Re: Free will (was: Re: Mind control 1965)

Scott Badger (
Mon, 19 Oct 1998 17:26:13 -0500

Bernard Hughes <> wrote:

>Scott Badger wrote:
>> (A1) if, as I believe he suggests, a part of my brain is constructing a
>> best-fit storyline to account for the actions of other neural
>> systems, and
>> (A2) if this story is a mixture of interpretation and confabulation,
>> (A3) if I perceive that *I* am the story being told by the
>> then
>> (B) Isn't the notion of self an illusion? (and isn't this an
>> increasingly
>> popular theory among consciousness researchers?)
>I don't think B follows from A. The description in A fits my current model
>how brains work quite well. But the "story-teller" is just one neural
>subsystems. For me, concepts like "free will" apply at the level of
>between the subsystems. Observing that the subsystems are too simple to
>the behavior of the total system is normal for complex systems.

Hmmm, I think you snipped the part of my post that addresses your comments at least in part, but nevermind. I still think B follows from A. I assumed that my concept of my "self" *is* the story being told by the story-teller module. I also assumed that the story is the *product* of the story-teller. As a product, the story does not have the capacity to act as an agent. The story-teller is the agent, as are all the other sub-systems and their interactions. But the story itself has no inherent causative capacity. It may be reacted to once it is produced, but is not a *direct* agent of change. Thus the self cannot exert "free will". (keep in mind this is the argument as I understand it, not my personal philosophy - I just enjoy advocating for the devil.)

So, I agree that the story-teller is one of many sub-systems and that it is the complex interactions between subsystems which are required to support the total organism. Now . . . you postulate that "free will" applies
at the level of sub-system interactions. My question then
is, "Are sub-system interactions conscious or unconscious processes?" My understanding was that they are not. So how can "free will" be an unconscious process?

> Its a pet peeve of mine that when I say that the human behavior is based
on the
>firing of neurons, some people jump to, "you think we are just a bundle of
>neurons". The "just" takes out most of the interesting stuff about how the
>works, and rather misrepresents my view.

I agree completely.

>I like the "Society of Mind" model
>which I think Scott is referring to. But I don't think it implies the brain
>"just" a collection of neural sub-systems. The "story-teller" may be an
>important part of the perception of self, but without the other parts, it
>have no stories to tell.

Right, I never meant to diminish the importance of the other parts. In fact,
if anything, I may have been implying the opposite.