1. Hmmm . . .
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    23 Dec '11 16:491 edit
    I just want to springboard from the following August, 2011 Nature article to a discussion of the more introspective (intuitive) questions at the end of this post. (I posted this here, rather than in the science thread because I am more interested in the philosophical considerations.)

    _______________________________________________________

    http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110831/full/477023a.html

    Selected excerpts (all emphasis mine):

    The conscious decision to push the button was made about a second before the actual act, but the team discovered that a pattern of brain activity seemed to predict that decision by as many as seven seconds. Long before the subjects were even aware of making a choice, it seems, their brains had already decided.

    You may have thought you decided whether to have tea or coffee this morning, for example, but the decision may have been made long before you were aware of it. For Haynes, this is unsettling. "I'll be very honest, I find it very difficult to deal with this," he says. "How can I call a will 'mine' if I don't even know when it occurred and what it has decided to do?"

    This month, a raft of projects will get under way as part of Big Questions in Free Will, a four-year, US$4.4-million programme funded by the John Templeton Foundation in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, which supports research bridging theology, philosophy and natural science. Some say that, with refined experiments, neuroscience could help researchers to identify the physical processes underlying conscious intention and to better understand the brain activity that precedes it. And if unconscious brain activity could be found to predict decisions perfectly, the work really could rattle the notion of free will. "It's possible that what are now correlations could at some point become causal connections between brain mechanisms and behaviours," says Glannon. "If that were the case, then it would threaten free will, on any definition by any philosopher."

    But critics still picked holes, pointing out that Haynes and his team could predict a left or right button press with only 60% accuracy at best. Although better than chance, this isn't enough to claim that you can see the brain making its mind up before conscious awareness, argues Adina Roskies, a neuroscientist and philosopher who works on free will at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Besides, "all it suggests is that there are some physical factors that influence decision-making", which shouldn't be surprising. Philosophers who know about the science, she adds, don't think this sort of study is good evidence for the absence of free will, because the experiments are caricatures of decision-making. Even the seemingly simple decision of whether to have tea or coffee is more complex than deciding whether to push a button with one hand or the other.

    —Comment: But this just means that the whole complex is formed in the unconscious before the decision is manifest?

    Haynes stands by his interpretation, and has replicated and refined his results in two studies.

    —The first of those studies is here: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0021612


    From the commentary discussion:

    Spinoza declared long ago that man had no free will. He wrote "Men believe themselves to be free, simply because they are conscious of their actions, and unconscious of the causes whereby those actions are determined"

    _____________________________________________

    Setting aside the physicalist-versus-nonphysicalist (brain/mind) arguments, and before leaping to any free will/determinism considerations, I would like to pose the following introspective (non-scientific) questions:

    Do you know what your next thought will be before you’ve thought it? That is, do you consciously decide what you will think, or believe, at all?

    When we say, “I think ______________.” Don’t we normally think of that “I” as the conscious “I”?


    One might say, “Well, as the thoughts arise from my unconscious, I still consciously decide whether to affirm them, speak them, act on them, etc.”—but each of those would also be first decided unconsciously, with, say, a seven-second delay. That is, the whole process is recursively dynamic.

    This whole affair has something “Zen” about it, and the above questions could almost be thought of as quasi-koans; or—

    Who is the I
    who thinks “I”
    before I know it?
  2. Standard memberblack beetle
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    24 Dec '11 09:12
    Methinks only the individual can know where exactly her/his personal point of attention is focused. These unique points of attention are countless and bounded with her/ him in a holistic way since they are empty; on the other hand, they are acting like events, turning the individual into a product of their mind-only existence. Since every single new evaluation of the individual creates new points of attention, a product of her/ his products s/he remains. So I conclude the mind is the limit, and in fact these points of attention are all nothing but dots giving a vague shape to the individuals’ personal field of probabilities whenever s/he collapses the wavefunction (whenever s/he creates her/his own, unique “meaning” during her/his dancing in emptiness).

    I cultivate empty techniques aiming towards the withdrawal of energy from objective and subjective objects so that, during my renewal of consciousness, the Phenomenon-in-Flux I name “I” can be evaluated.
    (I think that the conscious and unconscious decisions are still decisions of the BodyMind -the BodyMind is aggregations, there are many “I” in each BodyMind, therefore each "decision" we make is already "known" to the specific centre that controlled and launched it, regardless if it is not "recognized" for a given time by our consciousness. Our organism reacts according to differ data and plenty of them remain forever unknown to our consciousness).
    Sitting quietly doing nothing I saw that my nature is the nature of the mind, the ruler and the guide is my sixth, the sixth is empty, “I” is turbidity and filth out of aggregations, free will is empty. Nothing Holy😵


    I hope you and yours are well, my ole friend. Best wishes for 2012!
  3. Standard memberRJHinds
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    24 Dec '11 13:32
    Originally posted by vistesd
    I just want to springboard from the following August, 2011 Nature article to a discussion of the more introspective (intuitive) questions at the end of this post. (I posted this here, rather than in the science thread because I am more interested in the philosophical considerations.)

    _______________________________________________________

    http ...[text shortened]... quasi-koans; or—

    Who is the I
    who thinks “I”
    before I know it?
    Doesn't this show that this body we live in is not really the true person,
    but only a tool that we use for various functions in this restrictive world?
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    24 Dec '11 17:16
    Originally posted by RJHinds
    Doesn't this show that this body we live in is not really the true person,
    but only a tool that we use for various functions in this restrictive world?
    My brain-tool has decided it's too early to say. 🙂
  5. Wat?
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    24 Dec '11 17:41
    Originally posted by JS357
    My brain-tool has decided it's too early to say. 🙂
    That's a super Buddhist answer.

    I'm not going to go into it, for the real-life situ, but I have often written about taking the extra time to know what you are answering and accepting if you know the answer or not. It is the human condition to assume one has an answer, even if one hasn't experienced such. To accept that one needs to take time before answering about something one has no experience of includes the simplicity of saying, "I don't know." But, generally, people don't. They make assumptions, often wrongly, instead of taking time to think.

    To say it is too early to say, even though in jest I think you posted, your response was correct! 😉

    -m.
  6. Standard memberRJHinds
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    24 Dec '11 17:45
    Originally posted by JS357
    My brain-tool has decided it's too early to say. 🙂
    The brain appears to functions as an intermediary between the rest of
    the body and our person (the living soul). The brain works like a computer,
    which our soul uses to help control the rest of the body and communicate
    between the body and the soul. Isn't that what the study indicates?
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    24 Dec '11 18:071 edit
    Originally posted by RJHinds
    The brain appears to functions as an intermediary between the rest of
    the body and our person (the living soul). The brain works like a computer,
    which our soul uses to help control the rest of the body and communicate
    between the body and the soul. Isn't that what the study indicates?
    No, that it is not what it indicates. The study does not say anything about a 'soul'.
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    24 Dec '11 18:10
    Originally posted by vistesd
    I just want to springboard from the following August, 2011 Nature article to a discussion of the more introspective (intuitive) questions at the end of this post. (I posted this here, rather than in the science thread because I am more interested in the philosophical considerations.)

    _______________________________________________________

    http ...[text shortened]... quasi-koans; or—

    Who is the I
    who thinks “I”
    before I know it?
    Thanks for the reference. At first glance, I find nothing at all about this problematic toward a compatibilist view of freedom of the will. But I have downloaded the paper you reference and would like to study it a bit before commenting further.
  9. Standard memberRJHinds
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    24 Dec '11 18:45
    Originally posted by LemonJello
    No, that it is not what it indicates. The study does not say anything about a 'soul'.
    It's a so-called scientific study and they are unable to isolate the soul.
    So obviously, they will not say anything about it, otherwise they might
    be accused of be crackpots, which would not be good for their study.
    I was only relating the information from what we know from God's
    Word concerning the body, soul, and spirit of man. This is a spiritual
    forum and that is why the poster said he decided to put it on this
    forum rather than the science forum because he wanted input from a
    spiritual perspective. So it appears you have nothing to offer in this
    regard.
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    24 Dec '11 19:06
    Originally posted by RJHinds
    It's a so-called scientific study and they are unable to isolate the soul.
    So obviously, they will not say anything about it, otherwise they might
    be accused of be crackpots, which would not be good for their study.
    I was only relating the information from what we know from God's
    Word concerning the body, soul, and spirit of man. This is a spiritual
    fo ...[text shortened]... input from a
    spiritual perspective. So it appears you have nothing to offer in this
    regard.
    How about bothering to read the study before presuming to know what it indicates? That you would go out of your way to bend and mold the study into some grotesque shape that ostensibly fits your religious view of soul/body interaction without even bothering to read it; I am afraid this is another pathetic display that speaks to your intellectual disingenuity.

    I just got done reading the paper Tracking the Unconscious Generation of Free Decisions Using Ultra-High Field fMRI by Bode et al (the paper to which vistesd left a link), and it has absoutely nothing to do with your body/soul interactionist ideas. Again, maybe you should read it first before presuming to know what it indicates.
  11. Standard memberRJHinds
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    24 Dec '11 19:20
    Originally posted by LemonJello
    How about bothering to read the study before presuming to know what it indicates? That you would go out of your way to bend and mold the study into some grotesque shape that ostensibly fits your religious view of soul/body interaction without even bothering to read it; I am afraid this is another pathetic display that speaks to your intellectual disingen ...[text shortened]... ionist ideas. Again, maybe you should read it first before presuming to know what it indicates.
    Okay, tells us what it has to do with spitituality then. In your own words.
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    24 Dec '11 23:301 edit
    Originally posted by vistesd
    I just want to springboard from the following August, 2011 Nature article to a discussion of the more introspective (intuitive) questions at the end of this post. (I posted this here, rather than in the science thread because I am more interested in the philosophical considerations.)

    _______________________________________________________

    http quasi-koans; or—

    Who is the I
    who thinks “I”
    before I know it?
    "How can I call a will 'mine' if I don't even know when it occurred and what it has decided to do?"

    As far as I can tell, the work only shows that under the conditions tested (where subjects are tasked, in a supposedly congenial setting for it, to make a series of spontaneous decisions regarding the same left/right options, which is a task with outcomes in which presumably any subject is largely disinterested) there is brain activity in the left frontopolar cortex that is (1) subconscious; or at least occurs prior to the point the subject marks as being consciously aware of the decision outcome and (2) is somewhat correlated with the decision outcome, to the point that it yields ~57% decoding accuracy in regards to the testing methods employed (which honestly does not sound that impressive, given that 50% is the baseline) and (3) becomes increasingly stable with greater temporal proximity to the point of conscious decision. I honestly do not think this result has much of anything to say about freedom of the will. Prima facie, it is not favorable for libertarianism; but it is not deadly to it either, since as the study itself admits, it does not provide evidence for any causal relationship between the noted activity (or anything else) and the decision outcome. For compatibilism, I fail to see any interesting implications from this work. Honestly to me it seems much ado about nothing.

    And if unconscious brain activity could be found to predict decisions perfectly, the work really could rattle the notion of free will. "It's possible that what are now correlations could at some point become causal connections between brain mechanisms and behaviours," says Glannon. "If that were the case, then it would threaten free will, on any definition by any philosopher.

    First, the study does not even remotely find that unconscious brain activity predicts decisions perfectly. Second, even if it did, it's not clear to me that this would be problematic for the compatibilist. So, I think Glannon's last statement here is just wrong.
  13. Standard memberRBHILL
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    24 Dec '11 23:46
    Originally posted by vistesd
    I just want to springboard from the following August, 2011 Nature article to a discussion of the more introspective (intuitive) questions at the end of this post. (I posted this here, rather than in the science thread because I am more interested in the philosophical considerations.)

    _______________________________________________________

    http ...[text shortened]... quasi-koans; or—

    Who is the I
    who thinks “I”
    before I know it?
    i personally am always thinking from one thing to the next, even while i talk.
  14. Standard memberRJHinds
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    25 Dec '11 00:22
    Originally posted by RBHILL
    i personally am always thinking from one thing to the next, even while i talk.
    You can't help yourself, right? You just keep on thinking no matter how
    hard you try not too. I've had that problem when I try to go to sleep
    before I'm sleepy. Then I have to keep thinking about those dreams.
    Very frustrating, this thinking business. 😀
  15. Standard memberChessPraxis
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    25 Dec '11 00:28
    Originally posted by vistesd
    I just want to springboard from the following August, 2011 Nature article to a discussion of the more introspective (intuitive) questions at the end of this post. (I posted this here, rather than in the science thread because I am more interested in the philosophical considerations.)

    _______________________________________________________

    http ...[text shortened]... quasi-koans; or—

    Who is the I
    who thinks “I”
    before I know it?
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