Erik, I’m pretty sure we agree. Let me try and restate in the context of your comment and see if I’ve got it right.

What is your view around what would happen with a perfect rewinding of the tape? My view is that any differences that show up from “rewinding the tape” over and over (no matter how far back) would be entirely from true randomness introduced from something like quantum mechanics, and not an inherent free will.

Yes, if the tape is rewound and started over, excluding something like quantum indeterminacy bubbling up to the level of classical physics, we would make the same conscious choice.

Minor variances in the starting conditions (distractions while deciding, more info, etc, etc) would lead to a different path but that’s not rewinding the tape.

To quote the last part of what I quoted above: “And that means it is, in some sense, determined.” I wonder what you mean by “some sense”. Do you actually mean “by all senses”? If not, what are the other senses by which you mean?

It is determined ‘in some sense’ in that 1) we could introduce a randomizer and then the tape would branch indeterminately from that point and 2) it is a mistake to think the outcome is determined in a process that excludes an agent making a conscious choice. ’Snip out’ the decision-making process (which is admittedly typically a mix of conscious and unconscious factors…but that’s a different discussion) and the outcome would be different. So I guess 2) is that if by determined you mean blindly determined then it’s not determined in that sense. We’re not blind, as it were.

It seems to me to be fundamentally misguided to use some abstract wrong turn from the history of philosophy (Descartes’ ghost in the machine) to deny something we obviously do all the time rather than to try to account for it scientifically.

I don’t exclude the possibility that there’s something more going on that we don’t understand with consciousness and it’s ‘material substrate’ but science applied rigorously should flush that out eventually if it’s the case.

Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I, also, love thinking this through and having the ability to discuss it as well!

Berkeley Backpacking Biz Lifer, System Builder, Coder, Community Organizer, Music and Evolutionary Biology Geek. Sign up and my projects at

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