Sunday, November 14, 2004

philosophy post

If you're wondering about the sudden increase in posts, I credit it primarily to a feeling that I got a lot of good work done yesterday and can take it easy today, combined with a sheer lazy desire to avoid going back to work. I promise I will slow down or stop altogether for another lengthy period of time. Now, on to the promised philosophy post.

Friends of mine have likely already heard my logical dissection of the concept of free will. After presenting it to my roommate yesterday I thought of a resolution of sorts. I may have a copy of the original online somewhere, but I can't find it, so here's a brief summary:

Strip away all the influences on a person's decision-making ability which we do not consider to be part of our true absolute free will (e.g. genetics, past life, and environment). There still must be a decision-making component to us, or we wouldn't have true free will; I've generally referred to this as an internal black box, since we don't know how it functions, it just mysteriously makes decisions. Now consider a decision that must be made, and abstract it (in good computer science thinking) to a decision between 0 and 1. There are two possibilities. 1: Everybody's black box spits out the same answer, 0 or 1, in all contexts, in which case there's no free will. 2: There exists a decision for which person A's black box spits out a 0, and for which person B's black box spits out a 1. Assuming the latter, why does person A pick 0 and person B pick 1? If person A is given black box A by some outside agency, then it doesn't make sense to call this a decision of free will. If person A selected black box A, then on what basis did A pick this black box rather than another? The problem cycles and there is still no solution.

So at like 2:30 am last night as I tried to sleep I figured out the logical way to modify this to make it consistent with free will. You have to challenge the question. You have to say that it makes no sense to ask "Why does A pick 0 and B pick 1?" You have to respond to this by saying that this is what free will is, free will is the act of A picking 0 and B picking 1. The black box is not something which must be selected by free will, it is in itself the embodiment of free will, and to look beyond this is illogical.

This is not entirely convincing to me, as I still look for a reason why person A's free will would select 0 and person B's would select 1 (the original question). But I believe the reason why I lean against free will in this debate is not because I truly believe that the original story is better than the modification and resolution. It's because in my day-to-day life I analyze the choices I make after the fact, and I realize that they can always be predicted. I consider myself insufficiently creative to be able to break free of the influences of my own personality. I am a slave trapped within my own mind. Perhaps this isn't true of other people and they are thus more inspired to fight for the concept of free will. Kudos to them.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home