Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

Frank_Hirsch comments on Explaining vs. Explaining Away - Less Wrong

46 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 17 March 2008 01:59AM

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (98)

Sort By: Old

You are viewing a single comment's thread.

Comment author: Frank_Hirsch 19 March 2008 04:22:08PM 1 point [-]

Frank Hirsch: How do you propose to lend credibility to your central tenet "If you seem to have free will, then you have free will"?

Ian C.: I'm not deducing (potentially wrongly) from some internal observation that I have free will. The knowledge that I chose is not a conclusion, it is a memory. If you introspect on yourself making a decision, the process is not (as you would expect): consideration (of pros and cons) -> decision -> option selected. It is in fact: consideration -> 'will' yourself to decide -> knowledge of option chosen + memory of having chosen it. The knowledge that you chose is not worked out, it is just given to you directly. So their is no scope for you to err.

No scope to err? Surely you know that human memory is just about the least reliable source of information you can appeal to? Much of what you seem to remember about your decision process is constructed in hindsight to explain your choice to yourself. There is a nice anecdote about what happens if you take that hindsight away:

In an experiment, psychologist Michael Gazzaniga flashed pictures to the left half of the field of vision of split-brain patients. Being shown the picture of a nude woman, one patient smiles sheepishly. Asked why, she invents — and apparently believes — a plausible explanation: “Oh — that funny machine”. Another split-brain patient has the word “smile” flashed to his nonverbal right hemisphere. He obliges and forces a smile. Asked why, he explains, “This experiment is very funny”.

So much for evidence from introspective memory...