Sign in to follow this  

Free will—the ability to choose—is deterministic because it is caused by mental contents.

Recommended Posts

I'll first provide a short post as context. Then I'll provide an elaboration of my reasoning. I started this discussion elsewhere, so there may be some strange references, but nothing significant.


My thesis for free will:
Free will is deterministic. I acknowledge that free will is our ability of choice, but choices are caused by mental contents. Introspection reveals that we make choices on the basis of mental contents.
Example: If I possess the mental contents that the Blackjack dealer has 21 and that my well-being is a value, it will cause me to decide to fold; another person who doesn't have either of these mental contents will not make the decision of folding.
Determinism states that human actions are necessarily caused by prior events. Traditionally, these events are physical, but I contend that in human actions, they are mental. The kicker though is that we immediately begin stocking our minds with beliefs since birth, and as children, we are not in full control of ourselves—we are like lower animals until we more fully develop the faculty of reason. **So if choices are caused by antecedent mental contents, do we ever escape the path set by childhood?** Even my awareness that I have choice is caused by the mental content of a correct conception of choice, the mental contents that constitute the skill of introspection, etc. People who lack these mental contents would not arrive at the same awareness I have.
I'm starting a thread because my there isn't enough space here. I'd like to focus now on the implications of free will being deterministic. And the more I think about it, the more confident I am that free will is deterministic: I cannot think of choosing (whether it's between options or whether to focus) that is not predicated on antecedent mental contents.
Firstly, I think the term, "free will," has too much baggage; I prefer to just acknowledge that we have choice. However, choice is determined by mental contents. This doesn't mean that we cannot have control of our lives. I posit that self-control is not a binary case of whether one has it or not; rather, one possesses self-control in degrees. The degree of self-control is a function of how well a certain belief is integrated; that belief is that one *can* choose.
Specifically, if someone believes he can choose, but only in certain circumstances, he only has self-control in those circumstances. For example, if one believes that he is a product of society or mob mentality, he will by default not choose to evaluate (more specifically, choose not focus on) majority beliefs. Because he is not consciously guarding his mind from the beliefs of others, this leaves him susceptible to absorbing them. This absorption is a metaphor for consciously accepting beliefs on the basis of appealing to the majority, not identifying fallacies, etc. or subconsciously integrating them because of the automatic association with mental contents. This susceptibility is a function of the rational integrity of his mental contents.
However, this same person may still choose to examine an aspect of a majority belief if that aspect conflicts (conceptually or associatively) with a personal belief that falls within the range of circumstances in which he believes he can choose. This may start a chain of thinking that eventually leads to the thinking about the majority belief itself; in other words, thinking about a part may eventually lead to thinking about the whole. For example, if this same person is at a party and everyone agrees that marijuana improves thinking so now would be a good time to smoke, he will initially be inclined to agree because examining a majority vote never enters his radar of choice. But he has learned from experience that marijuana impairs highly abstract thinking for many hours, and examining whether he needs highly abstract thinking for the next eight hours immediately enters his radar of choice. Since he has a test to study for afterwards, he chooses to decline smoking. If his mind has already subsumed abstract thinking as a species of thinking, as opposed to abstract thinking and thinking as two distinct genera, he will realize the connection and start the ball rolling towards examining the majority belief that marijuana improves thinking.
So the belief that one can choose is contextual. An example of an incorrect context is emotions; the correct context is the beliefs responsible for emotions. Whatever the context, the belief that one can choose causes one to focus on circumstances if they are relevant to the context.
So choice (free will for those who are attached to the term) is contingent on how well this belief of choice is integrated. Prior to integrating this belief, one is void of choice. Now, something else I've been chewing is whether our conceptual ability necessitates the belief that we have choice. After all, to conceptualize is to choose what symbol to represent the concept, and what characteristics are essential. Can one conceptualize without being aware of his choosing? Does being aware of his choosing necessarily mean he is aware he can choose at least in certain contexts? If so, how does he learn under what contexts he can choose? I would say the answer to the first two questions is "yes" and "no" respectively. My answer to the third is that the very first beliefs are introduced by the environment and that one's innate predisposition, if such things exist, dictate what formative beliefs are absorbed; if predispositions do not exist, then the formative beliefs are directly absorbed from the environment until one has enough beliefs to serve as a "postdisposition." This is also why philosophy is so powerful—it serves as a postdispositional, self-reinforcing view of the world—and why it is so difficult to get others to see the errors in their own philosophies.
If choice is determined by mental contents, it will mean that there ought to be a resolved focus to persuade individuals and society by correcting their mental contents—their beliefs.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Firstly, I think the term, "free will," has too much baggage; I prefer to just acknowledge that we have choice. However, choice is determined by mental contents.

I agree with the first sentence mainly because some critics of free will have taken "free" to mean "arbitrary" or "unlimited." But I prefer using "will" to refer to acting on a choice. Regarding the second sentence, I believe "based on" is more suitable than "determined by."

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

If choice were not possible we wouldn't even discuss free will. We'd also be living in caves.

Choice is a human necessity because of the vast number of choices available to the human animal and by the nature of choice all choosing reflects morality or "moral choice" which is a redundancy, strictly speaking. We use it to imply importance respecting a particular choice.

Which "choice" is determined, in part, by capability. Humans do not choose to fly by going to a rooftop, flapping their arms and jumping off--assuming sanity, of course. There are two types of "determined," at least. Passive and active. In this sense "passive" is the organism as such while "active" is the cognitive brain acting on the organism making it go a certain way. Not all those ways are necessarily free willed, but there is always what a previous poster called "integration." One can cut the "determined" pie in so many ways as to leave one's head spinning. There is no way, however, to do that and render out "choice." That would be arbitrary and leave no room even for a discussion. Hence, based on available evidence we can say, tentatively--it's always tentatively--that the universe is "determined" except for such in it not so by virtue of human creation.


who knows what other free-willed creatures, extra-earth, have done to reality and just in the sense that they likely cannot observe the Empire State building?

is the micro world a "determined" world?

why are the determinists so determined in their determinism--so they can be free to act--to put down actors--to dominate a clever discussion--to avoid examining and understanding the human animal--it's like knowing where you're going solely by reference to the rear view mirror animadverting upon the driver whose eyes are on the road ahead?

could determinists be ideologues who have given up on their philosophy for it's too hard to defend and too easy to defend determinism?

is determinism the other side of the God coin--the coin of revelation?

if it's determined then freedom is an illusion so a determinist is in no ways capable of a vigorous defense of freedom, if he could care

a determinist is to philosophy as a right to lifer is to individual rights

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this