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First let me say I have read and believe I understand this concept;

One can study what exists and how consciousness functions; but one cannot analyze (or “prove”) existence as such, or consciousness as such. These are irreducible primaries. (An attempt to “prove” them is self-contradictory: it is an attempt to “prove” existence by means of nonexistence, and consciousness by means of unconsciousness.) - Ayn Rand

I have read the pages on free will and I accept that free will exists - however in the study of HOW it functions has there ever been an explanation of how man moves the atoms that make up his mind? I cannot will the atoms of my keyboard to type this text and I cannot will the atoms of my glass of water to move so how do I will the atoms in my mind to move in order to make free will physically function?

Is instinct and the perceptual faculty of a dog deterministic?

I probably have not articulated this well but I am sure you can tell I am very confused.

EDIT: I think I have got myself in a real hole here because I am now questioning how we learn and the human body functions.

Edited by FrankPalmerWhite
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The thoughts within your mind exist in some physical form within your brain. It is precisely because they are physical that they can act as causes upon other thoughts in your brain, which are also physical. You don't directly will the atoms of the keyboard to type text, but you can will the atoms of the neurons that control your arms and fingers to control the keyboard to type text. That is possible because neurons are physical and so can affect other neurons that are also physical.

Free will does not mean free from internal causality, it means free from external causality. Volition is an attribute of a reasoning mind, a person, not a neuron or set of neurons. Being alive is an attribute of an organism as a whole, not an atom or set of atoms.

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Rand was my first exposure to philosophy. Integration and how important and fundamental it is to epistemology(or for that matter what epistemology was in the first place) was very enlightening for me. The idea of 'chewing' helps to remind me to try and fully integrate a new concept or relationship between concepts. The concept 'axiomatic' is a "big" one, the integration of that concept, I think, helped me to more fully understand volition.

Edited by tadmjones
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But how does one explain the relationship between the laws of nature and free will? That is how does one first 'will' the atoms in your brain to start the chain of physical events leading to a thought or a movement. This line of thought I am on leads directly to determinism and I can't seem to escape it.

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First let me say I have read and believe I understand this concept;

One can study what exists and how consciousness functions; but one cannot analyze (or “prove”) existence as such, or consciousness as such. These are irreducible primaries. (An attempt to “prove” them is self-contradictory: it is an attempt to “prove” existence by means of nonexistence, and consciousness by means of unconsciousness.) - Ayn Rand

I have read the pages on free will and I accept that free will exists - however in the study of HOW it functions has there ever been an explanation of how man moves the atoms that make up his mind? I cannot will the atoms of my keyboard to type this text and I cannot will the atoms of my glass of water to move so how do I will the atoms in my mind to move in order to make free will physically function?

Perhaps it is the movement of atomic and sub atomic particle (under the probablistic laws of quantum physics that produce what you call "free will".

Look at it this way. Our brains are as physical as physical gets and all of our thought are brain activities which makes them rather complicate electro-chemical reactions.

ruveyn1

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Frank,

To some considerable degree, the healthy child or adult can will to move their hand a certain way or will to refrain from doing so. As you indicate, we live and have our being at that level, not at the level of knowing and directing the neuronal activations in premotor and motor cortex or in the consequent activation of nervous patterns guiding our muscles. What is going on in premotor cortex and in other cortical activities is very different than what is going on in the serial causation of nervous impulses from spine to arm. I would be wary of a linear notion of physical causality as capturing the neuronal activities in all of the brain in service of the animal’s life, particularly the parts of the brain at work in human thought and planning.

The physical determinism we see expressed in equations of mechanics or electrodynamics or thermodynamics or chemical reactions or simple neuronal circuits—I mean, for a given set of inputs, there is a uniquely determined output—seems unlikely to be a fitting informative mathematical characterization of what is going on in brain activities underlying our deliberations and choices. I have written some on this in the following essay:

Volitional Synapses

Links to the three parts of the essay are contained in the preceding link to its Abstract.

Follow-up

For links to text in Objectivity, such as this one, expect loading times of up to three or four minutes, depending on how far into an issue of the journal the text appears.

Stephen

Edited by Boydstun
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But how does one explain the relationship between the laws of nature and free will? That is how does one first 'will' the atoms in your brain to start the chain of physical events leading to a thought or a movement. This line of thought I am on leads directly to determinism and I can't seem to escape it.

This is an ever popular topic. Hardly a month can go by without someone new asking the same questions.

I have debated many people who have come to OO.net with questions about determinism and free will, and they all have had what seemed to them a powerful and irrefutable explanation for the way things work or in other words a metaphysics. Getting them to admit that volition is self evident or to be aware of the logical inconsistencies of their argument only gets them halfway to ridding themselves of determinism. The reason is that pointing out logical inconsistencies and appealing to their own power to perceive are epistemological arguments, when what they need is a refutation of their metaphysical premise.

There is an academic-level treatment of this issue by Campbell and Bickhard,PHYSICALISM, EMERGENCE AND DOWNWARD CAUSATION pdf, 33 pages. The article is mainly in response to Jaegwon Kim and specifically his book Mind in a Physical World, and advances an insightful argument against the physics and metaphysics of determinism while defending emergence. It is an extended refutation of reductive materialism. It helpfully identifies "particle metaphysics" as the enabling premise behind "particle determinism". However, modern physics is not consistent with a particle metaphysics so it (particle metaphysics) should be abandoned.

Edited by Grames
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Stephen, thanks for the articles. I have attempted to read them but they are at much higher a level than I can deal with easily. I will study them further this weekend to grasp them better.

Grames, I know, I did browse through the forums. I do not consider myself a determinist - when I introspect I feel I am demonstrating to myself free will.

I will rephrase my question once more and if you are willing to indulge me perhaps you could provide a more basic answer (if that is possible):

1. How does one prove free will? One cannot disprove it but how does one prove that what we think of as choice is not just causality?

2. How does the connection from free will to physical action happen? If all brain activity is chemical reactions and the like does there not need to be some physical cause? How does the human brain square with the laws of nature?

This is the issue I am having; I am a layman. I cannot properly understand or explain the relationship between free will and the laws of nature. I cannot 'prove' free will. Therefore I cannot logically argue with myself or anyone else the principles of objectivism or anything else for that matter. That leads to total intellectual capitulation so I function by accepting it but that seems to me to be faith rather than knowledge (on my part, not necessarily yours).

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1. How does one prove free will? One cannot disprove it but how does one prove that what we think of as choice is not just causality?

The process of proof assumes a volitional consciousness capable of choosing between truth and falsehood and consistency and inconsistency, so it is an exercise in circular argumentation to attempt to prove volition. Volition cannot be proved. Volition can be validated however, where validation means reduced back to reality. Volition is validated by perceiving it directly, by demonstrating it to yourself in your moment to moment self control while you are conscious. That really is enough.

2. How does the connection from free will to physical action happen? If all brain activity is chemical reactions and the like does there not need to be some physical cause? How does the human brain square with the laws of nature?

The way the question is framed creates a bias in what kind of answers it elicits. Positing a 'connection' from free will to physical action presumes there is a discrete thing called free will to which to connect. That is incorrect, there is no free will gland or neuronal circuit in the brain corresponding to free will, anymore than a cell has distinct part inside it which is its life.

Volition is an emergent property of the whole amalgamation of the brain (and of the whole body in full truth). Emergence is a concept which, as a self professed layman, you might be lacking. Weak vs. Strong Emergence is one thread here discussing emergence.

This is the issue I am having; I am a layman. I cannot properly understand or explain the relationship between free will and the laws of nature. I cannot 'prove' free will. Therefore I cannot logically argue with myself or anyone else the principles of objectivism or anything else for that matter. That leads to total intellectual capitulation so I function by accepting it but that seems to me to be faith rather than knowledge (on my part, not necessarily yours).

I could say more about the so called 'laws of nature'. They don't command or control nature, they are to instruct men what it is rational to think about nature. Nature in itself simply is and acts as it must, and any emergent regularities we observe are the origin of our expectations of nature, expectations which we call 'laws'. Our expectations can be violated, which is when we discover new laws or more general versions of our old laws.

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I will here type the end all of the debate.  Please note that what it finally comes down to is a belief.  A belief in god is a belief in, possibly not a creator, but something more.  A spiritual belief is equal to a god belief. One can believe there is, or is not more to the universe than just atoms, npe's, quarks, and deeper.  If you believe in free will you imperatively must believe there is an irreducible primary that is the mind or another plane in which the mind resides.  
There are many variations on what one can believe.  They can believe they are the only one in existence.  They are not true athiests.  They, by imperative, believe they are god, even if they don't know it.

I assert some believe they have free will, but it's just a feeling or a thought created by their synapses. 

Do you believe in chaos (free will) or order (predetermination) is determined by your brain.

Now, it's possible that the brain is just a medium which the mind works through.  If our minds are a medium, there is indeed another world.  It's possible, though, that a consciousness (brain+mind) needs both to survive, and once we die in body, so we die in mind.  Now, someone else might be better at figuring out creation order or possibility in the brain, mind duality.

Edited by My 99 are free
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According to rand, what is the essence of the connection between the mental realm and the physical realm? I understand that it is not deterministic, since that by introspection I can see that i can choose the causes of my action, but does that mean that De facto I am changing the route of the electrons in my brain?

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According to rand, what is the essence of the connection between the mental realm and the physical realm? I understand that it is not deterministic, since that by introspection I can see that i can choose the causes of my action, but does that mean that De facto I am changing the route of the electrons in my brain?

You are reducing mental events to physical events.  Not everyone would agree with that.

 

ruveyn1

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