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The Philosophy Of Freedom
Conscious Human Action
1-2 Freedom of Choice
 (121) This seems obvious. Nevertheless, down to the present day, the main attacks of the opponents of freedom are directed only against freedom of choice. (122) Even Herbert Spencer, whose doctrines are gaining ground daily, says,
“That everyone is at liberty to desire or not to desire, which is the real proposition involved in the dogma of free will, is negated as much by the (123) analysis of consciousness, as by the contents of the preceding chapter.."
|A. Free Will can only be known through Introspection.|
By Edmund A. Opitz
If the individual does not have free will, then he is not at liberty to reject determinism! But where will a man find a position from which he might judge whether his will is indeed free, or not? The answer is: Only as he looks within himself, at the workings of his inner life; by introspection, in other words. Now introspection is rather frowned upon today as a means of getting at the truth, as not being in accord with scientific technique.
Observe a man's actions from the outside and you see only his body and limbs in motion; nothing that you can see from the outside gives you any assured knowledge of what is going on inside him. You cannot observe his will from the outside, nor his mind, You might guess what's going on, but that's the best you can do.
Truth about the will in action can be known by introspection only; it will never be disclosed to those who adopt the standpoint of the external observer and refuse to shift their perspective. If there is indeed freedom of the will, this is a truth which, in the nature of the case can be known only as each person knows it first hand in himself.
|B. Introspective evidence for Free Choice.|
By Tibor Machan
Introspection is one source of evidence that we take as reasonably reliable. So what should we make of the fact that a lot of people do say things like, "Damn it, I didn't make the right choice," or "I neglected to do something." They report to us that they have made various choices, decisions, etc., that they intended this or that but not another thing. And they often blame themselves for not having done something, thus they report that they are taking responsibility for what they have or haven't done.
In short, there is a lot of evidence from people all around us of the existence of free choice.
|C. A Review of Daniel M. Wegner's The Illusion of Conscious Will|
By Bruce Bridgeman
Though we share an irresistible introspection that we possess a will governing our behavior and not controlled by outside forces or previous states, empirical research shows that such a will does not exist. Rather, actions are triggered unconsciously, and a memory-related part of the brain produces a narrative to explain the behavior after the fact.
According to Wegner, willed acts and feelings are illusions, and always have been; they are stories that one part of our brain makes up after another part has acted.
Modern neurophysiology leaves no room for the soul. A neurophysiologist can change our perceptions, our opinions, our motivations and memories by removing or stimulating tiny but well-defined fragments of the brain, or by administering small amounts of a hormone or neurotransmitter to the right place.
What seemed a font of life is now part logical engine, part chemical soup, and all vulnerable to outside physical influences. Specific neurological deficits can make us feel that our family members are impostors, that a leg does not belong to us, that others are plotting against us, even that we are ourselves dead, all deeply personal feelings yet driven by ordinary interactions of neurons. Certain drugs or stimulation of parts of the temporal lobe can even elicit religious experiences.
Wegner makes short work of the philosophers, for without empirical progress there is nothing more to go on than yet another speculation or introspection. The introspection of free will, though irresistibly powerful, is not science.
If free will is no longer tenable, what is the alternative? Wegner's thesis is that behavior is always driven by unconscious processes, motivations that organize behaviors without the intervention of a will. Once the behaviors happen, a part of the brain connected with organizing memory has the job of making sense of the behavior, fitting it into a consistent behavioral story about ourselves. The brain uses the story in turn to organize further unconsciously triggered behaviors.
This idea is testable, and test it Wegner does, with a variety of ingenious experiments designed to investigate how the process works. The duality of memory and action can be seen in split-brain patients, when the non-linguistic hemisphere initiates an act while the linguistic hemisphere justifies it. When sensory information that informs action is segregated in the two hemispheres, the justifying process becomes obvious.
|"Experiment without introspection is no more than a plaything borrowed from physics"|
|D. Introspective evidence of independent consideration of choice.|
By David Veksler
While we do not yet understand the specific physical process by which we make decisions, the evidence of our own ability to choose between multiple outcomes is readily evident by introspection.
We can easily observe the fact that we can consider different factors, evaluate different possibilities and come up with original choices and decisions. Unlike inanimate objects, human actions have both a purpose and a goal, and unlike an animals actions, they arise from the choice to pursue certain goals and values, rather than the automatic guidance of instinct. The result the creation of human civilization and peaceful interaction between individuals in society stands as a testament to human originality, creativity, and more fundamentally, the choice of some values over others.
Free will then, is not dependent on random neurons or some other otherworldly trait of the human brain, but the ability to independently consider and choose between different alternatives.
|E. Limitations of Introspection.|
By Gregor J. Rothfuss
I'm not sure that freewill, if it exists, requires any immeasurable quantum mechanical mumbo jumbo. The magic is not in any quantum mechanical phenomena inside the neurons, but in the standard physics arrangement of them.
More likely, the appearance of free will is result of the inability to perform 100% introspection into one's own mind. I can no more "understand" the real-time machinations of my own mind than a Pentium processor can run a real-time simulation of its own transistors. Because I can't perfectly introspect my subconscious, much of its output looks magically non-deterministic (hence the seeming similarity to quantum mechanical systems).
Any bounded-rational being would believe itself to have freewill based on its ability to take independent actions and its inability to introspect out all the causal factors underpinning its own actions. In reality, the system that creates intelligence can be 100% deterministic, just too complex for that intelligence to understand itself. Only a much more powerful intelligence could look down and see that these beings that think they have free will are actually operating on "simple" rules.
|Forget introspection - your genome will reveal secrets about your health, ancestry, personality, sexuality, attitudes, perceptions and intelligence.|
If you are looking for deeper self-knowledge, forget introspection and put your faith in science. Not only will it tell you about your health, it can also reveal secrets about your ancestry, personality, sexuality, attitudes, perceptions and intelligence. In this special report, New Scientist gives you the latest developments in the study of individuality, starting with what promises to be the richest ever source of self-knowledge - your own genome. This should be available to you in a few years, but what will it tell you about yourself, wonders.
|F. Free Will is an ability known through Introspection.|
By Sharon Kaye
It might be objected that human beings are notoriously inaccurate in estimating their own abilities. But regular error in this awareness is no more worrisome than regular error about what we perceive in the external world.
Socrates would argue that part of the purpose of philosophy is to exercise one’s introspection so that, with practice over time, one might come to know oneself. Confidence in philosophy and in our ability to attain personhood through it requires the assumption that human beings can introspectively observe their own abilities. So, I have argued that we should take seriously the possibility that free will is not a natural illusion. We should take it seriously because our ability to claim a measure of self-knowledge necessary for personhood depends on it. If we are deceived about free will then we are deceived about our very nature as human beings.
It could be said that since free will is an uncaused cause, being aware of it would be like being aware of the pink elephant that is not in the room. But philosophers are not entitled to dismiss an observation just because it does not make sense within a pet theory. Human beings introspectively observe free will as an ability.
|G. Introspection can be reliable.|
By Tibor R. Machan
There is that aspect of the case for free will that relies on introspection. We often know about things this way, as when we answer our doctors very confidently about where we feel a pain in our bodies, or remember an event for which there is no evidence any longer apart from our memory. These are completely reliable kinds of knowledge and part of what gives us knowledge of our free will is that we know we often choose, initiate action, produce or create what we didn’t have to produce or create.
As I am writing the next few words in this discussion, I know at every moment that I could stop, get up and get a soda from the fridge or continue with my project, as indeed I am choosing to do.
|H. Developing the Skill of Introspection.|
By Eddy A. Nahmias
I believe the introspectionists were right to think of introspection as a skill that can be improved with training and practice. We know that learning to attend to features that otherwise go unnoticed improves our ability to make observational discriminations.
Consider how wine tasters learn to augment their gustatory discriminations by attending to their experiences more closely (notice also that they need to develop a vocabulary to describe their increased categories of taste and smell).
|"throw stimuli into the organism, take reactions out, and then, from some change in the nature of the reactions, infer the fact of a change in consciousness. Why in the world should one argue and infer, when consciousness itself is there, always there, waiting to be interrogated?"|
"We must remember always that, within the sphere of psychology, introspection is the final and only court of appeal, that psychological evidence cannot be other than introspective evidence."
“Introspection, like observation, is a skill that needs careful development to be reliable. But reliable introspection allows access to all mental processes.”
|I. Free Will begins with choosing to Focus.|
By Ayn Rand Institute
Whereas previous writers have generally focused on man's physical actions as the locus of freedom, Rand recognizes that such external actions presuppose some previous mental activity. In order to act, one must first identify possible courses of action, how to carry them out, and what one wants to achieve. Hence, physical action presupposes awareness.
Rand calls the state in which one's mind is alert and prepared to acquire information, "focus". Focus is a precondition on awareness.
Furthermore, she recognizes that this state is achieved only through specific mental effort. Hence, the primary choice, without which other choices are impossible, must be the choice to focus one's consciousness. Without such a choice, one would be unaware of the possibilities of action. This makes the Objectivist theory of free will uniquely epistemological, in the sense that it identifies the volitional nature of awareness as the source of man's free will.
Rand does not attempt to give a positive proof that our wills are free. Rather, in the first place, she observes that the fact of free will is available to introspection. Each of us can observe that he can focus his consciousness, or relax it. We can pay attention, or not. It would be out of place to ask for a proof of this fact, in the same way that it would be out of place to ask for a proof that trees exist, if you are standing in front of one, looking at it -- not because the fact is unknowable, but because it is known directly, rather than needing to be derived from something else.
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