Sovereign Volition ?

General Physics, Classical Mechanics, Newton, etc.

Sovereign Volition ?

Postby RArvay » Tue Sep 29, 2015 10:51 am

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One of the most peculiar opinions I have encountered among intelligent people, especially physicists, is that they aver that free will (sovereign volition) is impossible. It is peculiar because, if their opinion is correct, if none of us can ever exercise truly independent choices of action, then we are all robots, puppets on a cosmic string, slaves to indifferent natural law. If they are right, then none of us can choose whether or not to believe that we have free will, because if we do not have it, then our every thought, word and deed is forced upon us. If they are right, then we are passive witnesses to our own lives, not active participants. If they are right, then all of human endeavor, including the study of physics, is farce.

That is a very big “if.” There is reason to believe that free will is a fact, that we do have the ability, at least in some important instances, to choose among alternatives in ways that are neither deterministic nor random.

Why would intelligent people define themselves as robots? One answer has already been given, which is that if they are indeed without free will, then their definitions of themselves are forced upon them by the causal chain of events which comprise physics.

Another answer is that, the known laws of physics seem (at present) to forbid free will. The existence of free will, in any degree at all, would violate those rules of causation that seem to define us as robots. If the laws of causation can ever be violated, then everything else that we accept in physics is thrown open to question.

Not really. It is not physics which would force us to believe in strict causation. It is a philosophy which has been adopted, consciously or not, by many physicists. That philosophy is known by different names. The most useful one IMO is natural-materialism.

Free will is not the only phenomenon which challenges natural-materialism. The existence of qualitative, inward consciousness is an unexplained, seemingly inexplicable but obvious fact, which may require that we look outside of conventional physics for an explanation.

The fine tuning problem is yet another, one so extraordinary that in order to grapple with it, natural-materialists have had to compromise, proposing a multi-verse, a universe of universes. It is only a compromise because not only is there no observable, measurable evidence of a multi-verse, but even if there is one, its existence poses only bigger problems for physics— because now instead of explaining the physical constants of our one universe, we have to explain the physical constants of the entire multi-verse. How did those, if they exist, come into being? Is there an endless hierarchy of ever larger mega-multi-verses? If so, what does that make of physics?

It has been said that, at the center of a singularity, the known laws of physics may no longer operate. Those laws do not explain the first instants of the Big Bang, and yet we do not therefore dismiss the theory of the Big Bang.

The known laws of physics do not invalidate the known existence of inward, qualitative consciousness. They should neither compel us to state as fact such an absurdity as that we are all robots, and that our science is itself invalid.

Where is the next Newton, Bohr or Einstein who will propel physics to its next level?
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Re: Sovereign Volition ?

Postby lcwelch » Tue Sep 29, 2015 1:33 pm

The essential element is not whether we have free will or not but rather that our behavior is consistent with free will and do we believe we have free will. Each of us, I'm sure, when faced with the choice off of a menu, behave in a manner - i.e., make a choice - that supports free will. Whether or not we actually have free will is irrelevant and impossible to prove one way or the other.
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Re: Sovereign Volition ?

Postby minkwe » Tue Sep 29, 2015 2:38 pm

I do not think these series of threads about consciousness has anything to do with physics. Perhaps a different board should be created where such discussions can proceed?
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Re: Sovereign Volition ?

Postby FrediFizzx » Tue Sep 29, 2015 4:40 pm

minkwe wrote:I do not think these series of threads about consciousness has anything to do with physics. Perhaps a different board should be created where such discussions can proceed?

Agreed. Moved topic to sci.physics for now. At least the other one started with some physics ala Tegmark. But went quickly off topic.
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Re: Sovereign Volition ?

Postby Ben6993 » Wed Sep 30, 2015 2:25 am

To: Fred the Moderator

Hi. Could you move the other two recent threads also, please?
I was about to write re one of the previous threads but would rather add to it in the appropriate arena.
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Re: Sovereign Volition ?

Postby RArvay » Wed Sep 30, 2015 5:58 am

by lcwelch » Tue Sep 29, 2015 1:33 pm

The essential element is not whether we have free will or not but rather that our behavior is consistent with free will and do we believe we have free will. Each of us, I'm sure, when faced with the choice off of a menu, behave in a manner - i.e., make a choice - that supports free will. Whether or not we actually have free will is irrelevant and impossible to prove one way or the other.


I agree of course that "...our behavior is consistent with free will..." but strongly disagree with,
"Whether or not we actually have free will is irrelevant and impossible to prove one way or the other."

Its relevance to physics is that it challenges the principle of causation, upon which the science of physics currently rests.

The method of proving that we have it is admittedly indirect. It lies, IMO, in the principle of utility.
If a statement (such as, we have no free will) leads necessarily to absurd, or just useless, conclusions,
then the acceptance of that statement is itself absurd and/or useless.
If we accept that we have no free will, then we cannot do anything with that. It gets us nowhere.

Even if we have free will, we may not exercise it. Our choice of an item off a menu is likely not such an exercise.
It is our ability, our potential, to exercise sovereign volition that poses an enormous challenge to physics.

I apologize to the forum members and moderators if my posts may seem off topic.
They are at the least inspired by my avid interest in physics, and by articles by physicists
which reach the edges of conventional science.

I thank everyone for allowing me to access this forum.
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