Old school deterministic materialism prohibits the freewill that we are all convinced we have. It implies that all the universe, including thought, must be definable in terms of, and reducible to, lumps of material we call atoms; all that we are is predetermined by our genetics and the environment in which we grow and determined by the causal consequences of our biochemistry and the chemical compounds we imbibe daily.
Even the more rational and scientifically minded of us, who accept materialism to be the only possible truth, have traditionally felt there must be some extra factor of which we were unaware because we perceive ourselves to be not merely automatons, zombies made of star stuff are none-the-less zombies; accepting deterministic materialism as entirely the facts of the matter is too horrific a state for us to contemplate, we perceive ourselves to be "free agents, we "know" we have freewill. For any species that has evolved, steeped in the fear born of dangerous animals and nocturnal wails and screeches, it is only a short, easy step from the notion "there must be another component within us which avails us of freewill" to the consequential contemplation on this "metaphysical component", which has thus far concluded in a shady character living within the biological automaton; the ghost in our machine we have commonly called "soul". And, as I've mused previously, "Soul" begets "God(s)". (Soul Trapped Spirit)
The newest version of deterministic materialism, Physicalism, can be described as "holding as true only whatever is allowable by the laws and properties described by physics". Physicalism was once almost commensurate with deterministic materialism but since Quantum theory and it's "spooky effect at distance", the seemingly bizarre results of the "double slit" experiment and other apparently weird properties of the subatomic realm, Physicalism goes beyond deterministic materialism and I think allows us to eliminate the soul concept without destroying the freewill aspect of our good selves that we so strongly sense we have.
As an aside here, thanks are owed for the muse below, yet again, to extremely bleeding edge science and specifically to two scientists. So, kudos to Roger Penrose Ph.D, for exposing the matha-mechanical intricacies of the notion colloquially termed quantum consciousness and to Stuart Hameroff MD, for his work in the field and his many explanations in interviews, which have made the notion available to me via Youtube. Without these two men thinking the thoughts they have and exploring the concepts those thoughts raised, Penrose via math and Hameroff via neural microscopy, I would not have been able to consider what is now below, so as is and always has been the case, to the disgruntlement of myopic, survivalist libertarians, I climb on the venerated shoulders of other humans to once again think aloud.Enjoy, if enjoy is the right word, this musing on the core of human free thought...
Think of an undivided roulette wheel, which does not have the normal number of 37 choices(38 in the USA) on which to place your bets but instead there are a seemingly indeterminate, almost uncountable, number of possibilities, say 360 billion for an off the top of my head example. The ball would still stop at a specific position but only afterwards, when measurements have been taken and the specific number of degrees around the circumference at which the ball actually stopped moving is precisely measured, could the position at which the ball came to rest be determined. A roulette wheel of this nature would be virtually useless as a gaming table because it would take "forever" to determine who, if anyone, had won, which outcome had taken the prize.
Now consider a roulette wheel as we know it with the more recognisable 37 divisions that predetermine the possible positions of the ball in categories of approximately 9.7 degrees, the number of possible results is reduced from our imagined 360 billion down to 37. The chance of choosing the division into which the ball will fall becomes somewhat predictable or at least guess-worthy. The probability is reduced from 360 billion to 1 to 37 to 1; much better odds and, some think, worthy of a gamble. Clearly a table with this reduced set of possibilities instantly becomes a viable option for a game.
Now transpose this very useful wheel into your head; the roulette wheel is the sea of possibilities available to us in any given situation, each division on the wheel is an option, a factual, actually discernible, calculable probability within the range of possibilities that can be imagined. There are 37 possible directions available to us, 37 options from which to choose. Would we say that we have freewill if we had 37 options from which to pick? 37 directions available to take in any given moment or decision? I think most of us would agree that merely having options is at the heart of freewill. To example this, the more we reduce the options the more we consider freewill to have been diminished; indeed, if we extrapolate to a position where there is only one possible action, I'm sure we would all conclude at that point freewill is unavailable and therefore we must concede that any option at all constitutes the availability of freewill; the more options, divisions of the roulette wheel, the greater the perception of freedom to choose we experience.
Now, as highlighted by Penrose's proposition and Hameroff's microtubules, we have the capability to cause superposition to collapse into a single outcome. We have evolved in a universe where the quantum foam exists and, just as a fish evolves in the sea to utilise the properties of the water in which it exists so we(and it), have evolved to utilise the quantum layer of existence. A fish extracts oxygen from the water because it's the only way for it to function, we "breathe" oxygen for the same reason. By the same token, our brains have the capacity to collapse superpositions because we have evolved in a universe where collapsible superpositions are the medium available; the substrate on which all exists.
In any situation we are faced with a sea of possibilities but the probability engine between our ears rapidly eliminates possibilities which are irrelevant to the situation or impossible because they are physically unavailable to us.
When about to fall off a cliff we do not think "I'll just fly" because our perceived or imagined set of possibilities for the solution to the "falling to our death" problem does not include it. But because the "flight" option is unavailable and of no use, does this mean we have no freewill? No, obviously not, it merely means that it is either not presented to our probability engine, or presented with a "low confidence of success" label because it is unhelpful as a possible solution. It IS a possible solution to another being at another time but not to us, our microtubules have partially pre-collapsed the "position" from the superposition master list of all possible actions to a shortlist of "high confidence of success" probable actions(X)...
1. "Reach out and grab" A. Something or B. Someone.Our freewill is limited but it is still free because options are available. The freewill may also be modified by our situational monitoring systems, records and memories of previous falling experience, the condition of our current fitness, the smooth or jagged nature of the specific cliff or the chemical content of our brains because of what we've consumed in the previous few hours(alcohol, drugs, chocolate etc.) but it is essentially free. We make the choice, place our bet and take action based on what, in that moment, we perceive(Y) to be the most beneficial outcome of the choices on offer. That moment, when superposition collapse must occur, is causal, a dependency of when universal causality combines to force our choice, but the choice is ours to make; grab, fall, dive or even, if you want to attempt the highly improbable, fly, and it is our microtubules that avail us of the opportunity to make that "easier" decision by their pre-reduction of the choice presented to us from a superposition of arguably unimaginable and definitely unmanageable list of "all" possibilities to a manageable set of options.
2. "look for a nearby ledge to steer our fall toward."
3. "Attempt a dive to the water."; extrapolating further possibilities that, A. "there is water" and B. "it is deep enough".
So here we are at the end and I've come to the conclusion that freewill should not be viewed or defined by the eventual action that one chooses to take; a rational decision may be duplicated by all who are rational but this does not mean that because one is making the "only rational choice", one has no freewill. Instead freewill should be judged as the ability to recognise that any or all "situations" can be described as consisting of a multiple choice and the further ability to quantify the maximum possible actions legitimately available in that moment of causal decision. Freewill should be viewed as the ability to see there are possible options from which one can choose and as such we may only concede that Freewill IS ours and that it is so because those tiny microtubules enable our interaction with the quantum, facilitating our awareness of those multiple choices and affording us the opportunity to make a "prediction" of an outcome before the decision, about the slot into which the roulette ball will finally bounce, is circumstantially and causally necessitated.
Shouldn't freewill, therefore, be considered not the fatalistic, chemically-bound, predetermined, materialistic inevitability, as it has thus far been touted, but as an indeterminate superposition, a quantum multiple-choice antidote to quantifiable material causality?
I think it should and, as far as I'm concerned,
(X) It's my supposition that each of the great mass of microtubules, order their individual list of possibilities by some form of genetically encoded "sense" of "the type of being we have always been", so "flight" would occupy a lower position in each's list. By the time the list of possibilities reaches a level where we become conscious of them (likely only nanoseconds), the great mass of all microtubules has inadvertently democratised the list to favour those few possibilities "more likely to be successful for our genus" then our probability engine takes over to assess them further. But this supposition is entirely and highly speculative and, clearly, would require a neuro-scientist of the future to research and confirm or deny.
(Y) "Perceive" here means "calculate" but, obviously, we do not get out a pen and paper and start scribbling variables and assigning probability factors, our probability engine(brain) makes a guess-timate that we call "perceive". (See "Only an agnostic Part 3" for more on this.)
More on consciousness.
Conscious Of Consciousness
Conscious Of A Collision
Please leave a comment - Anything will do
The best communications are often,
THREE WORDS OR LESS
OR ONE OR MORE FINGERS!
The best communications are often,
THREE WORDS OR LESS
OR ONE OR MORE FINGERS!