Originally posted by EvilAxis
If you truly believed you had no free will, and you acted in good faith on that belief, you would behave like somebody who believed they had total
Isn't it great? Yes, to an outside observer it may well seem like that. However, the person who 'truly believes' he has no free will (I am such a
person) is forever having that belief confirmed by observation: all human beings, whether they abstractly believe in free will or not, know that they
toil beneath the lash of necessity.
The illusion of free will is common to all but the hopelessly insane, yet it is most certainly an illusion. As Nietzsche playfully said,
It is certainly not the least charm of a theory that it is refutable; it is precisely thereby that it attracts the more subtle minds. It seems
that the hundred-times-refuted theory of the "free will" owes its persistence to this charm alone; some one is always appearing who feels himself
strong enough to refute it.
Beyond Good & Evil 1. xviii
I concluded many years ago that the essence of free will must reside in quantum uncertainty.
Sadly, it does not. The uncertainty of outcomes at the quantum level is eliminated on a macroscopic scale; it is no part of the world of events we
inhabit, though that world seems to emerge from the quantum one.
What appears random is in fact "willed", but I struggle to develop the idea any further.
That is well and honestly said, though I believe you are wrong. Quantum outcomes are not determined consciously. It is the act of 'measurement', not
observation, that fixes an event, and for this purpose an artificial measuring device of some kind is quite sufficient; consciousness is not called
for. Indeed, the concept of decoherence
(which some say resolves the so-called
'measurement problem') treats any
thermodynamically reversible physical interaction as an act of measurement - indeed, a cascade of such
acts. Thus Wikipedia
Quantum decoherence gives the appearance of wave function collapse and justifies the framework and intuition of classical physics as an acceptable
approximation: decoherence is the mechanism by which the classical limit emerges out of a quantum starting point and it determines the location of the
quantum-classical boundary. Decoherence occurs when a system interacts with its environment in a thermodynamically irreversible way.
Decoherence is not, of course, the only approach to resolving the observer paradox. Everett's many-worlds hypothesis is well-known even among the
conspiracy buffs of ATS, and Stephen Hawking is said to be fond of it. Personally, I don't care for it; the apparently infinite multiplication of
universes seems too inelegantly prodigal. Here is another approach
: a 'many minds' rather
than 'many worlds' hypothesis, according to which
all the significant information which we see around us exists within our own individual structural histories. We exist by randomly becoming
choices of possible futures and then those choices are fixed into our pasts. We look at a cat which, for us, may be either alive or dead, and what we
see becomes part of what we are.
In this interpretation, there is obviously no room at all for free will. It is, despite superficial appearances, a realist, not an idealist
Is the brain some sort of quorum sensing device in which bits of quantum free will cooperate via neurons to explore their relationship with the
rest of the universe...
This may be free, but it is not will. And indeed, no aspect of quantum theory offers any means for consciousness-as-will to choose between possible
quantum outcomes. We do not know how to determine what outcome shall follow from any quantum observation we make; it follows that quantum outcomes
cannot be willed.
I agree that the concept of "free will" remains enigmatic and suspect it is in some way indivisible from the concept of consciousness.
I propose that it is simply an illusion: a play in the Cartesian theatre, a side-effect of consciousness, which is itself a side-effect of the
organization and activity of the human brain.