Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Considering "Free Will" (more properly): Towards a Moral Meaning in a Physical Context

Because it was established in the previous essays that the terms "freedom", "will", and the compound of these, "free will" have varied meanings, we had to spend quite a bit of time looking into the versatile modes of interpreting these terms in different contexts of their use.  

"Freedom" was shown to have a mundane, almost insipid sense of being the various possible states of a given entity, being, or system, and nothing more than the sum of those possible states.  As long as none of those states were being inhibited by any further states of that system in itself, or in relation to a context of environmental pressures which could augment or diminish those parameters of possibility, then the entity, being or system could be considered "maximally free".  But in an extended sense of freedom, some aspects of an entity, being or sysem may have processes which are organically related to another aspect of the same, and which function as facilitators of the maximal freedom of the primary aspect so that, in relation to any superveiling forces in the environment, some "sub-maximal, but situationally optimal" degree of freedom could be potentially obtained.  THIS form of systemic self-restriction is actually considered a true form of freedom for the being insofar as no further possibilities are explored beyond these three factors as given, and as long as they relate in this simplistic, but potentially complex way (this "simplex" way).  Later in this essay, as suggested in the prior essays, it will be explored how this condtion has an exceptional form wherein this process may be falsified yet presented as real.

Given that "will" is a term more relevant, in our discussion, to biological entities with complex nervous systems, mammals on up to humans let us say, an interpretation of this term was made which reflected the conditions of psychology pertinent to this range of life, especially to the upper bounds of human consciousness and its peculiar qualities.  The idea that the will of a human being reflected issues of its motivation toward pleasure-experiences and away from pain-experiences and all their complex forms of manifestation was established as one which was inescapable for the common sense foundations of our understanding of what a decision-making will might mean, although it clearly didn't dictate the ultimate and most comprehensive understanding of that phenomenon when the issue is raised of values which were transcendental to basic bodily concerns.

Therefore, whatever is meant by "free will", it must be something we understand to have some analogous meaning to a human being's fundamental capacity to make decisions which seem to it, in its operative context of consciousness, to offer the most efficient plan of action to take in settling concerns about its motivations to act, which may range from issues pertaining to its bodily condition, to its thinking parameters per se, to its inner states taken more broadly (intuition, sensation, perception, various other proprioceptive, kinesthetic, and other bodily feelings), and to its conditions of aesthetic and ethical, even moral experience and cognition.

It seems clear that the decisions we make with our freedom to act in domains of body, mind and spirit must certainly be minimally free in the sense of having various potentials available for actualization if decided, but the question is larger than just this minimal framework.  Further we understand that there are information-networks which often form complex feedback loops which engage complex cognitive heuristics that cannot likely maximized in their inherent "entelechic potential" in the context of conventional human social norms and mores!  However then that we understand man's basic causal expression on a material level, there are dimensions of his potential which are not clearly found in merely reducing our understanding of his decision-making process into a sum of his bodily components interacting with an environment that is composed of other, similarly structured beings!

Describe the underlying material and also describe the generally "objectively physical" features of events in which a person makes decisions, and do this all that you want, but it will not encompass or describe or capture the sense and description of the qualia which are properly inherent to the subjective and first-order ontology to which those physicalist descriptions are correlated.  These first-order "ontics" do not reduce to their second-order cartographical reference as "bodies in motion" no matter how strong a correlation can be drawn between "some mental state" called A and "some brain state" called A'.  It wouldn't matter how nuanced, how perfectly correlated was every mental state A with every brain state A', it wouldn't be adequate to the task of describing, understanding, and evaluating subjective phenomena in mental state A by listing the phenomena in brain state A'.

So we return to the inner wealth of our mental phenomena as we ourselves do experience them (unless you are a "philosophical zombie" in the specialized meaning of the term, and you don't actually "experience" anything...), and from this domain of our experiential lexicography we shall get the best possible fund of reference points for getting a grasp on "just what" this "free will" amounts to.

It is clear that there are "inner" experiences to which other embodied minds do not have direct access, insofar as we can directly tell (those of us who aren't already hive-minded beyond our own private subjectivities...).  It is not that we have no good reasons to understand that we each have similar experiences, for the common conduct and interpretations of that conduct in our public and private settings, through the use of human languages of bodily gesture, verbal speech, and other modes of expression, all of which give contextual indications of one another's inner states, for these all tell us that we have no good reason to start off with the assumption that we are in a solipsistic condition. We can conceive such a possibility abstractly, but at the very least our exposure to other humans through our developmental years and adult life have given us strong conditioning against fully experiencing the world "as if" solipsism were true.  

Either way, this essay is directed to those for whom solipsism might be true, as far as they themselves can tell, and it is not directed to phi-zombs (philosophical zombies, henceforth, "phizombs"), who can at best index previous assimilations of philosophical writings on these topics and hash out some iteration of a response or position already given by some other users of English, who themselves could not formulate any original positions on this or similar subjects unless they themselves were not phizombs.

These considerations having been laid out, we can proceed with a constructive thought experiment.

If you find yourself faced with a world where the highest possible expression of your faculties of decision-making is impaired by social constraints which do suggest rational and fair sharing of the spaces of experience in which we find ourselves attempting to concentrate, focus, think, feel, contemplate, meditate, etc, then we have a situation were we are at a crossroads of decision-making which is rather complex, but still understandable according to previously described conditions for interpeting the words "freedom" and "will" and "free will".

We could, as with our tasty peach, ask ourselves whether or not we are able to change the conditions in which we currently attempt our highest possible decision-making processes (entelechic deliberation, let us call it), and we can go through all the sort of reflections and thought experiments and other juicy subjective processes which comprise the process of attempting the maximum entelechic outcome for this specific concern.  We may find we must retreat, in the end, to some better environments in which to do this, or else perhaps in some manner facilitate other changes in our sensory input, or in our physiological states, or perhaps all these and more, in order to make truly worthy attempts at this deliberation.  Descartes was of a mind to do just this when he finally got around to writing his Meditations on First Philosophy

So we understand, reflectively and "in our gut", as it were, that we perhaps are not in some given set of circumstance operating at the fullest potential of our deliberative powers about the subject of whether and how we might be disposed so as best to operate at the fullest potential of our deliberative powers.  Blame it on whatever, we are after some optimal condition and, barring some gross actions of self-defeating brutishness, we seek to find the means which are justified by those ends, which is to say reaching entelechic deliberation about entelechic deliberation.  We want to reach the fullest sense that we are able to bring all of our mental resources to bear on, at the very least this subject, which is whether we are doing this at all and in any case how this can be best achieved given all of our known resources!!  People have left everything behind and moved into distant and secluded mountain shacks in order to do something of this sort, or up into remote caves, or into monastery cells, etc!

But since this is a thought experiment and not a research project in specifically how to do this thing, let us just say that we've laid out that we wish to do this, and that we know why it is so important for us.  The reason why we wish to do this, we have found after long research so as to be absolutely certain it is the best reason, is because we have encountered sufficient data which suggests that there is a broad spectrum of evidence that indicates that society at large, as controlled through conventional and unconventional methodologies, as steered by and through overt and covert processes of manipulation and coercion, is being strategically (in general) and tactically (for certain individuals) deliberately robbed of this entelechic deliberative capacity, especially as it pertains to a consideration of those elements involved in this robbery.

In other words, it has been found beyond the shadow of any doubt that man in general, and certain men and women in particular, are being targeted by methodologies both conventional and unconventional, "legal" and illegal, overt and covert which, collectively, and with regards to certain issues of worthy consideration (such as this issue itself and all connected issues), has been and is being ROBBED OF HIS FREE WILL.  This and, moreover, with regard to the data available for consciousness to process, the process of consciousness involved in that process, and in the possibility for compensation and redress of these situations in any way within a scope of time and space that would make such efforts reasonably possible (especially within these constraints), HE HAS BEEN TURNED INTO A REAL LIFE PHILOSOPHICAL ZOMBIE

Well, if these are our concerns which motivate our research, we are certainly not surprised if by and large such a plot were mainly taken "seriously" only within the vale of fiction and entertainment as a sort of horror story that is meant to "tease" us in our "merely human" tendencies to overreact to the vicissitudes of our complex world with sometimes inordinate levels of paranoid frustration.  But if that's the best rhetorical jab we will encounter against our concrete, voluminous, empirical and logical evidence, drawn from multiple sources both in kind and quantity, then we are unmoved by such a trifling discounting of something we, at least, have the wherewithal to take more seriously, in keeping with the significance of the items involved, and in proportion to our own estimation of its importance within the scope of our own intelligence and dignity.  If others are satisfied with facile dismissals of such things, and are willing to pay others time and money to be fed stories which assuage their subconscious concerns with anecdotal suggestions of "come now, that's just fit to be the plot of a night's entertainment at the cinema", then I simply say to them "to each his own."  You go your way for your entertainment, and I'll go my way for mine, would be my reply.

Except while I find this process of getting at the truth through a cob-webbed, trap-ridden maze of lies to be sometimes entertaining, and at the very least a challenge for my wits, I consider it to be in fact a challenge to my very soul.  It is a challenge thrown at the dignity of my Spirit, and with an added accusation that I should know my place and not bother to accept such a challenge, and slink into the depressing, numbing, insulting and disgusting mob of spiritual failure, and settle for that instead of my own best potential.  I've already established I'm not about to do that.  I will explain more about the process by which I've taken that "challenge" and how much progress I've made in so doing when my answer to the question "what is free will" is further articulated in the next essay.

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