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Knowledge and will

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As discussed in sections \ref{knowledge} and \ref{will}, we understand knowledge as a model, or recursive generator of predictions; while will is that agency which selects, or resolves uncertainty, in systemic processes. Knowledge and will are intimately related in the actions of all neural systems: the availability of knowledge acts as an {\em a priori} constraint on the range of possible actions; while the will selects a final action from that set.

In our thought and language we distinguish two different classes of elements which we say exist: our {\bf beliefs}, expressing what we think we know; and our {\bf desires} or {\bf intentions}, expressing what we are striving for and intend to do. We can describe the elements of the first class collectively as knowledge, and the elements of the second class as will. They are not isolated from each other. Our goals and even our wishes depend on what we know about our environment. Yet they are not determined by it in a unique way. We clearly distinguish between the range of options we have and the actual act of choosing between them. As an American philosopher noticed, no matter how carefully you examine the schedule of trains, you will not find there an indication as to where you want to go. We think about knowledge as a representation of the world in our mind.

Another way to describe the relation between knowledge and will is as a dichotomy between not-I and I, or between object and subject. The border between them is defined by the phrase ``I can''. Indeed, the content of our knowledge is independent of our will in the sense that we cannot change it by simply changing our intentions or preferences. On the contrary, we can change our intentions without any externally observable actions. We call it our will. It is the essence of our ``I''.

Copyright© 1993 Principia Cybernetica - Referencing this page

C. Joslyn, V. Turchin,

Aug 1993


Metasystem Transition Theory

Metaphysics / Values

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