalist has it right: 'self' has to just use the crude instrument of the brain in order to communicate to the challenged.

The 'self' is another mental construct that is assumed from the information 'stored' in the brain – such as a particular culture, nationality, sexual orientation, name, position in society and so on.

I think there's arguable evidence that there's more to the 'self' than simply
info stored in the brain. One particularly interesting study by a past life researcher, Dr. Banerjee, who cites the case of a young girl in Russia who suddenly begins to recite precise details, in Japanese no less, of places and events occurring in Japan although she had never been outside Russia. She was accompanied by Russian researchers to the actual site and details of her story were confirmed.

Even dismissing supernatural explanations, it's typical of the many cases suggestive of a 'self' which transcends the brain. There are literally hundreds of similar cases. Were they all fake news? Machinations of publicity seekers? Children coached by parents? Pure coincidence?

Or looking scientifically, was a damaged/diseased brain to blame?
Did some unknown force permute the molecular reside to create a new
memory? Or did some Japanese person's brain particles traveling via upper
atmosphere winds make their way to Russia and waft down? The Russian
Academy of Science actually did examine this case and theorized
something remarkably similar.

Of course, the little girl had to be alive and well to tell the tale. Had to have
a moderately functioning brain to convey it too. Or maybe the supernaturalist has it right: 'self' has to just use the crude instrument of the brain in order to communicate to the challenged.

Hi Spencer and Dungeness. Dungeness, that's on the east coast of the UK, not far from where I used to live.
Anyway, will add some comments soon to do with identity, self and mind etc. - something I have been interested in and researching (as a layman) for decades. But it would deviate from this post on justice and free will so may reply in the Open Thread.


Quote Turan : "The mistake made is our lack of understanding of what the mind and self actually are. They would have to be entities in their own right, separate from the brain/body organism for freewill to exist. "

The above, I think, goes to the very crux of the issue. Where you say that the mind and the self will need to be separate entities in order for free will to exist.

Turan, this is exactly the sort of thing that Brian keeps saying, in his many articles on free will. Would you break up that part of what you say for me please? I think this is where both of you end up conflating two different things, determinism on the one hand, and fatalism on the other. (Or it could be, I suppose, that this is the very point where I end up not properly understanding the issue, in which case your clear elucidation here might help me get over my misunderstanding.)

Let me try to break that up into three parts, if I may :

(1) How exactly do you, personally, define “free will”?

(2) If your answer is something like : “free will is our ability to ‘will’ something, unconstrained by anything else” ; or else if your answer is something like “everything we ‘will’ is predicated on some other ‘cause’ within this material universe” : If your answer is something like that, then what I’d say to that is : Sure, as long as you subscribe to a materialist paradigm, then that goes without saying. That is an automatic, a tautological, re-statement of (part of) what materialism is all about. It’s perfectly true, but it’s also perfectly obvious, trivial, and inconsequential! Isn’t it?

(3) How do you jump from this obvious and trivial position of no free will (i.e., of no free will outside of materialist causes, which, like I said, is obvious and trivial if one happens to be speaking from within a materialist paradigm) to fatalism? Because when you’re saying a criminal can’t be held responsible for their crime, that’s what you’re saying, that they couldn’t have helped it, that they had no control over what they did. That’s fatalism, pure and simple. Sure, everything that you “will” is based on preceding causes, and, sure, if I were aware of the values of every relevant variable of the whole butterfly effect there, and if I knew exactly how each of those variables affected the result (your “will”), and if I had the means of making all of these calculations super-fast and in real time, then sure, I could predict your “will”, every minute, every second, perfectly. But why would that imply that you have no control on your actions? I repeat : How does one jump from determinism to fatalism?

Every normal human being (unless they’re mentally unsound, abnormal ; or unless they’re children, unformed ; or unless they’re faced with some truly exceptional situation the urgency of which wholly overpowers their normal faculties) is able to exercise some control on their actions. Not perfect control but some control. Human beings are able to choose whether or not to, for instance, physically assault someone they disagree with about something. And no, obviously that choice isn’t wholly independent, obviously it is a function of our conditioning : nevertheless, we do have this (limited) control, to varying degrees (varying from person to person, and also varying at different times for the same person). It isn’t absolute, this choice ; but nor (within bounds, within limits) is it illusory.

To jump from saying our “will” is ultimately a function of preceding causes, into saying that we therefore have no control on what we do, that is what I do not understand. That is where you (and Brian) are mistaken ; or else that is the part where I am confused and do not clearly understand what you’re saying.

I think, at the end of the day, it is a question of (a) complexity, and (b) self-awareness. If I could create a computer program or a robot whose complexity approaches (or exceeds) that of the human brain, and if that robot or computer program were self-aware, then obviously it wouldn’t have a soul, obviously what it “wills” would be a function of its guiding programs (and of its ‘experiences’, assuming that this is a program that has ‘learning’ functions built into it) ; but yet, it would still have a degree of control over what it ‘chose’ to do within those bounds and those limits. It would have (limited, bounded) free will. (Unless of course you insist on defining ‘free will’ as ‘will that is wholly and entirely free of any and every material influence or limit’, a definition that is, as I have tried to show, tautological and ultimately meaningless precisely because it is tautological.) Do you agree with my take using this example of the AI entity?

Okay, if you wouldn’t mind my trying to emphasize that point with another (and rather gross) example : Animals generally aren’t ‘able’ to control their biological urges, and are often known to go defecating or copulating wherever and whenever. Unlike regular ‘normal’ human beings. (Yes, they often have their own native ‘rules’, animals I mean, but let’s leave that aside, since these do not of themselves include human rules like ‘don’t poop inside human houses where humans live’.) Conditioned, civilized humans, on the other hand, know better, they (generally, normally) can indeed control these urges. And here’s the thing : Even a well trained animal would be able to control this urge (certainly the defecating, at any rate). Despite being far more limited than a human being (that is, despite having a brain that is far less complex), even a well trained dog can ‘control’ (within limits) its urge to defecate. If a very well trained dog defecated in the living room, then after examining if there isn’t some illness or some other extraordinary cause for what they did, we’d then certainly hold them responsible for their deliberate letting go of their ‘control’, wouldn’t we, and perhaps ‘punish’ them, however absurd such light ‘punishment’ might appear compared to locking up criminals in prisons for years?

So why on earth are we saying that criminals lack this control? That they ‘couldn’t have helped what they did’? That they ‘aren’t really responsible for what they did, because determinism’?

Why on earth are we saying that, in this respect, a human being is no different from a typhoon or a cyclonic formation? (Okay, that last analogy was something Brian had come up with, and not you -- I remember he'd once, some while back, made this comparison, this analogy, while explaining his take on free will -- but do you agree with that position?)

Sure, the mind is no more than a process, and the self is also no more than a process, and they’re wholly temporary transient processes that derive from (and end with) our physical bodies, but unlike a typhoon we’re self-aware : why are we insisting that these, well, self-aware processes aren’t capable of exercising (limited) control? That they don’t have the mechanism of free will -- some limited free will -- built into them, like we commonly observe and understand them to? Does it really make sense to say human beings (or well trained dogs) couldn’t have tried (or tried harder, as the case may be) to do something or to not do something or to do something differently, and thus, perhaps, have acted differently than what they actually did (in terms of committing a crime, or in terms of pooping in the living room)? That trying (or trying harder), that volition, that (mental) effort, that mental discernment, whatever : why are we discounting this? The fact that the mind is just a process and the self is just a process, what has that got to do with it?

.

Love to have your considered inputs on this, Turan. Thanks!

Brian, many's the time you've been kind enough to try to explain this free will business to me -- without my really understanding the issue in the exact same way that you seem to. Basis what I've said just now, in my comment addressed to Turan just above, if you'd care to have another go at talking about this (and addressing what appears to me to be your conflation of determinism with fatalism), in your own way and independently of what Turan might have to say about this, then that would be great! Thanks!

Hi appreciative:

You wrote

"(1) How exactly do you, personally, define “free will”?

(2) If your answer is something like : “free will is our ability to ‘will’ something, unconstrained by anything else” ; or else if your answer is something like “everything we ‘will’ is predicated on some other ‘cause’ within this material universe”"


Unconstrained by anything else.

What a phenomenal phrase. Isn't God bound by love? No one is free using that definition. But His is certainly beyond constant as we understand it. Could people share in this to some degree?


And it's a great, a truly exceptional point Appreciative.

Appreciative Reader (8/2/18). I don't think that free will is a reality. Some refer to it as absolute free will – the ability to make an independent, uninfluenced choice. The other explanation is practical free will where we can have opinions and choice and are based on our acquired value systems. To have absolute free will is not possible, it cannot be independent of our value systems, our conditioning so is illusory. The term practical free will can be a confusing term as it is just choices made from our conditioning, from the information the brain has accrued since birth – and from it's particular culture.

I wouldn't divide the world as either spiritual or material, these are just convenient terms for us to
communicate ideas. We may have control and responsibility but only as far as our value system dictates – that is determined by our system, our culture. What we consider criminal or immoral is that which conflicts with our laws and justice system – and variable, depending on time, place and culture. Even some animals have values and laws in their social gatherings.

I favour informed justice, the need to differentiate between knowing if an act is criminal and punishable according to society's rules or if, due to circumstances – upbringing, illness, brain damaged or diseased whether such mental illness contributed to their actions. Criminal psychologists, and the brain sciences already know many of the mental health causes of criminality but there is still a long way to go on that – and have we the time, resources and moral will to expand on that?

Control has to be dependent on who we are and how nature and our environment (people, parents, social value systems) has produced us and raised us. Apparently, there is a definite psychopath brain. The difference between one who channels his energy to kill and rape and one who uses it to become a successful lawyer or banker depends on whether he (or she) was brought up in an abusive environment or a nurturing and loving one.

Lastly, absolute free will requires an independent agency for it to exist – and none can be found. Some may present the mind, the self or consciousness as such, but as they are constructs originating from and dependent on the brain such constructs are subject to all the experiences and information the brain has been conditioning with.

Turan, thank you for your response. You seem to have posted this quite a while back : I’m sorry I took so long to log back in here and respond to you.

I had tried to phrase my earlier comment addressed to you, such that we might be able to focus closely on those specific aspects of Brian’s position on no-free-will that I do not seem to agree with. For instance, I thought it might be best to start with a clear, unambiguous definition of what free will means, exactly : I know there are different definitions floating around, but I thought that starting with a clear, comprehensive and unambiguous definition of what this term means to you might make it easier for us to then move on to talking about whether this species of animal exists or no.

But no matter, I still enjoyed reading your thoughts. Since your comment was not quite as specifically focused as I was hoping, I may, just perhaps, have ended up misinterpreting your meaning, in which case please correct me after reading this comment. From what you say, I think your ideas about free will are very similar to mine. Yours appears to be a fairly milquetoast version of no-free-will. As is mine! What doesn’t exist is absolute free will. Unlike Brian, I do not think that our ‘agency’ is non-existent and no more a chimerical, after-the-fact illusion ; I believe that our “agency”, while obviously influenced by very many things, and indeed wholly deterministic, and not anywhere near as “free” as one might expect, and nowhere as “free” as some religious traditions hold, nevertheless does, within limits, exist and operate. It seems we think alike on this. Nothing radical here! For instance, unlike Brian, you do not, presumably, believe in fatalism ; and nor, then, would you (as you indicate) be in favor of zero culpability for criminals (zero “punishment” under any and every circumstance).

I do have one nit to pick, though : about where you say that “The difference between one who channels his energy to kill and rape and one who uses it to become a successful lawyer or banker depends on whether he (or she) was brought up in an abusive environment or a nurturing and loving one.” What I have to say to that is so obvious that perhaps you took that for granted, perhaps you simply assumed it to be understood without actually taking the trouble to verbalize it : in which case this isn’t something we disagree about. (But if that isn’t the case, then perhaps you could take this a bit further.) And that obvious nitpick of mine is this : apart from “nurture”, there’s also ‘nature’ to contend with, the genetic make-up ; and apart from both nature and nurture, there is also their own inner, well, motivation and discretion (which, while obviously all inter-linked, nevertheless does stand out as a separate factor). For instance, given the exact same nature and the exact same nurture, a casual shoplifter or a casual drug mule may behave very differently if they happened to find themselves in some Middle Eastern country with over-the-top medeival laws, where these relatively mild crimes may result in their arm getting lopped off, or in decades-long incarceration in barbaric conditions, or even the capital punishment. Given the exact same “nature” and “nurture”, these deterrents could possibly result in far greater (mental) effort/control as well as greater discernment. This extra dimension, this (mental) effort/control, this discernment, this alertness : call it what you will, but this is an additional factor, over and above the basic two that you mention. (Although obviously, like I said, everything is ultimately interlinked, none of them stands out starkly by themselves, none of them is wholly independent of the others.)

If I may elaborate what I’m saying here a bit more with this example : just like our minds, and indeed our bodies, a rock also is, after all, no more than a ‘process’. But as processes go, it is fairly simple (and also relatively stable). We can compute how it will react given certain stimuli with almost full certainty. A rat is more complex : okay, let me emphasize that I mean that a rat is a more complex PROCESS than a rock. Simple Pavlovian ‘training’ can get rats to react to stimuli differently, in more complex ways, than a rock ever would. A dog is even more complex. We can get it do things like barking to let us know it wants to poop, and to wait for some time till we took it out of the house. A dog is even capable, sometimes, of actually going against its instincts and actually laying down its life to save a human life (although of course, ultimately the latter also is an instinct, but you know what I mean). That’s amazingly complex, compared to a rock and even a rat. And when it comes to us humans, well, what we have is a whole different level of complexity. We have instincts, sure, but we are capable of actually stepping back and OBSERVING those instincts of ours, and we can actually CHOOSE to either follow them or not. Of course, all of this is still deterministic. All of this is still a function of preceding causes. That some individual is capable of observing his instincts, is itself derivative of plenty of things, including their genetic make-up, their upbringing, their life-experiences, all that, all that, sure. None of this is absolutely “free”. Nevertheless, the sheer complexity of the process that is our mind, means that we are capable of far greater ‘agency’, of far greater “free will” if you will, than a dog, a rat, and a rock.

That small qualification apart (and like I said, I think it likely that you may, while thinking along similar lines, may simply not have bothered to verbalize this nuance in your comment), I guess I agree with you that absolute free will, that is, free will that his wholly independent of the “experiences and information the brain has been conditioned with”, does not exist.


.


Since as far as I can see you do not, after all, share Brian’s ideas about (a) fatalism and (b) zero agency of and therefore zero culpability for criminals, I can only turn back to Brian again, to address to him directly my difficulties with how he understands these two aspects of determinism.

Brian, if you’d care to engage with this per the terms of my comment, up there, originally addressed to Turan? I’d be grateful for a clear comprehensive explication of what it is you think about this, but basis the terms of that comment (including a clear unambiguous definition of what exactly “free will” means to you), and with reference to the rock-rat-dog-human example in this comment, so that we can focus on the areas that I have difficulty understanding. Thanks! [And sorry to be a such a pain about this! This business, the full nuanced view of how you seem to see (no) free will, is something I can neither wrap my head around, and nor, apparently, do I seem able to leave this thing alone! I have no free will in this respect, it seems! :-) Seriously, though, I’m very interested in this, and realize that this subject, and especially this particular nuance, is not just interesting but actually important, philosophically speaking, an important portion of our world-view. I’d like to understand this better if I possibly can.]

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