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

Bernard Hughes (
Mon, 19 Oct 1998 23:24:56 -0230

Scott Badger wrote:

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?

Yes. I'm always pruning to keep the traffic down a bit. Sometimes I overdo it. I'm on a cable modem connection at the moment, but am sometimes on links much slower and more expensive.

If you assume the *self* is the story-teller module, I agree all else follows. But I see the story-teller module as a critical component in the *self*, but not the whole story. And I for one am satisfied with a pretty weak definition of free will, a Turing Test version. If the organism acts like it has free will, it has free will. The pure purposeful action free from subconscious or environmental determinants, predispositions, or influence seems like a Platonic ideal to me.

Consciousness is an even bigger headache to explain. Its beyond me. But at a handwaving level, I think it is another function of the complex interactions between subsystem components. I used to keep ants as pets as a kid, and was always impressed how the apparently simple behavior of each ant interacted to produce a complex organism (the nest). So its plausible to me that interactions could lead to some powerful effects.

I've just finished reading Pinkers "How the Mind Works". He argues at the end of that that our mind, designed by natural selection, may not have the equipment to understand consciousness. In the sense of sentience that is.

Dennet is coming here (St. John's, Newfoundland) for a philosophy of mind conference Nov 6th. Perhaps that will give me more of a clue on the subject.