Friday, September 13, 2019
Some Stuff On Consciousness And Free Will
Did you see this?
I did see a reference to that, but as usual I think it's misguided however the experiments work out. The subtitle to the Atlantic article refers to the question of whether "we" control our own actions. The real question to ask is what exactly you think constitutes the "we" -- if, for example, it's actually a neural mechanism that includes the so-called "readiness potential", then regardless of any gap, "we" would still be the controllers of our actions.
I’m getting wobbly on this again. So let me rush in with all the angels hanging back. Among what I gleaned from the article is that it may not be the case that neural activity precedes our own consciousness of our actions and our perception of deciding. Consciousness arises physiologically. So if I think to myself that I will raise my arm to prove a point I’ve just encountered, and then I raise it, why isn’t my thought to myself as much a physiological reality even as it’s immaterial or intangible as my subsequent action of my raising my arm? Why isn’t that thought just as me as as my action in raising it? Neural activity drives my thought but why doesn’t my consciousness inhere in that activity. Why need it be split out and parcelled out as a compatible realm we call subjective? If I raise my arm too quickly and smack against something but then want to raise it again, why, based on my previous experience of hitting it, isn’t my decision to raise it more slowly inherent in what I—“what constitutes the ‘we’”—am, decide and do? Why isn’t my consciousness a process that objectively makes choices and inheres objectively in who I am and what I decide?
As far as I understand what you're saying, I think I agree with it.
My point comes down to this: either "consciousness", in the sense of the "we" or the "I", is a neural process or its isn't', and if it isn't,, what is it? An ectoplasmic process? A spirit? No, it's a neural process by simple elimination. But that implies that, unlike our intuitive sense of our selves, it is a process that has parts, even stages. In that way, it's certainly not surprising that some parts of the process occur before other parts, but that doesn't imply that the process as a whole is not "in control" as it were, of the organism's behavior, just as an engine, with its many parts and stages, is in control of the motion of the whole. In the case of our selves, where those selves are themselves engines of a sort, we can get confused by a difference in perspective -- what appears from an external perspective as a cause, usually appears from our internal perspective as a purpose. And just as, from a determinist point of view, every action has a cause, from our own point of view, every action has a purpose.