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Abstract: In the CTMU free will is stratified across a Trialic Metaformal Language of reality: 1) Globally (at the universal level) the universe self-generates and self-configures preserving its internal logic in a self-deterministic evolution, 2) Fundamentally (sub-atomically) the universe self-selects from ontic potential in an act of ongoing actualization, and 3) Systemically (above the sub-atomic level) the universe generates perceiving entities that have volition and may choose to advance the utility of existence or to thwart global utility.

The Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe (CTMU) stands as the most comprehensive achievement of reality modeling in the history of logic. What the theory yields in terms of the nature of the reality we are embedded within spans numerous domains such as Science, Philosophy, Mathematics, Psychology, and Religion, just to name some of the larger fields of human epistemology.[1]

It’s instructive to see what the CTMU says with regards to the issue of free will, but what exactly is meant by the term free will? The definition presented by Peter van Inwagen in his paper “How to Think about the Problem of Free Will” presents free will as defined in two temporal directions of past and future as:

“The free-will thesis is the thesis that we are sometimes in the following position with respect to a contemplated future act: we simultaneously have both the following abilities: the ability to perform that act and the ability to refrain from performing that act. (This entails that we have been in the following position: for something we did do, we were at some point prior to our doing it able to refrain from doing it, able not to do it.)”[2]

This follows the putative definition. Another, less philosophically-laden term, is volition – the faculty or power to freely choose using one’s will.

In discussing human volition, a dichotomy has somehow overshadowed the discussion and has chronically persisted until the CTMU came along and shattered the old edifice of Determinism/Indeterminism. Determinism represents the idea that the universe’s future, and thus also inheritable to humans, is fully determined and predictable given sufficient knowledge of any current state. If every particle were fully described as to state, position, and trajectory coupled with a full understanding of the laws of nature, then, like billiard balls careening about a pool table, we could know the full future of the system. Because human cognition is, conveniently in this case, also a part of reality, humans would lack free will in a deterministic universe.

Opposed to this idea is the concept of Indeterminism, which equates to either an unknowable or, more accurately, a random unfolding of the universe unbeholden to laws. This view has been the bane of scientific progress and was what Einstein had in mind when he famously quipped that “God does not play dice with the universe”.

As it turns out, the CTMU gives us a third option that fully explains our reality and that is Self-Determinism. But how does the universe achieve this seemingly intractable problem of being neither Deterministic nor Indeterministic?

The answer lies in the CTMU’s Trialic Metaformal Language. This defines the three levels of identity of the universe. Residing at the primary or macroscopic level is the Global Operator Descriptor (G.O.D.). This is the most general, global level of reality. At this level the G.O.D. self-generates from pure potential the actualized information of reality. This process is an evolutionary process using its inner defined teleology wherein all parts of the whole are in informational contact with every level of reality.

The secondary or mesoscopic level are telors. For our purposes, these are human beings. Telors are the inheritors of global teleology and provide a key role in conveying meaning to the G.O.D. level coupled with the ability to perceptively bring into actualization the universe.

Finally, the tertiary or microscopic level is the realm of the quantum. While Quantum Mechanics (QM) is plagued with ontological problems concerning the nature of determinacy, indeterminacy, and the nature of perception upon reality, the CTMU’s Quantum Metamechanics (QMM) achieves a resolution unparalleled.[3]

Macroscopic: 1) Globally (at the universal level) the universe self-generates and self-configures preserving its internal logic in a self-deterministic evolution.

In order for an agent to have a free choice the universe must also be open-ended and free. In a fully determined, Laplacian universe there is only one unique future that may occur. If determinism held, then nothing could be said to ever have real freedom because only one future is realizable. There have been many futile attempts to salvage free will in a fully deterministic universe. One example is Compatibilism. One of the most common arguments for Compatibilism is that God’s knowledge of the future doesn’t interfere with what free choices a person makes at the time of choice. Unfortunately, this just doesn’t stand up to logic. Either God’s knowledge isn’t complete if a person could choose differently, or our supposedly free choices must conform to God’s certain knowledge. For this reason Compatibilists cannot justify free will when ontological determinism presents no chance of freedom by positing only one, single future.

In positing an open-ended and free future, the CTMU doesn’t posit randomness or indeterminacy, but a state of pure potential called Unbound Telesis (UBT). UBT is a primordial realm of potential that is free of informational constraint. It is pure, free potential from which the universe actualizes by constraining the existence parameters of the language of reality to include the reflexive grammar by which it writes and reads itself. Reality accomplishes this feat by generating a Self-Configuring Self-Processing Language (SCSPL) that is a reflexive, intrinsic language that generates infocognition. The nature of infocognition is a dual aspect monism, which means that it is a monic medium that gives rise to a duality of cognizable information. Essentially, this means that reality not only is self-generating and self-transducing, but also self-recognizing.

So it would seem that God doesn’t know or perceive a unique future thus stripping away freedom before its constituent telors even have a chance to make a free choice. Instead, God uses a utility function to freely evolve from ontic potential.

To illustrate how perception alone can remove freedom, let’s begin with a thought experiment:

Suppose you were to create a simple mechanism that required a mobile object (such as a wind-up toy) to navigate from one side of a container to the other side. There are a series of paths and each time the mobile object arrived at a fork in the path, a “random” choice was made (e.g. a dice roll) as to which path to take. The result is that the mobile object can arrive at any number of exits from the container, which is “freely” chosen (in the sense that you aren’t dictating the choices to the mobile object).

Simple enough, right? Now let’s add an interesting twist to the scenario. Let’s suppose you are able to start the process, then jump in a time machine and go forward in time to see where the object will exit, and then return back in time to watch as the object goes about “randomly” choosing the course that leads to the outcome you now know it will take. Does the object still freely choose? Does your knowledge of the outcome affect anything?

It would seem that the act of observing a system actualizes its history and thus strips the freedom from it by destroying its potential or freedom. Molinists, for example, fail to see how the very act of God observing the future of the system strips it of its freedom. This is just another way of shifting ontological determinism from the universe to God’s mind. How does freedom remain intact if we are never allowed to deviate from the one unique determined universe in God’s mind. Another way to look at it is to say that before I ever had a chance to act or refrain from acting God knew what I would choose and I have no choice but to conform to God’s knowledge. The same holds for an atheistic view of a fully determined universe. If the laws of nature “know” what the future evolution of the universe will produce (meaning only one unique future) then how can we have any true freedom to deviate?

One might ask why is it necessary for reality to confer free will upon its internal telors? Another way of asking this is why does God need to generate perceiving beings with volition? One reason is to provide meaning. Since reality is a self-contained entity where anything outside of itself is by definition unreal, it would be an unperceived, and thus meaningless, entity if it couldn’t somehow generate its own meaning internally. To do this, reality must self-generate telors who can be classified as “self-excited circuits” participating in the universe’s observation of itself.

Another reason is that perception by telors provides generativity to reality itself at the quantum level by facilitating the actualization process. We’ll return to just how this happens in part 2.

To summarize, reality at the G.O.D. level possess free will by generating SCSPL content from UBT through global self-determinism.

Microscopic: 2) Fundamentally (sub-atomically) the universe self-selects from ontic potential in an act of ongoing actualization.

There are numerous schools of interpretation of QM. Many physicists and philosophers refuse to believe that the universe is fundamentally indeterminate and thus hold out hope that we will eventually fill in the holes of QM and find the missing mechanisms that return our universe to a fully deterministic, clockwork universe. As discussed earlier, this erroneous dichotomy means that this just hasn’t happened yet. The most widely held model since the dawn of QM is the Copenhagen Interpretation. Anton Zeilinger succinctly states:

When investigating various interpretations of quantum mechanics one notices that each interpretation contains an element which escapes a complete and full description. This element is always associated with the stochasticity of the individual event in the quantum measurement process. It appears that the implications of this limit to any description of the world has not been sufficiently appreciated with notable exceptions of, for example, Heisenberg, Pauli and Wheeler. If we assume that a deeper foundation of quantum mechanics is possible, the question arises which features such a philosophical foundation might have. It is suggested that the objective randomness of the individual quantum event is a necessity of a description of the world in view of the significant influence the observer in quantum mechanics has. It is also suggested that the austerity of the Copenhagen interpretation should serve as a guiding principle in a search for deeper understanding.“[4]

Unfortunately, the Copenhagen Interpretation essentially posits that the most that can be said for reality at the quantum level is that it is unknowable until it is observed or measured. There are numerous problems plaguing the field of Quantum Mechanics and they all relate to the ontological nature of reality at the quantum level and the futile attempt to fully describe it divorced from cognition.

Briefly, these problems are the Measurement Problem, Wave/Particle Duality, Complementarity, and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. While the brunt of the scientific community frustratingly attempts to keep the abstract, mental realm of reality divorced from the physical world, they vainly grope towards a model of reality that can never be realized.

In the CTMU the modeling of the quantum world is accomplished by describing causality as self-deterministic and the process of self-creation as being logically sound and teleological. The process is called Telic Recursion and it generatively selects maximal utility from free potential (UBT). In the CTMU the “collapse of the wave function” is explained as reality self-generating the requisite laws themselves. But laws do not exist in isolation. They are defined in relation to the objects and attributes on which they act. In like manner, objects and attributes don’t exist in isolation, either. They are defined on the logic of their structures and transformations to which they are beholden. When speaking of quantum action, where this information is primordial, or pre-informational, the infocognitive objects of reality are generated from Telesis through the process of Telic Recursion.

Telic Recursion occurs at the global and local levels of reality. In the primary stage, universal laws are refined given the distribution of matter and energy. The secondary or local stage is where agent-level telors cognitively participate in the process of telic recursion by providing a meaningful actualization of reality. Because the two processes occur simultaneously, it can be said that local telors create reality from global utility.

Agent-level telors inherit from the G.O.D. global level of reality the ontological freedom to create reality. Thus, free will is distributed from the global level to the local level via the quantum process of Telic Recursion. This, together with other CTMU properties yields the Telic Principle which states that the universe self-configures from undifferentiated ontological potential (Telesis).

Mesoscopic: 3) Systemically (above the sub-atomic level) the universe generates perceiving entities that have volition and may choose to advance the utility of existence or to thwart global utility.

Many philosophers who attempt to tackle the free will problem think it is necessary to incorporate indeterminism into the actual thought process of humans at some level. This is done as an opposite reaction to determinism’s damnation of universal freedom in the Laplacian sense. Bob Doyle, on his Information Philosopher website, states that “Chance exists. If our actions are caused by chance, we lack control. We cannot call that free will because we could not be held morally responsible for random actions.”[5] But at what level does indeterminism need to reside? What exactly is this randomness contributing to our free will? Doyle’s answer is that quantum foam causes noise, as in the Communication Theoretical sense, that gives rise to random thoughts. These random thoughts serve to break the causal chain. This is a weak argument and completely misses the mark in proving that free will exists. The reason is because we typically focus our thoughts on various approaches and outcomes to situations we are contemplating when trying to decide on a course of action. Rarely would we ascribe our rationale to choosing a course of action to random thoughts.

Physicists will readily tell you that at our macro level of reality, Newtonian physics is good enough for most every action we observe or propose to predict. In the non-CTMU view, the randomness of the QM world stabilizes and for all practical purposes, the universe at the macro level is deterministic. Many scientists and philosophers balk at the Fine-Tuning Argument because of its tautological nature, but the truth is that the universe does appear to operate within very narrow parameters that allow systems to stabilize and evolve along seemingly deterministic lines.

Systems (to include our brains) must operate in a practically determined fashion for there to be logical coherence to the universe. If randomness truly were to reside at the systemic level then we would be left with seemingly random causes operating throughout nature. So how is it then that humans can have free will in such a “seemingly deterministic” universe? The answer isn’t in random quantum foam causing micro-noise. The answer, once again, is in self-determinism.

Self-determinism is defined as “a doctrine that the actions of a self are determined by itself”.[6] Many thinkers on the topic of self-determinism seem to think that it is necessary to either explain how self-determinism breaks the causal chain or else initiates the causal chain altogether. Neither case is necessary for free will to exist in teleological agents. Instead, self-determinism is necessary for agents to form the necessary systems that lead to more sophisticated, self-referential brains.

The importance is in showing that the future of the universe is truly one of UBT and is thus freely open. Otherwise, determinism would hold completely and the universe would be a giant determined algorithm that is churning out set results. The end state would be front-loaded. Instead, we can say that the universe is truly evolving as it actualizes and there is always a degree of probability associated with the outcomes.

But first, let’s describe some of the features necessary to call an agent self-determined. When pinpointing just exactly the dividing line between an agent that possesses free will (such as a human) and an agent that is said to exhibit goal-seeking behavior but not possess volition (such as a thermostat or heat seeking missile) we soon realize that lines can be hard to demarcate. One area of research that is diligently trying to explicate these differences is the field of Artificial Intelligence. How does one go about programming a computer to simulate the human brain and break out of the Halting Problem?

In a very insightful paper by George Chadderdon entitled “Assessing Machine Volition: An Ordinal Scale for Rating Artificial and Natural Systems”[7] we find a list of attributes that serve to identify agents that possess free will: autonomous behavior, sensory organs, feedback and feedforward loops, memory, teleology (goals, intentions, & desires), motion (animacy), parallel-processing/distributed processing, and self-awareness/self-reflection.

Chadderdon goes on to present an ordinal scale similar to a Turing Test that helps to determine at what level does a natural or artificial system fall on the volitional scale. A synopsis of this scale follows:

Level 0 – Non-Volitional Systems

Level 0.0      Inanimate Object                      rocks, utensils, etc.

Level 0.1      Schizoid Automata                    clocks, wind-up dolls, etc.

Level 0.2      Reactive Automata                    vehicle engines, running motors, etc.

Level 1 – Instinct-Driven Automata

Level 1.0      Value-Driven Automata             thermostats, heat-seeking missiles

Level 1.1      Modal Value-Driven Automata  single-celled organisms, insects, etc.

Level 2 – Contained Self Organism

Level 2.0      Pavlovian Organisms                 simple reactive animals that can learn preferences

Level 2.1      Ideational Organisms                animals that can hold items in memory for task behaviors

Level 2.2      Recollective Organisms             animals that remember semantic relationships or gestalt events

Level 2.3      Deliberative Organisms             animals that navigate complex spaces

Level 3 – Extended Self Organisms

Level 3.0      Social Organisms                       rats, dogs, cats, horses, etc.

Level 3.1      Manipulative Organisms            monkeys and apes

Level 3.2      Symbolic Organisms                  primitive humans

Level 3.3      Cultural Organisms                    modern humans

We see that following an evolutionary progression along the scale gives more and more sophistication in regards to teleology and self-determinism. It’s at the Level 2 scale that we see free will beginning to emerge in self-contained systems. At the highest level we encounter what Charles Campbell argued in 1938 as being the truest form of free will: moral temptation. In a moral dilemma we find the Cultural Organism’s character grappling with the agent’s moral ideal.[8]

Many thinkers on the subject focus on just how an agent breaks the cause-effect chain. But how exactly is the causal chain broken so that humans can be said to possess free will? One attempt to explain this comes from Tim Manning, a Business Architect form the United Kingdom, who explains along these lines of thinking:

“When considering what causes a particular effect, we tend to generate a list of factors and weight these in terms of importance.  This has been referred to as laundry list thinking. This assumes a linear relationship between cause and effect, with each factor having a fixed relative importance.  If only life was that simple.  Unfortunately, causes are more often dynamic, rather than static.  The relative importance of any one factor may change over time, depending on the feedback loops that exist.  It is better to think in terms of influencing factors, rather than causes.  This is an important point to remember next time you find yourself using an Ishikawa or fishbone diagram, as part of a quality improvement initiative.”[9]

Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to break the chain. It might confound the trail but one could trace the loops and segues back to prior causes outside of the feedback loop. Cause and effect are necessary to lead up to a decision point. The looping back causes interesting effects that we typically think of as emergent behavior that raises the explanatory power out of mere reductionist explanations. David Deutsch makes this argument by using a copper atom in the nose of a statue of Churchill. A reduction of explanation to mere physics doesn’t capture the higher levels of explanation necessary to explain how that particular atom came to be in the statue.[10] In order to fully explain its presence one would need to invoke explanations of metallurgy, human art, human veneration of famous people and how those venerated people are sometimes memorialized in bronze statues. Similarly, as we progress up Chadderdon’s ordinal scale we behold levels of complexity magnify as we gain the ability to store information in memory, think about our own thoughts, and model the future.

The causal chain doesn’t need to be broken, it just requires that intention be introduced into the process during the chain at some point. Volition then becomes a part of the causal chain – this can be unconscious volition or conscious volition in higher states of awareness. Many would discount unconscious volition as something other than free will but the unconscious mind can be primed by conscious intentions.

Another volitional feature is our attempt to model and predict the truly unknown future. One trait that captures the essence of this is the concept of feedforward. Feedforward is a method of learning that emphasizes future goals, behaviors, or success by envisioning or modeling a potential future. To return for a moment to future UBT, we are trying to predict the future and make decisions on how we think we can affect the actualization of the universe, even if it’s just our small sphere of influence.

The CTMU’s Reality Principle states: The real universe contains all and only that which is real. The supertautological grounding of the model means that it is the only model of reality that explicates a comprehensive causal model of self-determinism across the full Trialic domains from the quantum level to systemic internal telors and all the way up to global reality.

[1] Langan, C. M. (2002). The Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe: A New Kind of Reality Theory. Progress in Complexity, Information, and Design.

[2] Van Inwagen, Peter: “How to Think about the Problem of Free Will”, Journal of Ethics 12:327-341.

[3] Langan, C. M. (2019). Introduction to Quantum Metamechanics. Mega Foundation Press.

[4] Zeilinger, Anton: “On the Interpretation and Philosophical Foundation of Quantum Mechanics”, Vastakohtien todellisuus, Helsinki Press, 1996.

[5] Doyle, Bob: “The Information Philosopher” website, http://www.informationphilosopher.com/freedom/standard_argument.html, retrieved 28 Aug 2020.

[6] Merriam-Webster; “definition of self-determinism”, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/self-determinism, retrieved 28 Aug 2020.

[7] Chadderdon, George; “Assessing Machine Volition: An Ordinal Scale for Rating Artificial and Natural Systems”, http://adb.sagepub.com/content/16/4/246.abstract?rss=1, retrieved 28 Aug 2020.

[8] Campbell, Charles; “In Defense of Free Will”, Inaugural Address, Glasgow University, 1938.

[9] Manning, Tim; “Design for Services”, http://design4services.com/concepts/systems-thinking/system-behaviour/, retrieved 28 Aug 2020.

[10] Deutsch, David; “The Fabric of Reality”, Penguin, 1997.

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