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Do we have a self (ego, soul, actor, etc.) that exhibits free will?

After doing a little studying on ego and bundle theories of self, I have come up with two arguments on these topics.

The first argument is pretty simple and supports ego theory of self:
All of my actions, decisions, and desires stem from a nonphysical "experiencer" inside of me. Therefore, I must have free will and I must have a self.

The second argument supports bundle theory:
All of my actions, decisions, and desires are the form of emergent properties of my brain which are manipulated by the environment. In this case, I do not have free will (since the environment is causing my actions and making decisions on my behalf) and thus, I can not have a self.

Which of these arguments do you agree with more and why?

Could these arguments be more refined to give a better understanding of the self and free will?

What might be a more sound argument regarding this issue?


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  • May 10 2013: We tend to think of free will using binary frameworks, yet the human brain and its perceived activities such as free will have been shown to use multiple inputs. For every decision there is data coming from our memory of similar (and sometimes dissimilar) situations, data from our senses revealing the current world state, interpretations of this data by various internal mechanisms, data from our emotions, data from our autonomic nervous system. We have in memory a number of alternative analytic frameworks we can use to assemble and prioritize all this data. We can sometimes change perspectives to view the inputs differently. There is probably some bad data coming from chemical imbalances within the neural network. Lots of potential permutations. Even so, the "normal" person will make a decision within a period of minutes, sometimes split seconds. There are too many random events in these many inputs, and in fact, a single random event would "prove" free will; that the world and our actions are not deterministic.

    When you speak of the self, I assume you are referring to the self that you, not others, perceive. Your self is your creation. Through your actions and deeds you determine your self. It is primarily a historical video highlight reel and by acting consistently you affirm for yourself (and others) its validity. There is probably an input in the decision process that checks the action for consistency with your internal model of self. Since you have free will, you can clearly choose to ignore this step (and surprise your friends) by, for example, showing up naked for dinner.

    I favor Shakespeare's take: "We are such stuff as dreams are made on...."

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