Freedom and Brains
11/1/2007 1:28:40 PM
I have a new approach to these questions. In brief, I propose a physical principle of freedom based on thermodynamics that is different from common approaches based on mechanics. Mechanics presupposes "cosmological models" that exclude freedom while thermodynamics has no cosmology and is consistent with freedom. Thermodynamics does not "explain consciousness" but my approach suggests an account for consciousness without an "explanation."
My view is that human intelligence is not strong enough to formulate a correct cosmology or to "explain" freedom. However, there are useful constructions and models. My background includes a BS in electrical engineering (MIT 1968, Tau Beta Pit) and a Master's degree in physics (UC Berkeley, 1971) where I began a Ph.D. project in related projects. Then I went to law school (JD, UC Berkely, 1974) which introduced me to the "engineering of freedom," chiefly focused on practical decisions of judges and juries.
My Web postings are as follows: www.embodiment-of-freedom.com -- stating high-level principles of physics and psychology (in progress) http://www.quadnets.com/timingdevices.html -- showing why brains are not computers http://www.quadnets.com/ -- the full scientific presentation I will welcome any comments or suggestions.
10/21/2007 9:20:37 PM
People generally make a couple of mistakes when looking at this problem. First, what constitutes free will? Hard determinists say that since the very first moment when our universe was set in motion, everything has been determined. Advocates of free will are bothered by this, because they think it means that they don't have a choice to be a certain way. Most of them try to point to something in humans that transcends the physical universe, which could intervene in the causal chain.
First off, this immediately delves into religion, but beyond that...let's say they want their soul to decide. The problem with this view is: what is a soul, meaning, who gave you this soul? What was given, and to whom was it given? See the problem? If you want your soul to be responsible, but were not responsible for the creation of your soul, then it's just a soul doing what it does and either way you had no say in it.
So since you didn't get to choose your supposed decision-making soul in the first place, then that doesn't help us. So if it's not that, then it's your "self." Fine. How did this "self come into being? The point is, if you didn't create it, it's still determinism. But I will now point out why that is a good thing.
Think about the process of making a decision. It's based on all your past experience, learning, parenting, knowledge of history, intuition, and so forth. Now, you didn't choose where you were born, nor which brain you would get, nor who your parents were, nor the entire history of the world that happened up until your birth. Everything you experienced had already been set in motion. So, you learned with your incredible learning machine, and you base your decisions on that.
Opponents of free will seem to want more than that, but what could be better? The only other option, other than basing decisions on experience, would be making random decisions. Why would anyone want to interrupt the causal chain with arbitrariness? I'm saying, what kind of free will do you want? You already have an incredible tool for evaluating your situation and placing it in context, and this has all been determined, but what is the alternative? This is why asking for "free will" doesn't make sense. There's nothing to make the decision that isn't part of causality, and if it wasn't part of causality, it wouldn't help you make better decisions.