Do Rats (and everyone else) have free will

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Re: Do Rats (and everyone else) have free will

#41  Postby kennyc » Nov 24, 2014 4:22 pm

Chrisw wrote:
kennyc wrote:morality has nothing what-so-ever to do with free will other than it's a tacked on higher-level sociological concept.

It has everything to do with it: you are only held morally responsible for actions that you make under your own free will.

This is one of the few uses of the phrase "free will" that is actually reasonably clear: free will is the kind of freedom that is necessary for someone to be held morally responsibility for their choices.


Nope. It's something completely different.

Please note that this is the Psychology and Neuroscience forum not theology or philosophy.

Morality has nothing to do with the base concept of free will. Particularly as noted in the research of the O.P.
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Re: Do Rats (and everyone else) have free will

#42  Postby Spearthrower » Nov 24, 2014 4:23 pm

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I spent much of my career working in forensic psychiatry (as a psychiatric nurse trained as a family therapist) and we worked under the mantra that every sentence we wrote down could be challenged by a defense lawyer. This honed our skills significantly. We had to be aware of the fallacy of accurate memory, and our many perceptual shortcuts. We had to convey those ideas to judges and other untrained personnel. We also had to learn to not trust common sense, as it was incredibly misleading. We used structured risk assessments as they could be as high as 80% accurate compared to 33% accurate for clinical judgement. So, we are complex, yet simple :scratch: . With accounting for 40 variables, I could mostly accurately predict recidivism with a young offender, and because of my perceptual limitations, the risk assessment often contradicted my intuition. :thumbup:


That is fascinating because I have been arguing just this recently: to overcome the limitations of our cognitive processes requires extensive, rigorous training. No doubt the threat of legal recourse serves only to hone that even more finely! :)

I can't say that my own academic background engendered anywhere near such robust cognitive refinement - in fact, the reason why I didn't take any social anthropology courses in my final year, and instead specialized in the biological side thereafter, was because the social side seemed to positively revel in, even reward sloppy thinking.

This forum, however, over the years has really helped a lot - as often as not from encountering well reasoned positions with which I initially disagreed. It's a fairly unique environment, even if there are sometimes a few elbows thrown, and I've seen the effects this degree of engagement has had on many a member's critical thinking capacity.


Willie71 wrote:Our brains are not well suited to our modern world, for the most part, and what we describe as mental illness, at the mild to moderate level, is actually adaptive in a hunter gatherer society. :cheers: :thumbup:


And it certainly provides an explanation of many of humanity's less noble traits, a perfect example being the in-group bias with regards to receiving and processing information. The problem is that even being aware of it, you still feel the compulsion to accept stuff you want to hear from people you like and reject things you don't want to hear from people you don't! What a wonderful but fucked up bunch of apes we are! :grin:
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Re: Do Rats (and everyone else) have free will

#43  Postby Chrisw » Nov 24, 2014 4:29 pm

kennyc wrote:I see it as somewhat related to randomness. Can the decay of radioactive particles be predicted? Is there true randomness or not and how might this play into a much higher level of 'freedom' as in sentient thought and decision making?

For me at that level -- higher level thought processes -- the complexity supporting it (chemical processes, neural firings and branching/connectivity) is such that it is equivalent to free will whether it actually is or not.

But why equate free will with randomness or complexity?

It's not obvious to me that I couldn't have free will even if the world was entirely deterministic. It may be my brain just does what it deterministically has to do, but then surely I am my brain (at least as far as rational decision-making is concerned). "It was my brain that did it" does not mean that I had no choice, unless I am fundamentally something other than my brain.
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Re: Do Rats (and everyone else) have free will

#44  Postby Chrisw » Nov 24, 2014 4:34 pm

kennyc wrote:Please note that this is the Psychology and Neuroscience forum not theology or philosophy.

Free will is a philosophical concept. No reason why psychologists and neuroscientists shouldn't contribute to that but it isn't a scientific problem. You aren't ever going to be able to settle this with an experiment.
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Re: Do Rats (and everyone else) have free will

#45  Postby Chrisw » Nov 24, 2014 4:51 pm

kennyc wrote:If you throw out all the religious baggage and just look at the science that's the core.

No one has brought up religion here. Morality does not have to have any connection to religion (e.g. atheists are not all moral nihilists).

I suppose it starts with the definition of free-will.

Look up "compatibilism". That should be the starting point for any scientifically grounded discussion of free will.

It's depressing that there are neuroscientists who have clearly never heard of compatibilism (the idea is hundreds of years old!).
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Re: Do Rats (and everyone else) have free will

#46  Postby Willie71 » Nov 24, 2014 6:14 pm

I am aware of compatibalism, and see why its appealing to many. I don't think the emerging neuroscience is going to support it as the evidence comes in, but we'll see as the research is being done. :thumbup:
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Re: Do Rats (and everyone else) have free will

#47  Postby kennyc » Nov 24, 2014 6:24 pm

Chrisw wrote:
kennyc wrote:Please note that this is the Psychology and Neuroscience forum not theology or philosophy.

Free will is a philosophical concept. No reason why psychologists and neuroscientists shouldn't contribute to that but it isn't a scientific problem. You aren't ever going to be able to settle this with an experiment.


Ha! You wish.
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Re: Do Rats (and everyone else) have free will

#48  Postby kennyc » Nov 24, 2014 6:25 pm

Willie71 wrote:I am aware of compatibalism, and see why its appealing to many. I don't think the emerging neuroscience is going to support it as the evidence comes in, but we'll see as the research is being done. :thumbup:


Yep. Thanks Willie.
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Re: Do Rats (and everyone else) have free will

#49  Postby Willie71 » Nov 24, 2014 6:27 pm

Spearthrower wrote:
Willie71 wrote:
I spent much of my career working in forensic psychiatry (as a psychiatric nurse trained as a family therapist) and we worked under the mantra that every sentence we wrote down could be challenged by a defense lawyer. This honed our skills significantly. We had to be aware of the fallacy of accurate memory, and our many perceptual shortcuts. We had to convey those ideas to judges and other untrained personnel. We also had to learn to not trust common sense, as it was incredibly misleading. We used structured risk assessments as they could be as high as 80% accurate compared to 33% accurate for clinical judgement. So, we are complex, yet simple :scratch: . With accounting for 40 variables, I could mostly accurately predict recidivism with a young offender, and because of my perceptual limitations, the risk assessment often contradicted my intuition. :thumbup:


That is fascinating because I have been arguing just this recently: to overcome the limitations of our cognitive processes requires extensive, rigorous training. No doubt the threat of legal recourse serves only to hone that even more finely! :)

I can't say that my own academic background engendered anywhere near such robust cognitive refinement - in fact, the reason why I didn't take any social anthropology courses in my final year, and instead specialized in the biological side thereafter, was because the social side seemed to positively revel in, even reward sloppy thinking.


I would suggest you avoid refining the cognitive awareness to this level. As they say, "ignorance is bliss." When I look at ads, political debates, or even the mainstream media, all I see is manipulation of processes people aren't aware of. If this is interesting to you, I suggest Derren Brown. A lot of what he does is simply suggestion, not mind reading. Its scary to see what is likely to come from issues such as radical Islam, as the components of right wing fascism are building in western culture. I have no power or influence to stop this. I have to remind myself repeatedly that I'm not being fucked with, that people simply aren't aware of what their brains are doing to them . A little bit of fear, an enemy, confirmation bias, and framing violence as defensive is quite simple, and has very predictable results. We have quite a few examples of this throughout recorded history.

This forum, however, over the years has really helped a lot - as often as not from encountering well reasoned positions with which I initially disagreed. It's a fairly unique environment, even if there are sometimes a few elbows thrown, and I've seen the effects this degree of engagement has had on many a member's critical thinking capacity.


As long as one opens oneself up to introspection ,and engages metacognition. :thumbup: These traits are not engaged by everyone, and research is starting to show not everyone is capable of thinking in these ways. It's likely part of our domestication. A few retain these abilities, and the rest just have to follow.


Willie71 wrote:Our brains are not well suited to our modern world, for the most part, and what we describe as mental illness, at the mild to moderate level, is actually adaptive in a hunter gatherer society. :cheers: :thumbup:


And it certainly provides an explanation of many of humanity's less noble traits, a perfect example being the in-group bias with regards to receiving and processing information. The problem is that even being aware of it, you still feel the compulsion to accept stuff you want to hear from people you like and reject things you don't want to hear from people you don't! What a wonderful but fucked up bunch of apes we are! :grin:


We are genetically programmed this way. Its not racism that makes us think all other ethnic groups have less variability in traits, its perceptual. What we do with that information can become racist quite easily. No matter how aware we become, we are still victim of what our brains even filter into our awareness. Metacognition helps, but its just a bandaid.

Its fascinating that what we take for granted as reality is so filtered, and we aren't aware of it. :scratch:
We should probably go for a can of vegetables because not only would it be a huge improvement, you'd also be able to eat it at the end.
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Re: Do Rats (and everyone else) have free will

#50  Postby kennyc » Nov 24, 2014 6:27 pm

Chrisw wrote:
kennyc wrote:If you throw out all the religious baggage and just look at the science that's the core.

No one has brought up religion here. Morality does not have to have any connection to religion (e.g. atheists are not all moral nihilists).

I suppose it starts with the definition of free-will.

Look up "compatibilism". That should be the starting point for any scientifically grounded discussion of free will.

It's depressing that there are neuroscientists who have clearly never heard of compatibilism (the idea is hundreds of years old!).


No what's depressing is that fucking philosophy thinks it can do science.

Did you even bother to read the O.P. and the study this is about?
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Re: Do Rats (and everyone else) have free will

#51  Postby Willie71 » Nov 24, 2014 7:22 pm

Even expert philosophers are unable to mediate their personal biasis regarding the free will debate:

Schulz, E., Cokely, E. T., & Feltz, A. (2011). Persistent bias in expert judgments about free will and moral responsibility: A test of the expertise defense. Consciousness & Cognition, 20(4), 1722-1731. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2011.04.007

Abstract:

Abstract:
Abstract: Many philosophers appeal to intuitions to support some philosophical views. However, there is reason to be concerned about this practice as scientific evidence has documented systematic bias in philosophically relevant intuitions as a function of seemingly irrelevant features (e.g., personality). One popular defense used to insulate philosophers from these concerns holds that philosophical expertise eliminates the influence of these extraneous factors. Here, we test this assumption. We present data suggesting that verifiable philosophical expertise in the free will debate—as measured by a reliable and validated test of expert knowledge—does not eliminate the influence of one important extraneous feature (i.e., the heritable personality trait extraversion) on judgments concerning freedom and moral responsibility. These results suggest that, in at least some important cases, the expertise defense fails. Implications for the practice of philosophy, experimental philosophy, and applied ethics are discussed. [Copyright &y& Elsevier]
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Re: Do Rats (and everyone else) have free will

#52  Postby minininja » Nov 24, 2014 8:31 pm

This might be of interest to some. Harris fairly accurately highlights what the experience of not having free will, feels like to me. As I think I've heard him say before, 'if you look closely, free will isn't even a particularly good illusion'.

[Disclaimer - if this is comes across like I think I know what I'm talking about, I want to make it clear that I don't. I'm just trying to get my thoughts down]
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Re: Do Rats (and everyone else) have free will

#53  Postby Willie71 » Nov 24, 2014 9:19 pm

minininja wrote:This might be of interest to some. Harris fairly accurately highlights what the experience of not having free will, feels like to me. As I think I've heard him say before, 'if you look closely, free will isn't even a particularly good illusion'.



Have you read the book? Its a good summary of a lot of the research out there. It is much easier to refer to Harris as a summary than put together a list of 20 authors for people to search at a library.

I think this video shows up on most forums where this topic is discussed, which is good.
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Re: Do Rats (and everyone else) have free will

#54  Postby Chrisw » Nov 25, 2014 10:08 am

kennyc wrote:
Chrisw wrote:
kennyc wrote:Please note that this is the Psychology and Neuroscience forum not theology or philosophy.

Free will is a philosophical concept. No reason why psychologists and neuroscientists shouldn't contribute to that but it isn't a scientific problem. You aren't ever going to be able to settle this with an experiment.

Ha! You wish.

I don't have any wish or preference here. I'm just telling you how things are.

If you think all meaningful questions can be settled by science then you are going to have to conclude that all talk of free will is "wibble", because it sure ain't science.
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Re: Do Rats (and everyone else) have free will

#55  Postby Chrisw » Nov 25, 2014 10:30 am

Willie71 wrote:I am aware of compatibalism, and see why its appealing to many. I don't think the emerging neuroscience is going to support it as the evidence comes in, but we'll see as the research is being done. :thumbup:

But compatibilism is just the strategy of defining free will in such a way that we can be said to have free will even if the world is deterministic. The motivation for defining it in this way is that the alternative, traditional definition makes no sense.

Traditionally I'm supposed to have free will if I could have acted differently given identical physical circumstances. Furthermore, this difference has to be something other than blind randomness, it has to be "me" making the choices. This implies that I am something more than a physical being.

Compatibilists redefine free will because they think that there is something worth saving from the idea of free will, that the idea can be given a sane, non-supernatural interpretation. The alternative is to reject free will as a fundamentally broken concept - we don't have free will because the idea is nonsensical.

I think either of these two last approachs (compatibilism or no free will) is rational but I'm not sure how research could decide the issue for us. They are really just different ways of talking about free will.
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Re: Do Rats (and everyone else) have free will

#56  Postby GrahamH » Nov 25, 2014 11:41 am

never mind
Why do you think that?
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Re: Do Rats (and everyone else) have free will

#57  Postby kennyc » Nov 25, 2014 12:26 pm

Willie71 wrote:....
I spent much of my career working in forensic psychiatry (as a psychiatric nurse trained as a family therapist) and we worked under the mantra that every sentence we wrote down could be challenged by a defense lawyer. This honed our skills significantly. We had to be aware of the fallacy of accurate memory, and our many perceptual shortcuts. We had to convey those ideas to judges and other untrained personnel. We also had to learn to not trust common sense, as it was incredibly misleading. We used structured risk assessments as they could be as high as 80% accurate compared to 33% accurate for clinical judgement. So, we are complex, yet simple :scratch: . With accounting for 40 variables, I could mostly accurately predict recidivism with a young offender, and because of my perceptual limitations, the risk assessment often contradicted my intuition. :thumbup:

Our brains are not well suited to our modern world, for the most part, and what we describe as mental illness, at the mild to moderate level, is actually adaptive in a hunter gatherer society. :cheers: :thumbup:



Fascinating. Not unexpected, but still fascinating to hear from someone who worked the front lines.
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Re: Do Rats (and everyone else) have free will

#58  Postby ughaibu » Nov 25, 2014 12:32 pm

Chrisw wrote:But compatibilism is just the strategy of defining free will in such a way that we can be said to have free will even if the world is deterministic. The motivation for defining it in this way is that the alternative, traditional definition makes no sense.
In the contemporary literature, both compatibilists and incompatibilists define free will in pretty much the same way, that an agent has free will on any occasion on which that agent makes and enacts a conscious choice from amongst realisable alternatives. The difference is in what the two camps consider sufficient for "realisability". Compatibilists tend to argue that logical possibility or sometimes physical possibility, is enough, incompatibilists hold that there must be a time at which there is no true statement about which action the agent will subsequently perform. Notice that neither require acting "differently given identical physical circumstances".
Chrisw wrote:Furthermore, this difference has to be something other than blind randomness, it has to be "me" making the choices. This implies that I am something more than a physical being.
All that is required for the libertarian position is that in a non-determined world an agent can control some of their actions. How does that imply that such an agent is "more than a physical being"?
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Re: Do Rats (and everyone else) have free will

#59  Postby Spearthrower » Nov 25, 2014 12:49 pm

ughaibu wrote:All that is required for the libertarian position is that in a non-determined world an agent can control some of their actions.


Wouldn't this then allow plants the characteristic of free will?
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Re: Do Rats (and everyone else) have free will

#60  Postby Chrisw » Nov 25, 2014 2:36 pm

ughaibu wrote:
Chrisw wrote:But compatibilism is just the strategy of defining free will in such a way that we can be said to have free will even if the world is deterministic. The motivation for defining it in this way is that the alternative, traditional definition makes no sense.
In the contemporary literature, both compatibilists and incompatibilists define free will in pretty much the same way, that an agent has free will on any occasion on which that agent makes and enacts a conscious choice from amongst realisable alternatives. The difference is in what the two camps consider sufficient for "realisability". Compatibilists tend to argue that logical possibility or sometimes physical possibility, is enough, ".

I don't recognise that as a definition of compatibilism. Compatibilists do not think that we have free will just because alternative actions are logically (but not physically) possible. And if there are alternative physical possibilities then determinism is false. Compatibilists believe that we can have free will even when there are no realisable alternatives at all.

incompatibilists hold that there must be a time at which there is no true statement about which action the agent will subsequently perform.

This is just a definition of indeterminism.

Notice that neither require acting "differently given identical physical circumstances"

It obviously implies alternative possibilities given identical physical circumstances - if there was only one possibility then there could be a true statement that described this possibility, and this is what the libertarian incompatibilist denies.

Chrisw wrote:Furthermore, this difference has to be something other than blind randomness, it has to be "me" making the choices. This implies that I am something more than a physical being.

All that is required for the libertarian position is that in a non-determined world an agent can control some of their actions. How does that imply that such an agent is "more than a physical being"?

Because physical processes that exhibit randomness cannot give you "control" of your actions. Except in the sense accepted by compatibilists, but rejected by libertarians, that you are identical with your brain and thus your brain's choices are your choices, however they are arrived at.
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