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Does Freewill Exist?

Hypersonic

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I've always considered myself a determinist, and believe that actions are usually determined by an extraneous factor, or through the actions of others. Many religionist believe that "God gave humanity freewill," yet in the same instance punishes mankind for something he gave. I personally believe that in some way, my actions or the actions of others from a microcosmic level affect me. Although we live in a society that contains options, it would appear that the development of options was determined by an other. If freewill does exist, what objective element can we attribute that is independent of influence?
 

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I've always considered myself a determinist, and believe that actions are usually determined by an extraneous factor, or through the actions of others.

It must be easy for all your decisions to be made for you. I wonder if this denial of choice precludes choice or, is in its own way, an exercise of that choice.

To answer your initial question, I think free will exists. The objective element you reference is the phenomenon of experience. To what form that phenomenon takes is another issue entirely.

I am curious how one maintains a libertarian political philosophy as a determinist. How can we be free if we can't choose to be better? Does society not have to be finely tuned to make us better?
 

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It must be easy for all your decisions to be made for you. I wonder if this denial of choice precludes choice or, is in its own way, an exercise of that choice.

To answer your initial question, I think free will exists. The objective element you reference is the phenomenon of experience. To what form that phenomenon takes is another issue entirely.

I am curious how one maintains a libertarian political philosophy as a determinist. How can we be free if we can't choose to be better? Does society not have to be finely tuned to make us better?

Choice still exists in a determined universe. That is because choice isnt at all the same as a religious conception of free will.

We are free to do what we please within the bounds of the laws of nature. Free will or at the human construct called free will makes as much since as any other folklore. Its a good yarn but that is all. Free will as a description of reality is irrelevant and misguided concept to explain something that primitive people couldnt understand. Much as a person describes a strange sound as a ghost or any made up theory to explain the unknown.
 

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Choice still exists in a determined universe. That is because choice isnt at all the same as a religious conception of free will.

We are free to do what we please within the bounds of the laws of nature. Free will or at the human construct called free will makes as much since as any other folklore. Its a good yarn but that is all. Free will as a description of reality is irrelevant and misguided concept to explain something that primitive people couldnt understand. Much as a person describes a strange sound as a ghost or any made up theory to explain the unknown.

I'm having trouble following you. You say things like we have choice but free will is merely a construct. Are you saying we create free will by willing it so? An interesting functionalist view of free will.

Part of me is skeptical that this was what you meant, however.
 

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It is definitely complicated. It depends on what you mean by “free will” and it also depends on the definition of “self” or “I” or “you”. While I certainly live my life as though free will exists, if I really drill down into the subject I find myself believing it doesn’t REALLY exist. For example, we know through experimentation that the brain seems to commit to decisions before the conscious self is aware of that decision. It is estimated this delay is about half a second. It is an illusion that your conscious self is making choices. But if you consider it free will when your subconscious makes choices then that isn’t an issue.

And then if you REALLY drill down to the cellular (or smaller) level, you could theoretically just explain “choice” as a matter of cause and effect at the microscopic level.
 

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It CANNOT exist, if you define free choice as being able to choose between various options, then it's impossible.

Given determinism and human materialism it's impossible, all our decisions are simply results of brain activity, all our brain activity is physical, and thus subject to the laws of physics and causality, every physical action has a physical cause, including actions in our brains, and every physical cause necessitates the result, that's why science can make predictions.

So when yo umake a choice, you COULD'NT have chosen otherwise, because your choice was the result of brain activity that was all physically caused by previous brain states and external stimuli, all of which were also physically caused (and all those causes necessarily resulted on what happened).

Lets say you add Quantum indeterminancy, that doesn't help either, because all that adds is a measure of randomness, and randomness isn't agency or choice. You wouldn't say a regular dice had more agency or free will than a weighted dice would you? of coarse not, because randomness doesn't equal will, it's still all physical causation.
 

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Choice still exists in a determined universe. That is because choice isnt at all the same as a religious conception of free will.

We are free to do what we please within the bounds of the laws of nature. Free will or at the human construct called free will makes as much since as any other folklore. Its a good yarn but that is all. Free will as a description of reality is irrelevant and misguided concept to explain something that primitive people couldnt understand. Much as a person describes a strange sound as a ghost or any made up theory to explain the unknown.

That doesn't work, we are not free to do anything within the bounds of the laws of nature, because the laws of nature are 100% deterministic and set, and we are just matter in motion, so we have no more "choice" in what happens, then a collection of rocks, the only difference is we are more complex, but that doesn't add to the lumps of matter we are's ability to choose, we are still just lumps of matter being moved by laws of physics and causality.

You're trying to make a "naturalistic" free will (or whatever yo uwant to call it, choice), but it simply doesn't work, naturalistically we are nothing more than lumps of matter, nad lumps of matter move in the universe in a way 100% determined by the laws of physics.
 

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I'm having trouble following you. You say things like we have choice but free will is merely a construct. Are you saying we create free will by willing it so? An interesting functionalist view of free will.

Part of me is skeptical that this was what you meant, however.

And you were right being skeptical.

I did not replace the phrase free will with the word choice. By choice I mean that we with our brains make choices based on the limits of the laws of nature. Which isnt at all the same as free will. Im saying that the concept of free will is just a human construct and doesnt matter at all. So when I assert that free will does not exist, I am not saying that we are robots constrained and unable to react to our surroundings. We can obviously react to our surroundings. But try as you might you cannot do anything but react to your surroundings. Even the thought contrived to not react is a reaction. We can cause reactions that would not have otherwise existed if it werent for our existence, but that is still a reaction to our surroundings. Our only possible observation of reality must come through our nerves in one way or another and ends up in our brain. The only way for that to happen is through a action that caused a sensory reaction. We are just observers that react. We make the choice in how we react, but by no means do we cause the actions that we react to. That would be a senseless paradox.
 

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That doesn't work, we are not free to do anything within the bounds of the laws of nature, because the laws of nature are 100% deterministic and set, and we are just matter in motion, so we have no more "choice" in what happens, then a collection of rocks, the only difference is we are more complex, but that doesn't add to the lumps of matter we are's ability to choose, we are still just lumps of matter being moved by laws of physics and causality.

You're trying to make a "naturalistic" free will (or whatever yo uwant to call it, choice), but it simply doesn't work, naturalistically we are nothing more than lumps of matter, nad lumps of matter move in the universe in a way 100% determined by the laws of physics.

I didnt say that at all.
 

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ok :), we've had this discussion before, and we've run into the same isssues.

What is it you don't agree with though?

I disagree with the fact that you are trying to put a meaning to the word choice that I am not using. A choice is a choice whether randomized or determined. You can make a choice even if you were forced to make that choice and that the choice was written by someone else or dictated by circumstances. I dont at all mean that a choice is something magical that appears out of nowhere outside of the laws of nature. In effect I am not trading the phrase free will for the word choice.

Perhaps the word choice confuses you too much lol. Perhaps I should say a decision as a reaction to actions prior to the situation at the present. Nah its easier to type choice. And yes I am going to continue avoiding using the word predetermined. Chaos is enough of a factor in the universe to assume that not all situations can be predetermined. And without a lot of investigation into any chain of events it would be impossible for myself to determine just how much chaos is involved. So I will remain skeptical that anything was predetermined at a grand scale. Sure some chains of events can and are predetermined but to what extent no one could actually say. But still this doesnt invoke anything near the concept of free will. It really just explains reality as a reactionary existence. AN explanation that I am fine with.
 

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I disagree with the fact that you are trying to put a meaning to the word choice that I am not using. A choice is a choice whether randomized or determined. You can make a choice even if you were forced to make that choice and that the choice was written by someone else or dictated by circumstances. I dont at all mean that a choice is something magical that appears out of nowhere outside of the laws of nature. In effect I am not trading the phrase free will for the word choice.

Perhaps the word choice confuses you too much lol. Perhaps I should say a decision as a reaction to actions prior to the situation at the present. Nah its easier to type choice. And yes I am going to continue avoiding using the word predetermined. Chaos is enough of a factor in the universe to assume that not all situations can be predetermined. And without a lot of investigation into any chain of events it would be impossible for myself to determine just how much chaos is involved. So I will remain skeptical that anything was predetermined at a grand scale. Sure some chains of events can and are predetermined but to what extent no one could actually say. But still this doesnt invoke anything near the concept of free will. It really just explains reality as a reactionary existence. AN explanation that I am fine with.

No ... a Choice is not a choice without agency ....

a decision as a reaction to actions prior to the situation at the present (It's actually better to be specific in these types of philosohpical discusssions).

Decisions means you decide between various options, my point is you don't dicide anymore than the water "decides" to splash when a rock falls in it, the things we call "choices" and "water splashing" are only differentiated by the former having a longer and more complex chain of causal events (although in reality all causal events go back to the big bang).

I think is we are going to be precise, we can't have "decisions," or "choices" or even "reactions" if we by saying so assume agency, if by "reaction" you mean reaction in the same way metal reacts to heat then fine.

Lets say we had Chaos ... thats fine, but then there is JUST AS MUCH chaos in human mental events as there are in say ... a rock falling into a pond ... so that doesn't give us any more "choice" or "decision" either.
 

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No ... a Choice is not a choice without agency ....

a decision as a reaction to actions prior to the situation at the present (It's actually better to be specific in these types of philosohpical discusssions).

Decisions means you decide between various options, my point is you don't dicide anymore than the water "decides" to splash when a rock falls in it, the things we call "choices" and "water splashing" are only differentiated by the former having a longer and more complex chain of causal events (although in reality all causal events go back to the big bang).

I think is we are going to be precise, we can't have "decisions," or "choices" or even "reactions" if we by saying so assume agency, if by "reaction" you mean reaction in the same way metal reacts to heat then fine.

Lets say we had Chaos ... thats fine, but then there is JUST AS MUCH chaos in human mental events as there are in say ... a rock falling into a pond ... so that doesn't give us any more "choice" or "decision" either.

Thats a great theory but then how come we can make decisions? A rock is unarguably mindless, we humans though can think. The rock can never for any reason decide that it doesnt want to fall into the water. We and other animals have motor skills and can avoid water altogether. The key attribute that allows that to happen is a brain. Organisms with brains can decide to go into water or not. The rock is just a rock and will do nothing but what physics says it will do.

Yes I know that you will say that organisms with brains are just more complicated but still are determined by the same physics to do whatever physics dictates, which is true. But along that chain of events decision making organisms exist. Again dont confuse all of this with the idiotic concept that people call free will. The fact that an organism can make a decision doesnt somehow mean that the decision was outside of the laws of physics.

Forget about free will its nonexistent and pointless, just a fantasy. Many moons ago I tried to argue for free will but I came to realize that the concept lacked any real foundation in reality. So when you start denying observable concepts like decision making or throwing around concepts like agent and what not you really are not talking about my assertions just trying to assign my assertions to the concept of free will. Its like arguing about the heavenly sphere, it will get nowhere as long as you maintain a dogmatic theory of existence. Again I am fine with my thoughts on the subject, I just believe that brains have functions and that rocks are nothing more than a inanimate object. A organism with a brain will react on a profoundly different level than a rock to its surroundings. The rocks reaction to its surroundings can be predicted given all the data. A organism with a brain can be predicted too, perhaps if we had all the data. But that is just a theory that has not been proven to be correct.

If you want to claim that brains can be predicted you are going to need to show that they can be predicted. Theoretical and philosophical pondering's cant show that a brain can be predicted to do anything. While we are at it your theory that everything is predetermined on into infinity starting perhaps with the big bang needs to be proven as well. The obvious proven problem with a predetermined universe is on the quantum scale. The theory was really good up until it was shown that true indeterminism in quantum mechanics exists. The best that you could say is that existence is somewhat predetermined. To what extent does quantum mechanics play in the universe? After all small exists everywhere.

"uncertainty" and "certainty" a combination of both allows the existence of a certain amount of the predetermined and the undetermined. You cant with any believable certainty tell me how much of our existence is predetermined by physics and how much quantum mechanics have screwed with those physical determinations. So I find it very doubtful that every cause and effect going back to the big bang can be predicted mathematically not when there exists true indeterminism in nature even if its at a quantum scale.

So are my thoughts predetermined exclusively by physics alone? Doubt exists that every thought is predetermined. Does it point to free will? lol no it points to cracks in the theory of Determinism. The Universe does not revolve around the Earth or the Moon.
 

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Sacogito said:
It is definitely complicated. It depends on what you mean by “free will” and it also depends on the definition of “self” or “I” or “you”. While I certainly live my life as though free will exists, if I really drill down into the subject I find myself believing it doesn’t REALLY exist. For example, we know through experimentation that the brain seems to commit to decisions before the conscious self is aware of that decision. It is estimated this delay is about half a second. It is an illusion that your conscious self is making choices. But if you consider it free will when your subconscious makes choices then that isn’t an issue.

And then if you REALLY drill down to the cellular (or smaller) level, you could theoretically just explain “choice” as a matter of cause and effect at the microscopic level.

You live you life as though free will exists even though it's impossible. How does that work? Are you simply bound to live that way? Why do you think that is?

Per the bolded, when I'm indecisive, is that indecisiveness decided by my subconscious before I'm aware of it? What if I choose to go against my natural inclination? Am I not capable of that? For instance, my natural hunger may trigger a response in my subconscious indicating my desire for food, resulting in me making a choice, but then, at any point between obtaining the food and not, I could change my mind. Sure, you could point to any other outside factor and say "Aha! That's what caused you to change your mind you meat robot!" but regardless, that would indicate the "pre-made decision" was wrong. Or was their another pre-made decision from my subconscious that over-rode that one? But, what if I reject that new decision? Have I now gone against my subconscious? Are their an infinite number of potential subconscious decisions being made all at once? How does my meat robot brain decide which one to follow?


It CANNOT exist, if you define free choice as being able to choose between various options, then it's impossible.

Given determinism and human materialism it's impossible, all our decisions are simply results of brain activity, all our brain activity is physical, and thus subject to the laws of physics and causality, every physical action has a physical cause, including actions in our brains, and every physical cause necessitates the result, that's why science can make predictions.

So when yo umake a choice, you COULD'NT have chosen otherwise, because your choice was the result of brain activity that was all physically caused by previous brain states and external stimuli, all of which were also physically caused (and all those causes necessarily resulted on what happened).

Lets say you add Quantum indeterminancy, that doesn't help either, because all that adds is a measure of randomness, and randomness isn't agency or choice. You wouldn't say a regular dice had more agency or free will than a weighted dice would you? of coarse not, because randomness doesn't equal will, it's still all physical causation.

That's right, if you don't believe in free will than it is impossible in your world view.




And you were right being skeptical.

I did not replace the phrase free will with the word choice. By choice I mean that we with our brains make choices based on the limits of the laws of nature. Which isnt at all the same as free will. Im saying that the concept of free will is just a human construct and doesnt matter at all. So when I assert that free will does not exist, I am not saying that we are robots constrained and unable to react to our surroundings. We can obviously react to our surroundings. But try as you might you cannot do anything but react to your surroundings. Even the thought contrived to not react is a reaction. We can cause reactions that would not have otherwise existed if it werent for our existence, but that is still a reaction to our surroundings. Our only possible observation of reality must come through our nerves in one way or another and ends up in our brain. The only way for that to happen is through a action that caused a sensory reaction. We are just observers that react. We make the choice in how we react, but by no means do we cause the actions that we react to. That would be a senseless paradox.

Interesting. Personally, I have the capacity to think beyond what my senses tell me. Maybe that's not the norm.
 

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Interesting. Personally, I have the capacity to think beyond what my senses tell me. Maybe that's not the norm.

You need to think a little harder I believe. But it was a fully expected reactionary statement.
 

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You live you life as though free will exists even though it's impossible. How does that work? Are you simply bound to live that way? Why do you think that is?

The only time I dwell on my belief that there is no free will is during discussion like this or when I am in a contemplative mood and smoking a cigar. It is fun to think about. But when I am out going about my life I don’t give it a second thought. I mean, in the end, does it matter in how we live our lives whether or not free will exists? I don’t think it does. Most people who believe in free will and most people who don’t believe in free will still go about their lives trying not to hurt people, believing violent criminals should go to jail, they pay their taxes, have families, and so on. I doubt you could watch a stranger for a day and determine whether or not that person believes in free will or not. Outside of philosophy, it doesn’t matter.

Per the bolded, when I'm indecisive, is that indecisiveness decided by my subconscious before I'm aware of it? What if I choose to go against my natural inclination? Am I not capable of that? For instance, my natural hunger may trigger a response in my subconscious indicating my desire for food, resulting in me making a choice, but then, at any point between obtaining the food and not, I could change my mind. Sure, you could point to any other outside factor and say "Aha! That's what caused you to change your mind you meat robot!" but regardless, that would indicate the "pre-made decision" was wrong. Or was their another pre-made decision from my subconscious that over-rode that one? But, what if I reject that new decision? Have I now gone against my subconscious? Are their an infinite number of potential subconscious decisions being made all at once? How does my meat robot brain decide which one to follow?

I'm not ashamed to say that I haven't the slightest idea. It can drive you crazy to think about, though. :)
 

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The only time I dwell on my belief that there is no free will is during discussion like this or when I am in a contemplative mood and smoking a cigar. It is fun to think about. But when I am out going about my life I don’t give it a second thought. I mean, in the end, does it matter in how we live our lives whether or not free will exists? I don’t think it does. Most people who believe in free will and most people who don’t believe in free will still go about their lives trying not to hurt people, believing violent criminals should go to jail, they pay their taxes, have families, and so on. I doubt you could watch a stranger for a day and determine whether or not that person believes in free will or not. Outside of philosophy, it doesn’t matter.

Well, if you don't believe in free will, it's somewhat difficult to hold others (and even yourself) responsible for their actions don't you think?


I'm not ashamed to say that I haven't the slightest idea. It can drive you crazy to think about, though. :)

It depends. Personally, I'm skeptical of that conclusion.
 

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According to the Bible, our ancestors ate from the Tree of Knowledge, which gave us freedom to choose.

If we have no free will and our choices have been predetermined for us, no one should ever be punished for their actions.
 

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Well, if you don't believe in free will, it's somewhat difficult to hold others (and even yourself) responsible for their actions don't you think?
If we have no free will and our choices have been predetermined for us, no one should ever be punished for their actions.
If there is no free will, is it still safe for society to allow murderers to circulate among us? How about other violent criminals? It's the same answer with or without free will, they need to be removed from society. The only change is the justification for putting those people in jail. Instead of saying "they deserved it because they made a bad choice" we would say "they were a threat and that needed to be removed for safety".

The one thing it does change is what many psychologists and criminologists already call for, recognizing that criminal behavior is a form of social or mental dysfunction that should be treated instead of punished.
 

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If there is no free will, is it still safe for society to allow murderers to circulate among us? How about other violent criminals? It's the same answer with or without free will, they need to be removed from society. The only change is the justification for putting those people in jail. Instead of saying "they deserved it because they made a bad choice" we would say "they were a threat and that needed to be removed for safety".

Why does murder matter if we are simply physical phenomenon bound by cause and effect? Do we cry when gravity pulls a rock to the ground, or water evaporates into vapor?

The one thing it does change is what many psychologists and criminologists already call for, recognizing that criminal behavior is a form of social or mental dysfunction that should be treated instead of punished.

Why? Let them do their thing.

Let me ask more applicably though, do you hold yourself accountable for your actions?
 

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Why does murder matter if we are simply physical phenomenon bound by cause and effect? Do we cry when gravity pulls a rock to the ground, or water evaporates into vapor?
No because, generally, that doesn't kill or injure us. (If we're under the rock it might be a problem, just as getting burned by steam would be.) If there's a chance of gravity killing us, however, we put up guardrails or handrails. That's called a self-defense mechanism and most animals have it to some extent or another.


Why? Let them do their thing.
Again, it's a self-defense mechanism. We're programmed that way from millions of years of evolution. For humans, helping other people can also be a survival mechanism. Humans have been doing that for their tribal members for tens of thousands of years, at least, and maybe since the emergence of homo sapiens - though there's no evidence of the later of which I'm aware.


Let me ask more applicably though, do you hold yourself accountable for your actions?
That's beside the point. If I'm a hazard to others then I'm sure they'll confine me. If I'm not then they would have no reason to do so. The fact that I can learn doesn't imply free will. If anything it might be evidence of the opposite. Do animals have free will because they can be trained to salivate when a bell rings?
 
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I don't believe we have free will, but I don't see that as a major issue. Free will or not, one thing is true: we are determined to act. Even in the knowledge that we are not "masters of ourselves," we still get up and eat because that is preferable to death by starvation. It may seem like we "chose" to do it, but I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't. From there to "choosing" to do something with your life because it's better than the alternative (settling for something less or, in some cases, almost total stagnation) is a small step. Genes, previous events, circumstances, and a little something we like to call "chance," all come together to form actions--our thoughts, too, are some of this actions.

I can't guarantee that we are determined, but I don't see how we can have free will. It's a question worth asking, but I doubt we'll ever reach a consensus.
 
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