> «If free will were merely a poetic concept then I have no problem. However, the advocates of free will clearly think it causes things. Trouble is that there is no coherent causal meaning to the term ‘free will’. So we get people building theories about physics and free will that cannot get anywhere because if you are doing causal you have to do causal. Causal just means rules of what follows what, not I can choose what follows what.»
The only meaningful definition of free will is precisely ‘I can choose what follows what’. We make the rules. Just as you and I have both decided what to write and executed those decisions directly through voluntary control of our nervous system. We have, through our attention and intention, caused a sequence of leadership rather than a consequence of following. The neurochemistry of my brain, articulating contractions of the striated muscle tissue of my fingers. tapping on the keyboard, microelectronic switching…all of it is the direct result of intentionally coordinated human effort.
Of course those efforts are influenced by lower levels (physiological-biochemical) and upper levels (evolutionary-geophysical) but that doesn’t change the fact that we influence those levels directly from our own natively and uniquely anthropological layer of sense and motive.
> C_ got it right pointing out that, if consciousness doesn’t do anything, we couldn’t remember it and wouldn’t be discussing it. Avshalom Elitzur was one of the first to use this argument around 20 years ago. It’s been often ignored but never refuted. The most straightforward application to ‘free will’ depends on the fact that memories channel and inform neural dynamics.
I think that the more important point is that consciousness is private by definition. Not just that it is one of many private kinds of things in the universe - I mean that subjectivity is privacy itself. They are the same thing. That is why we can’t look to neurology to solve the hard problem - it is an obstacle to our understanding because on the level of neurology there is no human consciousness there to find. There would be some evidence of neuron consciousness on that level, but we know nothing about the sense and motives of the universe that distant from our native layer of description. If we want to know about free will we have to look only at how human beings interact. Human institutions like the criminal justice system. These are phenomena in the universe as real as quarks or binary stars. It is only in this era that we have become so enamored with the externality of matter that we have disqualified our own native orientation as a whole and singificant part of our universe.
Since consciousness affects memories (via a wide range of processes over a huge range of time scales), it must also influence neurology. The feeling of ‘I freely choose that’ is a shorthand representation of the outcome of these looping processes, but is nevertheless often true enough as long as ‘free’ refers to an ability of consciousness (including its ‘volitional’ aspect) to influence what it’s brain needs to do to achieve chosen outcomes. And this holds whatever view one takes of the basis of consciousness.
It doesn’t hold if you view consciousness itself (really sense and motive) as the basis of everything. We don’t ‘influence our brain’, our brain is part of our body and our body is the three dimensional shadow of our life as human beings. If you start from the universe as a sense experience through time, then matter makes sense as the orthogonal covariance of externalized sense. Matter in space is literally a horizontal slice of the totality of private times made public. The brain is nothing but the exhaust of the process which drives your experience of being alive, from infancy to death.
You can look at it the other way too though and it will almost make sense. The amazing thing about sense is that it is translucent. Sense reveals sense through sense. It’s built in because it is the fiber of everything. Starting from matter and bodies in space as real, everything makes sense also, except for you. You paint yourself in a corner, because no matter how we will continue to try, there will never be any way to justify the existence of anything like awareness in a universe of pure matter or information. Starting from sense, on the other hand, both matter (distance reflected sense presentations) and information (re-presented sense) make perfect…sense.