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    Free Will And Determinism
    By Gerhard Adam | July 18th 2009 01:57 PM | 12 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    In another post the general discussion regarding free will seemed to teeter on the edge of a definition that recognized the significant role that our genes and indoctrination played, while allowing some "wiggle" room for something like free will to emerge. However this also lead me to wonder about the role of determinism in this, because ultimately the argument against free will is based on the idea that we are defined by our genes and teachings, so whatever we do is inevitable. It has been argued that we simply respond to pain/reward chemistry in the brain, and that individuals don't really have the ability to act outside their genetics and indoctrination. However, if we accept this idea we are also forced into absurd conclusions, such as the fact that it was inevitable that Einstein develop his theories of relativity. If so, then we have to question by what connection did genetics and indoctrination arrive at such a conclusion (since they could not have been independently arrived at). It would also suggest that all human achievement is inevitable and subject only to the vagaries of natural selection.

    Therefore if we are the complete products of nature/nurture and have no ability to venture outside that definition, then arguably our entire existence is deterministic (at least as far as our mental facilities are concerned). However, this also makes me consider whether this isn't unnecessarily reductionist.

    In reductionism, it is useful to take anything which exhibits complexity and break it down into constituent parts or processes to gain a better understanding of what is occurring. This approach provides a means whereby a problem can be broken down into smaller and smaller pieces to gain insight into whatever is being studied. The hazards of this viewpoint are that, while it may provide a useful perspective, it may become a vehicle for extrapolating conclusions that simply aren't true. Understanding a part of a process is not synonymous with understanding the process itself.

    The concept of emergent properties recognizes that the object being examined isn't necessarily the simple sum of its parts, but may have characteristics that don't exist until all of its components are put together. In effect, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

    As an example let me resort to a computer analogy, since this is a reasonable example of something that is capable of being reduced and being necessarily deterministic. In addition, because of its familiarity to many people, there is a strong temptation to take this knowledge and draw comparisons to other systems that seem to reflect similar behaviors (i.e. computer programs and DNA), which can lead to many gross misinterpretations.

    In a computer system, one can look at a system and see that it can be broken down into smaller and smaller components, such as applications, programs, instructions, etc. Each level down brings us closer to seeing how the individual parts work, until we are ultimately looking at the actual one's and zero's that make up the representation of data/instructions in the computer itself. This is where the problems can begin if one doesn't choose the framework carefully. While one can examine a system down to the level of one's and zero's, one cannot extrapolate the system from one's and zero's. At some point this becomes too reductionist and we become bogged down with unnecessary details that can lead us to erroneous conclusions about the phenomenon being examined. So as we begin to see that the one's and zero's represent data and instructions, and then examine how these collection of instructions can be grouped together to form programs, we see the emergence of a "behavior" that extends beyond the simple representations we viewed initially.

    Specifically, we find that the particular use to which a program is put may extend well outside the original design parameters and lead to "behavior" that could never be anticipated by examining the components only. So what we have is a system that is based on the simple use of one's and zero's and yet can show "behavior" as diverse as this document, telecommunications, or rendering fantasy characters (CGI) in movies.

    At some point, we must recognize that having a completely deterministic system, like a computer, can give rise to many "behaviors" that have nothing to do with the limitations of the constituent parts.

    This parallels the discussion regarding "free will" and considerations of the role genetics and biochemistry play in the brain. An important question to consider is that if restricting computers to one's and zero's or restricting atoms to protons, neutrons, and electrons has not limited the diversity to which these combinations can give rise, is it necessarily a foregone conclusion that the biochemistry that produced and controls the brain is any more limiting?

    In particular when it comes to considering the degree of freedom the brain has regarding its electro-chemical actions, the question could be rephrased to consider whether it is the brain's chemistry that determines what occurs, or that it is the actions of the organism that determine the chemistry. In our computer analogy that question would ask if it was the one's and zero's that determine what the system can do, or is it the system that determines what the one's and zero's will be?

    Invariably from a reductionist perspective it is easy to fall into the trap to say that the system doesn't exist without the one's and zero's and therefore they must be the determining factor, but in truth, it isn't the one's and zero's that give rise to the system either. It is the emergent property of all these items together that gives rise to something that is more than either one is separately.

    Similarly in considering the effect of brain chemistry, we can argue that it is only the collective actions of the entire organ (and organism) that can determine the state of the brain, and that there is no meaningful question that can be asked regarding a single trigger.



    "We behave well because social good behaviour fires off pleasant neurochemicals in our brains (the pleasure reward), because consciously or unconsciously we want others to see us as a good person (the social reward) or to feel good about ourselves (for pride and self-esteem)."
    "Altruism is an Illusion" by Vexen Crabtree, 2006 Jan
    However on closer examination this statement is meaningless because it suggests that there is some mechanism in the brain that "understands" goodness and therefore rewards that behavior when the external organism exhibits it. Similarly, how would one credit the genes with creating such a reward system without being forced to conclude that the gene itself is capable of distinguishing between good and bad.

    Perhaps the "reward" that we're seeing is derived from external behaviors and not interally at all? Consider that at the simplest levels, our biological systems have a "fight or flight" mechanism that involves adrenaline and other chemical reactions to prime the body for some confrontation. Ignoring all the evolutionary steps that created such a system, we'll simply acknowledge that it is there and consider how a "reward" system may have come about in terms of how it is expressed in the brain response.

    I'm sure everyone has experienced the situation where they experience an increase in tension, which is the body priming itself for some event to occur. If we discover that it is nothing to be concerned about, then we will generally notice a sense of relief. Depending on the degree of tension/relief felt, it isn't difficult to see how the feeling of relief could become a "reward" sensation. From this, we may experience similar chemical reactions if we find that encounters with others resulted in "relief" that no confrontation occurred, so over time, we are creating the brain chemistry to associate the lack of a confrontation with the "reward" feeling.

    I want to be clear that I'm not offering an evolutionary explanation for the brain, nor it's chemistry. I'm only trying to show that it is possible that the brain chemistry necessary to exhibit a pleasant "reward" sensation could have derived from nothing more than the relief at not having to run or fight. In effect, then the organism is what would've driven the brain chemistry and not the other way around. This could have developed into an internal control system that eventually caused some organisms to recognize that cooperation was easier than confrontation, so that those that experienced that "reward" sensation tended to cooperate more (potentially giving rise to even fewer conflicts with outside organisms).

    In effect, what this process describes is that the brain's chemistry would've "learned" that a particular behavior was more beneficial than a contrary behavior. A phenomenon not fundamentally different than the outside pressure we exert on our brain in learning how to read. Similarly, it is clear that it is the organism itself that exerts control over the brain in setting the various electro-chemical states to achieve learning and retain memories. Therefore, we are forced to conclude that whatever the behavior of the brain is, it is not being generated internally, but rather it is being formed by external actions. In other words, the brain cannot be induced to read or do arithmetic, it must be externally conditioned to respond and perform those tasks. So while the genes and biochemistry dictate the framework around which this occurs, like our computer system, this isn't a limitation, but rather it is simply a particular architectural implementation.

    To put this into the context of free will, this would seem to suggest that we aren't merely the hapless victims of a brain's chemistry that is dictated by our genes, but rather our genes are responsible for creating a working environment into which we exert a great deal of influence. We will clearly be influenced by those that teach us, and that provide us our viewpoint and belief systems, but primarily we recognize that it is the outside world that shapes our brain's operation (absent anatomical or physiological defects). It has also been argued that it is our indoctrination that affects free will, however, this argument begs the question because it really suggests that our indoctrination was taught rather than deterministically set. Therefore, if it was taught, then other things can be taught as well, so it really is an indication that the flexibility exists within the brain's architecture and while it may exert a powerful influence on our behavior, it doesn't exclude being changed.

    This would then suggest that there is free will present in the human brain, however, it should also be considered that "free will" doesn't automatically mean that changing our "minds" is a trivially easy task to accomplish. Regardless of such difficulties, it seems that our brain/mind behavior is not completely deterministic, and therefore "free will" does exist.

    Comments

    kerrjac
    Good points all around. I like the computer analogy.

    The key part missing from the artificial dichotomy between determinism&free will is that they are not mutually exclusive. That is, you can behave in a certain manner both b/c you choose to do so & b/c of chemical signals in the brain(/God predetermined your fate). This harks back to Aristotle's distinction btwn different types of causes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causality#Aristotle), some or all of which can be occurring at the same time, interacting with each other, etc.

    Science is particularly suited at studying certain types of causes but not others. It can certainly inform many aspects of our lives, but common mistakes come from assuming that one type of cause necessarily rules out all the others, or is more important than others. That's why science will never be the end all & be all, but at the same time recognizing such limitations (about the types of causes that it can study) will only empower it further.
    Gerhard Adam
    Thanks for the comments and feedback.  While I realize you weren't necessarily making any particular case, your choice of words prompted some of the following observations:


    God predetermined your fate
    If that would be the case, then it would be a fatal contradiction to religious belief.  In effect, it would negate the effect of sin, if there were no choice in the matter, so religion requires free-will or the entire structure of it collapses.




    ...b/c you choose to do so&b/c of chemical signals in the brain...
    Difficulty is no basis for denying free-will.  Unless chemical signals cause a mechanistic response behavior, then they don't actually control free-will, although they may obviously make it more difficult (i.e. addictions, emotions, etc.) to act in a manner counter to their influence.

    This is a dilemma that occurs in problems like depression (my unqualified opinion), whereby you can't necessarily determine whether some people can deal with it, by working through their issues and ultimately readjust their brain chemistry, while others may need external pharmaceutical help.

    It brings up some interesting issues regarding concepts like grieving, forgiveness, etc.  It seems plausible that people that give in to their emotions tend to follow their natural tendencies to let the brain chemistry resolve itself and attain equilibrium, while others that attempt to stifle or control their emotions may be doing themselves biochemical harm.  I certainly don't have any proof for that assertion, but it's simply an idea I've speculated about.  It also raises the question about whether certain rituals and ceremonies haven't evolved (socially) over time to deal with similar issues.  In other words, did funeral ceremonies arise to honor the dead, or to provide a coping mechanism for the living?
    Mundus vult decipi
    kerrjac
    God predetermined your fate
    If that would be the case, then it would be a fatal contradiction to religious belief.  In effect, it would negate the effect of sin, if there were no choice in the matter, so religion requires free-will or the entire structure of it collapses.
    To go on a brief religious tangent, the "fatal contradiction to religious belief" has received heavy debate/criticism, particularly from the middle ages on. But at the same time, I'd argue, it gets at the heart of some common misunderstandings about causality. It's not a contradiction b/c divine predetermination - as a cause for sin - is a different type of cause than free will. That is, it doesn't rule out free will.

    These different causes may interact with each other - as in the case of where a sinner chooses to sin b/c he believes it's all predetermined anyway - but they're not the same. Looking at your depression example, along with other real-life problems, there's a "tangled hierarchy" (to burrow a term from Hofstadter) of different types of causes at play.
    Gerhard Adam
    Well, you don't want to get me started on that angle.  Suffice it to say, that just like I don't play poker with people using a marked deck, I'm not a fan of an omniscient being that has pre-determined outcomes and then wants to play accountability games.

    In any case, you can see where I stand on this debate.
    Mundus vult decipi
    kerrjac
    Suffice it to say, that just like I don't play poker with people using a marked deck, I'm not a fan of an omniscient being that has pre-determined outcomes and then wants to play accountability games.

    Well to humor the theological view, you would be called absurd for questioning God's authority&his accountability games. But returning to science & causality, the analogy still stands that free will is not excluded by predetermination - whether the agent for the latter be God, chemicals, genes, whatever. It's easy to confuse these different types of causes, but doing so is absurd as saying that "all" you have to do to win a football game is to score more points than the other team, or "all" you have to do to lose weight is to expend more calories than you consume.
    Fred Pauser
    Gerhard,

    I'm only trying to show that it is possible that the brain chemistry necessary to exhibit a pleasant "reward" sensation could have derived from nothing more than the relief at not having to run or fight. In effect, then the organism is what would've driven the brain chemistry and not the other way around.




    This reminds me of the old joke: A man is hitting his head repeatedly against a wall. An onlooker asks him why. He responds, “Because it feels good when I stop.”



    We do not usually intentionally cause ourselves pain just to experience the relief of the ceasation of pain. Even if some people did do something along that line, they would not be driving their own brain chemistry. They would merely have learned a cause-and-effect relationship about themselves, and may decide then that the pain is worth the feel-good effect. It’s like getting drunk on alcohol because the “high” is judged to be worth the hangover. This is not a case of the organism driving the brain chemistry in any significant sense. It would more accurately be a demonstration of the pleasure/pain principle.



    It has been argued that we simply respond to pain/reward chemisty in the brain, and that individuals don’t really have the ability to act outside their genetics and indoctrination. However, if we accept this idea we are also forced into absurd conclusions, such as the fact that it was inevitable that Einstein develop his theories of relativity.




    No, it does not follow that we are forced into fatalism (which is what you are saying)! Although genetics combined with experience form the basis of our decision, we have evidence that randomness, chance, contingency, are also involved. A frozen rigid pre-ordained sort of universe would indeed be absurd, but that is not the case.



    We humans have the ability to make conscious thoughtful decisions. It turns out the every such decision is based predicting among available options as to what will make us feel better in some way, or what will help us to lessen or avoid pain. This is certainly not “simple,” unless you consider our brains and biochemical bodies, arrived at as a result of billions of years of the evolution of life, to be “simple”!!







    FURTHERMORE, IN REGARD TO THE PLEASURE/PAIN PRINCIPLE:



    In describing homeostatic regulation the human body, Neurobiologist Antonio Damasio states:

    “Some of the machinery of the immune system and of metabolic regulation is incorporated in he machinery of pain and pleasure behaviors. Some of the latter is incorporated in the machinery of drives and motivations (most of which revolve around metabolic corrections ALL OF WHICH involve pain and pleasure).” (Looking for Spinoza, p. 17)



    Damasio observed that the basic equivalent of pleasure and pain reactions are apparent even in the brainless sea anemone. (The Feeling of What Happens, p. 79)



    Damasio wrote, “Some variation of pleasure or pain is a consistent content of the perception we call feeling.” (Looking for Spinoza, p. 85).

    (What is more important to each of us personally than how well we feel?)



    “Organisms come to being with the capacity to regulate life and thereby permit survival. Just as naturally, organisms strive to achieve a ‘greater perfection’ of function, which Spinoza equates with joy. All of these endeavors and tendencies are engaged unconsciously.” (p. 13).



    Damasio states:

    “Not content with the blessings of mere survival, nature seems to have had a nice afterthought: The innate equipment of life regulation does not aim for a neither-here-nor-there neutral state midway between life and death. Rather, the goal of the homeostasis endeavor is to provide a better than neutral life state, what we as thinking and affluent creatures identify as wellness and well-being.”





    So life involves striving for “greater perfection,” or at least something better than just getting by. This correlates with the directionality we see apparent in the evolution of life – a direction of increasing complexity with matching increasing capabilities over billions of years. Robert Wright brilliantly describes in great detail the directional nature of evolution in his book, Nonzero. (This observation of evolution hints pretty strongly at a fundamental general purpose of life.)



    And on pleasure and pain, Einstein said:



    “Everything that the human race has done and thought is concerned with the satisfaction of deeply felt needs and the assuagement of pain. … Feelings and longings are the motive forces behind all human endeavors and human creations.” (New York Times Magazine, “Religion and Science,” 11/09/30)
    Gerhard Adam
    I think you're placing too much emphasis on pleasure and pain, although I recognize that it would still play a significant biochemical role in behavior.


    We do not usually intentionally cause ourselves pain just to experience the relief of the ceasation of pain. Even if some people did do something along that line, they would not be driving their own brain chemistry.


    I'm sorry if I wasn't clear on my meaning about the organism driving the brain chemistry.  My point is that the feeling of relief from not having to run or fight, might've been enough of a precursor to such a reward feeling that it could have developed over time to enhance or "encourage" cooperative behaviors.  (Understanding that this is fully speculative, on my part).
    The point is not that an individual "willed" the change in brain chemistry, but it would have been a natural consequence of the dissipation of the adrenal that stress would've triggered.

    We still observe this type of activity in people engaged in activities from the various effects of endorphin released during periods of high physical stress or pain.  There can be little doubt that it is the physical activity which triggers the brain chemistry response, so there is certainly a pathway to that objective and we can't very well argue that brain genetics or chemistry had much to do with it.  The cause was external to the brain, and the brain responded. 



    Part of my point in assigning external causes, was to also consider the effect of ritual and cultural beliefs on brain chemistry.  In many cases, it is no coincidence that severe psychological stress can be "controlled" by allowing the body's natural processes of grieving and emotional expression to "push" the brain's chemistry on a return path to equilibrium.  In fact, many drug treatments are externally induced precisely because either the brain, or the patient fails to prompt the brain response to the necessary equilibrium of "normalcy".



    Although genetics combined with experience form the basis of our decision, we have evidence that randomness, chance, contingency, are also involved
    I would have to disagree with this assessment, since the concept of free-will can't be explained by randomness or chance.  Clearly there must be an avenue to take all the genetics and biochemistry and still create a unique pathway that cannot be explained as a completely deterministic result.

    As I said, I'm not denying that there is a pain/pleasure "center", nor am I denying that it plays a significant motivating role in human behavior.  However, we are also not lab rats simply pressing on a feeder bar.  We can voluntarily engage pain, we can overcome difficulties, and we can voluntarily stress ourselves beyond limits that even our mind might seek to impose on us.

    So, I'm forced to conclude that despite the heavy influence of the genetics and chemistry, there is ultimately an element of personal control that can only be explained by the phenomenon of "free-will", since deterministic probabilities would fail to detect its existence.


    We humans have the ability to make conscious thoughtful decisions. It turns out the every such decision is based predicting among available options as to what will make us feel better in some way, or what will help us to lessen or avoid pain.
    But how does this argue for or against "free will"?  The mere fact of having parameters around choices doesn't preclude a free choice.  I think this is the source of the problem we've been discussing, because this statement (in my opinion) begs the question of "free will".  When considering whether my "will" is free or deterministic, any particular motivation (ie. pain/pleasure) is irrelevant.  I certainly don't think that one can argue that Einstein developed relativity because it made him "feel better", but rather that we all have things that motivate us and make us feel better or worse.  While such motivation can certainly drive our lives, it could hardly be considered deterministic in any meaningful way.  So, this is precisely what would cause "free will" to originate, because it separates us from any kind of artificial intelligence we can imagine.  We intuitively understand that even the most sophisticated science fiction robot would cease to be a machine, if it could "feel good".
    Mundus vult decipi
    Fred Pauser
    Gerhard,



    I don’t like to use the term “determinism” in place of “no free will” because it is too often taken to mean fatalism, or predetermined unfolding of life, which are false concepts. Life derived from the laws of nature. Human life is related to the first life forms and all life in general. The forces that drive other species to behave as they do, drive us to behave as we do. Although, as far as we know, nature possesses no *conscious* will, we function, in a sense, according to the forces or the will of nature, just as all creatures do. We have much greater mental capacity than most creatures, so our decisions are often far more complex than theirs, but the underlying goal of each decision is the same for us as for other creatures: to satisfy felt needs and avoid pain.



    When considering whether my "will" is free or deterministic, any particular motivation (ie. pain/pleasure) is irrelevant. I certainly don't think that one can argue that Einstein developed relativity because it made him "feel better", but rather that we all have things that motivate us and make us feel better or worse. While such motivation can certainly drive our lives, it could hardly be considered deterministic in any meaningful way.




    After Einstein developed his first Theory of Relativity, he reported that he was so elated and ecstatic that he could not work for a week! It certainly did make him feel good, not only for the week, but it enhanced his prestige, and must have helped to enhance his sense of personal security for the future, as well as providing a lasting satisfaction that anyone would be likely to feel after solving a major scientific problem.



    Yes, I agree that we all have things that make us feel better or worse, and that such motivation can certainly drive our lives. Our individual makeup, which is first determined by our genes combined with our experience, then determines what makes us feel better or worse. We learn over time about ourselves – about what makes us feel better or worse. Then we make our decisions based upon what we predict will make us feel better or worse in any given situation. If not that, than what??? In your other blog about free will you mentioned human creativity as a basis for free will. Einstein was certainly creative in reaching his solution, but it was essentially nature at the core of it all. Nature/evolution was creative enough to produce humans in the first place. Einstein and all of us are not more than expressions of nature. It’s appropriate that you mentioned Einstein. Let me quote him again:



    Everything that the human race has done and thought is concerned with the satisfaction of deeply felt needs and the assuagement of pain. … Feelings and longings are the motive forces behind all human endeavors and human creations.




    Can you give an example of a decision clearly made on the basis of free will?
    LauraHult
    After Einstein developed his first Theory of Relativity, he reported that he was so elated and ecstatic that he could not work for a week! It certainly did make him feel good, not only for the week, but it enhanced his prestige, and must have helped to enhance his sense of personal security for the future, as well as providing a lasting satisfaction that anyone would be likely to feel after solving a major scientific problem.

    But this is evidently not why Einstein embarked upon this quest:

    "I sometimes ask myself how it came about that I was the one to develop the theory of relativity. The reason, I think, is that a normal adult never stops to think about problems of space and time. These are things which he has thought about as a child. But my intellectual development was retarded, as a result of which I began to wonder about space and time only when I had already grown up."

    And just for grins, Uncle Albert also said:

    "Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence."
    Gerhard Adam

    Fred,

    I would argue that the universe itself includes "free will" as part of the fundamental fabric that makes it up.  Your argument cannot be directly answered because you can always fall back on the position that even my counter-arguments are not a product of free will because they were a product of my genetics and indoctrination.

    However, if we look at the universe, we continuously discover that there are limits to what can be known and that in that unknown element it is impossible to ascertain what has taken place (if anything).  In large deterministic systems we have discovered that they are fundamentally chaotic, so their behavior depends unequivocally on initial conditions (which can never be absolutely known).

    Similarly, as I've stated before, the use of one's and zero's in a computer doesn't limit the applications that can be developed, any more than genetics and biochemistry automatically limit our ability to think.  I've agreed that we are subject to strong influences, but these are not absolute.  I don't doubt that many of our mental processes are completely deterministic, but they are also chaotic.  While it can be argued that even if we don't know all the initial conditions and details of our brain's operation, it is still deterministic and therefore can't have "free will", I would suggest that this isn't true.  In the same way that predicting the weather can not occur over the long-term because of chaos, so is it with our brains.  In other words, we can never possess enough information to make an informed prediction regarding the behavior of any brain.

    There is a strong temptation in quantum physics and chaos to believe that there is a secret that we may yet uncover which will show us the hidden machinery and make the universe deterministic, but this isn't likely to happen.  Instead we have to accept the fact that these issues arise not because of imperfections in our measurements or our science, but because the universe simply will not allow anyone to "see" into those processes. 

    One also can't escape by invoking probability, since that has nothing to do with "free will", but only the choices available.  Having to choose between a black or white object, doesn't negate "free will", it only limits the choices over which I can exercise my will.

    In the end, I must conclude that all of the key, criticial components of the scientific laws to which the universe is subject are fundamentally indeterminate in any absolutely sense, so the more appropriate question is one I would submit to you.

    Recognizing that there are certainly physical limitations of the brain's capability and equally that there are life-long influences and experiences that will "push" us in certain directions.  Since the brain is not a completely deterministic system, then on what basis is there any reason to believe that we don't routinely have thoughts and make decisions that are the direct result of "free will"?

    I am taught many things, I will experience many things, and ultimately I will be the censor of my own beliefs.  What I accept, reject, or speculate about will be the doings of my own "free will".

    Mundus vult decipi
    Fred Pauser
    Gerhard, you concluded with:



    I am taught many things, I will experience many things, and ultimately I will be the censor of my own beliefs. What I accept, reject, or speculate about will be the doings of my own "free will".




    It seems that you are “determined” to believe humans possess a degree of free will (beyond the freedom or liberty that we associate with consciously not feeling coerced or restricted).



    I remain in the position of believing that sort of free will to be an illusion. Until we humans come up with deeper knowledge or stronger evidence to resolve this debate one way or the other, it seems we could go on indefinitely (as Galen Strawson suggests):



    Suitably developed, this argument against moral responsibility seems very strong. But in many human beings, the experience of choice gives rise to a conviction of absolute responsibility that is untouched by philosophical arguments. This conviction is the deep and inexhaustible source of the free will problem: powerful arguments that seem to show that we cannot be morally responsible in the ultimate way that we suppose, keep coming up against equally powerful psychological reasons why we continue to believe that we are ultimately morally responsible.


    http://www.rep.routledge.com/article/V014
    Gerhard Adam
    Actually I realized something when I was watching a program about "Christian the Lion".   Observing the interaction, it is clear that the lion displayed a great deal of mental capability which consisted of abstracting memory regarding the past, recognition of others after a period of time, social introduction to others, in short a whole range of behaviors that demonstrate a high degree of awareness.

    Most importantly, it demonstrates that an animal must have a sense of self-awareness, otherwise it would make no sense to interpret any of its behavior.  Since this is a lion, there can be little doubt that it is governed by its genes which was amply demonstrated by the ability for the lion to be returned to the wild and successful sire his own pride and acquire his own territory.

    To get back to the issue of free will, you have to wonder on what basis an animal like that can "choose" to restrain its strength and basically act against all of its genetic programming.  You could suggest that it is indoctrination, but as I mentioned before, that can be changed and even then you'd be hard pressed to demonstrate how the lion was ever taught to keep its claws hidden.

    Instead, the only conclusion is that the lion "chose" to do so because of genuine feelings that were shared with his owners (whether from dependency or not) suggests that genes and natural instincts are not enough to determine behavior, but rather, even for the lion, there is a degree of free will that can override all of those elements.  Most telling of all, is that when the lion reached adulthood, it recognized and interacted with his former owners, but also behaved like an adult that had other responsibilities now. 

    I think that humans tend to get bogged down in their view of "free will" because they over-think it, but when it is applied to animals it becomes much easier to see because the indoctrination element is typically removed and you can't account for an animal's ability to act against its genes in any other fashion.
    Mundus vult decipi