Determinism and consciousness

According to Determinism, Free-will is an illusion. My questions to determinists are: What is the role of consciousness then? Why does neuronal activity trick " us " into believing we have partial control?

Consciousness is the subjective experience of physical objects. The thought “now I will act thus” is simply how a physical object comprised of neurons experiences part of the completely determinate process that it is.

“[S]ome will not give up their ‘responsibility,’ their belief in themselves, the personal right to their merits at any price (the vain races belong to this class).” (Nietzsche, BGE 21.)

I am not a determinist, and I don’t think my response is easily read as an answer to your question, but the entire “determinist/free will” debate is not a coherent paradigm to begin with, even though, unfortunately, philosopher types tend to focus on that model.

Beginners will usually couch the problem in terms similar to yours - "Why does it seem like I can make choices if everything is already determined aforehand?

Nietzsche avoids this problem, and I will give what might be a helpful version, which is perhaps more my own than N’s.

Let’s assume that it is not the case that everything is determined. That all is indeterminate. Would it then be coherent to say that we can make choices? What would that mean in an entirely indeterminate universe? What difference could it make if we could? Let’s say I chose to eat a sandwich in order to allay hunger. In an entirely indeterminate world, I would have no assurance that the sandwich would have the desired affect. So we clearly live as though some things, at least, are caused by others - some conditions (satiation, let’s say) are caused by some prior events.

Now, I can probably choose not to feel hungry. Greater feats of mind have been accomplished. But I cannot prevent the necessity of nourishment as a condition of continued life - not for very long, at least. That’s determined by my biology. The commonsense notion here is that I can make choices, but that I cannot change the conditions under which I make them. Or at least I cannot change all those conditions.

Nietzsche’s notion of power is not directed at being able to kick someone’s ass, or even to get girls and if you think that you will never understand a word of his writing.

And yes, that last sentence is related to the rest. Nietzsche doesn’t ask if we can choose or not - he asks how much we can choose - even if we cannot choose at all. You can waste time with what had been essentially a religious question at the time of his writing, or you can make assumptions that allow you to live effectively.

Faust, determinism argues that your choice is as determinate as the conditions under which you make it. Suppose you have two tin cans of Heineken in your fridge. They are, for all practical purposes, identical. However, they are of course not in the same physical location. Let’s say one is to the right of the other. You, being right-handed(?), automatically reach for the one on the right, but then remember this thread and decide to pick the other one, in an attempt to defy determinism. That memory and your vanity have then co-determined your choice. And this is an infinite regress: in religious terms, God already knows which can you’re going to pick, and it does not help you to know that He knows.

“Th’ infernal Serpent […] with ambitious aim
Against the Throne and Monarchy of God
Rais’d impious War in Heav’n and Battel proud
With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power
Hurld headlong flaming from th’ Ethereal Skie
With hideous ruine and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In Adamantine Chains and penal Fire,
Who durst defie th’ Omnipotent to Arms.”
(Milton, Paradise Lost, Book I, verse 34-49.)

Maybe - unless there is no god.

There are many flavors of determinism, Saully, as you know.

My point is that even if your version is true, it only matters to eggheads like us - and even then, not really.

I know - it was predetermined that we be eggheads.

I know, I know.

Regardless of Determinism, some conceptions of free will are clearly confusions, and other conceptions are clearly the case.

Determinism doesn’t say that a person doesn’t have control. The most common form of determinism simply says that a person exists within physics, and every motion of every particle of his being happens because of the laws of physics.

A determinist can simultaneously say ‘I chose to eat ice cream,’ AND ‘The laws of physics made me eat ice cream’.

I recommend reading through the following articles to anybody hoping to clear up the confusion:
Free Will (read these first)
Free Will Solution

Deus sive Natura.

Ironically, Seung in his Nietzsche’s Epic of the Soul contrasts what he calls “the Faustian superman” and “the Spinozan superman”:

“The former has the audacity to assert his power against the whole world; the latter has the wisdom to see the whole world as the matrix of his power.” (page 191.)

The eternal recurrence is basically absolute determinism: everything is fixed because everything has already happened. To embrace this is Spinozan; to try to wrest away from it is Faustian. What matters to the philosopher is to be aware of the Spinozan abundance of joy underneath all Faustian dissatisfaction, especially his own.

What is the " I " that chooses to eat ice-cream? Are you implying that the self ( consciousness/ I Am-ness ) is identical to cosmic forces?

Are ‘cosmic forces’ different from the laws of physics?

Some good points have been made here. I agree that the question is mostly academic in the way it has been presented. The important issue is not whether or not we have some mystical type of choice, but how far we can break away from the common perceptions we have become accustomed to (perhaps that is what Nietzsche was saying). A person who acknowledges that he’s free to choose the essence of being will be one who is most likely to have uncommon perceptions. And others will be more likely to know that person as one who shows a certain type of distinction from them.

Same thing, essentially.

Why do you figure neuronal activity tricks us rather than, say, the events surrounding the neuronal activity?

Because the task of the mind and associated brain is to assess the situation and decide how to obtain what it wants. Its task is not to assess why it wants unless, after considerable thought, the why behind the want relates to a higher priority want (which it doesn’t think enough to assess without getting into a frustrating regression → “purpose of life”).

The mind easily assesses that merely by reassessing differently, it can change what it wants (just like governments). This gives the illusion that it is “free” to arbitrarily choose any want because it didn’t think deep enough to discover why it wanted in the first place, which is something quite intentionally kept from it by other minds all around. Governments do the same thing.

It is a bit like asking a fundamentalist why a moral is good. He replies, “Because God said so”. You ask why God said so. He replies, “God works in mysterious ways of His own choosing.

There is a limit to practical situation analysis beyond which the mind declares, “just because” and gives itself the illusion of not having a cause merely because it can’t see the cause because it doesn’t want to look that deep (especially if it is going to take away its illusion of freedom).

I’m a subscriber of the idea of partial-free will or partial autonomy; I ( the will ) can decide whether to rape a female or not. My actions are not " arbitrary ", i.e., without reason, but they are actions brought about by myself ( The will ) in correlation with logical reasons. A primal impulse may incline me toward sexually assaulting that hypothetical good looking female with the mini-skirt, but my thoughts remind myself ( the will ) that such actions are not in my best interest. But it is possible for me to act in opposition to those thoughts if I cease to care about the consequences. But, ultimately, the choice is up to the will ( myself ). Just because my actions are correlated with reasons, that doesn’t mean I have no control or say in the matter. Correlation is not identical to causality.

Determinism doesent mean that every single causitive step is determined, since that goes into the problem of the infinity of points between steps. Every step in an infinite series can’t all be determined, because there are hidden and unknown/unknowable steps. A straight line may be or is curved. Determinism is the course free will takes along the most probable/possible.

There is no absolutely determined causation, nor for that matter, free will.

I’d probably change this statement…

The most common form of determinism simply says that a person exists within physics, and every motion of every particle of his being happens because of the laws of physics.

…to this…

My form of determinism simply says that a person exists within physics, and every motion of every particle of his being can be described by the laws of physics.

That my choices are always described by others in certain ways (say, equal and opposite forces or whatever) makes sense. We share the same “space” (the correspondence of our very similar mental architectures to the known world). But there’s no reason to assume that equal and opposite forces (or whatever) compelled me to act in a certain way.

I don’t think the laws of physics make me do anything. I think the known laws of physics describe patterns of how some things function. Unknown laws, whether they can be known in the future or not, aren’t necessarily laws that fall under the purview of physics as we currently conceive it.

I agree with anon that there need not be any compulsion. Determinism works through us as well as on us. Free will is an absurd concept: it would be a will that determined its own essence (if not willed itself into existence!), that is to say a will that determined what it was a will to, how strong it was, etc.; but this would mean that it was a will to determine itself, i.e. a will to will to will to etc. etc.! So no, Stuart, I don’t “acknowledge” that a person is free to choose the essence of being.

I didn’t use the words “will” or “determinism” in my previous post for a reason. I know that ES is not looking for complex explanations that come from a long line of known philosophers. Or at least I assume as much, because like me he is focused on making his mark on the world. Concerns about determinism are useless for one such as that and the subject of “will” has little if nothing to do with the subject of freedom. The concern here isn’t with anything as abstract as one might think. We perpetually choose ourselves; those who recognize that fact are less likely to break due to oppression or uselessly follow base ideas.

I believe in human drones, as are very clearly demonstrated by every web forum.
Most track 5x5… until someone “jacks” with their mind.

Ah, I see what you did there. Clever.