# Thread: Free Will, Determinism, Compatibilism

1. Originally Posted by ThatsWhatHeSaid
Determinism ftw. In fact, I'm working on a proof against free will.

The basic idea (which I still have a hard time expressing) is that free will depends on some "agent" that exists apart from the rest of the predetermined universe to make a decision and affect outcome. If there is no independent self, there can be no free will. Since I am starting to see the self in term of an intersection of streams, rather than something independent, the self vanishes, along with any chance of free will.
Or maybe "free will" could be redefined not as just the free-standing and uninfluenced choice on a completely independent agent? (Because obviously that sort of free will does not exist -- no one is completely independent, or we would not be aware of them and they would not be able to comprehend us.)

2. The concept of a "universal law" is such that a universal law can never be broken. Why? Because if ever any occurence contradicted a law, then we would no longer consider that law to be universal. The definition of a "universal law" is a law without any exceptions, so any law with an exception is not a universal law. Simple enough. (Note: it is irrelevent whether a universal law is probabilistic). The definition of "free will", as is usually assumed in these discussions, is such that it is expected to defy universal laws. However, this clearly cannot happen, because a law which can be defied is not a universal law, by definition. Moreover, the process of making a "free choice" cannot be described, because such a description would have to propose regularities, patterns, laws, etc. Neither can the process be random.

[Edit: note, also, if the process is not random, then it follows patterns which can be described via regularities, rules, laws, etc. which again, would negate this rather strange nonconcept of "free will".]

This is, however, all quite irrelevent. There are two responses to this problem, you can (1) conclude that there is no free will, and infer from that whatever uncomfortable ethical conclusions follow, or you can (2) reconsider your concept of "a choice" and what constitutes a "free will". For example, ask yourself: what makes the physical process of decision-making different to other physical processes? They will, of course, be similar in many important ways, such as that they both are occur in accordance with universal laws, but it does not follow from this that they are the same in every way. When you realise that some standard or rule is impossible to satisfy, and yet there is still a problem which you want to solve, then plough on without it and look for new rules and standards.

3. Originally Posted by Jennifer
It beats writing motions...

Or maybe "free will" could be redefined not as just the free-standing and uninfluenced choice on a completely independent agent? (Because obviously that sort of free will does not exist -- no one is completely independent, or we would not be aware of them and they would not be able to comprehend us.)
But if there's nothing independent, free will collapses. If both the environment AS WELL AS THE DECISION-MAKER (and all their respective components) are dependent on prior states, where is there any room for free will? Free will has to assume that there's something independent to act on some available choice.

The only way I can imagine free will to exist is if all 3 elements below coexist:
[options] [ability to steer options] [thing that steers options is not predetermined itself]

Essentially, what I'm saying is that there is no thing.

4. Originally Posted by ThatsWhatHeSaid
But if there's nothing independent, free will collapses. If both the environment AS WELL AS THE DECISION-MAKER (and all their respective components) are dependent on prior states, where is there any room for free will? Free will has to assume that there's something independent to act on some available choice.
The problem is: How do you KNOW that we are entirely dependent on everything around us in regards to making decisions?

It seems to me much like God: How on earth can one possibly prove that free will DOESN'T exist at all? Perhaps there is still a minute portion of our consciousness, that one "last private inch" of ourselves, that operates independently. We have no way to explore the truth of that, or articulate it. It might not exist.

But there's no way to prove it doesn't.

And if there is any smidgen of free will in a decision, then there is (to some degree) "free will."

I don't know, that is what comes to mind at the moment.

Originally Posted by nocturne
...you can (2) reconsider your concept of "a choice" and what constitutes a "free will". For example, ask yourself: what makes the physical process of decision-making different to other physical processes? They will, of course, be similar in many important ways, such as that they both are occur in accordance with universal laws, but it does not follow from this that they are the same in every way. When you realise that some standard or rule is impossible to satisfy, and yet there is still a problem which you want to solve, then plough on without it and look for new rules and standards.
Yes, this is what I was fuzzily hinting at when I talked about perhaps redefining "free will" -- but Nocturne said it so much better.

5. most people would say that all crows are black, but this is simply so because nobody has seen a white crow. there is the future possibility of a crow being white, but as of now we can only conclude that crows as we know it are black and will continue to be black.

as of now, the trend that scientific discovery has fallen into is that there is an explanation/reason for everything, and the only delimiter is our ability to discover it.

anyways, "you never know!" just isnt a good reason to strongly consider something, our focus is much better spent on expanding on what we do know.

6. Originally Posted by Jennifer
The problem is: How do you KNOW that we are entirely dependent on everything around us in regards to making decisions?

It seems to me much like God: How on earth can one possibly prove that free will DOESN'T exist at all? Perhaps there is still a minute portion of our consciousness, that one "last private inch" of ourselves, that operates independently. We have no way to explore the truth of that, or articulate it. It might not exist.

But there's no way to prove it doesn't.
*nods* Cannot be proven either way... so why bother trying? A waste of time.

It's so much nicer though for my self-perception to say I have a choice than to say free will doesn't exists. So that's my belief. I rather have a central locus of control.

7. Originally Posted by Grayscale
i dont think free will is really true though, it's a beneficial illusion, but that doesnt make it true.

at the level of granularity where the truth of determinism comes out, nothing is really implicated anything against the "free will" most people see and use.

"free will" is an important component of progression. however, the concept is ironic in the sense that even it is a result of something.
well, "free will" in the traditional sense isn't true. i agree. but i've redefined my conception of what "free will" is so that it doesn't contradict determinism.

since humans believe that they have free will, i just define it as that belief. it's an illusion, of course, but whatever. it's an illusion that can be reduced to physics given the right equations.

it is determined that we all assume we have free will

Originally Posted by nocturne
The definition of "free will", as is usually assumed in these discussions, is such that it is expected to defy universal laws. However, this clearly cannot happen, because a law which can be defied is not a universal law, by definition.
agreed.

This is, however, all quite irrelevent. There are two responses to this problem, you can (1) conclude that there is no free will, and infer from that whatever uncomfortable ethical conclusions follow, or you can (2) reconsider your concept of "a choice" and what constitutes a "free will". For example, ask yourself: what makes the physical process of decision-making different to other physical processes? They will, of course, be similar in many important ways, such as that they both are occur in accordance with universal laws, but it does not follow from this that they are the same in every way. When you realise that some standard or rule is impossible to satisfy, and yet there is still a problem which you want to solve, then plough on without it and look for new rules and standards.
well said.

8. Originally Posted by nightning
*nods* Cannot be proven either way... so why bother trying? A waste of time.
why bother trying????

you could really say that about anything...

9. I'm in the free will camp myself.

One major problem with pure determinism is that one cannot logically believe in science and determinism. The philosophical foundations for science assume free will ("I think therefore I am", and all of it's corollaries.) Furthermore if a person concludes that there is no free will based on scientific findings then they have reached a horrible contradiction.

10. My belief is that some things are the inevitable result of the past, and there are some things that can be chosen at a particular level, within certain constraints.

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