Posted: May 14, 2020 9:52 am
by zoon
campermon wrote:
CdeLosada wrote:
If we could magically rewind time and you go back to where you were before deciding to go for a walk, would you choose differently? How so? Quantum randomness maybe? But then, are you choosing “freely”?

Yes, the subject may believe they have freely chosen to go for a walk but have merely succumbed to most probable act of doing so.

I have no problem with accepting that free will is just an illusion. I guess it had some evolutionary advantage somewhere down the line?


I think the evolutionary advantage of the illusion is in the context of effective cooperation through social control? Humans are far more closely cooperative than any other large animal, and, unlike other animals, we cooperate extensively in groups with non-relatives as well as with kin. We’ve evolved to manage this, at least in part, by setting up rules for the group and then ganging up on and punishing any individual or subgroup that breaks the rules.

If an individual who has broken a rule was coerced into doing so, then there’s no point in going to the trouble of punishing them. We are constantly monitoring each other’s behaviour and judging whether they committed some minor infraction to be laughed or frowned at, and whether they were acting freely or not is relevant. If they made the decision to steal some advantage by breaking the rule, then they can usefully be taught a lesson; if their hand was forced or they were mentally incapable, then the rule-breaking may need to be dealt with in some other way.

This version of free will is compatible with our being evolved mechanisms. If we understood and predicted ourselves scientifically as the mechanisms we almost certainly are, then the concept of free will would probably become irrelevant. So far, science is effectively useless for predicting people in real time, because brains are too complex; instead, we use the evolved, prescientific processes of Theory of Mind. Theory of Mind is largely guesswork based on one brain being very much like another, and it leads to our having illusions such as consciousness and free will, but it works well enough for humans cooperating in groups to have become the dominant species on the planet.