Volition and Choice: Uninformed Beginning

To get the ball rolling, as I’ve noted I’m going to attempt to consider choices, free-will and … all that. Before going into “the literature”, I thought it might be instructive to put to pen/paper (or ePaper anyhow) some ideas on this matter. I suggested some texts I might look at, put forth here, and a lively discussion followed (or lively as it gets in my quiet corner of the ‘sphere).

Anyhow, what follows (below the fold) is the dreaded bullet list of points on volition.

  • What is the ego? This is an important question for this particular topic. Is the agent making the choice just the conscious portion of decision maker, the organic entirety of the creature making the decision, or something portion in between.
  • If the ego is not just the conscious part of self, we don’t expressly know what inputs influence the unconscious part of the decision making process. Is this an important problem?
  • Some of the known inputs to the unconscious (and conscious) decision making process include heredity, environment, habit and training, and rational structures taught/learned previously, as well as others not mentioned or well known to us. Do we need a complete list in order to come to a decision on free will?
  • If I make a choice, and I get advice from a known intelligent agent (coercive or not) this advice is not (normally) seen to negate my having or not having free will. If external agents, technological, chemical, or supernatural influence those unconscious elements involved in decision making processes how is that different? It is only if those external agents override my possible choices then I lose freedom of choice, just as an agent interacting with my conscious self if that agent so constrains my choices from me does it actually remove from myself the freedom of volitional choice.
  • Leibniz wrote of a clockwork universe. If a mind/brain is determined uniquely by its genetic, chemical, and electrical interactions (classical or quantum) can such a finite thing posses free will? Can quantum uncertainty or classical non-linearity (chaos) recover intelligent free will and decision making? Does intelligence require non-computability and the unknowable of the target in order to arrive at true intelligence (or pass the Turing test)? For a classical intelligence is the indeterminate nature of the target required for it to posses free will?
  • The monastic “desert fathers” of Egypt during the late antiquity struggled against demons to bring their full focus of mind and self on God. Today’s psychologists would say they struggled against their own subconscious and unconscious. Some of them had a substantial measure of success and found happiness that way. This brings up two questions, is the meditative contemplative goal of Hesychasm (or in Asia the Buddhist or Yoga practitioner) just a way of aligning our conscious and unconscious natures (or quite possibly taking the masters of either at their word … there is more to it and more to be gained). The second question, is the technological answer to the question yield any more insights that the demonic description … or is the chemical/physical story just a more acceptable narrative to the post-Enlightenment audience.

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