# Why is Free will an axiom?

## 108 posts in this topic

Is free will an axiom? Or is it just my free will that is an axiom?

I understand the argument in OPAR that I have free will and why this must be an axiom. Because any attempt to refute my own possession of free will leads to contradictions etc... But when I conclude that somebody else has free will, do I not have to [a] identifty the person as human, identify myself as human, [c] know that organisms of the same species share all basic capacities, therefore other people have free will just like me. Thus, other people's free will is not an axiom TO ME. It is a inference I make based on a long complex chain of reasoning.

What I am getting at, isn't free will a subective experience, like pain, the color red, etc..

Does this not partially eleminate the quest for a new force of nature to explain the existence of free will?

Let me elaborate...

Imagine a consciousness that is far advanced from my own (advanced means it has a capacity to understand every atom and connection in my brain). This consciousness could observe me and predict my actions, and from its perspective I do not violate any laws of physics. From this god-like consciousness perspective everything I do is fully in accordance with the physical laws and no "free will" force of nature is needed to explain my behavior.

Could free will be an axiom only because oneself does not have a capacity to "get outside" of ones awareness and thus see the determinism that is really taking place?

That ends the best way I can express this idea. Below is an elaboration using the Halting problem.....

Halting Problem and Free Will:

The halting problem is this, "Does an algortihm exist that can determine if another algorithm halts on some input?" The answer is no. No such algorithm can be written.

But if the turning machine (computer) is finite, then the halting problem is solvable.

##### Share on other sites

(Sorry, I accidentally hit POST instead of PREVIEW. Here is the completed post)

Is free will an axiom? Or is it just my free will that is an axiom?

I understand the argument in OPAR that I have free will and why this must be an axiom. Because any attempt to refute my own possession of free will leads to contradictions etc... But when I conclude that somebody else has free will, do I not have to [1] identifty the person as human, [2] identify myself as human, [3] know that organisms of the same species share all basic capacities, therefore other people have free will just like me. Thus, other people's free will is not an axiom TO ME. It is a inference I make based on a long complex chain of reasoning.

What I am getting at, isn't free will a subective experience, like pain, the color red, etc..

Does this not partially eleminate the quest for a new force of nature to explain the existence of free will?

Let me elaborate...

Imagine a consciousness that is far advanced from my own (advanced means it has a capacity to understand every atom and connection in my brain). This consciousness could observe me and predict my actions, and from its perspective I do not violate any laws of physics. From this god-like consciousness perspective everything I do is fully in accordance with the physical laws and no "free will" force of nature is needed to explain my behavior.

Could free will be an axiom only because oneself does not have a capacity to "get outside" of ones awareness and thus see the determinism that is really taking place?

That ends the best way I can express this idea. Below is an elaboration using the Halting problem.....

Halting Problem and Free Will:

(Since I have already messed up this post I will place this in a new topic shortly, thank you)

##### Share on other sites
What I am getting at, isn't free will a subjective experience, like pain, the color red, etc..

Pain, color, and free will are NOT subjective experiences and I get very upset whenever I see someone say they are.

"Subjective" means derived from, or pertaining to, the view that consciousness creates existence. The proper term for the experiences of pain, color and free will is "personal." "Personal" means pertaining to one person.

Package-dealing the subjective with the personal leads to many really bad things including devaluing personal values and rejecting introspection as a source of knowledge.

##### Share on other sites
"Subjective" means derived from, or pertaining to, the view that consciousness creates existence.  The proper term for the experiences of pain, color and free will is "personal."  "Personal" means pertaining to one person.

Allow me to offer a hearty second. I remember when I first came to truly understand the distinction back in the wild days of a.p.o., which I know Betsy remembers . Up until that point, I would have been stymied when people claimed certain decisions were subjective because they involved so many personal aspects that the right course of action would be different for different people. After I got it, though, I realized that an objective decision-making process (i.e., one in accord with the facts of reality, one of which is the primacy of existence) has to take into account many personal facts and thus comes to a personal answer.

Unfortunately, many philosophers throughout history have used the term "subjective" to mean "personal" which has confused things.

##### Share on other sites

Thanks for the clarification Betsy. It was very sloppy thinking on my part. I don't want this to detract from my original argument, so I should have written something like "free will is a personal experience like color perception, ..."

##### Share on other sites
I should have written something like "free will is a personal experience like color perception, ..."

I know.

I make a big deal out of this because the Bad Guys use the Subjecte-Personal Package Deal all the time to attack the Good Guys -- and I know you are a Good Guy.

##### Share on other sites
Thus, other people's free will is not an axiom TO ME. It is a inference I make based on a long complex chain of reasoning.

Your own free will can only be directly perceived by yourself, so, yes, there is an inference involved in attributing free will to others. But that inference is not too far in the chain from perceptual reality. You observe the actions people take, and hear the things that people say, and the connection to underlying choice is not too complex an identification.

Does this not partially eleminate the quest for a new force of nature to explain the existence of free will?

Let me elaborate...

Imagine a consciousness that is far advanced from my own (advanced means it has a capacity to understand every atom and connection in my brain). This consciousness could observe me and predict my actions, and from its perspective I do not violate any laws of physics. From this god-like consciousness perspective everything I do is fully in accordance with the physical laws and no "free will" force of nature is needed to explain my behavior.

Could free will be an axiom only because oneself does not have a capacity to "get outside" of ones awareness and thus see the determinism that is really taking place?

That's a little like saying "Couldn't we just be a dream in someone else's mind, and if they woke we would disappear?" The fact of the matter is, existence and consciousness are fundamental axioms that are directly perceivable, and the actions of our consciousness are self-determined, a fact which we can verify at any instant of our waking life. These mythical god-like creatures with their mythical god-like perspective are just arbitrary creations that have no real meaning or significance. You are alive, you are conscious, and you have the capacity to regulate your consciousness. Just enjoy it!

p.s. None of what you wrote seems at all connected to this "new force of nature" so I am not sure why you included that phrase.

##### Share on other sites
p.s. None of what you wrote seems at all connected to this "new force of nature" so I am not sure why you included that phrase.

It does sound like it is coming out of left field in the context of my post. I am trying to grapple with Dr. Binswanger's 1998 lecture "The Metaphysics of Consciousness". He makes the amazing claim that volition must have the ability to move matter in the brain. He believes the only logical way for this to happen is that some new force of nature (akin to magentism) must exist to explain it. Anyway, I am just now re-listening to this lecture series and he identified about five common errors people make when thinking about consciousness and I managed to commit most of them in my short post (mostly stemming from my materialism).

You are alive, you are conscious, and you have the capacity to regulate your consciousness. Just enjoy it!

I won't be happy until tax season is over and football season starts! But you're right, it is so amazing to be conscious. What a wonderful world and how great it is that mankind has aquired the knowledge it has. It's a wonderful age we live in (post Ayn Rand).

##### Share on other sites

p.s. None of what you wrote seems at all connected to this "new force of nature" so I am not sure why you included that phrase.

It does sound like it is coming out of left field in the context of my post. I am trying to grapple with Dr. Binswanger's 1998 lecture "The Metaphysics of Consciousness". He makes the amazing claim that volition must have the ability to move matter in the brain. He believes the only logical way for this to happen is that some new force of nature (akin to magentism) must exist to explain it.

Coincidentally, that very issue arose today in another thread, and I critiqued it here -->

##### Share on other sites
Pain, color, and free will are NOT subjective experiences and I get very upset whenever I see someone say they are.

"Subjective" means derived from, or pertaining to, the view that consciousness creates existence.  The proper term for the experiences of pain, color and free will is "personal."  "Personal" means pertaining to one person.

Package-dealing the subjective with the personal leads to many really bad things including devaluing personal values and rejecting introspection as a source of knowledge.

Thanks for this explanation. This issue has been bothering me for a while. Is it your idea? Branden? I personally see red when psychologists tell me that introspection is invalid. I feel like asking them if they are psychotic (and that's not psychological reductionism since Im not attacking an idea but pointing out that they are evading their own experience).

##### Share on other sites
Pain, color, and free will are NOT subjective experiences and I get very upset whenever I see someone say they are.

"Subjective" means derived from, or pertaining to, the view that consciousness creates existence.  The proper term for the experiences of pain, color and free will is "personal."  "Personal" means pertaining to one person.

Thanks for this explanation. [...] Is it your idea?

Making a distinction between the subjective and the personal is my own identification and, as far as I know, is unique to me. Two Objectivist philosophy professors have, on two separate occasions, told me they had not heard that distinction made before -- and they both thanked me for making it.

##### Share on other sites
Making a distinction between the subjective and the personal  is my own identification and, as far as I know, is unique to me.  Two Objectivist philosophy professors have, on two separate occasions, told me they had not heard that distinction made before -- and they both thanked me for making it.

Branden discusses it in the Psy. of Self-Esteem, pb, p13, 14. I only vaguely recalled it when I originally posted.

##### Share on other sites
Branden discusses it in the Psy. of Self-Esteem, pb, p13, 14. I only vaguely recalled it when I originally posted.

Well, there you go. Now you know where he got it from.

##### Share on other sites
What I am getting at, isn't free will a subjective experience, like pain, the color red, etc..

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Pain, color, and free will are NOT subjective experiences and I get very upset whenever I see someone say they are.

"Subjective" means derived from, or pertaining to, the view that consciousness creates existence. The proper term for the experiences of pain, color and free will is "personal." "Personal" means pertaining to one person.

What experiences pertain to more than one person?

##### Share on other sites

The concept of "subjective" is most properly used in contradistinction to "objective." For example, suppose a man does not acknowledge the flaws in his wife's character because his love for her colors his judgment. We would say he is being subjective--that is, his perception is subject to an influence that does not have cognition as its goal. What he needs to do is be objective.

The term "subjective experience" by this definition of the adjective is meaningless. Precisely speaking, it would mean that the experience does not actually exist, or that it is not truly striving to gain knowledge. But of course, an experience is simply something that one undergoes, and we cannot find fault with it the way we can with a goal-directed process.

Even the term "personal experience" is somewhat of a redundancy. An experience, by its very nature, can only be had by a single person.

I realize this is a side issue to the ones raised in the original post, but I thought I'd weigh in anyway.

##### Share on other sites
What I am getting at, isn't free will a subjective experience, like pain, the color red, etc..

Pain, color, and free will are NOT subjective experiences and I get very upset whenever I see someone say they are.

"Subjective" means derived from, or pertaining to, the view that consciousness creates existence. The proper term for the experiences of pain, color and free will is "personal." "Personal" means pertaining to one person.

What experiences pertain to more than one person?

None. All experiences are experienced by individuals.

There are, however, areas where the personal/universal distinction is significant. For instance, you can sayt everyone should be honest, but you can't say that everyone should be a novelist, or architect, or physicist. Those last are all valid, optional, personal choices.

##### Share on other sites
What I am getting at, isn't free will a subjective experience, like pain, the color red, etc..

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Pain, color, and free will are NOT subjective experiences and I get very upset whenever I see someone say they are.

"Subjective" means derived from, or pertaining to, the view that consciousness creates existence. The proper term for the experiences of pain, color and free will is "personal." "Personal" means pertaining to one person.

What experiences pertain to more than one person?

None. All experiences are experienced by individuals.

There are, however, areas where the personal/universal distinction is significant. For instance, you can sayt everyone should be honest, but you can't say that everyone should be a novelist, or architect, or physicist. Those last are all valid, optional, personal choices.

I agree that there are areas where the "personal/universal" distinction is applicable. But, as you yourself indicate when you say there are no experiences which pertain to more than one person, it would appear "experience" is not one of those areas.

##### Share on other sites
Making a distinction between the subjective and the personal is my own identification and, as far as I know, is unique to me. Two Objectivist philosophy professors have, on two separate occasions, told me they had not heard that distinction made before -- and they both thanked me for making it.

Betsy, I'm wondering if you taught me this. I've been distinguishing between the personal and subjective just how you describe for a good number of years. In fact, long enough that I thought I came to it independently. However, I'm wondering if the issue came up on HBL in the past or you and I had some correspondence about it. Do you recall offhand?

I know that in graduate school I was constantly confronted with the use of the term "subjective" to describe personal experiences. In fact, psychologists equate the two. I knew it was wrong, but I can't recall if I solved it on my own or brought it up on HBL, and maybe you answered? As much as I don't like having to discard the idea I came to it myself, I much prefer to give credit where it is due!

##### Share on other sites
Making a distinction between the subjective and the personal is my own identification and, as far as I know, is unique to me. Two Objectivist philosophy professors have, on two separate occasions, told me they had not heard that distinction made before -- and they both thanked me for making it.

Betsy, I'm wondering if you taught me this. I've been distinguishing between the personal and subjective just how you describe for a good number of years. In fact, long enough that I thought I came to it independently. However, I'm wondering if the issue came up on HBL in the past or you and I had some correspondence about it. Do you recall offhand?

I know I mentioned it on HBL because one of my "thank yous" came from that posting.

##### Share on other sites

Betsy, I'm wondering if you taught me this. I've been distinguishing between the personal and subjective just how you describe for a good number of years. In fact, long enough that I thought I came to it independently. However, I'm wondering if the issue came up on HBL in the past or you and I had some correspondence about it. Do you recall offhand?

I know I mentioned it on HBL because one of my "thank yous" came from that posting.

As I think about it, it's possible I raised the issue on HBL precisely because I was confronted with it almost daily and had been thinking about the answer for some time, and you responded. If I didn't say thanks then, I say it now (with apologies if in fact I didn't say it--I simply can't recall ).

##### Share on other sites

April 15, 2008

WORLD SCIENCE

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Brain may prepare decisions in advance

April 15, 2008

Courtesy Nature Journals

and World Science staff

Cer­tain pat­terns of brain ac­ti­vity pre­dict peo­ple’s de­ci­sions up to 10 sec­onds be­fore the peo­ple are aware of them, ac­cord­ing to new re­search that casts fresh doubt on wheth­er we have free will.

................................................................................

.........................................

I sent in the following comment:

If these scientists are correct, and we have no free will, then (by their reasoning) their conclusions are not open to choice. They cannot choose to accept that what they think, is correct. That "choice" has already been determined for them according to pre-determined factors.

Validation of any theory requires that one is free to choose what evidence supports, or doesn't support conclusions.

Without free will, 'truth' ceases to exist, since one must be free to choose between the false and the truth.

All this aside, just as it is obvious that you don't have to prove you are alive, since proof requires one to be alive, so it is with free will. To prove it, requires it.

Finally; one only has to introspect, and one can observe oneself making choices. That is all the evidence one requires.

Arnold

##### Share on other sites

April 15, 2008

WORLD SCIENCE

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Brain may prepare decisions in advance

April 15, 2008

Courtesy Nature Journals

and World Science staff

Cer­tain pat­terns of brain ac­ti­vity pre­dict peo­ple’s de­ci­sions up to 10 sec­onds be­fore the peo­ple are aware of them, ac­cord­ing to new re­search that casts fresh doubt on wheth­er we have free will.

................................................................................

.........................................

I sent in the following comment:

If these scientists are correct, and we have no free will, then (by their reasoning) their conclusions are not open to choice. They cannot choose to accept that what they think, is correct. That "choice" has already been determined for them according to pre-determined factors.

Validation of any theory requires that one is free to choose what evidence supports, or doesn't support conclusions.

Without free will, 'truth' ceases to exist, since one must be free to choose between the false and the truth.

All this aside, just as it is obvious that you don't have to prove you are alive, since proof requires one to be alive, so it is with free will. To prove it, requires it.

Finally; one only has to introspect, and one can observe oneself making choices. That is all the evidence one requires.

Arnold

I’ve heard this before, and I agree, it’s self-contradictory. It seems, that even if people where controlled by subconscious forces outside of their control, the simple recognition of these forces would undermine their power.

Quite simply, we wouldn’t be able to come up with this theory without free-will.

Here is a youtube video about this same subject (the evidence seems to take a leap of logic at one point, the observed phenomenon dosen't justify the conclusion.)

- Ryan

- Of coarse, there are things that affect the brain and mind on a molecular and subconscious level, which affects behavior and thought; but that’s not the same as saying there is no free-will.

##### Share on other sites

Could "certain patterns of brain activity" be...I dunno, coming to a decision? Whoever said that making a decision was instantaneous?

##### Share on other sites

I second bborg's question (and premise) about "coming to a decision." The video in question is actually about higher level choices, not the primary to choice to focus one's conceptual faculty or let it drift at random. Higher level choices, according to Objectivism, are not directly volitional. They depend on the more fundamental choice to focus or not.

Also, the premise of the experiment in the video was for the subject to wait until he/she "feels" like pressing a key ("gets an urge" to press one). The apparent increase in brain activity captured by the instrument probably just reflects that build-up of an "urge" to press a key.

I can't help wondering what the instrument might have shown for *my* activity, since I probably would have decided minutes in advance always to press the first key, never the second, and only as the hand of the spinning clock approaches the "0" position (i.e., "60") -- assuming the researcher would have allowed me to do it that way, or to get away with doing it without telling him in advance that I was going to do it that way. I would have been interested to see how close I could actually come to the "60" position each time, like certain kinds of games in amusement galleries.

An additional point can be important to emphasize in some contexts, also. There is a difference between the following two claims: (a) it is an axiom that man has free will, and (b ) "free will," i.e., volition, is an axiomatic primary concept. The original discussion by Ayn Rand (in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, Chapter 6) held that the term "axiomatic" actually applies only to certain concepts, not to propositions. Propositions are reducible to concepts and, hence, are not axiomatic.