A friendly discussion

I met Stian on Masterclass and followed his discussion. It garnered lot of thought while reading and re-reading the following post. I hope you find it as interesting. Make your comments below.  You’ll have to read his blog then come back here to comment on my blog.

This is the link to his blog: http://stianthewriter.com/2019/10/09/my-philosophy-of-thoughts-feelings-and-mental-life-aspects-an-introduction/


When I asked for more clarification here is his response:

You didn’t miss it. I didn’t cover this, but may get back to it later.

One thing to consider in response to science:

There are scientists who argue that humans have no free will. This is based on brain studies where scientists can (more or less) predict a behavior seconds or a minute before it takes place — arguably, before a person has decided to enact that behavior herself.

So if an action can be predicted before a person has decided to do it, how can there then be free will?

However, there is another way of interpreting these findings… We can think of these findings as impulses that humans may choose whether or not to act on. And if an impulse seems rational (such as making dinner if hungry) we choose to act on these impulses, which is why scientists may predict with 90 % accuracy that a certain action may take place.

In conclusion, we may act on an impulse because it seems rational to us, or because we’re not thinking consciously about the impulse before we act on it.

(The only specific experiment I’m familiar with myself, is that scientists could predict with 90 % accuracy whether rats would turn left or right on a certain path they were walking on. Arguably, this research is also transferrable to humans given similarities in brain structure.)

As for why it is credible that humans have free will (i.e. the capability of acting spontaneously, not being fully controlled by processes of nature), this is because we perform rational acts (in succession) that would seem very coincidental if we did not have free will.

One example:

People can have a conversation for hours, in which each participant’s response is related to a particular topic, and in which each response to some degree mirrors what the previous speaker has said. This is especially true in business and political meetings, but also in ordinary conversations.

Now, if humans did not have free will, then our response would be determined by forces outside our control. That would mean that nature could force us say things or act in ways that have nothing to do with the topic at hand.

There are a thousand ways to respond to what a previous person has said, and yet we often choose a response that stands in relation to the discussion. And when we conduct a conversation for hours, it seems extremely unlikely — to put it carefully — that forces of nature time and again make us choose a rational response (a response that is thematically related to the discussion) when for each rational response, there are at least 999 ways of responding (i.e. things to say) that have nothing to do with the topic at hand.

In conclusion, it is our rational behavior (over time) that strongly suggests the existence of free will.

Here’s an optional scenario:

In a world without free will, the chance we are able to have a rational conversation (a short one) is 1/1000 (= probability of rational response) ^5 (= multiplied with 1/1000 per response in the conversation).

This would result in a chance of 1/1,000,000,000,000,000 for a rational conversation containing as little as five responses (altogether from both parties) to the initial statement (= 1/1000 multiplied with itself five times).

And then you have the conversations that last for hours.

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