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    From Olena
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    Choice is Functional
    It has been over two years since i wrote the below.
    I have since learned that the will is free. Choice is not merely an illusion, a mechanism of the mind for abstracting meaning. Rather, it is (as I describe above in "Metaphysics" a demonstration of value.

    In time I will write the rebuttal to my argument below.



    If the world is determined:
    Choice is an illusion. Faced with options A and B, it would only appear that we could choose between the two. In reality, our choice is no more a choice than seeing when light contacts our retina. Our character has been shaped by our genetics and environment, things out of our control (not that we have any), and will react to a given stimuli exactly as does the rest of the body according to the mechanistic nature of the world.

    That is (or at least was, before the conceptualization of quantum mechanics) determinism in a nutshell according to the materialist. As a Christian, however, I might question free-will on decidedly different grounds. I am interested to know how I can have free-will if God already knows my choices.

    My argument is that I do not, in the purest sense of the concept, have free-will. I would argue that choice, is, in fact, an illusion. To be precise, I would define it as a perception. Faced with the options A and B, my ability to freely choose between the two is a perception. In reality, (God knows) I will choose A.

    As an analogy, let's turn to the concept of chance.
    Imagine a deck of 52 cards. I show you the cards, they are all accounted for. We shuffle the deck and I deal myself one card. I know what it is, and you do not. To you, there is a 1/52 chance that it could be any card in a deck of cards. That is your perception. To me, there is a 52/52 chance that it is the King of Hearts, and a 0/52 chance that it is any other card. That is my perception, and it is also reality.
    I show you the card, and it would no longer make sense for you to say, "There is a 1/52 chance that this card is any card in a deck." There is not a 1/52 chance that this card could be the Ace of Spades. It also does not make sense for me to tell you, before you knew the identity of the card, "You are wrong, there is not a 1/52 chance that this card is any card in a deck." Chance by definition is a perception (created by the lack of information). To say, "There is a 1/52 chance that this card is any card in a deck," means that you do not know the identity of the card. Even though in reality it is a King of Hearts and could not be otherwise, you work as if it could be any one card in a deck. This method, i.e. working "as if" things could be one way or another even though they are really one way, works; in fact it works very well. By "works" I mean “is functional.” As a method of dealing with the lack of information, operating "as if" a concealed card could be X, Y, or Z (even though it is really only X) can garner a good poker player quite a bit of money. Progress in the mathematical field of probability has yielded numerous benefits to society, and an adept poker player is example enough to show that this method of accepting an illusion is functional.

    In the same way that we can deal with the lack of information by abstracting that lack into numbers, such as "1/52," we can deal with meaning by abstracting it into choices, such as "A OR B."

    If I am confronted by a ravenous tiger, I give meaning to the black and orange image in front of me, the guttural sounds this image is emitting, and I understand the situation in the following choices: fight or flight. I've written what I am going to do at the bottom of the page to simulate the determined nature of the situation. I choose to fight. Now, my argument is that my choice to fight instead of flee was only a perception. In reality, I could not have chosen to flee because of my genetics, childhood, etc. But, my mind needs to be able to perceive an ability to choose because the default response to a tiger cannot always be "fight." In the case of photons, vision is almost always an appropriate response of the brain. In the case of complex situations, it is more functional for the mind to perceive the ability to choose than to calculate the determined outcome and then trigger the appropriate neural signals that would yield those actions.

    The idea of "choice" is our way of dealing with meaning. It abstracts meanings into “A OR B,” even though, just as the King of Hearts is not the KoH OR the AoS and is only the KoH, the only option is A. We treat situations as if both A and B are viable options (hence the term "option"), just as we treat a concealed card as if it could be the KoH OR the AoS. And this works. We live as if we are not victims of our genetics and environment and we "choose" to work hard and our very belief (perception) that we are in control affects our "choices" to be good. It is difficult to make a good choice if you do not believe in choice.

    In the same way that it does not make sense for me to tell you, as you look at the concealed card, "You are wrong, there is not a 1/52 chance that this card is any card in a deck," it also does not make sense for me to tell you before you make your choice, "You are wrong, you can only choose A." It is because you do not know the identity of the card that you must say something nonsensical like, “It could be the KoH or it could be the AoS or it could be etc…” (this translates to 1/52). It doesn’t even sound nonsensical to say “1/52” because we are so accustomed to dealing with the lack of information in this manner. Only after I reveal the KoH to you does it sound nonsensical to say, “This card could be the KoH or it could be the AoS or it could be etc…” In the same way, to say, “I can choose A or B” is actually nonsensical, but it is the manner in which we deal with all the meaning of any given situation, so we work with choice as if it were sensible. This is a functional way of living.

    Concerning personal responsibility to other people:
    Because we work as if we make choices, it follows that we would hold people responsible for those choices. Personal responsibility is assumed if we accept the perception that we make choices.

    Concerning personal responsibility to God:
    Question: If God knows our actions before we make them, how can He hold us responsible for acting in ways that He made us to act?
    Answer: Is God interested in personal responsibility? Does He not punish us for violations we did not commit (Adam)? And does He not reward us for righteousness that was not ours (Jesus)? I think it is questionable as to whether or not God holds us personally responsible for our actions, which is why we look to Jesus and his actions for salvation, and not our own.

    Question: How can we love God if He made us to love Him? How is that love if it is not voluntary?
    Answer: Do I choose to believe in God? Is that a choice? Does the non-believer choose not to believe in God? I would say of myself in the past, that I wanted to believe in God, but couldn't. That language does not indicate that belief in God is a choice. In fact, it indicates the opposite. Do we not speak of "falling in love?" Again, this language would indicate that "love" is not a choice. Love is an emotion, as are anger and sadness. I do not choose to be sad when my uncle dies. My sadness is a reaction. Love is my reaction to God. A more appropriate response is gratitude to Him for being so gracious as to make me such a person who have that reaction to Him.

    I don’t know if the world is determined, but if it is, we can work as if it is undetermined.

    [I fight.]

    Sat, Jun 21, 2008  Permanent link

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