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Author Topic:   Does free will exist?
sidelined
Member (Idle past 6020 days)
Posts: 3435
From: Edmonton Alberta Canada
Joined: 08-30-2003


Message 1 of 18 (100560)
04-17-2004 4:45 AM


I want to bring up this topic because I am really interested to hear different viewpoints {evidence based please} concerning whether free will is an actual phenomena or an illusion of the brain.
It is my view that free will is limited by genetic and enviromental factors[i.e. war peace natural disaster etc.]but that within those borders [or programming if you will] one may choose their actions.
Whether that amounts to a real definition of free will I hope to clarify.
[This message has been edited by sidelined, 04-17-2004]

'Everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not his own facts.'
(Daniel Patrick Moynihan)

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Adminnemooseus
Inactive Administrator


Message 2 of 18 (102139)
04-23-2004 6:57 AM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.

  
Dr Jack
Member
Posts: 3514
From: Immigrant in the land of Deutsch
Joined: 07-14-2003


Message 3 of 18 (102143)
04-23-2004 7:45 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by sidelined
04-17-2004 4:45 AM


Do you not think when asking for evidence-based comments you should evidence your own?
Personally, I think the whole free-will vs. determinism thing is a massive red herring. All that you need to have free-will is that your actions are determined by 'you', whatever 'you' may be.
Regardless of your metaphysical models for human consciousness this is clearly, and always, the case. In the case of materialism, the brain is the causal agent in your actions, and no doubt it makes its descisions based on the inputs of your surroundings and is exactly as deterministic as any other complex physical system. However to say that your brain causes you to do something so you don't have free will is incoherant. You are your brain, it cannot cause you do anything, the whole notion doesn't make sense.
So, yes, we have free will.

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Cynic1
Member (Idle past 6186 days)
Posts: 78
Joined: 03-29-2004


Message 4 of 18 (102146)
04-23-2004 8:50 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by sidelined
04-17-2004 4:45 AM


I don't think it is possible to have free will without true randomness in the universe. Since every event is based on a preceding event, I would say that every choice has basically already been made. We might effectively have free will, in that we think we have more than one option to choose from, but that's about it.

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Dan Carroll
Inactive Member


Message 5 of 18 (102151)
04-23-2004 10:09 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by Dr Jack
04-23-2004 7:45 AM


Yeah, I'm with Jack on this one. Put here, come here, no difference whatsoever. Our perceptions still put us in a place where we have to function under the assumption that we have to make choices and deal with the consequences.

"As the days go by, we face the increasing inevitability that we are alone in a godless, uninhabited, hostile and meaningless universe. Still, you've got to laugh, haven't you?"
-Holly

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Unseul
Inactive Member


Message 6 of 18 (102233)
04-23-2004 4:39 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by Cynic1
04-23-2004 8:50 AM


Free Will
Having spent a large number of hours on this and having done an exam essay on it, i reckon i can have a fair crack at this one.
OK, there are random events occuring in the universe, and so cause and effect can be ruled out as a form of determinism. However even if random events do not occur, then free will is still available, its just it would be possible to predict what choice you will make. I dont believe that this would mean we do not have free will, just that if put in exactly the same position twice, including in terms of experience (some sort of time travelling amnesiac i suppose) we would make the same choice, purely because based on the evidence and our current physiological state, that choice is still the best one. But i know where your coming from Cynic, thats why i asked a few physicists if random events do occur.
Genetically we are only semi-determined, and also by our environment. So although our choices are limit by our situation, we still have choice. I also agree with Mr. Jack, since i dont believe in any form of spirit or soul, then i am my brain, and so choices are made by me.
Something that always interests me is people who believe in God, or some other omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent diety. Because in theory then if something all powerful it must know the future (mainly cos a lot of people i know wouldnt consider something all powerful if it couldnt) if the future is known, then we have no choice. Then if u start seriously considering this route philosophically Judas is something of a saint, to take so much stick about how he was a traitor, whereas in actual fact he would have had no choice in his actions... just something to ponder
Unseul

Give a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life....

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coffee_addict
Member (Idle past 589 days)
Posts: 3645
From: Indianapolis, IN
Joined: 03-29-2004


Message 7 of 18 (102267)
04-23-2004 6:51 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by sidelined
04-17-2004 4:45 AM


This is a fairly simple question for me. Free will does exist, but not in the form that most people think.
To my knowledge, people perceive (i after e except before c) free will as the ability to choose to act in a certain way. I say that free will is actually the ability to choose not to act in a certain way.
I'm not sure, but I think Kant was the first philosopher to explain this in detail.

The Laminator

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JustinC
Member (Idle past 4956 days)
Posts: 624
From: Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Joined: 07-21-2003


Message 8 of 18 (102277)
04-23-2004 7:09 PM


I'm with Jack, except that I wouldn't say the universe if necessarily deterministic. I think its very hard to really figure out what "free will" even means. As far as I can tell, there are only two ways things can occur: Either they are determined or random.
Say John makes a decision. What caused him to go one way over the other? X did. What caused X. Y did. etc. Eventually its going to come down to an infinite regress of causes or a random event somewhere.
[This message has been edited by JustinCy, 04-23-2004]

  
:æ: 
Suspended Member (Idle past 7296 days)
Posts: 423
Joined: 07-23-2003


Message 9 of 18 (102290)
04-23-2004 7:35 PM


Honestly, from a psychological standpoint, I think it's purposeless to consider that we might NOT have free will. It sure seems like we do, and to think that 'you' are not the cause of your behavior but rather the impersonal deterministic forces of the universe seems to open a lot of doors for scapegoating and devaluation of human experience. IMHO, it's difficult to see the value in the love my mother expresses for me if I consider the possibility that should couldn't have done otherwise. Then again, if the universe were deterministic, I suppose *I* couldn't help but see the value in her love-which-she-could-do-nothing-other-than-express.
I've been over the argument an hundred times, it seems. No, the universe doesn't appear to be deterministic because of quantum indeterminacy, but does that mean that my consciousness 'determines' the states of the particles that compose my brain and body? As far as quantum experimentation goes, there's no real support for that hypothesis, though I find it intuitively obvious that the spontanaeity of my behavior is not a strict consequence of only my environmental stimuli.
Then we consider possibilities like Many Worlds and Parallel Universes in which all probabilities actualize, and we wonder how we should regard this. If ALL real probabilities actualize, then do we have determinism? It would seem so since all possible outcomes are necessary and unavoidable. But how do we account for the discrepency with macro-reality experience? Why don't we experience these alternative outcomes?
Too many questions, and not enough meaingful answers, IMHO.

  
atrejusan
Inactive Member


Message 10 of 18 (102317)
04-23-2004 9:50 PM


I think two posts above this (forgive my newbishness) the point is made of there being two options: that either an action is determined or it is random. To this notion, and in response to the thread...
The action is made distinct, which is presumptuous; any entity is made distinct, by human perceptual tendencies. IMO there is a lot about this which is illusory. Abstract notions such as self, or any other perceived distinction in the universe, always beg the question, and are always (IMO) circular. Our reference for the existence of *something* is *something else*. Jack may have addressed this in what may be her/his typically lucid, and at the same time cryptic, manner... frankly, the question seems to me a nonquestion. Once you distinguish "we", you make an implied statement regarding its properties, including will.
I don't as such believe any of us exists; only by extension do I also not believe in the existence of "free will" (wherein the party possessed of it is some variant of "we").

  
Dr Jack
Member
Posts: 3514
From: Immigrant in the land of Deutsch
Joined: 07-14-2003


Message 11 of 18 (102766)
04-26-2004 8:44 AM


On the question of determined vs. random. It seems to me that this is far too simple a dichotomy to be accurately describe the universe: if QM is true (and it certainly astonishingly accurate) then the universe is both. The precise timing and nature of an action is random (or probabilitic if you prefer), but the range of possible outcomes and the relative likelyhood of those outcomes is highly deterministic.
It should also be noted that under any dualistic conception of the universe there is a third possibility: Willed.
Atrejusan,
Jack may have addressed this in what may be her/his typically lucid, and at the same time cryptic, manner...
You know, I'd have thought the whole 'Mr.' thing would be a clue...
Anyway. If I'm reading your post correctly, you are arguing that there are no (collective?) entities outside of human perception. Is that correct?

Replies to this message:
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Parasomnium
Member
Posts: 2225
Joined: 07-15-2003


Message 12 of 18 (102780)
04-26-2004 10:47 AM


With regard to the question of free will, the dichotomy of the universe as either determined or random is false, because for the existence of free will, both possibilities are a problem.
Mr. (not Mrs.) Jack said:
It should also be noted that under any dualistic conception of the universe there is a third possibility: Willed.
It seems to me that this is right on the mark. That's not to say that I hold the view that the universe is willed, far from it. But I do think that for free will to be an independent fact of the universe, this would have to imply that third possibility.
That a deterministic universe rules it out, so much seems clear, but why would a random universe be any better when it comes to the existence of free will? After all, the fact alone that some events are not determined by causes, as seems to be the case according to quantum theory, is not in itself sufficient to label them 'willed'.
Why did I use the phrase "to be an independent fact of the universe" just now, instead of the simpler "to exist"? Because, in a way, one could say that free will does exist, while at the same time not being an independent fact of the universe. In my view, free will is an aspect of our experience of being in the world. As such, it's not independent of our consciousness. Instead, it's a quale, like the experience of the redness of a rose, or the feeling of being the subject of motherly love. Free will is what it's like for a conscious being to be one of the causative factors in a complex process.
My two cents.

  
PaulK
Member
Posts: 17853
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 13 of 18 (102817)
04-26-2004 1:46 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by Dr Jack
04-26-2004 8:44 AM


I'll certainly agree that we need ot be able to describe events as being a combination of random and deterministic factors rather than relying on a simple dichotomy. However I don't think that we can simply classify "willed" as a third option in the context of this discussion where the nature of will is a central issue. Any suggestion that "will" is somehow distinct requires justification and an explanation of how it differs from determinism or a mix of chance and determinism when the inner workings of the mind are considered.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 11 by Dr Jack, posted 04-26-2004 8:44 AM Dr Jack has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 15 by Dr Jack, posted 04-27-2004 6:14 AM PaulK has replied

  
atrejusan
Inactive Member


Message 14 of 18 (102907)
04-26-2004 8:14 PM


Mr Jack, sorry for not taking the initiative (re: gender) but I like to be unassuming. =)
Re: topic... determined or random? It matters how the event is defined, and particularly when the event is presumed caused, it matters how the different "causative" entities are defined. Is not all material theory an otherwise arbitrary symbolic representation of reality in the most convenient/useful manner available?
I posit that a human person does not exist, and that descriptions of "human" are rhetorical abstractions for their own sake. I would describe "consciousness", in turn, as a particular range of frequencies in the movement of the universe... not as distinct as it (predictably) seems to "us".
[This message has been edited by atrejusan, 04-26-2004]
[This message has been edited by atrejusan, 04-26-2004]

It knows only that it needs, commander. But, like so many of us, it does not know what.
- Spock

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Dr Jack
Member
Posts: 3514
From: Immigrant in the land of Deutsch
Joined: 07-14-2003


Message 15 of 18 (103013)
04-27-2004 6:14 AM
Reply to: Message 13 by PaulK
04-26-2004 1:46 PM


I'll certainly agree that we need ot be able to describe events as being a combination of random and deterministic factors rather than relying on a simple dichotomy. However I don't think that we can simply classify "willed" as a third option in the context of this discussion where the nature of will is a central issue. Any suggestion that "will" is somehow distinct requires justification and an explanation of how it differs from determinism or a mix of chance and determinism when the inner workings of the mind are considered.
Well, yes, I'd agree. However, if you do take a dualistic postition - then you're implicitly accepting (or creating?) a third category. I personally think dualism is utterly intellectually and philosophically bankrupt, but that is another story.

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